Friday, June 12, 2009

X-Men Forever #1

With all the Claremont on this blog, how could we not review X-Men Forever #1? I read it, but having watched everyone talk about other Claremont X-Men issues I have read, I would not presume to take the top spot up here -- I really did want to participate in the Claremont discussion every week but I discovered that reading the whole series once recently has not sensitized me to the kinds of things you guys noticed. So -- let's hear it in the comments (spoilers away): what did you think of Claremont picking up his 17 year run after an 18 year delay?


Jason said...

Speaking less as the Claremont guy and more as a copy-editor, I was pretty annoyed that on page two we get Cyclops saying, "On your toes, people. Fabian Cortez took down Magneto."

Then on page four, two pages later, Cyclops AGAIN .... "In reality, we know very little about Fabian Cortez. Other than the fact that he defeated Magneto. ... Everyone stay on your toes."

And on the page in between, Rogue says, "This clown took down Magneto."

Then toward the end, Nick Fury on page twenty: "The world has changed. You have to change with it."

Nick Fury on page twenty-one: "The world has changed. To keep on being part of it, we all have to adapt."

This is a big problem I've seen with modern-day Claremont. GeNext and Big Hero Six had similar redundancies. Claremont has always been accused of being wordy and over-explaining things, but back in the 80s we never had people expressing the exact same sentiment, in the exact same words, on two consecutive pages.

It is really intensely annoying to read, and it offends me as an editor as well as a reader. The fucking thing credits THREE editors. What the hell are all the three of them doing?

I also am not hugely impressed by the art. Some people seem to like Tom Grummett a lot. I'm not sure why. It seems pretty workmanlike to me.

Things I did like: The Wolverine/Jean stuff. I liked that it was ramped up immediately. Didn't feel unrealistic to me at all. In the past, sure, the love-triangle thing was always kind of a simmering situation, with a sense that Jean was pushing all her Logan-thoughts down and out of her head. But, consider, this is post-"X-Men" 201 Scott, the asshole who left his wife and child. And as of "Inferno," Jean actually HAS Madelyne's memories of what a dick Scott was. And this is the first time we see Jean serving on a team with Wolverine since gaining those memories. So I buy completely the idea that there would be no breakers now, that Jean would just start gravitating toward Logan immediately and not trying to stop herself.

I like the little hints that something is up with Storm ... well-handled. People who read Forever #0 know that Wolverine already suspects something is screwy with Storm, and that there's actually a nice little red herring in the issue -- Logan's thought balloon that he "can't stop thinking about HER." We are supposed to believe he means Jean, but he doesn't. (This is another bonus of the forefronted Jean/Logan stuff; it works as a bit of a mask on this other plot turn.)

The fight choreography was decent. There was at least one bit that I have never seen before, with the villain grabbing Rogue, ripping a whole in the arm of her costume, then throwing her at someone else. Kind of fun that Nightcrawler and Gambit -- Claremont's two big rogue-ish swashbucklers -- are the ones who, working in tandem, finally win the fight.

Oh, and Fabian Cortez's power (which is to amplify other people's powers to the point where they even endanger the user), when he uses it on Jean, he re-activates Phoenix. Seems so obvious once it happens, but I didn't expect it. I liked that bit.

Jeff said...

I thought this was fun, but I'm not sure I like some of the stories Claremont is setting up. Shadowcat having a Wolverine claw is beyond stupid. Having said that, the characters all actually behaved like themselves, unlike in Fraction's Uncanny, and the art was great (except for the odd decision to have Cortez fight the team in all Khaki...) Somebody said Nightcrawler's few panels in this are better than anything he's had in the last 5 years and I have to agree. I'll definitely stick with it, but like I said, the previews scare me a little. Kid storm is on a future cover and NOBODY wants to see that again.

Jason said...

(Part two of my comments:)

And then, of course, next issue: Wolverine dies, which is -- I think -- on several levels, a brilliant use of the unique circumstances of this comic. Nowhere else could you kill off Logan and make it stick. Here, Claremont can.

And to Neil S: Since you asked my opinion, I should mention that I thought of you at one point, reading this issue. We talked briefly about the way Claremont had started to deconstruct the uber-masculinity of Wolverine (around 1989 to 90), having his healing factor fail him, having him lose fights to young up and comer Gambit ...

This was forgotten after Claremont left, but here it is actually acknowledged. Jean tells him, "Under the skin, you're in awful shape. You can't keep taking this kind of punishment."

I think that, in a way, the upcoming death of Wolverine is a sound and logical endpoint. In Forever #0, we actually see his death. The villain (who is probably a fake Storm), says while standing over his smoldering corpse, "You should have left well enough alone. But you had to play the hero ... one last time."

