Friday, December 12, 2014

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN FOREVER #1 - July 2010


Can Love Find a Way?
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Mike Grell (art), Moose Baumann (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)

Summary:  Lilandra leads the Imperial Guard to Earth in search of Professor Xavier.  Xavier is visiting Cyclops and his family in Alaska, along with Archangel, Iceman, Charlotte Jones, and Opal Tanaka.  When the Imperial Guard arrive and attack, Xavier hides in the Starjammer.  Using the Starjammer’s teleportation technology, the X-Men and Sabretooth are teleported to Alaska.  They join the fight, but Xavier eventually ends the hostilities by surrendering.  He accepts Lilandra’s terms that he must live with the Shi’ar for the rest of his life, due to his intimate knowledge of their classified defense secrets.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Nathan considers Charlotte Jones his aunt, following their adventure together on the moon.  She claims that after she saved Nathan’s life on the moon, they returned to Cyclops’ home in Alaska.  A footnote merely says that this is “a story yet to be told.”
  • Corsair and the Starjammers, along with their ship, live in Alaska with Cyclops in XMF continuity.
  • Archangel confirms that he’s been using an image inducer in his previous appearances.
  • Cyclops is now back to wearing the ‘90s Jim Lee costume.
  • Rogue and Nightcrawler are visiting Excalibur at their lighthouse.  Their dialogue suggests Psylocke is now a member.

Production Note:  This is a fifty-six page comic in standard format.  The cover price remains $3.99, even though the final eighteen pages are a reprint of John Byrne’s first issue, Uncanny X-Men #108.

Review:  For a series Marvel is only a few months away from killing, there seems to be an unusual amount of over-sized specials.  I have no clue what happened behind-the-scenes, but Marvel’s support of this book did seem to abruptly stop, leading the second volume to just end with (of course) numerous story threads left unresolved.  The goal of the Giant-Size special is to write Xavier out of the title, for what is at least the third time in a Chris Claremont story.  Claremont actually writes Xavier quite well, even when he enters the same dodgy territory subsequent X-writers have followed, so I’m not sure why he occasionally seems obsessed with kicking the guy out of the book.  I understand the theme of constant growth and change, but Claremont’s not exactly following that model by consistently finding reasons to reintroduce Cyclops into the title.  Cyclops supposedly “retired” from the X-Men just as Claremont was giving Xavier his most convincing sendoff yet in UXM #200.

While the execution is a bit shaky, there are some clever ideas in the issue.  Xavier made an honest mistake while combing through the Shi’ar’s database, one that ultimately lead to an attack by the Warskrulls.  Since Xavier was also impersonated by a Warskrull for several months, the Shi’ar are now suspicious if in fact the wrong Xavier returned to Earth following their first battle with the Warskrulls.  That’s not a bad starting place for the story, even if it does hinge on Xavier screwing up yet again and (inadvertently) betraying the people closest to him.  There’s another nice play on continuity later in the story, as Xavier is adamant that Jean stay out of the Shi’ar’s way during the fight, since they have no idea she’s still alive.  Logically, the Shi’ar would be incensed and/or terrified to see Jean alive again, even though none of the writers post-Claremont seemed to notice this.  

Claremont also seems to be catering to more of the online complaints about the series, teasing a few bits of unrevealed continuity and reviving some of the forgotten supporting cast members from this era of the titles.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t do an awful lot with the large cast he’s assembled, since the bulk of the story is dedicated to the X-Men fighting the Imperial Guard.  And since the fight is mostly represented by a double-page spread and a few giant panels, there’s no real choreography here -- the battle feels as if it lasts around twelve seconds.  I admire Mike Grell’s art, and I get the in-joke that another former Legion artist has been brought in to pencil the Imperial Guard, but the story just doesn’t give him enough to do.

One final complaint, if this issue could carry eighteen pages of extra reprint material without adding to the cover price -- why couldn’t every issue?  What would it harm to give readers extra reading material each issue?  Heck, pull out some obscure Claremont material like the first Mystique appearance in Ms. Marvel and throw that in here.  There’s no way that would’ve hurt sales.  For four bucks an issue, it’s not an outrageous suggestion.

But What about Vengeance?
Credits:  Chris Claremont (writer), Fernando Blanco (pencils), Jason Paz (inks), Wilfredo Quintana (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters)

Summary:  A mysterious female executive within the Consortium consults with SHIELD official G. W. Bridge.  On her orders, Bridge releases a report implicating the X-Men in the death of Tony Stark.  The Avengers meet and plan an attack on the X-Men.

Continuity Notes:  
  • The Avengers consist of an amalgam of the East and West Coast teams of this era:  Captain America, Thor, Spider-Woman, Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver.
  • G. W. Bridge is apparently a villain in this continuity.
  • Consortium agents are performing surgery on what appears to be Amelia Trask, who was shot in the chest by Tony Stark, and are unsure if she will survive.

Review:  I’ll repeat that Fernando Blanco should’ve done more work for this title.  Sturdy, three-dimensional figures, moody lighting, and just an overall strength of line are what the book needs when Tom Grummett isn’t around.  Why this title ended up with so many mediocre fill-ins if Blanco was available is beyond me.  This is a brief tease for the opening arc in X-Men Forever 2, which has the Avengers targeting the X-Men.  The only purpose of the story is to get the Avengers in position to fight the team, and it accomplishes that goal competently enough.  Some might whine about the casual way Claremont’s playing around with the Avengers line-up, but I’m willing to give him the leeway and say that all kinds of things could be happening in the hypothetical Marvel Universe of this title.  A merging of the East and West Coast Avengers isn’t that much of a stretch; it’s the specific X-Men continuity that’s been manipulated with no explanation (I'll cite tween Nathan, yet again) that bothers me.  

3 comments:

Matt said...

I still wonder if Cyclops wasn't added to the series at editorial insistence rathear than Claremont's choice, though it's possible he just wanted to bring him back and redeem the guy for the way other writers had handled him.

As for writing Xavier out, I've always thought that Claremont found him too powerful -- even when he kept him around, he usually found some way to dial down his telepathic powers, but simply removing him from the series probably felt like an easier option.

My only issue with adding reprint backups to every issue of this series would be that the old stories might make the new ones look even worse than they already are by comparison!

Harry Sewalski said...

Logically, the Shi’ar would be incensed and/or terrified to see Jean alive again, even though none of the writers post-Claremont seemed to notice this.

Didn't Brubaker or someone have the Shi'ar kill off the entirety of Jean's family or something to prevent the Phoenix returning?

wwk5d said...

Ironically, that was Chris Claremont who killed off all of the Greys, during his second return to the X-men titles.

During his first return, he did do a story with survivors of Debari (or whatever the Broccoli people are called) meeting Jean and being none too pleased she was using the name Phoenix...