Tuesday, January 13, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #1 (2009)

I was going to review the Annual issue from the 1991 eleven-issued run by Chris Claremont just to end things properly but those sixty-four pages were nothing special (heavily focused on the Blob in Mojo World which is some sort of a prequel to Jim Lee's #10-11 issues), save perhaps the beautiful illustrations by Sam Keith, Jim Lee and Greg Capullo (who is the current artist for DC's New 52 Batman, by the way). Besides, that Annual wasn't even written by Claremont and I wanted to begin my X-Men comics diet by finishing all of Claremont's series and graphic novels first so I decided to jump ahead with the 2009 series X-Men Forever which was published two decades after Claremont ended his official run for The Uncanny X-Men. However, the great thing about XMF is that the plotlines pick up right after issues #1-3 of the 90's X-Men: Mutant Genesis which is a Magneto-centered story arc that moved me very deeply.

Now it wasn't exactly a smooth transition to read the nineties X-Men for two weeks before and then jump to this 2009 title for this week, considering there are obvious discrepancies between them, most notably the absence of Psylocke, Iceman, Banshee, Colossus and Forge. Shadowcast (Kitty Pride) and Nightcrawler have now joined the team. Now I'm sure this membership arrangement was affected by whatever current roster of X-Men are featured in other titles for 2009 so I was willing to just go with it because I love Kitty and Nightie's participation so far. Kitty also has a purple pet dragon of some sort which is really the first time I've ever seen it. Other than that, this first issue of X-Men Forever, illustrated by Tom Grummett, was spectacular!

Opening with Jean's dream of confessing her love then making out with Logan aside, we find the team flying inside the Blackbird plane as they try to locate the asshole renegade Fabian Cortez (who was one of Magneto's acolytes who used and betrayed him previously; which means he inadvertently caused Mags' death--which also naturally means I hate his guts). Professor X is handling the intra-politics with S.H.I.E.L.D operatives, particularly Nick Fury who is not impressed about any of this.

The action hits very early when the Blackbird was targeted by an unseen foe and exploded. Nightcrawler immediately grabs Cyclops and Gambit as he transports to the ground while Kitty was left to keep Jean Grey and Wolverine by her side as she tries to safely get them down using her ability to become intangible on hard surfaces. Meanwhile, Storm and Rogue, who have been flying alongside Blackbird, recovered fast enough to check on the two separated teams but not until Fabian Cortez shows up and controls Cyclops' optic beam. Apparently, just like Rogue, he can absorb powers through touch. There's also a catch: he can amplify a mutant's power inside his or her body until it kills them.

Rogue learns this the hard way as Cortez weakens her, rips a portion of her clothing and then smacks her straight at Storm who made flesh-on-flesh contact with Rogue. And we all know what that means. The impact knocks out both ladies instantly. Just when you thought things could not get any worse, Professor X, Beast and Nick Fury lost all contact from the team and Cortez efficiently takes out any X-Man he can find in the perimeter, particularly when none of them can sense him because he can actually cloak his energy, the motherfucker. While Gambit and Nightcrawler were able to cover up Cyclops so he could stop blasting people with his optic rays, they managed to find Storm and Rogue who are still passed out on the ground. On the other hand, Kitty contemplates Jean Grey and Wolverine's behaviour as they sat there near a tree together, Logan cupping Jean's face to check if she's all right. It was very affectionate so Kitty, knowing Jean is in a very serious and long-term relationship with Cyke, was uncomfortable about seeing them together like that. She awkwardly tries to give them their space.

Fortunately and tragically enough for all of them, Cortez shows up and attacks Wolverine from behind. Kitty jumps in, unaware of Cortez's ability, and only ends up making the situation worse. Jean gives out a counterattack, warning Cortez never to hurt her friends again. Cortez tries to absorb her power but only ends up getting a burning glimpse of the Phoenix energy that is still present within Jean but it's something she desperately tries to keep repressed. Overwhelmed, Cortez decides to just make his escape before the other X-Men catch up to him. Nightcrawler and Gambit were able to capture him and everything settles for a while as Professor X was able to make contact again and picks them up from another jet plane. However, the tension has only began to build up among all of them; Rogue was avoiding Storm after their flesh contact which led Storm to believe that Rogue must have seen something from her past and was merely lying about not remembering anything; Nick Fury expresses his concern over the fact that the X-Men themselves are giving the world reasons to fear and hate them so he makes the haste decision of announcing that every X-Men mission from here on is an official business for S.H.I.E.L.D.

In response to that, Wolverine rebels (as expected) and walks out of there, clearly pissed that Fury (whom he has shared a friendship with for years) is acting like a different person altogether with his pro-government stance. With Wolverine gone somewhere and the rest of team scattered inside the Xavier Mansion, Jean Grey and Cyclops stay with the professor as Charles tries to talk things out with Nick Fury at his office. Jean maintains a psychic link with Logan the entire time even though Logan kept telling her to stay out of his head. Then, with no warning whatsofuckingever, Jean stands up in panic and releases an immense surge of energy as she screams out for Logan to "get out of there!" (since she seems to have sensed that Logan was in danger, wherever he is). The shockwave spreads instantly and engulfs everyone in the office--and Claremont phenomenally ends this issue in that moment.

I thought that the pacing and plot for this very first installment of the five-issued arc Love--And Loss! has been solid so far. It kept me rolling to the edge of the bed (since I was lying down while reading this) every time a shocking or exciting sequence happens. You gotta love it when your entire being is interacting with a comic book without you being completely aware of the fact that you are very vocal in the expression of your elation, annoyance and dread. I knew I was. I'm now quite intrigued and open for anything that comes next!


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