Thursday, August 13, 2009

Claremont vs Morrison and Whedon in X-Men Forever (Spoilers))

Chris Claremont's X-Men Forever #5 was the conclusion to his first X-Men Forever story arc (though, as Claremont is wont to do, it does not really feel like much of a conclusion). X-Men Forever picks up exactly where Claremont left off in 1991 with X-Men 3, pretending nothing every happened in the meantime -- sort of.

Obviously a lot happened in the intervening 17 years, but a lot of folks claimed -- in a bit of an exaggeration -- that Morrison was the first person to make them exciting again in his high profile New X-Men run. (I myself was always a big fan of the four month alternate universe Age of Apocalypse, but that may have just been because I was too young to know better). In a search for a successor, Marvel went to Joss Whedon to pick up where Morrison left off. In a much less high profile movie Warren Ellis picked up Whedon with a little story called "Ghost Boxes," about parallel universe invading -- the whole thing was mostly forgettable, as to my eye it looked like Ellis had this story in a drawer, and sort of shoehorned the X-Men into it. And in the larger Marvel Universe Wolverine became one of the most ubiquitous characters in comics, on both the Avengers, X-Men, and X-Force (as well as his solo title) and has two "kids" with similar claw powers as well.

Claremont is going to pretend all this -- and more -- never happened in his X-Men Forever run, except I feel him responding to these writers everywhere, making his run more like Ultimate X-Men: a riff on what we know happened in mainstream continuity.

In mainstream continuity Wolverine is ubiquitous. In X-Men Forever he is killed almost immediately, (on a book that is surely going to be flirting with cancellation since it is for such a niche audience, so many comic book readers not being able to read when X-Men 3 came out).

In mainstream continuity Wolverine has a daughter who has two claws instead of Wolverine's 3. In X-Men Forever Kitty Pryde (who always had a kind of daughter-father relationship with Wolverine anyway) literally gets one of his claws.

In mainstream continuity Storm (in Warren Ellis's run) decided she was fine with being a killer -- actually signed off on genocide. In X-Men forever Storm is split into two people at least one of which looks to be a killer, the other an innocent.

In mainstream continuity Psylock turned out to be two people: the new Ninja Psylock was installed and then out of nowhere, the old version reappears. (I don't remember how all that got resolved, or what started it in the first place). In X-Men Forever de-aged Storm, thought to have become the new one, turns out to be a separate person as well.

In Claremont's original run there is a famous image of Wolverine in the sewers of the Hellfire club saying "now its my turn." Whedon revised this image by putting Shadowcat in this same pose and situation. In X-Men Forever, Claremont sort of tries to bring it back by having Sabertooth reenact the same pose with a similar line, while at the same time having Shadowcat takes Wolverine's place in another way with this new claw.

Morrison's first story really played hard into the Mutants are the next step of evolution, and went so far as to say humanity was dying off due to a genetic trigger. In X-Men Forever, Claremont reverses this suddenly declaring that mutants are NOT the next step in evolution and are dying out do to a similar kind of internal trigger, burning out young because of their powers (The explanation does not make a lot of sense to me as it is based on the argument that there are no mutants over 60, but this seems to be more that mutants are a sort of recent development).

X-Men stories have played around with alternate time-lines, timelines that were eventually reset. Claremont's title is set in a kind of pocket-continuity, but you get the feeling he is figuring everyone else's stories as continuity to be reset so the universe can be put back the way it should have been, just as it was in Age of Apocalypse and Here Comes Tomorrow.


James said...

Also of note:

In the late 90s (I think), Shadowcat was going around with one of Wolverine's broken-off bone-claws attached to her wrist.

In the Ultimate Universe, it turns out mutants are not the next stage of human evolution, but a man-made attempt at creating super-beings, of which Wolverine is the first, and the condition spreads like a virus.

Age of Apocalypse also had Sabertooth as an X-Man and a good guy, basically taking the Wolverine role on the team.

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

Sabretooth re-enacting the "Now it's my turn" bit was very confusing to me. I having trouble figuring out what point Claremont was trying to make, other than making plain the Sabretooth would be occupying Logan's spot on the team. I need you or Jason to explain it to me.

That said, I've actually liked this series way more than I expected to. I like the idea, btw - Claremont having his own continuity to play with. It seems like they've been trying to do that in sort of back-door ways for years (X-Treme leaving the mansion, Exiles).

Paul said...

Claremont gave Shadowcat the broken bone claw during his 2nd run in 2000. Also worth noting is that Scott Lobdell cut Kitty's hair and gave her a set of six mechanical claws during Age of Apocalypse back in 1995.

I think Sabretooth striking the Wolvie sewer pose was just Claremont continuing to draw parallels between the two in light of the revelation that Sabretooth is Logan's daddy.

I'm really digging X-Men Forever. I just wish Marvel would stop spoiling the surprises with the upcoming covers in the back of each issue. It totally gutted the impact of both the Kitty and 'Ro reveals.

ba said...

Wow, they're killing off wolverine all over the place now, aren't they? First ultimatum (you need to have a blog post about how this is the single worst "event series" ever, excluding perhaps secret wars II), and now x-men forever?

Also, thanks for the spoiler alert...I've only read #1 so far. Not that I really care that much.

Also whoever mentioned lobdell's shadowcat - generation next was the best series in a pretty decent crossover (AoA). why people hate AoA so much, I don't know. But GN had a great story, great dialogue, and bachalo art.

Ghost machines was terrible, though. And I love ellis. By far the weakest thing I've read from him, unless he can turn it around really fast.

Geoff Klock said...

