X-MEN FOREVER #15
What did the
PENCILS: Peter Vale
LETTERED BY: Tom Orzechowski
COVER BY: Tom Grummett
In a week where a few of my standby books let me down a bit, X-Men Forever came through with a solid issue, making it my Pick of the Week in a light week.
The thing about this series, for me, is that it’s always better than the sum of its parts. Of course Chris Claremont is never going to write the Dark Phoenix Saga, From the Ashes, Days of Future Past, or Life-Death again. But he can still sometimes write a decent story, and then the fact that it’s a decent Chris Claremont X-Men story will take it beyond “decent” into the territory of “pretty good”. Tom Grummet’s art is much the same: it’s not innovative or masterful, but it’s skilled and more than just “serviceable”. So give him a decent story to draw, and I’ll be more pleased than I should be with the art. (On the other hand, when X-Men Forever has a bad issue, and everything is ridiculous–that’s a treat too, in its own way.)
This issue as as stand-alone as you can get when you’re dealing with serialized narratives. It’s a complete chapter. Any asides into what’s happened before, or any slight foreshadowings of what’s to come–they really only serve to highlight the way Storm is right now in this issue, which is almost entirely devoted to her.
Is she a villain? Is she not a villain? Why did she apparently kill Wolverine in issue #1 of this series? Is she really the real Storm, really? If she is a villain, will true love change her? How about the death of the guy who loves her–what’ll that exactly mean for her?
What’s most impressive about the writing of this issue is that none of the above questions are definitively answered, and yet Claremont holds our attention, maintains our curiosity and gets us to care about Storm even though we still don’t know exactly what’s going on with her. We feel we know her–and we’ve read Claremont’s Storm for so long that it’s natural for us to care about her–and yet at any minute we feel that the rug could totally be pulled out from under us. At the turn of any page, we feel that it could suddenly be revealed that this isn’t the real Storm. Or that she IS the real Storm and she definitely IS evil now, forever.
This uncertainty (and yes sometimes it’s absurdly crazy, but not here) is what makes X-Men Forever fun. It’s also what made Claremont’s initial X-Men run so interesting. It was a crazy run with tons of status quo changes (especially in the ’80s) and hero/villain switches. In those respects, this issue of X-Men Forever really does seem to evoke the spirit of what Claremont might have done in 1992 or something.
It’s a hell of a lot of fun, if you’re inclined to be receptive to this stuff. Does Claremont have faults? Of course. And whenever I try to get other people to give this book a shot, I do find myself apologizing for him. But on my own, when I’m reading X-Men Forever I’m not wincing at any of the awkward moments (the current issue has few awkward moments, by the way). It’s just too interesting for me to see what Chris Claremont would do with these characters, working from the continuity he left off with almost 20 years ago. It’s too rare of an opportunity to see this stuff from this writer with these characters in this point in continuity. So, in this issue, is something like the “Consortium” kind of hackneyed? I guess–but in my mind all I’m thinking about is how he’s working that theme off of all the build-up with the Shadow King that he established in 1990. I’m so much more concerned with examining the possibilities and having a good time trying to consider all these ideas in context that…if the guy isn’t as good at dialogue or setup as he was the first time around…I don’t care. Because the themes and the characters he’s working with are still viable.
It’s a one-and-done issue about Storm, the Black Panther, backstabbing, love and deceit, political intrigue, regicide, bloodfeuds, global criminal enterprises, putting your life and reputation on the line, and other stuff like that. You’ve got a protagonist who’s interesting, morally ambiguous–someone you really want to love but aren’t sure about…because by the end you’re told outright that she wants to kill the X-Men, even though she has been an X-Men as long as you’ve read about her. It’s great stuff and well worth $3.99 even if it doesn’t represent the height of what is considered high-quality in 2010.
Overall 4/5 for being an unpredictable joy to read, a good-looking story that takes longer than five minutes to read, and gives you things to think about and look forward to after you close the issue and put it down. It’s not a classic, but it’s a memorable issue. It’s an issue ABOUT SOMETHING, and you can tell what that something is by looking at the cover. It has a defined goal, sets out to tell a certain chapter of an ongoing story, and it accomplishes that.
Art: 3 - Good