Thursday, January 15, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont volume 1

Entitled X-Men Forever: Picking Up Right Where We Left Off is not exactly an accurate description for the first volume of Chris Claremont's grand return to X-Men comics after his supposed retirement in 1992. This was originally intended to be a follow-up to the 1991-1992 eleven-issued run of X-Men with artist Jim Lee but not every character featured in that nineties comic book series was able to be featured here. I'm referring, of course, to Psylocke, Jubilee, Banshee, Forge, Bishop and Angel.

For X-Men Forever, we get Nightcrawler and Shadowcat alongside the usual favorites: Professor X, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Beast, Cyclops, Rogue, Gambit and Storm. Although the events for the first five issues of this volume happens right after Magneto's demise back in X-Men #1-3, this one feels like a disjointed story because the tonality, visual feel and writing are completely different from the nineties series. Artist Tom Grummett also provides pulpy dimensions to the illustrations that suit this era of Claremont's X-Men

That said, Picking Up Where We Left Off was everything that has made Chris Claremont's writing for the X-Men definitive and diverse (if not nostalgic for those who grew up reading his stories for a better part of the two decades of his career). Regardless of how you may feel about his often soap-opera-ish verbose style and narrative framing, Claremont's X-Men stories are always guaranteed to be engaging, much like a soap opera in television about a dysfunctional family facing a ridiculous amount of unfortunate events that test the bonds of their relationship.

Claremont simply has a knack for making the most absurd or dramatic of interactions and storylines just click together to form a cohesive and enjoyable story where characters are interacting like real people (in spite of the stilted dialogue). Yes, Claremont may have characters talking rather bizarrely at times (in an occasional self-aware and cheeky manner even when scenes are grim and serious) but you can look past that and consider the package of these stories at their humblest face value: they're genuinely entertaining, deeply moving at times and sheer fun. There is an endearing and earnest quality to the way Claremont treats these characters; each of their uniqueness is marked by compelling drama in their daily struggles as people and as a community of outcasts and aspiring world-builders. It can get cheesy but it's still very heartfelt. This is Claremont's X-Men at its most rudimentary form where being a mutant means troubles will always find a way to your doorstep and all your relationships are meant to suffer in bittersweet regrets and reflection. And it's very addictive to read it!

Comprised of five issues, the story arc Love--And Loss! almost killed me. I never expected it to be so goddamn stressful and bad for the heart. The plot was off-beat and uncompromisingly inventive in such a way that it managed to put two of the most popular and well-loved characters (and deservingly so) in irreversibly tragic roles that I never once saw coming so while it was unfolding before my very eyes, I tried so hard not to flinch from its unforgiving sight. The first two issues nicely set up the pieces, building up the necessary character drama that will fuel the next stages of conflict for the rest. We get Jean Grey and Logan's "unconsummated" love for each other which is going to become a terrible inconvenience for everyone, mind you. Meanwhile, Kitty Pryde's role in the progression of the storyline will become significant and the substantial loss of a fallen comrade will burden her in a way no one will be made quite aware of until later on during more dangerous missions. I have to say that this first volume is loaded with twists that could either make you so, so, horribly suffocated and yet riveted all the same (like I was) or question the very fabric of Claremont's fiction. Love--And Loss could be rather polarizing. If you never liked character-driven stories filled with agonizing moments of drama where everyone is discovering awful shit and reacting devastatingly to it, plus some servings of off-the-kilter action sequences, all the while nothing gets satisfyingly resolved, then perhaps this corner of Claremont's writing is not suited for you. For me, it's perfect. Not necessarily a classic masterpiece like his earlier works but one close to my soul anyway.

Six months from now when I have read other X-Men titles by other writers, I will still look back at the Claremont works read and reviewed here in my blog and sigh in nostalgic bliss. This volume will always have a special place because it broke my heart so much worse than expected. So here are the blurbs for the five issues. I don't want to spoil the details of each issue because the hurricane of ache needs to be experienced first-hand, although clicking the links of the individuals reviews will certainly do the job.

Issue #1 --> In which Jean Grey and Logan are connecting secretly through a shared telepathic bond, Storm and Rogue connected in a very uncomfortable way that sends them awkwardly away from each other for a while, and Nick Fury wants to put the X-Men for a more public appearance to make the normal citizens feel safe about them, if not less inclined to persecute them.

Issue #2 --> In which everyone gets knocked out via Jean's massive mental breakdown; Storm fights Sabretooth and the rest of X-Men arrive just in time as she blinds the motherfucking shit out of him because she's had enough.



Issue #5 --> In which the X-Men come to terms that everything is worse than fucked because it's very, very fucked only to discover that EVERYTHING COULD GET MORE FUCKED THAN IT ALREADY HAD BEEN. Also known as the issue where they contemplate their new set of priorities, Professor X gets shamed for being such a secretive jerk, and Nick Fury decides he can make it all work out for the best.


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