Marvel comics

Collects X-Men Forever vol.2 issues 1-5

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Rodney Buchemi, Greg Adams, Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher

The new volume starts with a bang! Avengers (Captain America, Thor, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Spider-Woman, and Hawkeye) have been tasked with arresting the X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and li’ ‘Ro) and Sabertooth who is blind and has just one hand. Not surprisingly, the X-Men resist. During the fight, Xavier’s mansion explodes and supposedly kills the X-Men and Fury along with a small number of SHIELD agents inside the mansion.

The next issue starts six week later. The world apparently mourns the heroes and the US government sends sentinels to sift through the rubble in order to find out what happened. Avengers are seen as the villains this time and Sigrid Trask is appointed the new leader of SHIELD. Spider-Man also investigates in his own way.

In the third issue we find out that the X-Men are alive: they’re inside the mansion which has been cloaked with very advanced tech. However, Rogue has left the mansion and gone to the city to kick some muggers’ asses. Spidey finds her and they clobber some villains together. However, the night ends in surprise when Mystique wants to join.

In the next issue, Morlocks have kidnapped Sabertooth and Dr. MacTaggert. They know about Burnout and want Moira to whip up a cure for them. They torture Sabertooth in order to motive Moira. The X-Men send a team to the tunnels: Shadowcat, Cyclops, Gambit, and SHIELD agent Daisy Dugan. Li’ ‘Ro is following them, too, even though she was told to stay behind. Meanwhile, back in the mansion, everyone except Kurt is suspicious about Mystique and Fury wants to interrogate her fully. However, her twisty mind is too much for even Jean to figure out. The X-Men will have to find out the old-fashioned way if she can be trusted.

Unfortunately, I felt that the Avengers acted out of character: going against friends because they’ve been ordered to and Cap attacking first? That doesn’t really feel like the Avengers I know. Otherwise, this was quite an enjoyable collection and I felt that Claremont got his groove back.

The X-Men as a group have died before and they’ve done that pretty recently, according to the time line so it’s a classic Claremont plot twist. The first time was in Dallas when Storm had just regained her powers and the second time the group went through the Siege Perilous while Ororo was thought to be dead. Interestingly enough out of this group only Rogue has “died” both times before and Ororo once, in Dallas. (Gambit wasn’t yet part of the group, Jean and Scott were in X-Factor, and Kurt and Kitty in Britain.)

I also really liked the return of Morcloks. They’re another classic mutant group which is sometimes antagonists and sometimes reluctant allies, depending on who is leading them. Masque is their leader this time so they’re enemies.

Claremont has also several subplots in the air: Mr. Sinister is after Nathan, Daisy is falling for Sabertooth, Rogue’s and Kurt’s power shift, Storm’s situation and the SHIELD situation. Feels like old times again! 

Collects X-Men Forever issues 21-24 and X-Men Forever Giant-Size

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Rodney Buchemi, Greg Adams, Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher, Daniel Hdr, Fernando Blanco

The X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Gambit, Rogue, and Shadowcat) and Nick Fury are attacking the Consortium’s space station. Nightcrawler, who has only Rogue’s absorbing power, is piloting. Fury has a mole inside who will give the mutants permission to land and they get close. Unfortunately, Consortium has made an alliance with Neo-Sentinels who notice that the space craft has mutants on board and so the X-Men are ambushed. They fight bravely but their victory costs the lives to two friends. The final issue has is a funeral but it also looks forward (to volume 2 ;)) to the stressful days ahead. SHIELD might still have Consortium agents infiltrated among them and the X-Men don’t have many friends. Still Nick Fury and the blind Sabertooth will stand by them.

Giant-Size brings back the Shi’Ar! Empress Lilandra is Xavier’s love but they’re often separated by their different duties. Now, Skrull warships have attacked Shi’Ar’s remote but well-guarded planets and Xavier’s error has made that possible. The Imperial Guard comes to earth to take Xavier so that he can answer for his “crime”. They land at Summers’ cottage and clash with X-Men and X-Factor. As an added complication, the Shi’Ar don’t know that Jean is alive and if they found out, they would try to execute her again, as Dark Phoenix. So Jean has to stay hidden. Another longtime character leaves, supposedly for good.

In the epilogue we see that the Consortium is still kicking. They’ve framed the X-Men as the people responsible for their space station’s destruction and for the death of the two heroes. The Avengers are going after X-Men.

This was an action-packed end to volume 1 and promising lead into volume 2.
I recommend these for fans of alternate universes and for hardcore X-Men fans.

