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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Friday, April 16, 2010

X-Men 4

"Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a singlecelled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward."

- Professor Charles Xavier, X-Men (2000)

My first full-blown meeting with Marvel's merry mutants was X-Men #4 [March 1964], which introduced Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and the rest of Magneto's "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants." I was 12, it was a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby super-hero comic book, and, of course, I loved it. But I didn't truly relate to the X-Men until two years later when Roy Thomas started writing the series.

Some have opined the prime age for reading Archie comic books is just before one enters high school. The red-haired boy with the waffle-scar on the side of his head, along with his pals and gals, were a window into the world those readers would be entering. Alas, those expectant youngsters would soon discover their high school wasn't nearly as wacky and wondrously nurturing as Riverdale High. Sad to say, Joss Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was a far more accurate portrayal of high school.

Even when Thomas was writing the X-Men, I never bought them as high-school students. They were more like college students and, as a sophomore in high school, they seemed way cooler than any of the kids I knew. They also lived in the Marvel Universe New York City, also way cooler than real-world Cleveland.

Though Chris Claremont is, absolutely, THE X-Men writer, with an impressive body of work on various X-Men titles, those Thomas issues are my favorites. Chris didn't know me as a teen. Somehow, Roy, though his stories, did.

The X-Men have meant many things to many readers through their decades of adventuring. That we see so much of ourselves in them, that their lives often mirror our lives, explains their continuing success in comics and other media.

We're all mutants, we're all X-Men, and we're all at our best when we accept and embrace our differences. That union of diverse backgrounds and abilities, our mutant powers if you will, represent our world's best chance for a better tomorrow.

Can I get an "Excelsior!" out there?

X-Men Forever

Chris Claremont's 16-year run as the X-Men writer, from 1975 to 1991, represents an amazing body of work that put Marvel's mutants on the pop culture map for all time. Claremont's character drama, high adventure, and social commentary have been imitated in dozens of comic books, movies, novels, and TV shows and rarely equaled. In a move Marvel calls "unprecedented" and I think is one of the smartest things it's ever done, X-Men Forever [$3.99 per issue] was launched in 2009, allowing Claremont to pick up his stories from the end of his initial run.

We have come a long way from the time when misguided, albeit well-meaning folks embraced the absurd notion that comics readers couldn't grasp the concept of parallel universes. Indeed, we have become masters of these separate realities. I've lost count of how many different versions of, say, Spider-Man, I've enjoyed over the years, from the official Marvel Universe continuity to Ultimate Spider-Man to Spider-Girl to all the different cartoon and movie interpretations. The same holds true for the X-Men and Claremont is working his alternate X-Men Universe run with the same gusto he brought to his earlier tenure.

X-Men Forever opens after the death of Magneto at the hands of Fabian Cortez. The X-Men, more feared than ever, have an ally in Nick Fury, head of SHIELD, and have become almost an arm of the organization while fiercely maintaining their independence. It's a dangerous new world in which they have found themselves and, just within the first storyline, one of their number falls, another betrays them, shocking secrets were revealed, and lives changed in ways the mutants could have never imagined. My apologies for being coy. Claremont's twists and turns make for riveting reading and I want you to experience them in the same "Whoa! Didn't see THAT coming!" manner in which I did.

What I will tell you is that X-Men Forever is complete unto itself. Each issue starts with a "previously in X-Men" page that brings the new reader right up to date. The storytelling is clear as a bell with the various sub-plots flowing smoothly in and out of the main action. The visual storytelling is just as spiffy, thanks to artists like Tom Grummett, Paul Smith, and Steve Scott. There are appearances by other Marvel Universe characters, but the guest shots all serve the X-Men stories.

If you like the X-Men, but find the multiple X-Men titles too daunting or expensive to follow, X-Men Forever is the comic book for you. No crossovers or spin-offs.

I'm having so much fun reading this series that I'm giving it the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

On the trade paperback front, X-Men Forever Vol. 1: Picking Up Where We Left Off [$16.99] reprints the first five issues of the book with succeeding volumes are scheduled for March and June release. Just the thing for your home, school, or public library.

ISBN 9780-78513-679-8

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. Have a happy and safe weekend.

I'll be back on Monday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 04/15/2010 | 04/16/2010 | 04/19/2010 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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