James, Matt: good points

Paul. seriously on the point about the covers. Absurd.

BA: sorry about the spoiler. That has been fixed. I did LOVE Age of Apocalypse. I was young enough at the time to truly believe it was the end of the X-Men, which is a feeling I have never recaptured.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are weird story glitches and other typical Claremontian problems, but I am really on board with X-Men Forever. No other X-Book currently coming out has as much to say about what "X-Men" - as a comic idea - is, if that makes any sense. Over in X-Force they are just recycling 90's ideas in an annoying "So and So is BACK!" kind of way. I don't know what's going on in Uncanny besides ridiculous Greg Land magazine art and wry two-line captions about the characters.

My point being, even though Claremont is clearly just sort of throwing it out there, its hitting with me on some innate level.


Jeff said...

Claremont has a habit of bringing up some interesting moral dilemmas for the X-Men that I find interesting. In (the unfortunately titled) X-treme X-Men series they had to choose between letting a conqueror from another universe subjugate the planet and bring peace or fight for free will. Now they will be choosing to use their powers to help the world knowing that it will kill them. The reveal doesn't make the most sense, but the operatic-ness(?) of it makes up for it. Also, this is the way to make Professor X look like kind of a dick, without completely destroying his character.

Shlomo said...

I think that this new "expiration date" for mutants is a fantastic idea, but I very much doubt claremont can execute (or even the x-men franchise itself can incorporate) such a dark and subtle element.

Of course, the real reason there are no older mutants is because there is no aging in comics, and the publishers assume the audience only wants to follow young (below 30)characters. but still I think this idea could drive a great marvel max (or Vertigo equivalent) miniseries. Perhaps one day it will.

And kudis to Geoff, for highlighting the comparison with Morrison's ideas about evolution. Very interesting.

deepfix said...

I actually think this burning out of mutants is going to be central to Claremont's run on this book. it harkens back to idea that Jason mentioned in a past write-up on Uncanny: the idea that X-Men will come and go; that eventually some just won't have what it takes anymore and retire (like what he wanted to happen with Cyclops) and others will join the fold. I'm hoping that the line-up we see being solidified now will not become sacrosanct and that the title lasts long enough for him to shake things up.

Paul said...

There is some credence to the older mutants burning out plotline. As mentioned in XF #5, Magneto hadn't been up to snuff for a while. Wolverine's healing factor was was constantly challenged and taxed ever since his fight with Deathstrike in UXM #205. Ever since Xavier's mugging at the end of UXM #192, Charles had been considerable weaker, which led to his evacuation by Lilandra in #200 after the Fenris fight. These external complications may have accellerated this process for these older mutants.

Paul said...

I've read 1-4 thusfar and I'm really enjoying it. Since I spent some of my early comics-reading years reading Claremont, and those that aped him to various degrees, the writing falls under the category og guilty pleasure for me.

The pace is very not-Claremont though. I can't work out if:

a) He's throwing all this stuff out there to let people know "everything you knew is wrong" so he can get on with the stories he wants in his preferred status quo.

b) He's throwing all this stuff out there quickly because he's afraid he'll be cancelled.

c) He actually has learned to tell a fast-paced story again.

Either way, I think I'll stay with it until it gets dull!

deepfix said...

Wow. I had the completely opposite reaction. I enjoyed it but felt it moved at a snail's pace. It read as a parody of decompression to me

Now that I think about it, I think it may have been a three issue arc that got elongated to fit a bi-weekly schedule (not sure if it was always intended to be b-weekly or if that came later in the process.)

Anonymous said...

This is Lightningboltjs. This is a GREAT series and I'm glad to see positive reviews of it. The idiots who've bashed it over the first few issues are just crazy, this is by far the best thing to happen to the X-men or Marvel comics in a long, long time. Giving Claremont the ability to tell his stories without the commercial pressures that have made the X-men as immortal as Superman or Batman, something that was NEVER true during his original run, is bringing back the energy and surprise of his original, amazing run. Claremont deserves this, the X-men deserve this and the fans deserve it.

Anonymous said...

The series throws a lot of information at you, but it's at the same time a fairly quick read issue to issue, when compared to his classic run. This makes it feel like a lot is revealed with very little actually happening.

Well... Is it that, or is it that for the first time in a long time I don't have the next issue on my tabletop to pick up and read immediatley.

So, is claremont asking us to figure out how old everyone is? Beast,iceman and angel used to hang out in the village going to beatnik cafes afterall. Even taking more contemporary events into account with scott's baby and x-wife, he feels around his mid 30s to me. The whole mutants die when they get older and use their powers thing has been the only thing in this series that's hit me the wrong way. I feel like there have been a lot of older mutants throught the series, and this has never really been an issue before...

I am interested to see where this professor x/ nick fury dynamic goes considering the anti-establishment nature of the x-men under claremont's original run. It's as if because he has to return to the original series ultra-status quo he wants to push the establishment element even farther by having this direct government connection.

Sidenote: as someone who stoped reading during age of apo I was blissfully unaware of all these contemporary plots claremont felt he needed to push against. I'm not sure if that makes the events of the last few issues more or less interesting.

One thing more: I'd really enjoy a shoutout from some of the characters from the x-universe who vanished between x-men 3 and x-forever 1. I'd accept any explination as to why they aren't there, so long as I know they haven't just evaporated into nothing. New mutants ran off with cable, fine, don't need them. X-factor is it's own team for the government, fine they have their own thing too. Both the gold and blue team, as well as excalibur I feel need to be addresses however because we're in their playgrounds character and settingwise.