Friday, January 30, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont volume 4

This volume collects issues #16-20 of Chris Claremont's continuing X-Men Forever soap opera saga. The biggest crime it ever committed was the sole fact that it didn't even put issue #15 in its roster which was the Storm-centered installment that would have added another star to this volume but since it didn't, I'm sticking with my final rating below. This was hardly what I can call a polarizing collection--it's just downright grating and disappointing in a lot of places that are not even worth mentioning.

Since it started, the XMF series has walked that fine line between convoluted yet compellingly entertaining storytelling and atrociously delusional baggage of bullshit storylines. For a time, it's always been an optimistic reading experience for yours truly but now I can honestly say that this volume is everything that's distasteful, bland and irreconcilably bad about this series as a whole. There's no way to sugarcoat it.

First of all, the story arcs that were present here only lasted for two issues each (Rogue and Nightcrawler's misadventure in Mississippi was in issues #16-17; Finding Fabian Cortez in the Consortium base lasted from issues #19-20) and there just wasn't enough content to go around with so everything feels stretched out and unsatisfying. Not failing to mention, of course, that perplexingly boring issue #18 that was Cyclops-centered but could have easily been written in less than five pages because the events that happened in that issue were so catastrophically uneventful that it hurts. I don't even have any other way to expound on this review so let me re-post my most important criticism and that's how Jean Grey's role in all of this debacle so far and the mutant burnout storyline are being executed:

If the mutant burnout was a really important plot thread then I certainly hope Claremont brings his A-game and stop giving us filler story arcs in between and just focus on the burnout crisis instead. The irony about it thought is that he still has to build up certain subplots that are in relation to this main one and yet he manages to accomplish little every time he does because there's just something underwhelming and half-baked about the way he's written the last four issues or so. I think the pacing has started to suffer by the end of the Sentinels arc and we're trudging along the dangerous possibility that this could get more convoluted than necessary. We have S.H.I.E.L.D vs. The Consortium vs. the X-Men. We got individual vendettas from Storm and Black Magik (who will make an appearance because their arcs are unfinished after all), and then we have the blindingly stupid character conflict of Jean Grey regarding the men she's romantically interested in.

In issue #17, Jean and Moira have a girl talk during tea time. Of course, it's about Jean's love life because apparently that's the storyline she's been strictly confined in since we stared XMF. She hasn't been going in missions and taking on more active, participatory roles either, and her bereavement process had stretched far too long that it was derivative by now. Worse, she had just made out with one of her long-time friends while recovering from the loss of another which is just so tacky. I don't know about you but Jean is not impressing me at the moment. She's basically helpless, making some truly confounding decisions and becoming receptive to Hank's affections which he never blatantly expressed, mind you. I know I said in my review for the third volume that I won't be harsh with her because I understand her grief but honestly! This is a grotesque way of characterizing one of the most empowered superheroines in comic book fiction, reducing her into a small role of a woman who lost her love interest and is now eager to jump with another because hey, it's the only way she could deal with the potentially life-ending mutation burnout. It's just frustrating because so much fucked-up shit are happening around her and with other characters and we have yet to see her involved in a decent piece of storyline outside her romantic dilemma at hand. I mean, how long is she going to stay cooped up in the mansion, going on meditative walks or having various heart-to-hearts with people who obviously have more important things to do than listen to her pain? I am not happy about the role in which you have cased Jean Grey in, Mr. Claremont. Please remedy this ASAP.

RECOMMENDED FOR POSTERITY: 6/10


X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #20 (2009)

This issue is the final installment of whatever the fuck is happening with S.H.I.E.L.D, the Constortium and Fabian Cortez. It picks up right after the previous issue's cliffhanger where Nick Fury, Agent Daisy Dugan, Sabretooth and Gambit are confronted by Consortium operatives as they are just about to whisk away Fabian Cortez to get more information from him. As an action-packed issue, I had no problem with this. The pages illustrated by Graham Nolan were captivating enough to hold my attention as I follow our heroes as they escape the clutches of the enemy. 

Visually, it was great. However, Claremont's narration boxes sort of annoy me because they were so self-aware and needlessly chatty. I would have preferred for the artwork to speak for itself so it can heighten the sense of danger and high stakes but with Claremont's narration, the supposedly tense atmosphere gets underwhelming at times. I think that's my only strong nitpick for this issue and I don't really feel like picking this apart more than it needs to be. For what it's worth, at least the fourth volume is over and I can now post my official review of it and then finally start posting a single review per story arc so I don't get irritated when a particular issue slows down my momentum and spoils my enjoyment at the same time.

The only thing of note that happens during the action sequence was the instinctive way Sabretooth rescued Agent Dugan. That was surprising because he actually risked his life for someone during the heat of the moment which was odd yet sort of nice for a jerkwad like Sabes to do. As a result, he got his hand chopped off in the railway. Later on, Hank would surmise that the mutant burnout is also taking a toll on him which was why his eyesight hasn't returned yet and his hand will not grow back either.

But anyway, this discussion happened after the heroes escape the Consortium first, carrying a wounded and barely alive Fabian Cortez with them. Cyclops assigned the newly-turned-nightcrawler Rogue to pick them up from the location so they were all able to get home safely. That's it. Then they have that discussion about the burnout and then Jean tells them that Cortez has something to tell them that's very urgent so they all went there to hear his piece. And boy, it's a good one too.

He reveals that the Consortium is much bigger than they could ever imagine and that he has managed to meet their top guy. Cut to the final two pages where we see Mrs. Trask (second wife to Bolivar) who has been the face I associated the Consortium with for a while now, get direct orders from a guy whose face we don't see until we flip to the final page. They mention the Sentinels program and bitch-face Zigrid Trask and that she will be playing into the cards soon (and this really annoys me). Finally, we see who is this top guy Cortez was talking about and it's no other than TONY STARK. Oh my stars and garters and all the JUBILATION and NOPES in the world!

First off, WHAT. Second of all, THE FUCK?

RECOMMENDED: 6/10

Thursday, January 29, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #19 (2009)

The Ties that Bind has multiple scenes and interactions, as well as a few plot developments that should matter more at this point and yet somehow I felt like their progress is taking too slow hence the diluted effect of their impact. I just want to give my full disclosure and say that I'm getting somewhat bored; characters seem to be stuck in a standstill and the segregated subplots only serve to alienate me as a reader further. That s not a good sign. Even typing this review right now is enough to drain whatever enthusiasm I used to have since I began reading X-Men Forever. I hope that things will pick up soon. For now, I'm just mulling over the damnable slow pacing of it all.

The setting for this installment is divided between the events in the Xavier Mansion, and an ongoing infiltration mission in a Consortium base somewhere led by Nick Fury with Diane Dugan, Sabretooth and Gambit along for the mission. The latter is something that should be exciting but the only thing that happened was the discovery of Fabian Cortez which I spoiled ahead in the previous issue because it was such a shit issue and I have nothing to fill its content so I just decided to mention and expound Cortez' situation there. In any case, I'm going to repeat myself again: apparently, the Consortium has been experimenting on him and he tried to bargain his way with Fury and the others by pointing out that his genetics may be the key in solving the mutant burnout crisis everyone is making such a big deal of since issue #6 but I have yet to see any tangible or horrifying implications of it. Really, everyone is living on borrowed time--do the mutants really believe that they should be an exception to this just because they are an evolutionary leap from their less evolved kin, the homo sapiens? I suppose people like Mystique and Sabretooth have some form of immunity but the rest are doomed to die young so they're racing against the clock to find a solution that can guarantee the survival of their species.

