It won’t surprise regular readers to know that I’m quite a fan of the X-Men, so when I heard about the premise for “X-Men Forever” -- Chris Claremont picking up his X-Men run exactly where he left off in 1991 -- I was naturally intrigued. It’s an odd starting point for a book, and one that, over 15 years on, needs a bit of re-introduction. Hence, “X-Men Forever Alpha,” which reprints the first three issues of “X-Men (Vol. 2)” -- the last story in Claremont’s original run.
The opportunity to re-evaluate the story was an irresistible one –- especially since, at $5, it represents excellent value. You get a good 70 pages of story for your money, the majority of which are a visual treat, drawn by Jim Lee. Since “X-Men #1” was written as a jumping on point anyway, the arc stands alone well -- not always the case with Claremont’s X-Men stories -- and for better or worse, it’s full of all the tropes that made his run legendary in the first place. A sprawling, yet well-defined cast. Speech bubbles full of dodgy accents. Every page crammed with philosophical monologue. As a microcosm of what Claremont’s run was like, it can hardly be faulted.
It helps that the story is fairly action-packed, too. Compared with the decompressed, 6-issue arcs of today, this three issue arc manages to feel like several blockbuster events crammed into one. The story shows the reunited X-Men going out on a mission against –- who else? -- Magneto, and over the course of it, recalls events from hundreds of issues ago (the sinking of the Leningrad) while also climaxing with the apparent death of Magneto. The opening sequence, in which the X-Men team simulate an attack on the mansion as a training exercise, is a great read, though the arc suffers towards the end. Lee tends to overcrowd his pages, while Claremont uses any remaining space for dialogue, and it becomes clear that this was not a story designed to be read in one sitting -– a third a month feels like it would have been just enough time to get through an issue!
The issue also contains a few pages as a teaser for “X-Men Forever,” which show Claremont sticking to the premise far more than the cover to "X-Men Forever" #1 initially suggests. Whether or not it has any appeal outside the X-Men nostalgists is hard to gauge, but off the back of this collection, I’m certainly ready to give the new series a chance.