"Dreamers and Demons: The Gathering Storm"*
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Sean Chen (p), Sandu Florea (i)
Young Shi’ar Aliyah Bishop, at first alone on the deck of a planet side spaceship, must cope with simultaneous invasions by the Kree, the Brood and a Skrull.
This book should come with a disclaimer: “Warning: Unadulterated 100% Claremont-isms within.” For some, that’s nothing but good news. For others, already disenchanted with Uncanny and never too impressed by X-treme, at least they’d know to stay away.
I mean, boy does he pile it on here. The opening sequence, where Aliyah seems to be running on a beach past the X-mansion, turns out to be a holodeck/Danger Room simulation. Claremont often begins his stories with dream sequences (all-too-often, in fact), but this is a novel way to do it, as the payoff of finding our imaginary futuristic heroine on a space ship is a great introduction to this high-concept series.
There are lots of improvements on the familiar formulas like this. Aliyah is a teen protagonist, but not Kitty Pryde, whom Claremont really can’t write well as the adult she now is. She’s descended from Bishop and Deathbird (showing Claremont was at least reading while others took care of his babies), the latter of whom has been a Claremont staple since way back in the Ms. Marvel series. In the course of this issue (as I spoil everything), Aliyah encounters the Kree, the Brood, a new variation on Ahab’s Hounds (featuring enslaved versions of Madrox, Slipstream and Syrin), plus the newly popular Nocturne, and a revivified Jean Grey (hey, if Whedon’s doing it already, why not Claremont, too?), the Starjammer vessel, and some new Binary version of Carol Danvers.
Did I leave anything out? If it sounds like chaos, it’s not, as Claremont carefully introduces each of these players in clear succession. He’s helped greatly, no doubt, by the crystal clear visions of Chen, who delineates every character with distinction, and does a fair job on alien tech and oddball creatures, too. There are only a few art disconnects. One, Chen has chosen the Jim Lee-era costumes as the standard here for some reason. Claremont’s constant stream of narration, here in Aliyah’s voice, describes an armored Skrull when we only see breeches and bracelets. And though it’s meant to be a reveal, the depiction of the ‘Jammer itself is rather oddly camouflaged at first during the Kree attack.
As many of “The End” projects take a far-flung future tack, it’s a bit odd that Claremont is only jumping one generation ahead, with all the familiar characters still in place, if slightly altered. We’re clued in to how very close to now in one of those classic, old-school widescreen spreads where Jean manifests the Phoenix force (to consumer a star gone nova, all Aliyah’s fault, oops!) and everyone she’s ever met feels the ripples in space-time. Still, if this is Claremont’s vision of the future of the franchise, it’s a far less grating and more creative one than the rough-hewn bludgeon he’s taking to Morrison’s ideas over in Excalibur. This stuff seems like direct fallout of Morrison’s “Imperial” arc, rather than just a refutation of it.
This is in the vein of giving Claremont his own corner with his own toys to play in, rather than letting him lead the franchise any longer, which at least in part seems to continue to be the policy at Marvel. And, if you think about it, this team is Claremont’s life’s work. If anybody gets to revel in his own continuity, regardless of whether he’s playing on company property, it should be him. He’s earned it, and an imaginary tale like this promises not to gum up the works too much for others.
*(uhm, how many books are their gonna' be again? gulp!)
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