If this is a really important plot thread then I certainly hope Claremont brings his A-game and stop giving us filler story arcs in between and just focus on the burnout crisis instead. The irony about it thought is that he still has to build up certain subplots that are in relation to this main one and yet he manages to accomplish little every time he does because there's just something underwhelming and half-baked about the way he's written the last four issues or so. I think the pacing has started to suffer by the end of the Sentinels arc and we're trudging along the dangerous possibility that this could get more convoluted than necessary. We have S.H.I.E.L.D vs. The Consortium vs. the X-Men. We got individual vendettas from Storm and Black Magik (who will make an appearance because their arcs are unfinished after all), and then we have the blindingly stupid character conflict of Jean Grey regarding the men she's romantically interested in. It's just insane, the amount of story threads that Claremont had plot out in just nineteen issues and none of them are coming into brilliant fruition, let alone a nuanced development that I can actually stay invested in. At this point, I'm grasping at the straws. I'm noticing the flaws more in the narrative and characters I'm supposed to root for are getting under my nerves. 

I'm going to cut my ranting short so I can discuss the three key scenes for the Xavier Mansion. First we have Rogue and Nightcrawler in the laboratory being examined by Hank. They are trying to determine the extent of their switcheroo debacle. Jean and Professor X decided to test it by having Charles touch Kurt and that's when we find out that Kurt has now the ability to siphon and absorb mutant powers while Rogue is stuck with his tail and teleportation shtick. Speaking of disastrous borrowed power, Kitty Pryde is getting surlier by the moment, concerned about the adamantium claw and whatever genetically inherited personality quirk Wolverine may have left in her system that makes her capable of murderous instincts. Not even 'Ro can cheer her up. Meanwhile, both Jean and Hank have the opportunity to disclose their slight indiscretion from issue #14 to no other than Scott but both of them decided to delay the inevitable some more especially since Cyke is hearing none of it. It's not like they have to ask his permission to date or anything, but they do owe him an explanation. It would suck if Scott once again finds out about Jean's new romantic prospect by accident or under duress. But who am I kidding? That's probably what's going to happen because I'm reading Chris Claremont and it's not an X-Men by Claremont unless we have these precious soap-opera moments thrown in.

The next issue is the last time I will be doing individual reviews of XMF. After #20 and my official review for the fourth volume, I'll be posting one review for a story arc regardless of how many installments. That way, I can save time and discuss only what is necessary. I think it's just more practical and proficient that way. Anyway, I'll excuse this issue because there are at least more scenes in the content than the Cyclops-centered one. I really need to raise my standards at this point, XMF!

RECOMMENDED: 6/10

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #18 (2009)

The Mississippi mission with Rogue and Nightcrawler only lasted for two issues? Srsly? I'm sorry but that was rather lame. How can you have two of the most interesting X-Men plus the intriguing Mystique in a story arc and tell a story so bereft of entertainment, insight or drama? This is not what I expect from Chris Claremont who can always find drama in anything gratingly insignificant and then turn it into guilty-pleasure fun. That was not the case with that easily forgettable two-issued arc that didn't give me any kind of satisfaction whatsoever. Basically, Rogue and Nightcrawler have switched powers there which sucks, I guess. However, we only get some new updates about that clusterfuck by the next issue after this.

So let's talk about this first. There isn't much to say, really. It's a Cyclops-centered issue where we see him still vacationing with his folks and son Nathan. We also get the Consortium and the much needed update on what they have been doing to Fabian Cortez which is gruesome. He's been experimented on. But since I hate that asshole, so I can't be too sad about it.

What else happened...uh, Alex (Havoc) and Lorna visited the family and then Nathan gets abducted by the Consortium. Why the fuck that happened, no one is really sure but it allowed Scott some action sequence as he saves his son. I just want to mention real quick that we will get back to Cortez in the next issue who will try to bargain his way out of captivity once the X-Men do find him by saying that his mutation may be the key to solving the burnout, considering he has the ability to speed up the process after all. I would just like to point out that he's responsible for Kitty getting the adamantine and for Rogue's siphoning ability to get haywired which was probably why she ended up absorbing Nightcrawler's powers to the most extreme degree. So yeah. We hate this guy. However, he may have some use indeed and it's not advisable to let the Consortium have him.

But hey, why am I addressing this future event in this review already rather than just focus on the plot has hand? Well, because nothing really happens for this fucking issue except the fact that we see Scott hang out with his son and brother, see son get kidnapped, has his brother help him rescue son, and then successfully gets his son back though we don't really get an understanding as to why the Consortium wanted the boy in the first place. Boring shit, basically. Anyway, the only thing I liked about this issue was that Alex was right to say that Scott needs to get back to the Xavier Mansion and not shrink from his responsibilities. That means we finally get to see him back in action, leading his team instead of playing house. I get that he does have a family and a boy to take care of but this is a superhero comic book and there's nothing remotely interesting or emotionally stirring about his relationship with the young boy. So I'd rather have Scott being Cyclops and kicking ass. Besides, I really hope he and Jean work out their issues because I still have hope that they can overcome this current roadblock. But I won't hope too much.

Yeah, fuck this issue. Let's go ahead with the next one which at least had a heftier content and some other promising developments. But, honestly, the fourth volume (issues #16-20) has been remarkably tedious and a little bland in some places. You can just skip this and nothing would really affect the flow of the current main narrative later on.

NOT RECOMMENDED: 5/10

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #17 (2009)

As much as I enjoy Rogue and Nightcrawler as characters in general, with the former as my ultimate favorite X-Men of all time, this Mississippi storyline's second installment is still taking its time developing a story we're supposed to invest ourselves in, if not rightfully so. This has ben a character-driven piece so far with a few breaks in between where we become privy to the events in the Xavier Mansion and one of S.H.I.E.L.D.S' base operations where Fury, Dugan and Sabretooth are pursuing a lead regarding the Consortium. Just like with my review of the previous issue, let's discuss about these subplots first.

The investigation about the Consortium-hiding-secret-agents-in-S.H.I.E.L.D plotline hasn't begun to yield any clear, productive results. Fury and Dugan had only managed to incite a single testimony from a female agent whose account was elusive at best. Of course, from what we know about the Consortium, perhaps our heroes should be more concerned. The said organization is behind the revival of the Sentinels project, and employing Storm as a spy within the X-Men. Honestly, the latter is the only crime that makes the Consortium a grave concern for me. But I will be reserving my final judgment until we get an answer as to what they intend to do with former Magneto Acolyte, Fabian Cortez. I'm sure we would be getting an update on that when we least expect it, just like that unforgivable Storm-centered issue #15. It shouldn't be long.

