This is where it started for me. Twenty one years ago, I picked up the first volume of Forge, and fell in love with a new, budding, but ultimately doomed comic book universe. I was fairly new to comics. I read a few when I was a kid, mostly G.I. Joe and the Archie version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I wasn’t really a comic book fan. A friend tried to get me into X-Men and I absolutely hated it. I never much cared for superheroes, anyway. Heck, I’m the weird 80s kid who didn’t really like the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Still don’t. But then, somewhere around 2000, a friend introduced me to Hellboy and Metabarons, and things changed. The world of comics opened up to me in a new way. So, when CrossGen Comics came along, offering a relatively inexpensive gateway into the dawn of a new universe, where I didn’t have to worry about decades of contradictory continuity, and most of the titles weren’t superheroes at all, I jumped in.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous reviews of CrossGen stuff, they’ve got a healthy dose of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion going on. Each series features at least one character marked with a sigil of power, as well as meddling demi-gods called The First, acting as advisors and instigators. There are often themes, ideas, and sometimes characters crossing over between the lines.
Forge was set up to be a monthly release that would contain a sort of survey of about half of CrossGen’s comic releases. A second series, Edge, would contain the rest. This way, you could keep up on the whole line by picking up two trade paperbacks each month. Not only was this a cheaper option, but when you really don’t like floppy, stapled together comics (and I really, really don’t), it was a great way to keep up with stories. It also let me read stories I probably wouldn’t have otherwise followed, but which added to my overall enjoyment of all. By the time Forge started, some CrossGen titles had been going on for a while, so instead of starting their first issues, they put in little summaries.
Volume one collected:
A prequel and issue 1 of Sojourn. This series has a very Lord of the Rings/Robin Hood kind of thing going on. Our sigil bearer this time around is Arwyn, one of CrossGen’s many, many blonde heroes. She’s an archer of some note, and has a tragic backstory. Her opposite is an ancient evil who has been resurrected to continue his nasty work. The art is solid. The prequel shows what happened to the enemy in the past, and issue 1 sets the stage for the series proper.
A prequel for Negation. This weird Science Fiction story finds a bunch of beings from across the universe abducted and trapped on a hostile world. Who are the mysterious Negation, alien beings who seem to be up to something very bad? In an unusual twist for CrossGen, the hero, Kaine, has white hair, not blonde, and is Black.
We’re back to blonde heroes with a synopsis of the story so far, and issue 15 of Meridian. This was one of the series I most gravitated to when originally reading it. In my reread, this is still true. I’m in love with the setting created in the series. It’s maybe not the best written thing I’ve ever read. Many of the characters are stock. Heck, there’s a whole cast of characters the comic keeps flipping back to that I can’t even keep straight. But the setting really sings. And by issue 15, Sephie is more confident and compelling.
The first three issues of Crux make up the final actual story in this volume. There are some solid twists in these first few issues, setting up an interesting story. This was another one I really dug when it was originally coming out. It also ties deeply into the overall CrossGen lore, and features the alien Negation. Caprica, who isn’t blonde, is an interesting lead. The dialog isn’t always great, feeling very much like the kind of thing you’d find in Marvel or DC comics of the time, and it actually has a bit of a superhero team vibe. But the story is cool.
The volume finishes with a preview of The Path, a Samurai film inspired Fantasy series. There isn’t a lot to go on, other than seeing that the art is pretty.
When Forge came out, I believe most comics were priced around $2.95, and it cost $9.95, but contained seven issues worth of story, plus some extra material. It was a great deal, and would only become more so with subsequent volumes, because the previews and synopsis chapters would be replaced with more story. I don’t know if CrossGen Comics was the first company to do such a thing, but it was certainly a bold move in the market at the time. I still think it’s a wonderful idea. I don’t know how many Marvel or DC lines are currently active, but imagine being able to buy three or four monthly trade paperbacks for $10 or $12 bucks each, and read their whole line (I’m throwing out numbers there. I really have no idea how many there are. And we all know Marvel would jack the price on the thing until it wasn’t any kind of a savings, so it would probably end up being like $30. each trade, thus making it pointless. Friggin’ Marvel).
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