It's quite striking in a way ... Claremont is playing with the idea that, towards the end, Wolverine was in a bit of denial about his own limitations. Still trying to be the alpha-male -- still "playing the hero" -- even though his time was past. (In a pointer to this, Claremont has Kitty calling Logan by the nickname "old man" in issues 0 and 1 -- something she NEVER called him back in the original Claremont run.) He's falling apart, refuses to admit it, and his denial leads directly to his death. It's an interesting way to go with things. It resolves a long-running story and is also a nice way of showing -- right off the bat -- that Claremont is willing to destroy some sacred cows, and take advantage of the comic's status as an autonomous entity. (A bit like J.J. Abrams blowing up the planet Vulcan, perhaps?)

So, there's potential here. It was never a possibility that "Forever" would match the strength of Claremont's 80 stuff (although I am very pleased that they got Tom Orzechowski to letter ... that's a great touch). The best one could hope for is that he could produce a decently entertaining superhero adventure comic that is stripped of all the accumulated shit of the era from 1991-2000.

So far, so good. After one issue (and an eight page preview before that), I'd call it a qualified success.

Jason said...

"Shadowcat having a Wolverine claw"


Jeff said...

Cortez hypercharges Kitty's power this issue and she phases through Wolverine. Then she starts rubbing her arm. After that scene Logan only has two claws on one hand (and on the cover to issue #2 his skeleton only has two on one hand). Now check out the cover to issue #4 in the back. There's a claw sticking out of Kitty's right hand....

Jeff said...

I forgot to mention Orz on lettering. That made me smile. Can't wait for the Paul Smith and Terry Austin issues, either.

Jason said...

Wow. Good eyes, Jeff. That all went right by me.

neilshyminsky said...

Paul Smith is doing future issues? Keen! Still having not read the issue, I wish they could've found someone who actually worked with Claremont in the 80s - JRJR, Silvestri, or Smith.

Paul said...

The repetion of Cortez's potential power was annoying, but I think it was Claremont trying to drive home the idea that up to this point, he had only been around for three issues and that we know next to nothing about the character. This way the writer can basically amp him up beyond what he eventually became in the 616 continuity.

On a whole, I really enjoyed the issue and I'm looking forward to reading some X-Men without a crap ton of franchise baggage that got heaped on the characters since CC left. I'm having fun looking for clues of what's to come and how this story builds on what came before.

Given clues from the upcoming covers, the Storm killing Wolverine theory is a pretty good one. Interesting that CC is using the Kitty with the Claw idea he briefly played with during the "Revolution" mini-era.


Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...

I gotta give Paul's annotations the credit for the claw stuff. I wish my eyes were that good, but I would have overlooked it also, kudos to them for making it subtle if you're not looking for it.

scott91777 said...

Grummett's art is a damper... workmanlike is probably the most precise (and polite) way to describe it.

A lot of what Jason pointed out above about the copy editing sorts of thing above was as well as Claremont's verbosity in general are very much at the heart of what I see as a problem here. It's almost as though Claremont as gone BACKWARD as a writer... I mean, as we can see in the issues that Jason is currently covering, Claremont was actually much better at showing restraint and letting his artist tell the story VISUALLY and cutting back on the verbosity... granted, Grummet is not nearly strong enought to do that and, when we look at Claremont's track record, in his past X-days his regular pencilers were, when it comes down to it, the best in mainstream superhero comics... period (Cockrum, Byrne, Smith, JRJR, Silvestri, Jim Lee... not too mention the occasional contribution from people like Barry Windsor-Smith).

All in all, I think it feels rushed... not just in the sense of it's sloppy but, also, it almost feels like Claremont is glad to have this opportunity after 18 years to FINALLY tell the story he always wanted to tell but, at the same time, he's not sure how long it will last so he wants to cram as MUCH of that story as he can into as few issues as possible... the future covers at the end make it seem like we're looking a story that will be taking place significantly in the future.

Patrick said...

I reviewed it over here. The short version is, I liked it, but wasn't wowed. But, I think Claremont's real strength is in long form work, and if he gets the freedom to develop this story how he wants in the long term, I think it'll get quite interesting. Sure, there's a lot of issues, but it felt like the characters as he knew them, and that was cool to see.

In other news, I'm currently working on a documentary look at the entire history of the X-Men, with a primary focus on Claremont's run. So, last week, I shot a sort of roundtable interview with Chris, Louise Simonson and Ann Nocenti, which was pretty awesome. They hadn't all seen each other in ten years, and had a lot of great stories to tell about working on the X-Books back in the 80s. I haven't had a chance yet, but I'm going to cut together a little trailer shortly to show off some of what we got, I'll definitely post the link over here when it goes up.