Moving on to the Xavier Mansion: Hank and Professor X finally do work out their small disagreement from the previous issue. Charles had a humble moment too when he admitted to his arrogance in the past and that he wants to learn from his mistakes. Hank opens up to him as well; about the fact that he wants to have grandkids someday and if that future will just be snatched away from them because of the burnout, then what is the point of saving the omniverse they live he, he queries.

Meanwhile, Jean and Moira have a girl talk during tea time. Of course, it's about Jean's love life because apparently that's the storyline she's been strictly confined in since we stared XMF. She hasn't been going in missions and taking on more active, participatory roles either, and her bereavement process had stretched far too long that it was derivative by now. Worse, she had just made out with one of her long-time friends while recovering from the loss of another which is just so tacky. I don't know about you but Jean is not impressing me at the moment. She's basically helpless, making some truly confounding decisions and becoming receptive to Hank's affections which he never blatantly expressed, mind you. I know I said in my review for the third volume that I won't be harsh with her because I understand her grief but honestly! This is a grotesque way of characterizing one of the most empowered superheroines in comic book fiction, reducing her into a small role of a woman who lost her love interest and is now eager to jump with another because hey, it's the only way she could deal with the potentially life-ending mutation burnout. It's just frustrating because so much fucked-up shit are happening around her and with other characters and we have yet to see her involved in a decent piece of storyline outside her romantic dilemma at hand. I mean, how long is she going to stay cooped up in the mansion, going on meditative walks or having various heart-to-hearts with people who obviously have more important things to do than listen to her pain? I am not happy about the role in which you have cased Jean Grey in, Mr. Claremont. Please remedy this ASAP.

As for the main plot with Rogue, Nightcrawler and Mystique--it was painfully uneventful. After Rogue wakes up from siphoning all of Kurt's physical characterization and teleportation power, she gets to use the latter first-hand to rescue people from a burning building WHICH SHE CAUSED IN THE FIRST PLACE after mindlessly attacking Mystique from the previous issue. Anyway, there were no horrible consequences. Everyone gets saved. Some dude takes their picture and it turns out to be Mystique in the end who was smiling coyly in the last page while looking at said picture for some reason. Does she have a diabolical plan in mind? We'll hopefully know soon enough. In the meantime, I'm slightly disappointed with what I just read in the last two issues. It was surprisingly bland and vague in some moments. Considering this is Rogue and we not get Mystique, I'm wishing we're getting something exciting later on.

RECOMMENDED: 6/10

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #16 (2009)

I was out of commission for four days due to a full-day re-watch of Doctor Who series 8 with a trusted geekmate and then an unexpected attack of stomach flu afterwards (two unrelated events, of course). That has to be the worst crippling illness for a glutton like me because there were only a few sources of pleasure I can derive from (comics being one of them) and food usually occupies the top of that list. I had to slightly fall behind my readings so I'm going to have to adjust my schedule for XMF issues for this week. I've also realized that I might stop doing individual reviews after volume 4 which is the current one I'm reading about Rogue and Nightcrawler's Mississippi mission. I might decide to post one review for a story arc instead regardless of the number of issues it is composed of just to save time and whittle down my insights to the most important content.

But I digress. Let's talk about the aforementioned story arc now. With the addition of the main plot, two other things happened for this issue. We'll briefly tackle those first since they're merely details in the background that more or less signify the process of the ongoing threads we've been following for a while now. 

First is the one concerning Nick Fury after S.H.I.E.L.D agent Diana Dugan and Sabretooth uncover a man posing as one of the agency's officers sneaking in the underground rooms of the Xavier Mansion, possibly planting or taking out something there (we have yet to find out). Fury and Dugan went on to investigate possible agents who may be double-crossers themselves but has so far only made some definable progress with a female agent who, teary-eyed, explains that it was the Consortium who found her first and recruited her in no time, that she had no other choice but to obey their orders because this organization has certain pulls in places she warns that they wouldn't believe. I believe this means her loved ones must have been threatened. Fury and Dugan obviously want to get to the bottom of this so they may apply more questionable tactics and that's where Sabretooth is more than happy to provide.

The second one is about Hank and Professor X in the laboratory with Moira MacTagert, arguing about their research concerning the cure for mutant burnout. Xavier agrees to share his notes with Hank but Hank still believes he is hiding something and this offends Xavier so they started yelling at each other and Moira had to get in between them and stressed that the task they are undertaking should be prioritized more than whatever petty unresolved issues they may have between them. Xavier apologizes again for withholding the discovery of the burnout this long but Hank decided to walk out of the lab, possibly to clear his head. I honestly can't blame Hank for still resenting the professor but I sure hope they can work together nevertheless. There is a bigger picture here that needs to be understood perfectly before they ever hope to accomplish anything.

Now Southern Comfort mainly focuses with that hinted storyline from the previous issue where Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler) receives a phone call from a childhood friend-turned-lover-now-ex named Amanda and she seemed to be in some sort of trouble. Rogue offered to help since she is after all born and raised in Mississippi where Kurt is headed to see said woman. On the way there, he started discussing the nature of his relationship with her and their eventual fallout. Amanda was the first person who loved him regardless of his physical mutation (being blue and having a tail). Worried sick, Kurt could only hope he's not too late. When he and Rogue arrived at the place, they started looking for her inside a house whose address Amanda left Kurt awhile back in case he wants to contact her. To their surprise, it was Mystique who was waiting for them. It turns out that she shape-shifted into Amanda when she made that phone call to Kurt. But why the deception?

A little historical background for the novice: Originally, Rogue used to be a villain and she was Mystique's adopted daughter back in the early decades of the X-Men continuity. Fast forward to now: this should explain the tension and bitter feelings Rogue has for her during this encounter. When Mystique delivered her to Professor X, Rogue became a different person under his tutelage (one can say a different character interpretation; truly, thanks to Claremont, Rogue's present characterization has turned her into a fan-favorite heroine) and so she's not that eager to make any sort of reconciliation with her former guardian after all these years especially when Mystique has proven time and time again how elusive and deceptive she could be. However, Mystique maintains that this time she wants to make things right, starting with her children. She atomic-bombs the revelation that Kurt is her son after all which shouldn't be surprising to anyone who may have suspicions about it considering they both have blue skin (it's totally not racist to make that connection, okay?).

Rogue is not fucking pleased and doesn't want to listen to any more of Mystique's bullshit (apparently, Misty is worried about the mutant burnout though assures his son that Kurt has an immunity to it, thanks to her genetics). Rogue tackles her and they break into a window and crash a car. Unfortunately, with Rogue's super strength, she managed to destroy some sort of gas tank when one of the car's door ends up landing on that tank and everything goes KABOOM! with the impact. Once Kurt teleports to the scene, he finds Rogue unconscious but no sign of Mystique. He panicked when he realized that Rogue was hardly breathing so he decided to perform CPR on her, knowing that she will siphon his powers through such a direct contact. Mystique watches from afar, unable to discern what was happening at first. When she finally approached them, she realized what Kurt had done. Apparently, siphoning can be a two-way thing: Kurt was momentarily transformed to an average-looking human while Rogue got everything definable about Nightwalker: the blue skin, four-fingered hands, tail and the teleporting ability. Well, joy. But for how long could they both stay that way?

