graphic novel challenge 2015


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 Morloks. 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! 🙂

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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 X-Men Forever issues 6-10

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Paul Smith, Terry Austin, Steve Scott, Al Vey

The sentinels are back and they’re bigger and badder than ever!

In the previous collection, this X-Men team (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Shadowcat, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Gambit, Beast, Prof X, and a very young Ororo) faced a shocking revelation, an apparent betrayal by one of their own, and Wolverine’s death, but they don’t get a breather. The Danger Room malfunctions and then they get a distress call for SHIELD. SHIELD’s team in South America went silent and only a huge footprint is seen. Jean, Hank, Kitty, Rogue, and Kurt leave to investigate and are confronted by huge Sentinels.

We readers get to know more about the Consortium which are the shadowy bad guys this time around. Literally, since the characters are shown as only shadows when discussing about the X-Men and their plans.

The final issue brings together a lot of X-Men’s friends and allies for Logan’s funeral.

This was another action packed collection. Some of the X-Men talk a little about their issues but many of them are feeling betrayed and hurt, and just lashing out against each other. A bit surprisingly one of the most hostile X-Men is Kitty, but she’s gone through a strange transformation: she now has one of Wolverine’s claws and apparently some of his temper, as well, and isn’t interested in letting the resident scientists look at her. One wildcard is Sabertooth. Storm’s attack earlier burned out his eyes and he’s been staying in the mansion while he recuperates. He’s at odds with Gambit a lot but no-one is happy about him staying there. Still, the first collection had a lot more unexpected twists and it was emotinally far more intense.

While the person behind the return of the Sentinels is revealed, they and the Consortium clearly have big plans so nothing is really resolved. Except maybe Wolverine’s death, because this is alternate world.

Collects X-Men Forever issues 1-5

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher

This comic continues Chris Claremont’s epic run on the X-Men from the point when he left the comic, twenty years ago. That was issue 3 of the new “X-Men” title when the group had divided into the gold and blue teams. The characters are somewhat different, though.

Supposedly, the X-Men have just returned from Asteroid X where Fabian Cortez drove Magneto to his death. Cyclops, Jean Gray, Storm, Gambit, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Wolverine go after Cortez while Beast, Professor, X and Nick Fury supervise from the mansion. Cortez is a powerful enemy but the team manages to grab him after a fierce fight. When they get back, Claremont changes the status que of this new universe: Logan is mysteriously killed; only his bones are left, minus one claw.

Even in just five issues, the team is changed forever (heh) which clearly sets this world apart from the usual Marvel Universe, which is a good thing IMHO. I love alternate worlds precisely because the writers can change the characters in ways that aren’t allowed in the main world.

The comic also has a lot of hand waving about how various X-Men can keep secrets even though several telepaths are around. In this world, Jean actually loves Logan and not Scott. My main problem with this is that Jean has been in relationship with Scott for a very long time and apparently kept a secret affair going with Logan all the time. Really? That doesn’t seem in character with any of them.

One X-Man turns out to be an enemy which was far more exciting. When I first read this, I wasn’t too sure about that because the character in question is one of my favorites, but this second time I loved it. The character is shown as very powerful and ruthless which is always great!

In the final issue another long-held secret, which is a retcon, is revealed which also affects the status quo of the comic. It took me by surprise the first time around and I wasn’t too wild about it but it keeps the book focused. Also, SHIELD’s a surprisingly big part of this comic.

These are all characters I’ve known for a long time so I enjoyed this alternate take on them.

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.

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