Wednesday, October 22, 2014

X-MEN FOREVER #12 - January 2010


Black Magik Part Two - Race the Wind!
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Tom Grummett (pencils), Cory Hamscher (inks), Wilfredo Quintana (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)

Summary:  Colossus discovers that the Winter Guard troops sent to guard Illyana have been killed, allegedly by monsters.  In a nearby industrial complex, the Cossack explains to Illyana that he wants to revive her magical powers.  Black Widow receives word of where Illyana is being held, and soon she arrives with Colossus, Gambit, Shadowcat, and ‘Ro.  The team is ambushed by Illyana, who is now aged several years to become Black Magik.  At the mansion, Beast and Jean take a walk, Rogue berates herself for letting Sabretooth get to her, and Daisy Dugan spies on Sabretooth, who is spying on Xavier and Moira MacTaggert.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Bhodan Shkuro, the Cossack, is described as an ex-Spetsnatst agent, who is also a wealthy, powerful figure in Russia.  He tells Illyana that he’s had his own encounters with Belasco in the past.  
  • Sabretooth is now wearing his new costume.  It’s appeared on the covers before, but this is the first time he’s worn it in an actual story.
  • Moira MacTaggert tries to provide some explanation for why Wolverine and Sabretooth made it to old age, speculating that their healing factors fought off the effects of Burnout for years.

Review:  I’ll start with my standard gripes about this series.  Another pointless new costume; this time on Sabretooth, who decidedly did not need a makeover.  The color scheme just seems wrong (blue?), and for some reason, its design is oddly similar to Jean Grey’s new outfit.  Why exactly?  We also have more talk of Burnout, as Claremont tries to walk back his more hyperbolic statements in the earlier issues and address one of the readers’ complaints.  While Moira’s explanation for Wolverine and Sabretooth is somewhat plausible, it doesn’t explain the other mutants that have made it well past middle-age.  Also, even if their healing factors slowed down the effects of Burnout, why would the condition suddenly hit both Wolverine and Sabretooth simultaneously?  As the issue reminds us, Sabretooth is Wolverine’s father, so his body actually should’ve been breaking down years earlier than Wolverine’s.  Claremont’s willingness to disrupt the established romances of the canon is also a bit grating.  Instead of the relationships and flirtations we all remember, now it’s Beast and Jean, Gambit and Kitty, Colossus and Black Widow…this just feels wrong.  It’s certainly possible Claremont’s intentionally evoking that feeling, but I think it serves as yet another reminder that this is an alternate reality, which is really what the book should be avoiding at all costs.

The good still outweighs the bad, however.  The book continues to duplicate the feel of the initial Claremont run, with the cast split across the globe, numerous subplots running in the background, and a member of the team selected to have a long inner monologue that explains their current emotional arc or personal crisis.  Rogue’s two-page soliloquy offers more legitimate character development than any story from the post-Claremont era that I can recall.  There are some wonky plots running around, yes, but these are characters you actually like and want to root for.  Cossack doesn’t have to be the greatest threat the team’s ever faced, he isn’t, but if the story succeeds in making the heroes feel real, then the reader is going to come back for the next issue.  I should also mention that Claremont’s willingness to disrupt established status quos, while occasionally annoying, does help to add an element of danger to the series.  Ordinarily, a cliffhanger involving Illyana turning evil again wouldn’t carry too much weight, but there’s now a possibility that any character is in danger now.  (The problem is when Claremont goes too far in this direction, as we’ll see in a few issues.)

I’ll also mention again how much I love the art team of Tom Grummett and Cory Hamscher.  The characters look on-model, even in the wrong costumes, and this talky issue actually has a lot of energy.  Although the plot mainly consists of conversation scenes, the page layouts are never boring, and the McFarlane-esque inking does a lot to set the mood during the Cossack’s introduction.  When the regular creative team is reunited, this feels more like a “real” X-Men book and not just another alternate reality title Marvel’s pumping out in order to preserve the shelf space.

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