RECOMMENDED: 7/10

Friday, January 23, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #15 (2009)

Dearest Ororo Munroe,

Why did you become such a vicious cunt?

You broke my heart, girl.

Your broke it clean in two.

Since her disappearance in issue #5, I've been asking about her whereabouts. Now that I have the answer, all I want is to do now is to throw it in a waste basket and set it on fire.

This is a casualty of epic proportions and you are a destructive calamity at the heart of it all, Ororo. You betrayed the X-Men. You killed Wolverine. Now you go back to Wakanda, Africa to marry a king who still believed in the goodness of your soul--and you had him killed by his mortal enemy with the promise that he can rule the kingdom beside you. But you were never going to share that throne, will you? So you killed that bastard too.

Now you sit there idly as the rest of Wakanda worship you at your feet. You claim that you want vengeance from the Consortium, your former employers who almost took you out after you blew your cover--and against Kitty Pryde, the young girl whom you took under your tutelage. Don't you remember that you loved her? Why would you want to harm her now? Just because she clawed your face? Well, girl, you are as ugly as that scar. I dread the day you come back for the X-Men. I dread the possibility that another one will die by your hand.

Most of all, I dread your own death. You may have hurt me but I still love you just as fiercely so if I watch you die, I will be grieving. I can't deny that there is a portion of my soul that still hopes and believes that this isn't you at all--that you are an impostor and that somewhere out there is the real Ororo. Please let this nightmare be over soon. I can't stand Storm being evil.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont volume 3

The Black Magik story arc comprised of issues #11-14 and illustrated by Tom Grummett has been an acceptable action-adventure story that had enough pivotal character moments to keep it afloat. It's certainly an improvement from the underwhelming Sentinels issues, and their secret history that didn't really intrigue me as much as I hoped. In general, Claremont's X-Men Forever had been a polarizing series for me. I'm officially fifteen issues in and I have never been so frustrated, entertained and at times deeply troubled by a comic book series like with XMF. This third volume is supposed to focus on the titular character, Black Magik, otherwise known as Illyana Rasputin, kid sister of Peter (known as the X-Men, Colossus). However, the character whose development and struggles we focus on is no other than Kitty Pryde.

The main plot may be about Illyana's transformation to Magik and the confrontation between her and the X-Men Gambit, 'Ro, Colossus and Shadowcat but the four issues truly delved more upon the sensitive nature of Kitty's new powers and how she has been handling them ever since she infused with Wolverine through Fabian Cortez back in the first issue. In consequence, she grows a single adamantium claw in one of her knuckles but the change hasn't just been physical; she has also began to display erratic behavior as if there is more than a piece of Logan that was left inside her than just the steel. In addition to that, she's recovering from the massive loss of Wolverine and Storm where the former was brutally murdered by the latter. She stated on several occasions that they were like godparents to her and now one of them is gone forever while the other one vows to kill he next. Clearly, Kitty is having one of the worst times in her life and this volume explores the extent of that.

When her ex-boyfriend Peter did not attend Logan's funeral in issue #10, she went to Russia just to see how he is only to discover that he has just started a relationship with Natasha Romanov, former Avenger known as Black Widow. Gambit asserts at one point that it's as if everyone Kitty counted on in her life has been dropping out of it and she can't do anything to stop it so finding out that Peter was with another was a substantial blow as well though Kitty puts on a brave face and helps him defeat the villain Cossack who was controlling Illyana when she became Black Magik. After she almost killed Cossack, Kitty must come to terms that she may not always be in control of her actions and must now learn to adjust with the adamantium's hold over her or else she may become something sinister just like Illyana's acceptance to become Black Magik. The parallel between these two characters' choices concerning whether or not to embrace the darkness inside them is an interesting angle for Claremont to take and I would definitely look forward to Kitty's role in the next installments. She and Storm will inevitably cross paths again and I can't wait to see how that unfolds!

Speaking of uncomfortable parallels, the other female character whose progression in this volume we were able to follow is Jean Grey. She and Logan had romantic feelings for each other for a while now, sharing a strong telepathic bond so when Storm killed Logan, Jean saw and felt it all. Angry, depressed and ashamed, Jean retreats from Scott, her former lover for years while Scott decides to spend a week away from the Xavier Mansion and go back to his parents' house so he can see his son Nathan again. It's worth noting that the entire scope of X-Men Forever has something to do with grief and bereavement which was why we spend a lot of time reading about a particular X-Man's struggle to deal with the loss of their friends as well as the major change concerning the discovery that mutants have a faster expiration date which means that they die young. Professor X deems this as a "burnout" and he is still conducting an ongoing search for a cure as the rest of his students stopped engaging with him ever since he withheld this important piece of revelation. However, Hank (Beast) had been doing his own research while he's playing sounding board to Jean. The two old friends became a lot closer this time, bonded by their own sadness, until their companionship deepened and the last issue of this volume indicates that Jean has seriously considered entering into a romantic relationship with Hank.

I don't think I like this development but I did say that I won't be too harsh or judgmental towards Jean. I understand that she just lost two men she loved and with the pressure of the inevitable burnout with mutantkind, I suppose she feels desperate to connect and to cling onto something (in this case, someone) who will give her a sense of permanence, a worthwhile passion that can define her days in brighter colors again. But I'd like to believe Jean Grey is more empowered than that. I can't help but feel that her feelings for Hank may not be as genuine as either of them would like to think. I refuse to believe Jean could just stop loving Wolverine just because he is gone; just as much as I don't believe she ever stopped loving Scott at all even now that they couldn't be more further apart. Anyway, I don't want to talk about this anymore until I see where it's headed in the next issues.

Overall, the third volume Come to Mother Russia is a fast-paced and accessible read but not something that is of superb quality. At this time, nothing has yet to surpass the five-issued clusterfuck awesomeness that was Love--And Loss!

RECOMMENDED:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #14 (2009)

The exciting conclusion for the Black Magik story arc is here and it was a serviceable ending issue which, unlike the  previous Sentinels one, did not annoy me--but it didn't get satisfy me fully either. Nothing has yet to surpass the beautiful atrocity that is Love--And Loss!, however, and I think I will use that as the standard for other story arcs to comply if not live up to. To its credit, Black Magik wrapped up with an uplifting note once you inspect it solely as a Kitty Pryde story which it really is in a lot of respects. I believe Claremont has intended this to be very character-driven, focusing on Kitty's struggle about her new powers and the identity it may inspire. There were instances in other issues that she seems to be emulating Logan and this issue has emphasized that when, during a confrontation, she addresses the villain Cossack as "bub" before she delivers him the supposedly final blow. Thankfully, Black Widow interrupted and shot the bastard dead instead before Kitty could kill him.

And I do mean 'thankfully' because Kitty was obviously horrified to find out later on after her recovery that she made a decision to kill someone even if it was a vile creature like Cossack. That was not her acting on her own; that has to be Logan's influence on her. Wolverine has learned to make the most difficult decisions including killing someone if it means preventing other bad things from happening. Kitty is not ready to walk that path of no return, and Black Widow saw it so she took the reigns and I was so goddamn relieved of that. I think Kitty got off unscathed in general for this storyline. True, she was manipulated by Magik for the first part of the issue but she eventually fought back, thanks to Gambit getting through her as well as her own sheer will and strength to choose the goodness over the steady grip of the shadows living and growing inside her.

