Wednesday, October 29, 2014

X-MEN FOREVER #16 - March 2010

Southern Comfort
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Graham Nolan (pencils), Vincent Cifuentes (inks), Sotocolor (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)

Summary:  While Daisy and Sabretooth interrogate potential double agents within SHIELD, and Xavier and Beast debate Burnout, Rogue and Nightcrawler arrive in Jackson, Mississippi.  They discover Mystique instead of Amanda Sefton.  Mystique reveals that she mimicked Amanda’s voice in order to draw her children to her.  Nightcrawler is stunned by the revelation that he’s Mystique’s son.  When Mystique tells Rogue that she intends to save her from Burnout, Rogue impulsively knocks her out of a window.  The ensuing scuffle inadvertently causes a gas tank to explode.  Nightcrawler performs mouth-to-mouth to save Rogue.  In a few seconds, he discovers that his mutation is seemingly gone, while Rogue resembles a female Nightcrawler.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Rogue and Nightcrawler believe Mystique dead until they meet her in person, contradicting the non-Claremont chapters of “The Muir Island Saga.”  According to Mystique, she allowed the world to think Val Cooper (possessed by the Shadow King) killed her in order to cover her investigations into the Consortium and Burnout.
  • Mystique claims that Destiny had also investigated Burnout for most of her life, and was puzzled that Wolverine and Mystique were seemingly immune.  Somehow, Mystique reasons that Nightcrawler is also immune.
  • Nightcrawler questions why the normally invulnerable Rogue is knocked unconscious by the gas tank explosion, and why touching her skin doesn’t knock him out.

Miscellaneous Note:  This is one of the very few issues that doesn’t have an exclamation mark in the title.

Creative Differences:  Chris Claremont’s comments in a podcast interview after this issue was released lead me to believe his editor was never thrilled with the Nightcrawler/Rogue power swap idea.

Review:  It’s widely known that Claremont intended to reveal Mystique as Nightcrawler’s mother, although it’s safe to assume that the execution wouldn’t have been anything like X-Men Unlimited #4.  (Although there is a rumor that Claremont wanted to reveal Mystique as Nightcrawler’s father and Destiny as the mother, so it’s possible we were spared even more insanity.)  This issue is the only published version of Claremont’s confirmation, and it’s not the dramatic reveal I’m sure he was hoping for.  Any impact from the revelation is already gone thanks to the mainstream continuity, and the cartoon, already having a Nightcrawler/Mystique “shocking secret!” story.  Mystique’s “death” in the build-up to the “Muir Island Saga” has also been largely forgotten, so it’s no great shock to see her reappear.  The intrigue comes from Claremont flatly ignoring the second half of “Muir Island Saga” yet again, leading the reader to question when (or if) we’ll ever read Claremont’s intended conclusion to the story.

If you’re willing to play along, the retconning of Mystique’s role in “Muir Island Saga” is another mystery that keeps the book interesting.  For most readers, I suspect, it’s another annoying continuity game that takes you out of the story.  Initially, I was in the latter camp.  Rereading the series now, it’s easier to just accept the fact that Claremont’s continuity has stopped months before X-Men #1 and move on.  After revealing that Nathan Summers is not only still in the present day but also now a fifth grader, everything else is pretty minor.  I do think these questions should’ve been addressed at some point, however, and it’s faintly ridiculous that a bi-weekly title that ran for two years never got around to them.  

The “Muir Island Saga” material isn’t the only source of continuity, or just common sense, frustration.  We’re to believe that Destiny has been investigating Burnout for decades, which strikes me as a ludicrous overselling of the concept.  Destiny does have to be addressed in order for the Burnout plot to work, but this is missing the most glaring question -- why is she so old?  She was already an adult in the 1930s, yet made it well into old age as a mutant.  And she didn’t even die of Burnout or natural causes, she was killed by Legion.  How could she view Mystique and Wolverine as “immune” when she was clearly not dying of Burnout?  Also, why is Nightcrawler immune to Burnout?  And why does Rogue suddenly lose her invulnerability?  Why is she so irrationally angry at Mystique?  How could Nightcrawler be immune from Rogue’s powers, especially when he’s been affected by them in the past?  Speaking of which, why didn’t Rogue and Nightcrawler’s powers swap the previous times they touched?  Admittedly, some of these questions are treated as intentional mysteries in the story, but the abundance of so many unanswered questions over the course of a few pages, added to some of the other outrageous plots running simultaneously, makes the book feel too chaotic.

In other news… A Graham Nolan fill-in!  Given Marvel’s penchant for hiring new, unknown artists as guest artists for this title, I wasn’t expecting a name like Nolan to show up.  Nolan’s not as stylized as most of the artists associated with the X-titles, but he delivers a solid issue.  While not entirely comfortable with every cast member, he seems to have a lot of fun with Mystique, which is obviously a big help for this issue.  I wonder now why more ‘90s DC guys weren’t hired to work on this book.  I’d love to see more people associated with ‘90s Batman or Superman fill in for Tom Grummett.  They’re all competent artists, and it helps to feed the illusion that this is an alternate reality where Bob Harras was raiding DC’s stable of artists for Jim Lee replacements.

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