Wednesday, February 08, 2006

X-Men 255-265

Continuing the journey, this chunk of issues represents a nadir for Claremont, with even more aimless drifting than the first ten post Inferno issues. The thing that made Claremont's run from 94-225, and arguably through Inferno, is the constant sense of progress. There was no status quo, the team was always changing, and characters grew in interesting ways. This created the sense that anyone was expendable, and also meant that characters could undergo radical transformations, most notably Storm's journey from 166-225.

However, post Inferno, Claremont seems to have taken the idea that everything should change too far, and ended up with a comic that has virtually nothing in common with what he defined the X-Men as. I've got no problem with radical change, as long as the character core remains intact. So, I wouldn't mind if Wolverine and Storm retired and the comic followed their everyday life, because that would be a logical extension of the character arcs that he created, and is still true to the essence of the book, which is the relationships between the family of characters that developed over the course of the run.

Sending everyone through the siege perilous was a bold move that broke from the status quo, but unfortunately it's resulted in the book having no direction and no emotional center. This is an extension of the problem that began when Claremont shipped a lot of his best characters off to Excalibur, breaking up the family that defined the book. Here it gets worse because none of the X-Men are together, so it's a bunch of random episodes, with no real forward momentum.

The first arc in this chunk of issues is the bizarre Lady Mandarin storyline. After going through the Siege Perilous, Psylocke has been reborn as a ninja assassin. The storyline is primarily an excuse for Claremont to put Psylocke in the ninja leotard outfit and have her kill people, as well as put Wolverine through some more punishment. It's not a bad storyline, the ending works well, but on the whole, the plot development is a bit nonsensical.

Following this, we see a bit of Jubille, Wolverine and Psylocke travelling together, and there's some interesting territory to explore, but they only turn up in some of the issues, so the forward progress of their storyline is not too quick. Wolverine is one of the key characters in the book, and it really hurts to not have him in every issue.

The most successful storyline going on at this point follows Piotr, who has been reborn as an artist in New York City. This is a strong use of the Siege Perilous, one that makes emotional sense. Piotr is given everything he ever wanted, the slate is clean, and he doesn't have the painful memories of his time with the X-Men. This leaves his comrades wandering if they should reveal that he's living a lie or let him go on living the fantasy. It makes emotional sense for the character at this point.

The major goings on at this point is the Banshee and Forge storyline. These two are both established characters, but I don't think they can carry the book, like they're apparently meant to. Forge is interesting as a foil for Storm, and the whole reenacting of Vietnam thing feels played out. There's definite potential in the character, but if you keep having him do the same thing every time he appears, play out the same conflicts, it's not interesting to read. Similarly, Jean Grey doesn't really feel like a character in this book, she doesn't belong here, and that makes her appearances odd. It would make more sense to have Scott turn up and aid Banshee.

The other really weak storyline is Storm's regression to adolescence. This is nonsensical and makes no sense in terms of character development. I'm assuming they're leading up to a reenactment of the events of issue 117, where Professor X fights the Shadow King, with young Storm on hand, but I don't think that's worth going through this very long storyline that's going nowhere.

That's basically how the book feels at this point, a whole bunch of things are happening very slowly, and in 'cutting' between them, Claremont is basically elongating and repeating the same series of events. It feels like they're filling space before something big, but there doesn't seem to be any ultimate story destination that they would be leading to.

So, it's 14 issues to go until the end of the run, which includes X-Tinction Agenda. Hopefully things will pick up a bit, because I wouldn't want a lot of really good work to end on a weak note.

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