We all have a darkness and with Kitty being infused by another mutant's genetic make-up, it's not really surprising that she's suffering from the unmitigated consequences of these new powers that she didn't have enough experience of fortitude to control. Wolverine has been carrying the burden of his adamantium prison cell of a body for decades upon decades and Kitty only had a few weeks to adjust to her own adamantium claw so of course she couldn't possibly keep it under wraps.

For now, she was saved by a concerned ally from making an awful mistake that could change her forever, but what about the next time when she's in another mission and she'll be confronted by yet another villainous fiend who might force her hand again? What happens to Kitty Pryde then? I'm glad that that the resolution offered for now regarding her ongoing battle with this newfound power is not complete. We will see Kitty tested again in the upcoming issues, I hope. Her character has been so enjoyable because of the moral crisis she's facing in line with the losses of loved ones that served as catalysts to it. It's certainly a compelling character subplot I want to Claremont to deftly explore.

Meanwhile, in the Xavier Mansion, Kurt (Nightcrawler) gets a phone call from an old friend and he panics because she seems to have stumbled upon a dangerous trap. Rogue, seeing it as an opportunity to help out a comrade and get out of the house to do something productive, offers him assistance. I looked through the next couple of issues and it looks like we're getting this duo's own storyline and I look forward to that a lot because it's Rogue and Rogue is always awesome. And now we reach the end of this issue, something that I extremely dread to talk about here but I have no other choice but to do so because it's going to play out in the next stories of this series after all. Jean and Hank are closer than before and it has officially become amorous after their date in a blues club where Jean snogs him outside the establishment. It was also raining just to add to the atmosphere of budding romance. I don't know how to feel about this. I don't want to say I hate this development because both characters are important to me and belong to my top favorites. And yet, at the same time, I am so uncomfortable. I'm already blissfully torn with Scott and Logan as Jean's love interests and now we add Beast to this love geometry?

Ultimately, I'm not pleased about Jean's role in the series right now. I understand she's grieving but she has clearly moved on but she did so by engaging with yet another (doomed) romance. I ask this with all the love and respect I have for Ms. Grey--but what the fuck is wrong with her? Anyway, I won't be harsh to her in my official review of the third volume because I think I can sympathize with her in general, regarding where she is coming from. I need to share my more expounded thoughts about her in my next post after this.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #13 (2009)

The third installment for the Black Magik story arc is definitely the climax of the main plot we've been following in Russia, and it was overall an unexpected spectacular splash for me. Aside from the main story finally getting some action sequences where our heroes are backed into a corner, there was also certain subplot that reveals itself in the middle concerning Sabretooth and S.H.I.E.L.D agent Duran. Meanwhile, tensions arise between two characters which I never would have guessed at all because I was truly under the impression that it had all been innocent until that point. But before we get to that juicy part of the narrative, let's zero in on the main plot first concerning Black Magik herself.

The first page reveals a mandatory backstory for the young girl Illyana Rasputin, sister to Peter, the X-Men known as Colossus which was helpful for someone like me who was never immersed in Marvels comics continuity in the first place. So after the sweet girl Illyana was transformed into an evil, magic-wielding vixen who totally violates the appropriate dress code, as far as her brother is concerned, that is, she readily assists the creepster Cossack in trying to capture/kill/whatever Colossus, Gambit, Black Widow, 'Ro and Kitty. Cossack unleashes his goons, who undergone a dramatic change into big bad wolves, to attack the team but then 'Ro and Kitty were separated from the rest and Kitty finds out that she cannot phase at all so she was left to fend for herself and 'Ro using the adamantium claw. 'Ro, fortunately, uncovers her electrical power which was short-lived but was timely enough to shock the wolves surrounding them which bought them enough time to make their escape.

Still, they found themselves trapped in the abandoned warehouse because Kitty can't phase through hard surfaces, thanks to Black Magik's meddling. Also, she's been having massive migraines all of a sudden. This brief physical incapacitation on her part allowed Magik to find them and bind 'Ro in chains so she cannot help Kitty as Magik sweet-talks her old friend from joining the dark side. Kitty was trying to resist at first but then Magik maintains that there's a reason why Kitty chose to be called Shadowcat because, apparently, Kitty has always been drawn to the darkness and it's about time she embraces it just as Illyana had now that she's Black Magik. The prospect must have been tempting to Kitty after everything she had just gone through with Logan's death and Storm's betrayal as well as finding out that Peter is in love with someone new. 'Ro tries to protest but she's locked and gagged in place.

Helplessly, she watches as Kitty began to transform into something...not nice.

Back in the Xavier Mansion, a S.H.I.E.L.D agent is roaming the generator room (at least I believe that's what it is) where Sabretooth violently confronts and kills him, much to Agent Diana Duran's chagrin when she arrived too late to prevent it. Sabretooth, however, justifies that he was merely defending the security of the household since he had been suspicious about the dead man in the first place. After closer inspection of his belongings, they realize that he had been stealing and/or installing sensitive equipment around the mansion which means that he's a spy of some sort, probably working for the Consortium. This was understandable since I recall another S.H.I.E.L.D operative releasing Fabian Cortez to the Consortium and we have yet to find out what they intend to do with him. Alarmed and determined to get to the bottom of things, Duran agrees to help Sabretooth investigate the rest of the mansion to find out exactly what kind of sabotage the X-Men's new enemies have in store.

As for the juicy part: Jean and Hank continue to spend some quality time together, being all chummy. They started to bond even closer by dancing in the living room to some old vinyl which prompted a rather tense and accidental almost-kiss as their bodies are pressed against each other. Yeah, this was going to a place I don't really want it to go. It's bad enough that Jean and Scott are struggling to be okay as exes, and the fact that Jean's current love is murdered by one of her friends--now she's having weird pseudo-romantic moments with another close friend...well, I did ask for a soap opera, didn't I? I was just uncomfortable about it but I do hope that it'd be just a passing moment and nothing more that could possibly escalate in the next installment. I mean, Logan might be coming back, right? A love triangle is enough for me; a square one would be just pushing it honestly. But let's see how it develops after this issue. There are more important plotlines to follow anyway and this one should be the least of my concerns.

A great climactic issue. Crazy stuff happens and developments are coming along well.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #12 (2009)

"Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die."

Someone kidnaps Illyana Rasputin, Peter's little sister, in the last scene from the previous issue. There's a history about this girl in the comics continuity that I am just unfamiliar with so I have no preconceived understanding or opinion about how this storyline is going based on my lack of knowledge. I'm just walking into the dark here and I didn't mind because I honestly do not care much about what was going to happen to her for now because I'm focusing on the characters whose struggles do matter to me like those of Jean, Rogue and Kitty's.

There are many key scenes that happen for this second installment of Black Magik. Some of them are character interplays between Jean and Hank, Kitty and Peter, and Moira MacTaggert and Professor X. We also get a nice monologue from Rogue, and some possible subplot developments concerning Sabretooth being stalked by a S.H.I.E.L.D agent (Diana Dugan) alongside this arc's main attraction with this character villain called the Cossack who abducted little Illyana, and whatever perverse thing he plans to do with her.

