Thursday, February 5, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont volume 5

This volume has to be the most perplexing collection of X-Men Forever so far. It only includes issue #21 and the Giant Size Special that span for 53 pages. I don't understand why they felt the need to forgo and leave issues #22-23 unenclosed (even that funeral issue #24 was excluded) when they are unmistakably substantial since they are the pieces that complete the story arc, Into That Good Night after all. I think I reached a point in reading Claremont's comics where I stop trying to make sense of XMF in particular, and its needlessly complicated storylines let alone the volumes in which they are divided.

In issue #21, A Plague on Both Your aHouses, Fabian Cortez finally passed away after enduring gruesome and torturous experiments courtesy of the Consortium. It was through his genetic mutation that the Consortium has figured out a way to eliminate mutantkind. The two mutant-hating Trask women, mother Amelia head of the Consortium, and legacy-deranged daughter Sigrid, having a fateful meeting where the daughter reveals that she has re-programmed her stupid killer robots and deemed them as Neo-Sentinels. We also just found out that one of the corporate figureheads for the Consortium is no other than Tony Stark himself, an Avenger, but Nick Fury remains unconvinced that Stark is a turncloak like Storm was so he decided to gather more convincing spy intel.

Meanwhile, Hank gets angrier the more he learns stuff, and Agent Daisy Dugan develops "feelings" for Sabretooth because he rescued her earlier in the story and now feels responsible for his amputated hand. Ro and Kitty research the connection between Trask and Stark and found it. In any case, it looks like the Trask-Stark connection goes way back the family tree. Stark Industries have also funded the Sentinel program! Afterwards, Fury just received some compelling evidence regarding the experiments done on Cortez. He hands Hank a flash drive. Its contents revealed that the Consortium has found the most effective way to sterilize mutantkind in the world which includes a satellite operation base orbiting near the planet. It carries a deadly concoction for mass genocide.

This was the only installment included for the arc and then the rest of the pages are  all about the Giant Size issue which is set after the events of Into That Good Night where Hank McCoy and Tony Stark sacrificed their lives for their comrades. And it doesn't make sense why they would discard three issues that should lead to this Giant Size special! Anyway, the fifty-three pages for the special include the story Can Love Find a Way whose title almost made me burst out laughing at the office where I was supposed to be quietly reading it. This storyline was actually previewed in issue #24 where the Shi'ara empire's precious library of some sort was infiltrated and the last person to access it was no other than Charles Xavier who is the royal consort to their empress Lilandra. If you don't know your X-Men canon, then you should know that Lilandra is an alien aristocrat who communicated with Xavier via astral plane one time and since then they have struck an ongoing romantic relationship that is bizarre and sort of disturbing, depending on how a writer approaches it. She is the second longest relationship Charles ever had (the first being Magneto who is totes his on-and-off ex-boyfriend). Anyway, a momentous family reunion occurs where the pages of this story are filled with LOTS AND LOTS of characters. It's a bit dizzying. It also started very slow where Scott and Professor X are trying to have a conversation where I was hoping they would discuss how Scott feels about Charles lying to the X-Men about the Burnout. But they were interrupted by other heroes they haven't seen in a while. They were also in Scott's family home with his parents and son Nathan. Alex and Lorna (from issue #18) were still vacationing there. And then we cut back to the Xavier Mansion where Jean, Kitty, Gambit, Sabretooth and Ro were transported to help out their fellow comrades in fighting some bad guys...

You know what, I cared very little about this story which was why I hardly paid attention especially when the only thing that truly stood out for me was that moment between Professor X and Jean Grey. Apparently, Lilandra and the Shi'ara people still believe she is dead and if they found out she's been resurrected, they will assume she is the incarnation of the Dark Phoenix and will proceed to dispose of her. Charles surrenders himself to Lilandra and was punished for breaching her trust when he accessed their console so he can gather more information on the Burnout cure. The punishment indicates his exile to their alien planet which means he will never see the X-Men again unless Lilandra allows it. Scott gives in easily, understanding that this was Charles' way to make up for the suffering he did not intend to inflict on the X-Men before. With Charles' sacrifice, Lilandra was never able to find out about Jean Grey and the Shi'ara empress left with her royal consort, never to bother the X-Men again. Devastated beyond reproach, Jean could only stare at the sky as Scott tries his very best to console her YET AGAIN. FOR THE THIRD GODDAMN TIME. And we get this exchange that really drove it home for me:

Oh, Jeannie. To think that you came back to life only to watch the men you love die or leave you: Logan, who was brutally murdered by one of your own friends; Hank, who sacrificed himself to save everyone; Scott, who mourned your demise for a while but moved on to have a son with another woman; and, finally, Charles Xavier, your mentor and father figure whom you wanted to open up about certain things with but will never get a chance again. I am so sorry, Jeannie. If I ever underestimated the depths of your pain or judged you harshly before, I'm taking some of them back. I feel awful for you especially when I'm reading this at a time when I am also recovering from my own trail of heartbreaks.

The rest of the pages follows the update concerning Amelia Trask who actually fucking recovered after Stark shot her; and the revelation that yet another fucking woman is the directorate of the Consortium. We also get some bonus scenes with Steve Rogers (Captain America) and the Avengers as they try to get past the loss of Tony Stark to fight for another day. The last story included in this special was Claremont's The Uncanny X-Men issue #108 which is actually written in the late eighties, I think, and tells the story of Jean as the Phoenix and her scuffle with the Shi'ara empire. I think this was supposed to be supplemental background as to why Jean and the Shi'ara race are ot odds with each other in the first place. Issue #108 is a worthy read, actually, and something I enjoyed better than whatever shite Can Love Find a Way was intended to be. The Giant Size special had redeeming factors but overall underwhelming.

The volume should have really included #22-24 which is why I'm rating this lower than I would have originally.


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