“X-Men Forever” has veered wildly away from its premise, unless you believe that Chris Claremont always intended to reveal the adult “Storm” as a traitor and then become Queen of Wakanda, eerily approximating Marvel’s current situation for the character. Though, in this instance, she has stolen the throne, rather than married in as Queen. Still, let’s not let a minor quibble about the book’s premise get in the way of its content. After all, “X-Men Forever” has been, against the odds, pretty good fun. And this issue demonstrates pretty much exactly why.
The issue flashes back to the escape of the rather excruciatingly-named “Perfect Storm” at the end of the first arc, catching up with her adventures in Wakanda over the last few months. It’s an interesting insight into the psychology of the villainess, particularly since there’s a point where even we are won over by her apparently genuine feelings, only to find ourselves as betrayed as the characters in the story. Ordinarily, this would be a difficult trick to pull off, but between this new Storm’s still-fluid characterization and Claremont’s use of omniscient narrative captions, the wool is pulled quite convincingly over the reader’s eyes.
Claremont also makes good use of the single-issue, bi-weekly format to tell a story that neglects the rest of the X-Men. It’s odd for an issue of an ongoing to feature a series villain, with supporting cast member as the only concession to its premise, but both the speedy pace of the series and the way Claremont expands the “Forever” universe makes it clear that it’s the sort of experiment that’ll work once in a while. To be honest, that probably is the kind of thing Claremont might have done, back in the day, and it’s nice to see that unpredictability return.
Tom Grummett’s artwork is particularly solid, always working in service of the story rather than at odds with it, an often underrated quality in comic artists. In fairness, this comes at the lack of a clear visual identity, and Grummett’s work is so faithful to Claremont’s often crowded and pacey scripts that it occasionally struggles to keep up, becoming a little disjointed and hurried itself, but rarely can any other criticism be levelled against it.
All in all, one suspects that “X-Men Forever” will never make it beyond its core audience of X-Men nostalgists and become anything resembling an essential comic, but for all the faults with its reason for existing, you can’t fault its consistent quality. It isn’t Claremont at his best, but nor is it Claremont at his worst; Somewhere in the middle ground is an entertaining, if not flawless storyteller.