Apparently, Illyana is a powerful person with mutant genes and dark magic mingling in her blood so that deadly combo is obviously a coveted prestige that Cossack wants, whoever the fuck this creep is supposed to be. He has an adult conversation with the little girl concerning predators and preys and which one she wants to be. Yeah, I don't like this already.

We move on to Professor X and Moira. Charles consults his long-time friend and fellow geneticist regarding his research on the cure for the mutation burnout but Moira's second opinion wasn't optimistic and the professor looks like he's losing hope. HOLY SHIT GUYS. CHARLES, CAPTAIN OF TEAM HOPE, IS LOSING HOPE. Holy shit, guys. I've been worrying about him lately. Two of his most trusted friends just died (Mags and Logan) and they're probably the only people who can share this burden with him and they're gone so of course Charles feels alone. Nick Fury better not invite him for a drink again. He is his mother's son and Sharon Xavier is an unapologetic drunk. So I'm glad that Charles is strong and has enough fortitude to bury himself with work as oppose to alcoholism--but its not getting better and I'm afraid of what he might resort to next. Meanwhile, we have Sabretooth listening in the conversation before he decides to disappear once he realizes a S.H.I.E.L.D agent has been following him around. A subplot about this seems to be emerging...

On something more personal: we have yet another Jean/Hank interaction. Since issue #6, these two have been spending a lot of their free time together when not called upon missions. They are old friends after all, being two of the original five, so it's no wonder that they're having conversations about Jean's relationship problems and that Hank is very willing to be her sounding board. It's a nice little ongoing interaction that comforts me because it's nice to see two X-Men are being chummy and are helping each other out in any way possible. But the same thing can't be said for others. Rogue has to come to terms that she may have to adapt a new role after the devastation that took place (death, betrayal and the discovery that mutation has a short shelf-life). I think her pages are the best parts of this issue, personally, and that may have something to do with the basic fact that she will always be my favorite X-Men of all time and I was happy to see that she got some retrospective monologues here and they made me love her even more (if that is even possible):


Going back to Russia, Kitty finally talks to Peter about his new relationship with Natasha Romanov. I know that Kitty is an honorable person so I don't doubt the sincerity in her words when she said she's happy for Peter. It's going to take a while for her to adjust though because there are other issues she's preoccupied with. I believe that if she wasn't currently carrying a heavy baggage, she would have been warmer and more receptive of the news that her former lover is with another. I know Kitty will always love Peter and would want to maintain a friendship with him. It's an interesting parallel with Scott and Jean at that and I think I feel like pointing that out because I think that their stories are an uplifting and mature way of handling post-romantic relationships. Rogue's own identity struggle also parallels Kitty and I love it because I think Kitty is such a sweetheart and I've really warmed up to her since I began reading Claremont's characterization of her here in XMF.

So the issue ends with Kitty, 'Ro, Gambit, Colossus and Black Widow about to rescue Illyana who wasn't a little girl anymore but a malicious vixen in very tight clothes and wielding dangerous magic. I think Peter is simultaneously shocked and repulsed that his sister is wearing that flimsy, shitty outfit that barely covers her breasts for god's sake, and has become evil now (in that exact order).

From now on, I'll be keeping an eye out for both their developments in the series. Jean and Scott's relationship and the teenage Ororo will be second. I'm strictly speaking character-wise. Plot-wise, it's the Consortium (in spite of the Sentinels bullshit they're pulling off), Storm's whereabouts (WHERE THE FUCK IS SHE?) and Professor X's ongoing search for the mutation burnout cure (unless Hank beats him to it). But, of course, all of these things will take the sidelines if ever there is an off-chance that MAGNETO COMES BACK (and Logan, which I'm betting is also going to happen later) and MAGS GETS REUNITED WITH PROF X BECAUSE CHERIK MAKES EVERYTHING ESSENTIALLY MEANINGLESS NEXT TO ITS BLAZING, GLORIOUS LIGHT. But a girl can dream, a girl can dream...

I will never stop trying to find a way to mention Cherik, sorry.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #11 (2009)

I believe that the reason why I enjoy reading Chris Claremont's X-Men Forever so far is because I'm more attuned with the character drama and development as oppose to any plot coherence along the way. Even with my Batman and Hellblazer readings, I've mentioned a few times in reviews that I prefer character-driven stories. Besides, I try to enjoy whatever is offered in the XMF pages even when it became impossible for me to have fun with that Sentinels story arc from the previous volume. Now I wouldn't say this series is one of the best I have read but it's certainly the most entertaining and easily engaging ones that I don't try too hard to digest.

I've read from some fans that Claremont's return to X-Men comics with this series hasn't been that great especially if you would compare it with his earlier run before his retirement. But I would assert that expecting him to be at his best form after a decade has passed is unrealistic and unfair to the man. Look, I was pissed when Frank Miller came back with something like All-Star Batman and Robin after his successful and definitive graphic novels, Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. I suppose it happens every once in a while to a writer of great reputation and Claremont is no exception. Personally, X-Men Forever is a helluva lot more fun compared to Miller's All-Star. So excuse me, I'm going to keep reading this series because Claremont's interplay among characters has been the very thing I look forward to the most and with this new story arc (once again illustrated by Tom Grummett), it looks like I'm getting some of those soap-opera moments that really keep me invested.

The first part of Black Magik was a rocky start. We ended with Logan's funeral last issue and then we jump to Peter (Colossus) in Russia who was unable to attend the wake because he's busy being the nation's hero at this point. His ex Kitty Pryde, together with Gambit and teenage Ororo (whom everyone fondly calls 'Ro at this point so I think I'll be using that now in my reviews) decided to pay him a visit. Peter was surprised about this and Kitty looks so happy and comfortable jumping into his arms like that, claiming that she missed him dearly. And then Natasha Romanov (Black Widow) shows up and immediately super-awkwardness is detected because Kitty starts suspecting that something is up between Natasha and Peter. But we pleasantly cut to Rogue utterly horrified by the unwashed dishes on the sink and she started confronting Sabretooth about it who was acting like the worst roommate ever. Kurt gets in between them, hoping to settle the conflict before it worsens but it does anyway especially when Sabretooth adds insult to injury by asking Rogue to fetch him some beer because what are women for if not personal kitchen slaves? So the two of them exchanged some fisticuffs in the swimming pool area. This kind of thin is hilarious and never ceases to make me chuckle. Jean walks in but doesn't get involved. She's not in good shape to do so anyway, emotionally speaking. She confides in Hank again because they've been spending a lot of time together lately, talking about personal stuff like girlfriends. But Hank is also doing his own research regarding a cure for mutant burnout which Jean encourages. Afterwards, we get to the two pages I loved the most about this issue which contained a meaningful conversation between Nick Fury and Professor X.

