Tuesday, July 6, 2010
X-men Forever Season 2 Issue #2 - Bland With a Touch of Awesome
In recent months the Forever titles have become the anomaly in my comic collection. When Chris Claremont (you know, the guy who probably did more for X-men than any other writer in history) said he was launching his own title called X-men Forever, I was as giddy as a school girl who just took a hit of crystal meth. Then I actually read the first few issues and that meth turned into poor quality heroine that was so watered down it was like shooting up a trip to the DMV into my veins. The title actually did what I thought was impossible and tainted Chris Claremont's legacy. Between piss poor characterization, outlandish character depths, turning Jean Grey into a lying whore, making Kitty a lamer X-23, retconning events and not explaining them, and doing some of the shittiest romance sub-plots in history (Scott/Jean/Logan/Beast still ranks as one of the most disgusting developments in X-comic history) it actually came to vindicate Claremont being kicked off the book back in 1991. I take no joy in saying that either, but being a die-hard Claremont fan that I am I can't help but take a peak and every so often he does make Forever readable. Hell, the man had Storm kill Black Panther instead of marrying him. That has to count for something, right?
Now after the first 25 issues (plus an annual), Claremont has begun what he calls season 2 with a bang both literally and figuratively. This time that's not just a cute euphemism. Seriously, in the first issue of the new series he had the Avengers attack the X-men and the result of the fight was the entire fucking X-mansion blowing up! Again, it doesn't make up for all the shortcomings of this series, but damn it if it isn't awesome. That prompted me to take a look at issue #2 in hopes of some equally awesome follow-up. The results, unfortunately, were a mixed bag.
By and large, this issue doesn't do much to move the plot forward. It's one big reaction issue. The whole Forever universe is basically reacting to the X-mansion blowing up. Hell, have the issue is taken from the perspective of a news report and last I checked it's pretty damn hard to make the news awesome (unless of course your last name is Stewart or Colbert).
The report is pretty predictable to anyone who has had to sit through the news (poor souls). They say what happens, act all serious and emotional about it, and try to twist it in their own away. During this bombardment of media mayhem that can only come from sources like Fox News, SHIELD and the authorities are scouring the remains for signs of the X-men. They find absolutely dick. And by dick I mean no bodies. That more or less affirms what happened. The X-men are still alive thanks to the universal law of comics section 1, subsection 45, line 15 and I quote, "no body means no death."
Not only do they find no trace of the X-men. They find no trace of Nick Fury either. That adds a new wrinkle to the garment. If he's gone, who runs SHIELD in the Forever universe? Well following the logic that if there's a crisis then Congress will find a way to fuck it up even more, they appoint Ziggy Trask to the job. Who is Ziggy Trask you ask? She's the bitch related to Bolivar Trask, the asshole who made the sentinels. She's also the bitch who ran rough-shot at the Consortium, the assholes who spent much of Season 1 trying to kill the X-men. I would add a few more political undertones as to how fucked up this is, but the sad truth remains that this is a pretty accurate representation of Congress. Nobody can say that Chris Claremont doesn't inject some sense of realism in his books, even if it's the kind of realism that only registered republicans appreciate.
While Congress is fucking things up with the giant dick of government, the Avengers are still scratching their heads. Yet they do show some remorse, which is pretty appropriate given that this is before the whole Civil War mess. It's a nice moment to show that this really is an alternate take because the Avengers still come off as heroes, taking responsibility in a way that politicians never will. Unlike the news, they seem equally convinced that the X-men are still alive and well.
While they're reeling, others are overreacting with a shit storm of douche-baggery. Enter Perfect Storm, the bitch who usurped power in Wakanda and killed Black Panther (okay, bitch probably isn't the right word because anybody who was pissed by her being married probably got a boner seeing this). Needless to say, she's pretty pissed. But it isn't because the X-men are supposedly dead. It's because she didn't kill them. What's fucked up is that those around her thinks it's out of grief when she flat out says it's because this denies her the vengeance she craves. It's not a thought bubble. It's not an inner musing either. She fucking says it and these people don't hear? It's a small detail, but it's among many Claremont has made in this series.
The affair eventually reverberates to other parts of the X-men, which in the Forever universe include X-Force. At the time it was being run by Warren and his deep pockets. With those same deep pockets, he promises to protect the rest of the team knowing they may be on the front lines now that the regulars are MIA. Now one would expect them to be as skeptical as the Avengers about them being dead, but Warren does talk as though the X-men are really gone. You would think he would show a bit more emotion. Same with the rest of the team. But no, the scene is painfully bland. It's like Claremont just copied and pasted it in there and it's essentially filler, a waste of precious ink.