Paul said...

Patrick, can't wait to see it! If you need any help, I'm sure we (the loyal few) can give you some!

Jason said...

So Geoff, what are your thoughts on "Forever" #1?

scott91777 said...


Your points about Wolverine's decline are excellent. Under Claremont, Wolvie was always a tough little bugger but he wasn't indestructible; there was always the sense that he COULD be killed it was just much harder than it would be to kill most people. In fact, I believe it is only a few issues away in your commentary that we first see his healing factor begin to fail (the first Genosha story if I remember correctly).

In fact, I think that the Wolverine chracter really jumped the shark when they made him virtually 'unkillable'... the in story explanation was that when Magneto ripped the admanatium from his body that it kicked his healing factor into overdrive. But, over the years, it has just become ridiculous. I believe there are stories where he regrows himself from a single brain cell. It has also, apparently, forced the introduction of some sort of sword (forged from Wolverine's sould) that serves as a sort of Krytonite for mutants with healing factors.

I kind of like how, before his run ended, Claremont was going in the OPPOSITE direction with the healing factor; that is the more he has to use it, the less effective it is.

Anonymous said...

I'll get my bias out of the way quickly; I grew up with the television show in the nineties, and have read only a few of the issues that come after Claremont's run. I won't attempt to compare this issue to stories that I have never read or seen in the cartoon series, which may not be the best basis for comparison.

With that said, I find this issue to hold a nostalgia factor for me. My favorite aspect of this comic is that the team present includes all of my favorites; Rogue, Gambit, Wolverine, Storm, and the rest. Claremont's writing style is slightly archaic, but it is by no means the "golly-gee-whiz!" atrocity of the sixties and earlier eras. He has some flair, and the way he portrays the characters remains true to their identities as I am familiar with them. Claremont may have started up a firestorm with this new ongoing, but for people with little to no familiarity with modern continuity, I like the direction that he's taking the story, particularly with the whole Phoenix storyline being explored so soon. Granted, the original is a classic, but it will be interesting to see the impact in a world where these characters are mortal.

Grummett as an artist finds the balance between old school nostalgia (I must be the only fan of Gambit's look) and newer techniques. I enjoy the takes he provides on all of the characters, and find it true to their natures. My only complaint here (and it's minor) is that Grummett tends to overemphasize facial expressions (particularly with Jean Gray coming out of the opening dream), and this can induce a sort of loss of suspension of disbelief.

As a comic, this modern continuation of the series provides a fine alternative to the continuity heavy Uncanny, and personally, I am glad to not have to buy hundreds of graphic novels so that I can enjoy the story of my favorite X-Men team. The writing could be improved, and the art could dial down on the expressiveness of the characters, but overall, I give it a solid 8/10. I enjoyed it, and that's the ultimate mission of comics. What's better, I needed to read only one alpha issue to get caught up. I truly hope that this series lives up to its potential.

neilshyminsky said...

Scott wrote: "I believe there are stories where [Wolverine] regrows himself from a single brain cell"

You're thinking of a Claremont story, actually, in an annual. It's a single drop of blood, yes, but it only regenerates him because that drop hits a gem that has some sort of god-like power contained within it. (The much sillier part of it, though, is that the gem also gives him back his metal skeleton.)

Geoff Klock said...

I will be honest -- I am not as crazy for Claremont as a lot of folks here, having maybe more respect than love. This issue seemed sort of lame to me, but I agree with the above comment that Claremont works better in broad strokes, swathes of issues. What I am really excited about is how fast this will change into something else. Like 15 issues from now no one from this team might even be on it. And what about NEW characters. This is all prelude.

Jason said...

Neil, he gives himself back the skeleton. The crystal gives him Phoenix-level power, which he uses to put himself back to normal and then slice the crystal apart.

scott91777 said...


Actually, I'm pretty sure there have been SEVERAl post-Claremont stories where Wolverine has grown hiself back from scraps... I was flipping through an issue a couple of years ago, it had the 'Civil War' thing on the cover, and in it wolverine got caught in a jet blast or something and it burned away everything but his brain. I remember because the captions had him describing the sensation of everything (eyes, ears) growing back.

At least Claremont had the good sense to write in a 'magic crystal'... i.e. special circumstances. Other writers have treated this as the norm...

Jason said...

Yeah, writers don't seem to get the point of Claremont's story. The crystal was a Macguffin, and the whole point of making it rejuvenate Wolverine was NOT to suggest that Logan's healing factor was that miraculous; it was to show that the crystal was THAT powerful.