 

I know it doesn't seem like it because I keep commenting on the fact that he's so creepy at times but I do love Charles Xavier. I loved him in the animated series with his yellow-cab wheelchair and I love him as portrayed Patrick Stewart with his air of sage wisdom and you better believe I absolutely adored him as performed by the dashing James McAvoy in the new trilogy. I understood his reasons for keeping stuff a secret from the X-Men. I never loathed him for it In fact, I kind of expected him to do that. He's made some dick moves before in comics but all with the right intentions so now it's great we get to see that it blows up in his face this time. I'm pleased Fury is the one who understands him better considering he is also playing a leadership role and knows the gravitas and pressure of making life-altering decisions that won't exactly make you likable to your colleagues but you must do so anyway for their best interests. Also, it's not like Charles has anyone else in his life right now whom he could share his struggles with man-to-man and as equals. Magneto, after all, is dead and gone. I can't help but feel that this is the kind of conversation they would have had if only Erik Magnus was around. Charles would have totally told him about the mutation burnout so they can discuss how to proceed. Magnus totes would have offered to help with his research because, AND HEAR THIS IN EVERY LEVEL, in spite of their differences in agenda and goals, Prof X and Mags have the same dream for mutantkind and they want to build a future towards the fulfilment of that, granted using different tools and methods. I know Charles is thinking about Magnus right now while he's sharing a drink with Fury. As difficult as their relationship had been for decades, Magnus was and will always be his best friend and the one mutant who knew the burden of establishing a legacy for future generations like Charles. And he's dead and gone, leaving the professor alone to come up with a solution or cure for this mutation burnout that plagues them. But perhaps he doesn't have to be alone for too long not when there are formidable men like Fury who are concerned or at least sympathetic to his cause.

Things did not soften that much on Kitty's side because Peter and Natasha have now revealed that they are in fact a couple. Kitty was okay with it on the surface but of course it's uncomfortable for her. Gambit was quite insightful to point out to 'Ro that it has little to do with the superficial layer of "my ex is with someone else" shtick. He asserts that "It's like everywhere she turns, someone she counted on isn't there anymore." And that broke my heart a little. Aside from Jean, the one person who feels the substantial loss of Logan was Kitty because both Logan and Storm were godparents to her and she lost them both in such a sudden and traumatic way. Not to mention the fact that she's changing due to the infusion she experienced when Wolverine's genetic mark (the adamantine claw) became a part of her by accident. Clearly, Kitty is having the toughest of times and she's trying to keep a cool head, hoping her accompanying 'Ro will make things better somehow. And now she gets reunited with Peter, someone from her past who used to be devoted to her, but he's fallen for someone else and she just can't deal with it right now. Of course, she's not going to make it all about her though so she says nothing about this revelation.

GOD, WHY ARE ALL YOUR HEARTS BROKEN, X-MEN?

 
RECOMMENDED: 8/10


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont volume 2

This volume of X-Men Forever collects the next six to ten issues of Chris Claremont's 2009 run, collaborating with artists Paul Smith (issues 6 and 10) and Steve Scott (issues 7-9). Focusing on what was deemed The Secret History of the Sentinels, this story arc span for only three issues and did not carry the same punch-to-the-gut as the first one, Love--And Loss! from the earlier five issues. I didn't hate it exactly, but I wasn't really the biggest fan of the Sentinels in the first place so my enjoyment and interest weren't on their maximum level because I just didn't have the same amount of emotional investment unlike the last time. I wasn't having fun with the Sentinels plot at all, likening them to the Cybermen of Doctor Who that are just there for posterity's sake. I'm hoping Claremont has something inventive planned for them in the next installments.

That said, one of the brightest spots of this arc was the participation of Nick Fury who totally knows how to command a team like the X-Men which shows that he's just a natural leader especially during the most stressful and mind-boggling of crises such as this one. I enjoyed his role in Claremont's storylines so far even though he's only a recurring character who isn't a focal point for the plot itself. I still consider him a great addition to the team. Another bright spot is Kitty Pryde who is still reeling from having her genes infuse with the late Wolverine so she's not only sporting a single adamantium claw in one of her knuckles, her personality seems to be undergoing drastic change as well. Though not in focus just yet, the readers are allowed to see glimpses of her hot-tempered and hasty actions during this mission and I surely hope this will be further explored in the next story arc. I also thought that the personal drama between Jean Grey and Scott is being handled with care and dignity that this couple and their long-time relationship deserves. Scott chooses to dedicate himself in his work as a leader, allowing Jean her time to grieve Logan's sudden death as she opens up with Hank (Beast) in the meantime. Neither of them is putting their problems ahead of the team's best interests which is very admirable for them and that's why it's easier to sympathize with them when readers can still see cracks in their armor here and there but they don't let their moments of weakness get in the way of being X-Men.

Regarding Professor X: Since the X-Men discovered that he withheld a crucial information concerning the fact that mutants may have a shorter life span than regular folk, you can feel their disconnect from him. They still work alongside him. They're still civil. But you could just tell that they'd rather not talk to him anymore and just leave him be. Scott is definitely the one who feel betrayed the most which adds to his ongoing heartache with his ex-girlfriend so I think that right now he's not in the forgiving mood but he wouldn't just lash out towards the man who was his mentor he looked up to since becoming a part of the X-Men. Again, this subplot drama wasn't at play in this volume but I know that Claremont will be visiting this soon enough and hopefully he will provide me with that old-fashioned soap opera I embarrassedly crave once in a while. The Sentinels story arc is something I don't want to discuss anymore because it was a forgettable moment for this run, actually, though I am curious to know more about the fucking Consortium, the organization responsible for both the revival of the Sentinels program and the turncloack Storm who had been working for them all along to bring down mutant oppression. I suppose that's their aim, right? God, with Magneto gone, looks like it's the evil humans' time to strike back with a force.

The notable issues here are definitely issues #6 and #10. The former brought us the adorable teenage Ororo and her strained place in the Xavier Mansion because no one is certain who she really is except that she's a clone of Storm. Even that is tricky and I am infinitely excited to see how her character will be participating in the next installments. I personally and want so bad to believe that SHE IS THE REAL STORM somehow. The latter issue was a tribute to Wolverine's death which was such a heartwarming piece of loss and acceptance especially when we have Scott's moving speech to punctuate the legacy and the fulfilling life that Logan lived as an X-Man and friend to many Marvel heroes. As tradition entails in my reviews every time I write about a collected volume, here be the blurbs:

Issue #6 --> In which we take a much deserved breather from the colossal clusterfuck that was Love--And Loss!

Issue #7 --> In which I rolled my eyes once that Sentinel appeared

Issue #8 --> In which I face-palmed so hard because we have yet another Trask in the mix

Issue #9 --> In which I wish this story arc won't have a continuation but I know it will be revisited some time in the series but I really do not look forward to any of it

Issue #10 --> In which everything hurts for a bit but feels better afterwards, promising a fresh start for everyone in this comics I care about

RECOMMENDED: 7/10

Sunday, January 18, 2015

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #10 (2009)

This is going to be a very indelicate confession but I think that a funeral is the most awkward social gathering I will never attend especially if the person who passed away is not a loved one. I've only been to one funeral so far and that's for my grandfather when I was ten years old. I wasn't necessarily close with him but I did miss him and got appropriately sad when he died.

