The first cycle of the X-Men Forever series has come to an end with Requiem as its final official issue (#24) and Into That Good Night as its ending arc. We also had that Giant Size Special afterward which was included in the fifth volume collection of the series. Now I'm about to review the Annual issue in this post. It centered around the budding romance between Jean Grey and Logan (Wolverine) and illustrated by artist Sana Takeda. The illustrations are very delicate and pretty to look at so for me it's quite the visual allure, and a rather appropriate choice of artwork for a story that's heavily 'romantic' (except when it's not because there's a plot here that has less to do with the Jean-Logan affair but is actually less interesting than the former).
Of all the X-Men characters in this series, Jean Grey is the one who is given a character arc driven by the fractured relationships she established with men who either died (Logan and Hank)or became alienated from her (Scott and Charles). I've complained more than once that I thought this was a disservice to her character, turning her into a love-sick damsel always nursing her broken heart. To a certain degree, I still uphold this opinion. However, I would counter that her ongoing internal conflict concerning the men she loved and lost was a justifiable development for her but I'm just not comfortable about the idea that this is something that seems to solely define her role and importance for the XMF series. It's not a great direction for her.
I mean, it's already one thing for her to fall in love with two men in just a short span of time but it's another to be depicted as powerless about the situations she is thrust in when it came to these men. She's grieving ninety-percent of the time in this comics. I have yet to see her take on a more assertive stance in the duration of her character arc so far which is slightly off-putting for someone who enjoyed the independence established about this character throughout the years. Nevertheless, I would argue that this annual issue did show Jean having some agency even if it still has something to do with a man.
The plot for this issue was simple enough; I think it's supposed to serve as a prologue before the vents that occur in the very first issue of XMF where Nick Fury contacted the X-Men to ask for their help in apprehending this cult called The Hand. Cyclops reasoned out that he's been busy helping Hank with strengthening the security measures of the mansion so he cannot come to the mission. Jean and Logan decided to volunteer and they travelled to an island somewhere and posed as newlyweds which proved to be something Jean was secretly enjoying somehow. At this point, she had just been resurrected from the dead after becoming the Dark Phoenix so her telepathy has been absent for a while now, rendering her unable to read minds. Logan asked her if this is bothering her but she dismisses it and actually feels comfortable to know how it's like for ordinary people to live their lives, not always readily prepared to read the contents of other people's thoughts. The pages before the eventual confrontation were leisurely ones concerning the tension and affection these two have for each other. They shared a sudden kiss and then were abducted by The Hand.
The Hand, as it turns out, kidnapped Psylocke long ago and tried to convert her into their own personal assassin. They almost successfully turned Wolverine himself but luckily Psylocke and Jubilee (whose absence in this series is noteworthy, by the way) together with Kitty Pryde, arrive just in time to kick butt. Wolverine, however, is berserk and almost beats up Kitty unconscious. It was ultimately Jean who was able to stop him and reverse whatever spell the Hand has crafted. This issue was okay. There was nothing here that got me excited or annoyed me so this neutral reaction has made me rate this issue fairly. Also, the artwork is just gorgeous. It fits the romantic mood of the setting especially between Jean and Logan who finally admitted to themselves and to each other that they want to be together. I suppose it's a tad poignant that this relationship will remain unconsummated after Logan's death. I would be more convinced and invested that Jean truly has deep feelings for Logan if only she didn't readily jump into Hank McCoy next. It's just a bit tacky, you know, and made Jean seem fickle and eager to give away her love and devotion to whoever man shows interest. I'm still on the Scott-Jean bandwagon at that and I sincerely look forward to their interactions the most because I could tell theirs is a possibility of a real friendship enhanced by their long history together.
So this annual issue was a good preparation for the second season of the XMF series that I'll get started on next week.