Thursday, 8 August 2013

Wolverine and the X-men vol. 1 & 2 review

Bachalo and Bradshaw draw some pretty
great covers for the first few issues.

Wolverine and the X-men is a great example of superhero comics done right. More importantly (to me anyway), it’s a great example of an X-men comic done right. There have been many, many different takes on the X-men and there have been quite a handful of very positively reviewed and fondly remembered creative runs on various x-titles. For every New X-men or Astonishing X-men, there has been an X-men Forever or Uncanny X-men by Chuck Austen. What makes Jason Aaron’s first eight issues of Wolverine and the X-men so good is the quantity of story and the surprising depth for what seems to be a humour and action comic on the surface.

Two of the things that make these issues memorable are two of the now often ignored elements of X-men comics: 1) A school for mutants, 2) being a mutant means something and 3) uses the x-men’s expansive history to his advantage but also contributes embellishments to it. Mutants are often confused by writers and fans as being a type of superhero. Although that is often the case, mutants are forever separated from the Avengers, Spider-man and the Fantastic Four because being a mutant makes them different. For Aaron, a mutant is an allegorical device for the awkward years of teenagers. By writing a comic about mutants, Aaron is actually writing a comic about learning to get to know yourself and others. Many of these characters are put in situations where they have to reflect on the type of person they are be it Broo who discovers his dark and violent self or Kitty Pryde who realizes she’s afraid of growing up or maybe even Wolverine who leads a not so secret double life as Headmaster by day and mutant assassin by night or, yet another example of Genesis having to (eventually) deal with the past of the mutant he was cloned from.

There's so much going on inside this
issue, Bradshaw haw to draw a
split screen cover! How great is that?
Aaron also has a healthy respect and admiration for some of the better X-men comics of yesteryear. He regularly references or alludes to past stories and characters arcs but he does so without copying them. Sure, he creates a new school for mutants but his story is contextualized within the x-universe and the characters are as aware of the forthcoming destruction of the school grounds as the readers are. Aaron also finds a way to capture the frenetic day to day life of a school for teenaged mutants run by mutant superheroes. It’s craaaazy! Interdimentional demons teleporting all over and creating mayhem, supervillains attacking the school, young mutants taking out their angst and frustrations on the world by using their powers, and so much more.

I’m having a difficult time focusing my thoughts on this comic because there’s just so much about it that I think is great! Like the art. I’m a fan of Chris Bachalo’s art on X-men titles in general. He brings a nice chaotic beauty to x-characters and it suits X-men comics more than quite a few other artists. His art on the three opening issues match the writing so well it’s nearly impossible to think of a better collaboration between artist and writer. Then comes issues #4 to 6 where Nick Bradshaw takes over on pencils. His style is radically different from Bachalo’s but he brings a detail heavy quality that somehow contributes to the frenetic tone established in the first three issues. His lines are clearly defined and there’s cleanliness to it all that’s absent from Bachalo’s art but it works. I found myself liking one artist over the other with each issue I read until I realized, it doesn’t matter. They’re both good and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Bachalo exchanges clarity for energy but that doesn’t mean his action scenes are unreadable. It’s all there for us to see but compared to Bradshaw, things do look a little messy in Bachalo’s issues.

I’m not sure how to conclude my review. I just feel like gushing. There’s so much about Wolverine and the X-men volume 1 and 2 that I liked and quite a bit that I loved. I got so excited while reading the comic. It’s just great superhero comics. It’s so fun, it has plenty of action and it’s also very, very funny. Aaron demonstrated he can right funny comics during the several years he wrote solo Wolverine series and mini-series but he takes it to a new level in Wolverine and the X-men. More important than anything else, this comic has heart. Aaron and the rest of the creative team pack a lot of story, character development and more into these 20 pages issues. It’s a comic that I liked while reading but it’s also a comic that I could think about and enjoy after the fact. My one complaint is that the writer and artists don’t give the comic a lot of room to breathe. Ah, who am I kidding, I’ll take a breath once I’m done rereading these issues.

Krakoa, Kid Gladiator, Warbird, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Husk, Quentin Quire, Idie, Broo, Rachel, Beast, Doop, Wolverine and Toad. What a great cast! Notice how many of these characters were introduced by Aaron in the first three issues. 

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