It’s easy to feel sorry for Scott Gray. After doing a superb job of editing Marvel’s UK monthly collected editions, and a memorable tenure as writer of the Doctor Who Magazine’s comic strip, his work for Marvel US has become increasingly high profile, culminating in his present gig as the writer of the second generation of the ‘First Class’ sub-franchise. Despite rumours that the next X-Men film would use the name, the writer has stayed true to his brief, eschewing a more expansive take on the franchise.
It’s just rather unfortunate that he finds himself in competition with Chris Claremont’s equally retro but joyously insane approach to the X-Men over in the pages of Forever.
There’s clearly a considerable amount of thought gone into the venture, with Gray managing to pull off a tricky balancing act between the X-Men as they are now conceived and the knockabout adventurer approach of the early years of Claremont’s run. The writer had an abundance of concepts to throw at the fledging team in the early years, with each new two or three issue arc bringing a fresh menace of ally for the mutants, some of which were remarkably avant garde. Gray tackles this problem intelligently, turning to one of the better-known corners of Marvels’ secondary franchises to supply the pop-art surrealism that he seeks. The resulting issue might be better titled ‘Nightcrawler and the Inhumans’, but manages a commendable facsimile of the approach of the years it seeks to mimic, without breaking the rules of the series as it stands today.
It’s just a pity that the result feels a bit insipid. Gray obviously has a great deal of affection for Kurt Wagner, and his youthful naivety about the way the world works is well-used, but it’s a little disappointing that the first issue of a book famed for its teamwork and interplay of characters should focus almost exclusively on some figure. Much of the remainder of the cast are reduced to single lines of dialogue, while the opening scene in which Nightcrawler is persecuted for his rescuing of two girls feels more like the sort of misunderstanding for which Spider-man is famed than the opening to this particular property. Matters aren’t helped by Roger Cruz’s rather static art. While the bile that is often heaped into this particular creator is undeserved, the scratchy linework on show here is far from the best material he’s produced.
With a title so dependant on injecting verve into an existing setting, there’s sadly little room for such lifeless work.