And Scott, I agree with you about the latter part of Claremont's run, re: the healing factor. It seems a lot more intuitive -- not to mention more dramatic -- if catastrophic damage makes the healing factor less effective, rather than more.

(Of course, now with "Forever," it looks like things are going to be a lot less gritty and more fanciful when it comes to Wolverine -- I mean, if an adamantium claw can magically jump from his hand to Kitty's ...? Ah well ... we'll see. Maybe it'll work ...)

Jon Brown said...

Reading X-men Forever Alpha, I am starting to realize the limitations Jim Lee had as a visual storyteller. The book looks like it was designed to be looked at, not read. Its nothing but pin-up poses and crotch shots of the women. In that sense, I much prefer Grummett's art. I think he does a nice touch keeping the early 90s costumes but I get the sense that he is a much more low-key artist in the vein of Paul Smith or some of the classic X-artists.

In regards to the writing, I am quite pleased. The characterization in X-men Forever feels more natural than in the X-men #4 that Jim Lee did years ago. I really like the storylines that Claremont is setting the seeds for here. You can tell he is really in for the long run with this.

A few things I noticed that have not been commented on yet:

-Cortez amps up Wolverine's powers when he touches him. Shouldn't that mean his healing factor would be working better than normal?

-At this point in continuity, Storm had only recently turned back into an adult. Gambit kept remarking that he "liked her better as a child." That something is wrong with Storm is hinted at multiple times in X-men Forever. Right before Wolverine is killed, the narration tells us that he is following a lead on a teamate. In the preview cover for issue #4, we see the child Storm again. Perhaps the adult Storm has been an imposter this entire time?

-Jean tells Logan that Charles is crippled and nobody knows why. Perhaps the resolution to the Shadow King epic that was written after Claremont left no longer counts?

Jason said...

"Perhaps the adult Storm has been an imposter this entire time?"
-- Yeah, I came to the same conclusion, via the same logic.

"Jean tells Logan that Charles is crippled and nobody knows why. Perhaps the resolution to the Shadow King epic that was written after Claremont left no longer counts?"
-- I figured it was perhaps teasing at an "It's all in his head" thing. He's done something similar before. Claremont likes his Xavier ambulatory.

"Cortez amps up Wolverine's powers when he touches him. Shouldn't that mean his healing factor would be working better than normal?"
--- Hmm, true. Then again, maybe it was, but it still wasn't back up to snuff (if we work on the assumption that it was really, really in the pits at the start of the issue).

One last thought on XMF ... I was tooling around the internet looking at online reaction to the issue and the concept in general (insomnia), and seeing all the overblown negative reactions makes me like the issue more. I'm reminded of Geoff saying about All-Star Batman something along the lines of, Anything that pisses off the fanboys can't be all bad. I'm starting to feel this way about XMF ... I mean, you've got people going online with their "voice of reason" tone, saying "WHO thought this was a good idea?"

I don't know, someone with different taste than you perhaps? Oh my gosh, something I don't like has found its way into the world ... somebody somewhere has totally f*cked up!!!

It would be like if I -- an avowed non-fan of Joss Whedon -- were to go into a "Dollhouse" discussion thread, going "Jeez, this show sounds awful. For the life of me, I can't imagine how this ever got green-lighted. What was Fox thinking?"

Jon Brown said...

I was just surfing the comic boards as well. I seem to get the impression that most Claremont haters haven't actually read his original run in the 80s and are judging him based on his recent work. I don't think anyone could ever possibly argue that Claremont's 16 years on the X-men was the most influential the series has ever seen. Hell, most everything thats come afterwards owes a debt to Claremont, even the Morrison stuff!

One thing about X-men Forever is that it made me realize that Jim Lee was a great artist for pin-up poses, but a terrible storyteller. X-men 1-3 is a cluttered mess! He should have just stuck to drawing covers or something and let artists who know how to tell a story do the interiors. I can't believe that Marvel kicked Claremont off the books in favor of that guy!

Jason said...

Latest comic-geek-speak episode is all about X-Men Forever #1, and Claremont in general.

Fun to listen to (although they perpetuate the myth that Claremont was ousted in 1991, rather than that he quit).

Triumph of the Underdog said...

I think it is PROFOUNDLY STUPID that Claremont changed Gambit's name to "Remy Picard." And that's how far I got before I stopped taking this seriously... the intro page. Not that I love the name "Remy LeBeau" or even that I give a hoot about Gambit at all - just that the name "Picard" has too much weird intertext with Patrick Stewart. If you just HAVE to rename Gambit, why not rename him a French name that every reader isn't going to associate with the actor who played Xavier?