Collects X-Men Forever issues 16-20

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Graham Nolan, Vincente Cifuentes, Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher, Scott Koblish

The first two issues follow Nightcrawler and Rogue in New Orleans. They were lured there by none other than Mystique herself. She admits that she’s Kurt’s mother and says that she’s worried about her kids. In the ensuing fight, Rogue is knocked unconscious and Kurt tries mouth-to-mouth. He succeeds but Rogue absorbs Kurt’s powers and appearance while Kurt looks like an ordinary, white skinned man. Mystique disappears and the two are left wondering what’s going on.

The next issue focuses on Scott who has taken a leave of absence and gone to Alaska to his family. Even though Scott’s romantic life is in ruins, his family is well otherwise: his father Corsair is staying with his parents and raising Scott’s son Nathan. That’s right: in this timeline Nathan never becomes infected with technovirus or becomes Cable. Also, Havok and Polaris stop by and it seems that they’re happily back together. The Consortium, the bad guys, try to kidnap Nathan. Of course they don’t succeed and Scott returns to the X-Men.

Through both these stories and the previous collection we’ve followed a sub plot about infiltrators in SHIELD and the next issues focus on that. Fury, SHIELD agent Daisy Dugan, Gambit, and Sabretooth have arrested agents who were apparently working for the Consortium. In these two issues, they take the Consortium head on, attack sneakily to their local headquarters, and free their prisoner. However, in the end we have more questions than answers.

There are two other subplots which don’t yet surface more: Xavier, Hank, and Moira are working furiously and Jean is wrestling with her sorry romantic life and falling for Hank. I really don’t care for that Jean plot because she apparently doesn’t have anything else to do.

I really liked the way that Rogue and Kurt’s powers switched. It turns out that this might be permanent. Kurt has to try to live in a normal body where his appearance doesn’t scare anyone and Rogue has to deal with a tail, three fingers and toes in each hand/foot, and people being scared of her. The collection ends in a cliffhanger which leads to the next collection’s showdown.

Collects X-Men Forever issues 11-15

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher, Peter Vale, Al Vey, Gary Martin, Terry Pallot

Colossus didn’t come to Wolverine’s funeral so Kitty takes Gambit and Little Ororo with her to Russia to see that Peter’s OK. They come just in time to save Peter from a couple of armored people. It turns out that Peter has joined the Russian Winter Guard, which is led by Natasha Romanova, the Black Widow. Then, Illyana is kidnapped.

In this world, Illyana was Magik but she returned to a little girl during “Inferno” storyline and was living with her parents in Russia. When they hear about the kidnapping, the group rushes to find out where the girl is. Illyana has been taken by a man calling himself the Cossack and he has unleashed Illyana’s dark side as Dark Magik and has turned her against her friends.

The story focuses on Kitty who has to fight her former best friend and how she tries to save Illyana from, essentially, Illyana’s own dark side. Unfortunately, she doesn’t succeed and Illyana escapes to Limbo.

A second storyline follows Jean who seems to be developing feelings for Hank. It seems increasingly out of character for her to jump from one man to the next. Also, some of the SHIELD agents seem to be spying on the X-Men.

The last issue focuses on the character who betrayed the X-Men: Storm. She’s fled to Wakanda, where T’Challa took her in even though Fury warned him that Storm isn’t who she appears to be. Interestingly enough, it seemed that there aren’t actual evidence against her; just the X-Men’s word.

This was another action packed collection but still not quite as good as the first one. The Dark Magic four issue arc was quite good with just the sort of alternate world goodness I like and the final issue moves forward the Storm storyline.

Collects Fantastic Four #520-524

Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Mike Wieringo, Karl Kesel

In the previous volume Reed switched the powers of Susan and Johnny, in order to save Susan’s life. The aliens who attacked in the previous volume came to Earth to destroy Susan because of her powers. The aliens had found a way to hide entire fertile, inhabited world from Galactus but they realized that the Invisible Woman’s powers would be able to reveal them. By secretly switching the sibling’s powers Reed hoped to get enough time to do something about the situation. However, as soon as the aliens leave, Galactus arrives and kidnaps Johnny (now the Invisible Man?).

Of course, the FF want to rescue him. In order to do that, Reed contacts Quasar who can track Johnny (and Galactus) and transport the team quickly enough to him. Meanwhile, Galactus has sent out Johnny to seek the next planet. He’s trying to delay Galactus and perhaps even find allies against him. He’s also trying to get used to her sister’s powers. However, Galactus has given Johnny also the power cosmic which all of his Heralds have so Johnny is much more powerful than Susan ever was and he also has another, expanded power.

