Review by C.J. Bunce
Have you ever been handed something you weren’t immediately interested in, and then realized it was just what the doctor ordered? For me this week it was Wolverine and the X-Men #1, written by Jason Aaron (actually Marvel Comics calls him a Marvel architect) and pencils and colors by Chris Bachalo.
Pencils and colors by the same guy? What a good idea. At least here it worked really well. In fact I only picked up this book because I ran into the writer at a local Halloween party and I thought the cover art reminded me of Howard Chaykin and the color work was striking.
I also have been a DC Comics fan since high school and was always looking for a good entry point into the Marvel Universe characters. My issue with picking up random issues over the years was the ongoing storyline and lack of standalone stories. I understood there was this ongoing X-Men story that would sometimes intersect with an Avengers story, but if I didn’t read every issue I just couldn’t get involved and keep up. Finally, Wolverine and the X-Men may be that entry point.
I am also a fan of the storytelling technique used by Joss Whedon in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Use a close-knit group of the the younger set, put them in fantastical situations, keep the ongoing storyline to a minimum and focus on growing the key team of characters. That technique works here, too.
Wolverine and the X-Men starts at a very appropriate beginning point, the first day of school at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, a school for mutants named after former X-Men member, Jean Grey/Phoenix. Jason Aaron’s story reads like a teleplay, which really works for a TV watcher like me. My only real exposure to the X-Men, aside from reading the Giant-Sized X-Men #1 in the aisle at Target when I was a kid, is in the X-Men movies. What I glean from the backstory that is nicely tucked into this issue is that Jean Grey, killed in the movies, must be dead in this universe, too. I assume from her character she’ll be back again someday. Some recent event called the Schism was perpetrated by some genius brat 12-year-old kid named Kade Kilgore, and I take it that this Schism caused us to be in this new universe of stories starting us with this series at Issue #1.
Wolverine/Logan has started his own school for mutants, with key staff positions held by Kitty Pryde and the furry blue Beast. He gets some advice from Professor Xavier, who founded the original, famous school for mutants.
The bulk of the story takes place on the first day of school, and Logan and Kitty must take representatives of the board of education on a tour, seeking their needed approval. The auditor is a fairly stereotypical busybody and Logan and Kitty can do nothing right for her. Murphy’s Law reins supreme here and the book is chock full of disaster after disaster.
Having recently emerged from New 52 DC Comics series like The Flash and Justice League where nothing really happens over the course of an issue, this book is full of several “different” scenes and you get the feel that you got your money’s worth here. Part of that is the relation between writer and artist no doubt. One page includes a quickly but well-told 12-panel conversation that packs in content. Bachalo’s pencil style and color work is straight-forward yet he clearly has his own style. His characters have a similar look, but it is a cool look. Wolverine looks like a scruffy grump, the visitor from the board of education looks simultaneously annoyed and annoying. Not being that familiar with Marvel Universe details of late, I scanned the Direct Current Previews and learned Aaron has done plenty of Wolverine work, including the Schism story that led to this new series. His familiarity with Wolverine’s character comes across nicely in this issue.
One great scene involves a training room for mutants called the Danger Room, which at the old Xavier school was apparently a known, distinct room. At the Jean Grey school apparently the Danger Room can be anywhere and in this issue that anywhere is the boys bathroom, where unsuspecting boys hanging out get to experience what that means, including an apparent toilet seat on fire. The unlimited potential for future issues is evident, both with this Danger Room concept but also with an endless cast of mutants, including the janitor named Toad, who keeps complaining that he hasn’t been assigned a bed yet at the school. Don’t miss out on the class list, faculty list and other extras at the end. Good stuff.
We are also given a taste of the future, as an unexpected student arrives–Warbird–and his bodyguard, royalty who believes he is too good for everyone else. This could be anyone’s junior high or high school, and you hope that this kind of story finds its wider audience as there is plenty of humor and good character development here to appeal to kids and adults.