Friday, August 28, 2009

Rayboy's Review: X-Men Forever #6 (Marvel Comics)

Face front true believers, this one is more of an editorial commentary than a review, but that's where my muse took me today. Sorry!

Marvel Comics new ongoing X-Men Forever series returns two more former X-creators into the mix with issue #6, while primary artist Tom Grummett takes a breather. Penciller Paul Smith and inker Terry Austin both worked on the classic All New, All Different X-Men (which then became Uncanny X-Men), and each were responsible for some superlative work on the original series. But that was then and this is now, and their work on this issue is a huge letdown.

Paul Smith is a nice guy and he goes all out for his fans at convention appearances, often drawing free head sketches for long lines of admirers. His artwork here is more in line with his earlier self-published Leave It to Chance, with his figures appearing a bit softer around the edges; the angularity of his X-Men figures from days gone by falls by the wayside, and for me this kinder-gentler artistic approach simply doesn’t cut it on an X-book. Mr. Austin’s inking provides nothing helpful that could have overcome this perceived weakness on the page, in fact the pages reveal part of the problem here. During the years since their original work on the classic X-Men series, page design itself has undergone a radical transformation, dispensing with gutters and traditional panel borders in favor of the full-page bleed. In short the language of comics is entirely different, and the end result here amounts to something being lost in translation. Pity!

X-Men Forever is nothing but glorified fan fiction, no different than online conceits by fans who wish to put their own stamp on favorite characters that they have no professional relationship with. Fan fiction takes established characters and spins them however zealous fans wish their favorites “really” were, in a better world; according to their personal desires. Writer Chris Claremont was the “go to guy” for the X-universe for a whopping sixteen years, but again that came to an abrupt halt in 1991. This reimagining of what might have been, suffers mightily from the weight of those missing years, with the additional twist of allowing Claremont to chart a non-continuity environment that is tantamount to a mega-“What If” scenario. What is the point?

Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada has ably demonstrated during his tenure that he is all for transforming the Marvel Universe into something completely different than what it was before his arrival, even going on record with comments that prior to his ascendancy to his current office, previous in-house personnel were too caught up in perpetuating nostalgic ardor for old school House of Ideas mindsets. Considering the old days material made Marvel the publishing worlds comic book “king of the hill”, his feelings notwithstanding don’t really make much sense. However, Quesada must be given his chops for being successful at what he does, and he deserves accolades for his efforts, whether I personally appreciate or enjoy the end result or not.

One thing is for certain, Joe won’t be around forever, and I doubt that this title will be enough of a game-changer to endure for too terribly long either. One thing that I must point out given, Quesada’s “throw the baby out with the bathwater” approach to the traditional Marvel Universe – or at least the X-Men’s corner – is that he famously acted to cancel a somewhat similar earlier X-book, X-Men: The Hidden Years, that wasn’t experiencing low sales at the time the plug was pulled on it, and that also took the familiar team outside of the comfort zone of their contemporary fictional universe that was in existence in the main line titles at the time it ended; yet he has approved this series which pretty much does the same thing, although personally, the Hidden Years book was doing it a hell of a lot better for me than this one has, at least thus far out of the gate.

This issue does have a great front cover by Tom Grummett, but I don’t buy a book for the cover alone.

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