The only thing more annoying is that Claremont doesn't use this unique circumstance to correct his mistake of naming Rogue "Anna Marie Raven," literally after the actress who played her, her character name as established in the movie, and Mystique's name.

Geoff - you always talk about the anxiety of influence... what does it mean that when Claremont just HAD to finally name Rogue, he had her choose to name herself "Anna" after that "cute girl from the Piano movie" or something? Also, I remember three other equally infuriating and stupid references from contemporary Claremont X-Men:

1. Where Storm, with a short haircut, is mistaken for Halle Berry (by President Bush no less!)

2. Where Wolverine and Storm leave the Broadway show "Boy from Oz" and Wolverine says something like "That guy reminded me of me."

3. Xavier refers to the X-Mansion as the "Bridge of the Enterprise" ironically.

Other than these things I didn't hate this as much as other current Claremont and I will keep reading.

Jason said...

Did Claremont really write those three scenes? Wow.

I don't really mind naming Rogue after the actress who played her in the movie ... I mean, why not? It's not like "Anna" is like "Picard" in terms of instant association with one particular character.

"Remy Picard" is -- or so someone online has told me -- a joke on the fact that in the comics, when they did Gambit's origin, his father was named "Jean-Luc." I actually don't mind that either.

Those other examples you mention sound pretty atrocious, though.

James said...

It strikes me as particularly dumb that after all the years of Rogue's big-deal secret name, it gets revealed in every permutation of the series, and not one of them - comics, movies, Ultimate comics - is quite the same as any of the others. Buh?

Anonymous said...

It's deeply hard to be annoyed at him for the Picard thing, since classic claremont x-men and New Mutants books are riddled with Startrek references.

Anonymous said...

Wolverine is dead. Shadow Cat has a claw. Girl Storm on cover of future issue. Mediocre art. Irritating repetitions. That's enough for me to say no more is necessary. That's enough for me to say no more is necessary.

Anonymous said...

Man, this is what Chris Claremont wanted to do in "X-Men"

Anonymous said...

"X-Men Forever" is a book Chris Claremont has been dreaming about since the new team of X-Men arrived back in the 70's. He had intended to kill Wolverine in the Count Neferia storyline. Thankfully John Byrne pushed hard for the first Canadian super hero. That and Len Wein created the character not Claremont. Alas, poor Thunderbird bit the afterburner instead.

It is my humble opinion that Mr. Claremont helped shape an individual that he himself loathed. Many friends and I always thought Claremont used Wolverine as "The Mutant Punching Bag".
In just the first issue of "X-men Forever 1" Wolverine is nearly killed by Cyclops AND Fabian Cortez in the first few pages!??!!
Kitty is disrespectful & demeaning to Logan. She tells him to shut-up
and then refers to him as "Old Man!".
Finally, after nearly being turned to hamburger and nearly having his life force sucked out, it seems Claremont is through tenderizing poor Logan. Wrong. His greatest dream is finally here!! He gets to kill Logan in a pointless obliteration(never mind the Red Shirts in STOS got better death scenes than this. I would think that a death scene sort of like "Boromir" LOTR movies(going down fighting hordes of orcs) more appropriate.
Mr. Claremont was not about to give Logan an epic last stand. Instead he had Wolverine die by essentially shoving his claws into a gigantic toaster(not really but pretty much the same results).

If you think about it, Claremont has always had his uber-females much more powerful than the male characters(except maybe for Colossus).

Jean Grey could drop Logan in a volcano, Psylocke has nearly lobotomized him before, Rouge could backhand him and send his head into next week. I know, the "Adamatium" coating on his bones might be nearly indestructible but the ligaments, tendons and cartilage that attach them are not.
Polaris might be able to pull the metal out of him like Magneto.
If she couldn't do that she could always wrap him in a couple tons of steel and magnetically sealing his claws in his forearms and drop him into the deepest ocean floor.
An F-5 tornado from Storm would make him resemble a bug on a windshield. Oh yeah, if Jean had the Phoenix, she could nuke him or simply throw him into the sun.
When Claremont first saw the first X-Man movie he was incensed! Hugh Jackman was not his choice for the role!!!!
I thought maybe Danzig or Henry Rollins but I was wrong. Have you ever seen the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"? That's right, Chris Claremont had pushed hard for the 5'3" 62 year old Bob Hosins to have the role. I wonder if they would have made his action figure potbellied and nearly bald as he is in real life? -FEEDBACK would be greatly appreciated.

(P.S. Oh yeah, those ridiculous phrases like "No quarter asked and none given" or "Returned in kind" or repeated statements got old after the first 2,000 times.)