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Inside Look: X-Men Forever #1

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X-Men Forever is the continuation of the ongoing series — then titled, simply, X-Men — I began in 1991 with penciler Jim Lee. The fascinating thing about looking back at those books and the stories planned for them from the perspective of the present day is how diametrically different Jim’s and my progressive visions turned out to be. His, you can see in what was printed back then; mine, at long last, you get to see today.

The interesting thing is that even as I tried to pick up where I left off, the concept continued to evolve. The world and its reality as we know it today, keeps insisting on making its presence felt in the stories and the relationships of the characters, both to one another and to life around them. For purely practical reasons, one of the first decisions was to cut the roster down to a (hopefully) manageable size.

Another decision was that, since we didn’t have to accommodate the existence of other titles in this publishing universe, I was able to retrieve Kitty and Kurt from Excalibur.

The third, and in its way most significant, was to jump right in with the book’s foundation concept: that in this world, in these stories, characters are mortal. And if they die, it’s for keeps. Magneto suffered that fate at the end of the three-part “prelude;” now was the time for one of the X-Men’s stalwarts to follow suit. That would be the foundation story of our first arc, and this first issue would both set the stage for those tragic tumultuous events, and tidy up a major loose end remaining from the prelude trilogy, namely whatever happened to Fabian Cortez.

The results are on-sale as you read, with new issues coming every fortnight from now on.

PAGE 1

Obviously, while the splash page of every issue is important, setting the stage for the story that follows, the splash for the first issue of an ongoing series is even more critical. Here is where we set the stage for the series, introducing readers to the concept and the characters, hopefully in terms that start establishing a bond between book and audience. Tom Grummett’s presentation here does that wonderfully.

Major characters, fulfilling their hearts’ desires and yet also, at the same time, setting the stage for primal and ongoing conflict, possibly even tragedy. Most notably the question is raised, what about Scott Summers? This is Logan and Jean at the moment of achieving their hearts’ desire — and since the book appeared within a fortnight of the immensely successful release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the resonance to the movie, and especially to the movie  X-Men 3, was an added benefit to the scene.

PAGES 2 & 3

From that opening moment we proceed to the reveal that we weren’t looking at reality but perhaps a moment of Jean Grey’s dream, a visualization of her heart’s desire. (Actually, it’s a memory, of a private moment of happiness between her and Logan — but that’s a story for another day.) And into that dream comes the voice of Scott Summers, calling her — and the readers — back to the reality of the X-Men on a mission to Spain. We’re jumping into a story already in progress, skipping over the tradition set-up scenes to join the action already in progress.

Over the course of these pages, we introduce our cast, each of them getting a moment to establish themselves and the overall situation and/or thoughts and feelings of a more personal nature. Essentially, these pages — and the overall scene itself — exist to set the physical stage of the issue. Page 1 with Logan and Jean sets the emotional tenor of the story; here is where we establish the people and events that the story’s about. Everybody in the cast gets their moment, the readers get a good look at them, complete with character ID — now they know the cast. The book is good to go!

PAGE 7

All the pages in the issue are good, all of them deserve their moment,  but since I have to choose, this one makes the cut. Partly because when I saw it for the first time I felt totally delighted — here Tom had chosen a visual orientation that is almost never seen (by me, anyroad) in modern comics. Characters falling from a great height, with the shot angled in such a way that the height itself — and the jeopardy implied — is plain to see. We see the characters, we see the ground, the height is made more than clear.

Sure, when you take a step back and think about it (Jean’s a telekinetic who can fly, Kitty’s intangible and Logan can survive just about anything) you might realize that they may not be in all that much danger, but the initial, visceral response to the visual is far more primal. Then we cut down to the ground to catch up with the others, who are understandably focused on their friends up above — and as a consequence unaware of the threat approaching in the last panel.

PAGES 15 & 16

For me, this is the money scene — the emotional “Act 2” moment that picks up where the Splash Page left off and further sets up what’s to follow at story’s end. Here we get to see / hear what was implied in the earlier scene, that an actual relationship exists between these two. They both know what they’re getting into, they’re both aware of the consequences, they’re both determined to press ahead regardless.

Only now, they have an audience — Kitty — who gets to voice what are perhaps the thoughts of some readers but who also finds herself able to give the moment a note of approval / acceptance. This is a hard thing, but it may also be the right one. And then, of course, everything goes to hell. Which leads to the next primal moment (on Page 16) where Kitty steps in to grab Logan and phase him free of Fabian’s grasp — only to discover that she can’t. Jean saves the day — because in moments like this, that’s what she does — but damage has been done.

PAGES 20 & 21

Homecoming, as the team returns to face the consequences of recent events (those events including the affair with Magneto on Asteroid M). This is Nick Fury’s moment, to lay down the law to the X-Men about their new place in the world order. The days of their vaunted independence are at an end. It’s an opportunity for Fury to remind the readers that our protagonists — and indeed, the vast majority of the overall cast that exists outside the confines of this specific title — are in large part children.

Young teens, mid teens, older teens, young adults — none of them (with the exceptions of Logan and Banshee) are beyond their mid-twenties. Perhaps it’s time that reality should be taken into account when determining where the X-Men go from here? Logan, of course, has other opinions. He states his piece and makes his exit.

So — there we are. As for what comes next — we’ll spend the next arc of issues working our way through this tumultuous and tragic  night in the X-Men’s lives, wherein tragedies and revelations will abound. From there, we’ll move ahead to a mission down to South America, to touch on the other element hinted at in the preview, the existence within the Andes Highlands of a whole batch of Sentinels.

After that, the ambition is to look in on X-characters in Russia, and in England, the introduction of new adversaries, the reappearance of some old ones (such as Genosha.) The ongoing penciler for the series, responsible for at least 12 of the annual issues, is Tom Grummett. Already on-tap for some of the other 12+ are Paul Smith & Terry Austin, with others (who must for the moment remain nameless) on tap to be announced as soon as they’re official.

It should be a blast for comic fans everywhere; it certainly is for the creators!

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Comments

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jun 16, 2009 at 3:23pm

    I'm kinda hooked with the whole divergent history aspect of this book. Though I guess there's an argument for saying what we've been reading the last fifteen years is really the divergent history!

  • NinjaGeorgie

    NinjaGeorgie Jun 19, 2009 at 9:29am

    Is the ninja one in this comic?

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