Does “X-Men Forever” take place in 1991 or is it supposed to be a nebulous “now” that doesn’t have any overlap with the look and styles of today’s real world? Because not only does this comic continue from where Chris Claremont left off nearly 20 years ago, but the hairstyles and fashions of these characters seem to come from that era as well. And I can respect that it might be a period piece — a slice of alternate reality, circa 1991 — and that accounts for the dopey look of the characters, but it seems to want to be both current and retro, and it ends up being not quite either.
It’s not just the clothes that make this series look like a relic of the past — and I get that the entire premise of this series is to continue a 20-year-dead comic book run — it’s the extremely heavy use of thought bubbles to go along with the traditionalist comic book stylings of Graham Nolan and Scott Koblish. When Jean Grey stares longingly, or inquisitively, at Scott Summers and thinks, “I used to think that was fate’s way of telling me…we were meant for each other,” it looks less like a reincarnation of an early 1990s comic book and more like a Roy Lichtenstein image. Like a parody of that kind of old-fashioned storytelling that was so on-the-nose, so heavy-handed and melodramatic.
This issue is full of moments like that.
But it’s not without its charm. Because those out-of-date techniques are so different from the hyper-dynamic Michael Bay-ness of “Blackest Night” or the ultra-long-form vaguely photo-real decompression of “Invincible Iron Man,” a comic like “X-Men Forever” stands apart. It’s classic comic book storytelling of the kind where characters impulsively leap into action, where several dramatic beats happen on a single page, and where Nightcrawler and Rogue switch powers and then Nightcrawler absorbs a bit of Professor X’s telepathy to find out that Moira MacTaggart now has the hots for him.
Yeah, it’s that kind of comic.
It’s also a comic where Nick Fury and Sabretooth and a swankier-looking Gambit (well a 1991 version of what swankier-looking would entail) charge through high-tech corridors and blast and claw and punch dudes in futuristic armor.
And what they find at the end of their journey may startle you. But only if you were a huge fan of “X-Men” #1-3 in 1991 and literally could not wait to learn what really happened next. That’s what this comic is for, though, and there’s no way I can fault it for that.
The rest of it? Kind of faulty. But fun in its own way.