There’s no denying that the entire point of “X-Men Forever” is to appeal to a certain type of nostalgist. But why not? Silver age revivalists got both “Hidden Years” and “X-Men First Class.” 70s revivalists have “Uncanny X-Men: First Class” and 80s-philes have “Wolverine: First Class.” Why shouldn’t Marvel throw us 90s-fans a bone too? Back in the day, “X-Men” #1 sold 5 million copies so, presumably, a fair amount of people who bought it are still hanging around the industry today. But are they interested in a direct continuation? And more importantly -- is Chris Claremont?
It’s hard to say. After last month’s “X-Men Forever Alpha” reprinted Claremont’s final arc, the plot duly picks up with what would ostensibly have been “X-Men” #4 -- the X-Men track down the fugitive Fabian Cortez, aided at an organizational level by Nick Fury. That much, at least, follows on from Claremont’s final issue. Elsewhere, Rogue and Gambit are exploring their mutual attraction, something which was largely undeveloped when Claremont left. Scenes like that fit like a particularly comfortable glove.
However, there’s as much in the book that doesn’t follow on at all -- between issues, Wolverine and Jean have finally taken their mutual attraction to a new level, beginning a psychic affair not unlike that which Scott and Emma enjoyed in Grant Morrison’s run. Meanwhile, free from editorial interference, Claremont has jettisoned half the team. It’s understandable, given that the line-up at the time supported two titles, but it’s marginally less understandable that Claremont has dropped so many characters, only to once again use Kurt and Kitty from “Excalibur” -- impossible at the time, since they were the lynchpin of that title, but perfectly possible now.
Continuity complaints aside, this is one of Claremont’s better comics for some time, largely avoiding many of the excruciating tropes that plagued his previous “returns” to the X-Men. The title’s direction, piecemeal though it may be, is clearly defined, and as long as you’ve got it in you to deal with yet another Claremont-spawned alternate X-verse, you’ll enjoy what goes on here.
For me, a large part of the book’s appeal is visual, with Grummett rendering Jim Lee’s designs in convincing detail -- salvaging the best of the 90s, while jettisoning the worst artistic excesses. As a result, it’s a fun book. Familiar yet unpredictable. Whether or not it can sustain ongoing interest is another matter entirely, but if similar titles are anything to go by, there’s a couple of years left in it yet. It might appeal purely to X-Men historians, but let’s face it -- there are still a fair few of us around.