The second time I could have attended a funeral was when a mother of a high school classmate died and the most recent one is when a co-worker's mother also died. I opted not to attend either because I seriously found the idea of me staying in a place of bereavement and being sympathetic with people's grief is stressful. I honestly have nothing meaningful and consolable to say to these people because don't know them. I wouldn't even entertain the notion that death could happen to any of my friends at this point so it's safe to say that, at this time of my life, I won't be attending a funeral where the person who passed away is someone I love. I think no one ever wants that for sure.

That said, funerals in fiction like in a television show or a book do move me deeply especially when it's a character I love and adore who died. Logan, famously remembered and fiercely loved as Wolverine, is arguably the most fan-favorite of all the X-Men. He started as the underdog who challenges questionable authority figures and doctrines. He has shown his softer side whenever he interacts with younger people (especially girls) who truly saw him as a big brother they can count on. He's a survivor--having the ability to heal fast and age significantly less throughout decades which also gave him the advantage of outliving and outlasting certain terrifying passages in life such as world wars but he always devoted his superpowers in such conflicts where he always fought for the good of his fellowmen.

With the X-Men, Wolverine was a remarkable team player who may not always agree with Cyclops as their leader about particular scenarios during combat but will always fight alongside him when push comes to shove. A recluse and a loner, Wolverine is not the easiest person to get along with--but only to a certain extent. Once you prove yourself worthy of his loyalty and friendship, he will be with you until the end. It comes to no one's surprise then, given his fanbase in the comics and the multitude of other characters he bonded with from other Marvel titles, that Logan's wake is filled with familiar faces and loving comrades who came from different places to pay their respects to their fallen ally. Everyone who knew Logan believed he will outlive all of them, given his powers, so it was such a shock that they have to bury him now. I don't think anyone wants to talk about the fact that it was Storm who ended him because it's so traumatic and incredulous even when the X-Men saw with their own eyes that Storm was not the person they came to now and trusted all these years. It was so painful for me too because Storm is one of my top faves and seeing the teenage Ororo (who may or may not be a clone--gah, when are they going to clarify this?) attend this funeral and look so uncomfortable because people keep staring at her--it only makes me even sadder because she has no idea who she is and what she means to these people. I don't think anybody blames her for what her doppelganger did, of course, so she has no reason to feel responsible.

Still, it must be tough to live with these strangers and see them grieve a man who, in another lifetime, was one of her best friends. If only she knew how awful this death truly is because of what it represents. The X-Men are not just mourning the loss of Logan but that of Storm as well. They may not say it aloud or talk about it but that mutual understanding hangs in the air. Of all the bereaved colleagues, it's Jean Grey who is taking it hard. She only came to terms that she was in love with him but now it was far too late to tell him exactly how she feels about him. I remember that scene from issue #5 with Scott when he finally decides to ask her about it directly and she surmises that all their hearts are broken at this point; Jean for losing Logan too soon when she was finally ready to accept him in her life; Logan for not knowing that Jean has loved him back after all; and Scott for knowing that the woman he once loved and perhaps still loved doesn't share his feelings the same way anymore. Yes, their hearts are fucking shattered and I'm so sad for them. I thought that it was a saving grace then that the old gang with Iceman and Angel came back and comforted Jean and Scott. It was such a nostalgic scene and it definitely made me more enthusiastic to read X-Men First Class and All-New X-Men titles (where the original five are the central figures) in the next months.

But how awesome was Scott's eulogy in the ending pages? It was a sincere, heartfelt and overdue summary of his strained relationship with Logan, as well as what Wolverine means to the people he befriended and fought for throughout the years. I know Logan is probably going to get resurrected at some point but I still allowed myself to grieve him after reading this.





 
RECOMMENDED: 8/10

X-Men Forever by Chris Claremont issue #9 (2009)

There are a handful of details that I don't bother asking while I'm reading Claremont's X-Men Forever, mostly because they're irrelevant to the stories at hand. Now that we have reached this final installment for the Sentinels storyline (which was a tad underwhelming even if I never had any kind of grand expectations in the first place), I feel like I had to ask these stupid questions such as: (1) When and why did Rogue ever get that short haircut?; (2) Since when did it become acceptable that Gambit look so slick with those sophisticated, dandy and metrosexual clothes?; (3) Where is the Professor's cool yellow cab-wheelchair and why would they even think about replacing that?; (4) Why is Shadowcat not wearing her mask anymore?

These questions are all a matter of aesthetics, I know, and they never really bothered me until after I finished this issue. That's how completely uncaring I was about the Trask bitch and her newly enhanced goddamn Sentinels. I just realized that the Sentinels are like the Cybermen of Doctor Who if the Brood are the equivalent of the Daleks. They're historical and prominent in their respective canons but I don't particularly care for them personally unless something strange or inventive will be done about them.

To further illustrate my Whovian point, I would argue that the only Dalek storylines I ever enjoyed were Dalek from the Eccleston era, and the latest one in Capaldi's run for the current season, Into the Dalek. Those two stories were parables at their core about some existential construct or philosophical conundrum, as oppose to straight-up action story about scary machinery that can murder you. Sadly, this Sentinel storyline was just that, and adding more insult to injury is the personal backstory of one Sigrid (which is an awful name for a girl, by the way) Trask who I don't have any sort of emotional stake in so fuck her. Though it pains me to do this, let's get on with this obligatory review.

I practically begged in my last review to give me something new or revelatory about the Consortium, the oh-so-super-secret organization who implanted the impostor Storm into the X-Men's close-knit group, and this issue thankfully gave me that although it was a most detestable development. I was already expecting the very worst from the assholes who made Storm into a two-faced, friend-murdering turncloak, but the fact that the Consortium is blatantly behind of the new Sentinels program is just sickening. One of the figureheads turns out to be Bolivar Trask's second wife, and Sigrid's mother. Sigrid is actually Bolivar's daughter and that makes her Larry's half-sister, and the Trask scientist who Logan killed back in the second world war is her grandfather. So yeah. I think I made a mistake with her lineage last time so I just want to correct myself here. So Sigrid (or "Ziggy" because why not) wants to continue her father and brother's project in spite of the defective nature of such an endeavor in the first place; meaning the Sentinels eventually turned against their human creators because they deemed both humans and mutants to be abominations that are inferior to them. Because, scary robots that murder people, right?

For some reason, Ziggy thinks she can do better and improve the Sentinels this time so that they actually don't turn on humans. Now as a female character who makes her own choices no matter how reckless they are, or executed for the most vile and racially prejudiced of intentions, this is an empowering stance, I suppose...? Anyway, she tells Nick Fury about her grand plans to protect and elevate her family's legacy like any babbling villain that gives the heroes enough time to catch up to her. But, just like any inexplicable scene where the bad guy somehow gets away because the heroes got distracted (in this example, via a slight earthquake), Ziggy evades capture long enough to stumble in the forest by herself and discover the Sentinels have recognized her as their sole master and are ready for whatever commands she wishes to extrapolate. That's how the issue ends, with Sigrid surrounded by giant robots who are ready to do her bidding. It's supposedly ominous but it made me roll my eyes in exhausted acceptance that the Sentinels and this bitch are bound to come back in the future installments of X-Men Forever and I had to read more of this trite. OH THE JUBILATION!

RECOMMENDED: 6/10