The first big piece of news from NYCC that caught my eye was the announcement the Chris Claremont, the architect of the modern X-Men universe, would once again return to the franchise that is, in the eyes of some fans, synonymous with his name in X-Men: Forever. The series, which will feature artwork by Claremont’s New Exiles partner, Tom Grummett, will take the seminal mutant team forward in an alternate continuity that uses X-Men #1, the point where Claremont initially ended his original run in 1991, as a starting point.
Claremont: Coming back to the X-Men is never difficult. Quite the contrary, it’s a true pleasure, like visiting old and dear friends. [X-Men] Forever allows me not just to pick up where I left off, but to show the reader the unexpected. Forever allows me to pick up where I left off with the freedom to take the series in whole new—and unfettered—directions. The characters here are totally up for grabs. All of the presumptions that we’ve gotten used to over time no longer apply; relationships that we’ve come to take for granted are suddenly cast in question.
Think about that a moment—say we’re used to a romantic relationship between a couple of characters. But suppose that applecart gets overturned, suppose one of the characters finds themselves attracted to someone new and unexpected, what then? Suppose we go down that road, where might it lead?
Reaction from the fans has been… well, let’s just say “mixed” and keep it civil. Chris Claremont’s best work is behind him, partly due to sweeping changes in the way comics are written since Claremonts heyday, and partly due to uninspired ideas in Claremont’s own scripts (what’s the over/under on how many issues until an X-Man goes on a mind-controlled rampage?).
But this book isn’t for the average comic book fan, or even most die-hard X-Men fans. X-Men: Forever is for the fans (like me) who grew up reading Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants and Excalibur; the fans who’ll buy any X-project with his name on it in the hopes that it will recapture even a spark of the old glory the X-Men once had under his direction. For us, the accusations that Claremont is washed-up are way off-base. His X-Treme X-Men run was good more often than not, and his previous returns to the main X-Men titles have been better than he’s been given credit for. X-Men: Forever is the kind of book that’s right in Claremont’s wheelhouse; he can cherry-pick the characters he wants to use and not have to worry about editorial mandates gumming up his plans. He could even go back and finish some of the ongoing storylines that were abruptly ended with his initial departure. Remember how Gambit was a shady, conniving rogue when Claremont first introduced him? Rumor has it that Claremont originally intended for Gambit to be a henchman in Mr. Sinister’s employ, acting as a double agent in the X-Men. Wouldn’t that be a lot more interesting take on the character than the emo, Rogue-loving pansy he became in other writers’ hands?
True, X-Men: Forever is going to cater to a specific fanbase, but if nothing else, it couldn’t possibly be any worse than a majority of X-Men stories we’ve seen in the past eighteen years, right? (I’m looking at you, Draco and Onslaught.)