This was a very enjoyable cosmic ride. We get to know far more about Galactus. Susan and Johnny get to explore each other’s powers which was neat. She came to appreciate her brother more and we see that Johnny really looks up to her. Susan struggles to control the fire power which has to be used differently than her own; essentially it’s always “on” and she has to try to consciously keep down heat coming from her. I’d have loved it if their powers had been switch for far longer.

The last issue in the collection is also fun. The FF’s powers have left them and are possessing random people around NYC. The powerless team chases them and Ben has to make a major (if predictable) decision.

Fantastic Four #514-519

Writer: Mark Waid, Karl Kesel
Artists: Mike Wieringo, Karl Kesel, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco

This collection has two storylines. The first one is three-part “Dysfunctional” where the new Frightful Four attacks the FF. The second one is the FF’s part in the Avengers Disassembled storyline.

After the disaster where Reed took over Latveria (In “Authoritative Action” collection), New York is a hostile place to the FF. People are throwing garbage at them when they’re walking on the streets and when alien ships land in the city, the mayor refuses to contact them.

The story starts when the Wingless Wizard has come up with another plot to humiliate Reed and the FF. Now, he’s brought into his Frightful Four another member in addition to himself, Trapster, and Hydroman: Salamandra. She’s the Wizard’s ex-wife and apparently just as arrogant and self-centered as him. The Wizard is also using Salamandra’s daughter to gain entrance to the Baxter Building.

Johnny has found a date through a dating site on the internet and he’s trying to find a private place to meet her which isn’t going to happen when your family is the FF. After the family has met her, he takes her to the Baxter Building. Fortunately, his family is there because the girl lets the Frightful Four inside!

In this story the FF is pitted against another family which is more dysfunctional than their own. In fact, I quite felt sorry for the poor girl, Cole, who didn’t know who her father was until this moment and was used rather cruelly by her parents. Neither of her parents are rational people, either, so that doesn’t bode well for Cole.

In the second part, huge alien monoliths land in New York causing whole tidal waves. Even when the FF are trying to protect the civilians, the people still treat them like, well, like mutants. Johnny says: “The FF is here to attack the problem-” and people in the crowd say: “Attack!” “The Fantastic Four is attacking!” “You heard him! The FF’s gone crazy! They’re taking over the city!” Yup, their biggest problem is the FF and not the huge alien pylons cause tidal waves. Heh.
The monoliths start to raise the whole Manhattan out of the Earth and the FF try to get inside the pylons to confront the people responsible.

This was another very entertaining collection. The FF have to deal with unpopularity in addition to super villain problems. It has some really funny moments, such as Ben taking Valerie and Franklin out to trick-or-treating during Halloween. Overall I really enjoyed this one more than Waid’s two previous collections. It ends with quite a cliffhanger which leads to the next collection “Rising Storm”.

Collects Fantastic Four #544-550.

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artists: Paul Pelletier, Rick Magyar

The Civil War storyline tore the FF apart literally: Reed joined Tony supporting the registration and even made a highly unsuccessful clone of Thor, Susan and Johnny joined the resistance with Steve, and Ben left to France, not taking sides. Now, McDuffie has the unenviable task of uniting the FF family again but he does it with style for the most part.
Reed and Susan take a leave of absence, working on their marriage. The Black Panther and Storm are stepping into the team in their place. Panther has a very different leadership style from Reed; I have only seen him in the Avengers so I wasn’t prepared.

After Reed and Susan leave, the former Deathlok comes to see T’Challa. It appears that the grave of a young, very unsung hero named Gravity has been robbed. The boy’s gone. The only way to know what had happened is for the team to go to the Moon and see the Watcher. (Yep, it’s an FF book alright.) After a bit of blustering, they find out that Epoch has the body. Unfortunately, just when the new FF reach her, the Silver Surfer and the Stardust arrive, followed soon by their master, Galactus!

Meanwhile, Susan and Reed arrive on Titan where they are the house guests of Mentor. However, soon Reed discovers something strange.

This was a very enjoyable collection. I really enjoyed T’challa and Storm here (Storm is one of my all-time favorite comic characters but don’t know T’challa at all) and the adventures feel very FF. Healing the rifts from the Civil War might have come a bit too easily, but that’s to be expected. Galactus and later the Frightful Four are great, classic villains and I enjoyed them, despite Susan being a used as a hostage.

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