Next up the media blitz continues, but thankfully it's finally cut off despite taking up half the book at this point. It ends at the Daily Bugle with Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson. This is by far the biggest draw of the comic and the main reason why I thought it was worth picking up and reviewing. Chris Claremont is bringing in a pre-One More Day Spider-Man. For anyone still pissed from that bullshit retcon that has tainted every Spider-Man comic since, this makes this issue worth it's weight in pure Wakandan Vibrainium.
Since the news isn't going to get the full story, Jameson sends Peter to the scene to get what he hopes will be a scoop he can rub in the faces of every other media outlet. Peter, having crossed paths with the X-men plenty of times within the pre-1991 continuity, jumps at the chance because like the Avengers he is not convinced the X-men are gone. So he ventures to the ruins of the mansion and investigates. Here Claremont goes a wee bit overboard with the thought bubbles as he so often does, but that's sort of a mainstay of X-men Forever. It's still annoying as fuck sometimes, but it's still a pre-OMD Spider-Man. That's worth overlooking, isn't it?
While Peter is looking for some answers, more filler finds it's way into the plot. There's a brief shot at a Senator's office where it appears Mystique is entering the picture again, albeit with not even an ominous hint at what that means for this plot. It also comes in the form of an orphanage in Nebraska, the same where Scott Summers grew up. Here a little boy is talking with Dr. Hanover about Cyclops and his son. The hint here is pretty obvious too. Old man Sinister is about to enter the picture. It looks like they're going to attempt to kidnap Scott's son...again. Seriously, was this even necessary in a book like this? It not only seems out of place, but a total rehashing of a plot that has already been used before 1991.
Back to the non-Mephisto Spider-Man and the most awesome part of this book. Spidy found nothing at the site of the Xavier Institute and continues with his endless thought bubble droning as he swings through New York on his nightly patrol. Then he gets his first action of the night, which also happens to be the first and only bit of action in this book. Some thugs are getting their butts kicked in an alley and for once Spider-Man isn't doing it. He swings in to investigate. To his surprise he finds exactly what he didn't find in the ruins of the mansion. He finds a very alive X-man, but probably not the one he was expecting. Keep in mind, Spidy probably hasn't been keeping up with what's been going on in X-men Forever so imagine his surprise when he sees Nightcrawler Rogue in a sexy new uniform. If I were in Spider-Man's shoes I would be confused yet strangely aroused because blue skin, a tail, and cleavage is still pretty damn hot.
Before anything else comes of this, the comic ends. No more action. No more revelations either. The book just ends. It's not quite a cliffhanger and it's not quite a resolution either. It's just an end to an issue that was bland most of the way through, but still had some elements of awesome that made it worth picking up. Much of those elements were provided by Spider-Man who wasn't carrying the One More Day curse. Everything else was painfully bland and came off as complete filler for an issue that you could probably skip and not miss much. For a series that's supposed to be it's own line, that's a terrible waste of ink.
I get the basic concept of what Chris Claremont was trying to do. The X-mansion blowing up would have huge repercussions throughout the greater Marvel universe. It's great that he wanted to show everybody's reaction, but it still came off as filler and lacked the kind of impact that makes such a premise work. Every facial expression was essentially the same and nobody really said or thought anything that stood out. There was only a tiny bit of action to boot and it wasn't nearly enough to make up for the many other shortcomings of this issue.
Never-the-less, it's still worth picking up just for the Spider-Man elements. If the next issue has more action and less news, that will be worth picking up as well. But the fact remains that X-men Forever has a shit tone of plot holes and a pile of diarrhea worth of characterization flaws. For what it's worth, this issue doesn't do any more damage to the Forever series that others have and does have some note-worthy aspects worth making note of. Because of this, I can't in good conscious give this comic an Ultimate X caliber score. I give it a 2.5 out of 5 for at least trying to tie Forever into the greater Marvel Universe and for giving readers a non-One More Day Spider-Man. This series has a long way to go to make up for many other shortcomings, but it's Chris Claremont so it's not impossible. At the very least we still have the nearly flawless awesome of Louise Simonson's X-Factor Forever so all is not lost in the Forever concept. Flaws aside, the hearts of the writers are still in the right place and who can blame them for that?