Although Volume 1 of “X-Men Forever” technically ended with #24, this issue is something more than an interlude and something less than an epilogue to that series, telling a story which aims to simply rearrange a few characters so that Volume 2 can kick off with an altered status quo.
The X-Men find themselves under attack from the Imperial Guard, who have come to retrieve Xavier following the events of the Shi’ar Saga, blaming him — or a warskrull posing as him — for leaving their security open to a breach. Meanwhile the Consortium reasserts itself, and a new X-Men team assembles itself.
As a story, it probably works a little better as finale than “X-Men Forever” #24 did, although it’s not entirely correct to call it one, since many of its plot threads are newly introduced, presumably to help set the tone for the forthcoming volume. Claremont’s usual writing tics are all on display, although assuming you’re okay with that (and if you’re buying “X-Men Forever,” it’s a safe bet that you are) then this is actually a strong story. Although built around the rather weak idea that the Imperial Guard have to retrieve Xavier based on some fairly unreasonable assumptions, Claremont uses the issue to bring back a number of X-characters who were shuffled off early on in the series, and tease the involvement of the early-90s Avengers in a backup strip. Generally speaking, it’s quite a fun issue.
However, the artwork lets it down. It’s impossible to truly hate Mike Grell’s artwork, but there’s something definitely lacking about it in this comic. Perhaps it’s the heavy and scratchy lines of the inking, or perhaps it’s that the art was rushed due to the length of the book, but there’s something not quite right about it. Grell is capable of better, and for whatever reason it’s not up to his usual standards.
Ordinarily, a poor showing from a more capable artist wouldn’t be a huge problem, but it is a concern when the quality of the art distracts the reader from the story, and that’s exactly what happens here.
The issue is padded out with a reprint of “Uncanny X-Men” #108, containing a classic Phoenix story referenced in the issue. It’s always fun to revisit this period, when the X-Men were at their most vital, but I can’t help feeling that as a choice of reprint, it’s a little over-familiar, particularly given the target audience for this specific series. Even so, it’s not difficult to be charmed by it. Ultimately, the weak art of the main feature makes it hard to call this one of the better “X-Men Forever” issues. But as a “giant size” collection, it is at least good value.