“X-Men Forever” may be nothing more than a never-was alternate reality of Marvel mutantdom, but it’s certainly not a terrible series. Chris Claremont and Tom Grummett provide a goes-down-smooth retro-classic feel, and this series unfolds like a better paced early 90’s comic. What should have been, perhaps, though not quite as densely packed with words as the Claremont stories of that era. And that’s a good thing.
There are some problems, though — some problems that keep issue #11 from being something that I’d actually recommend to anyone outside the Claremont faithful. I don’t know who’s responsible for the text piece that opens the issue — it’s probably an assistant editor, I suppose — but it immediately broadcasts some of this comic’s flaws. First of all, it’s a hideous way to begin an issue, less elegant than even the most common text pages that open Marvel comics in this current age. And it’s filled with cliches, bad writing that saps any potential excitement about the story to follow. The text piece talks about how the team has “never had an easy road to travel” and the team was “rocked to its core.” It’s just poor writing, limp and banal.
And I realize its just the opening page, but it sets a tone. And not a positive one.
Claremont, unfortunately, fills his writing in the comic with cliches as well, giving us lines like, “that’s what friends are for” and “they both need to let off a little steam.” It’s one thing to have characters speak in cliche to show their lack of intelligence or verbal acuity. It’s another thing to have a variety of characters speak that way. It signals that their dialogue doesn’t matter much. That their words just fill up space and signify just about nothing.
Yet, Claremont is able to tell a comforting story even with those linguistic limitations. It’s not a comforting story like a PBS Kids show where everything ends in hugs or high-fives. No, these X-Men are screwed up, with the same kind of psychosexual subtext that filled his stories during the glory days. But Tom Grummett’s classic and conservatively drawn pages make it all seem so safe. So old-fashioned. So quaint that it’s almost charming.
Colossus is on the move. Fisticuffs occur. A love triangle between Colossus, Black Widow, and Kitty Pride emerges. Gambit returns in a no more sensible but better-looking costume. Professor X and Nick Fury share a few drinks.
None of it amounts to much. It’s Claremont playing the same old tunes with an artistic partner who provides a vaguely nostalgic look. But it’s pleasant and inoffensive enough. It’s sweet in its own way. If that’s all you’re looking for.