Saturday, 10 August 2013

Wolverine and the X-men vol. 3 & 4 review

One of the big problems with modern superhero comics is that titles are often interrupted, almost on an annual basis, with the latest crossover event. For the uninitiated, crossovers are the summer blockbusters of comic books. The stories are often the product of a company’s top writer, top artists, top colourist, top everything else and it’s usually a pretty addition to any of the contributor’s body of work. Crossovers often involve a company’s most famous and beloved characters fighting one other and to be quite honest, few of them even work as a sustained narrative and even less of those are any good. One exemplary exception to this is Final Crisis but that’s a blog post for another time. The biggest problem I have with crossovers is that they take far too much space for what they’re worth. For stories that are one dimensional, they sure find a way to seep into every other comic on the stands making those comics, even the very good ones, nothing but a dreary mess.

This is relevant to Jason Aaron’s tenure on Wolverine and the X-men because after the first 8 issues that introduced us to the school and the casts, Marvel editors deemed it necessary to give us ten tie-in issues to their Avengers vs. X-men crossover. That’s ridiculous! It’s even more ridiculous when you consider that the crossover itself is only twelve issues long. I’ve read Avengers vs. X-men and I can’t say it’s a comic I’d like to read more of if I didn’t have to so when it’s invading the very same comic that brought me so much joy, I start to worry.

Who's fighting who and for what
reason? Find out in another comic!
As expected the third and fourth volumes of Wolverine and the X-men wasn’t as good as the first two. Not only did I have to suffer somebody else’s story invading the great little comic Aaron’s given us, but it’s not even given to me in a coherent way. The crossover is mostly just one on one fights between a member of the Avengers and someone of the X-men. Most of the AVX pages in Wolverine and the X-men are composed of static images of different fight scenes. There’s nearly no narrative element other than the caption boxes Aaron inserts to try and give it some weight and meaning. What saves these issues is that Aaron keeps the story rolling by intercutting these mandatory AVX scenes with what’s happening at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. The momentum is cut by half but things are still happening. The fact remains that in order to fully understand and enjoy the AVX portions (if that’s even possible), you would have to read both titles concurrently or, at the very least, read AVX first.

Aaron and his team of artists actually make some worthwhile comics. The art is good all around but it’s not as great a quality as it was in the earlier volumes. Bachalo’s art looks rushed in some parts of volume 3 and Bradshaw doesn’t contribute any issues to volume 4. Jorge Molina steps in on art duties and he gets the job done. Hi style is nowhere as detailed or energetic as Bachalo or Bradshaw but the characters are all recognizable. I’m not a big fan of his style though and his characters often look stiff. It was nice to have at least one issue drawn by one of the regular artists on the title. Issue #17 is drawn by Mike Allred and that’s always a treat especially because the issue featured Doop, a character he co-created with Peter Milligan in the pages of X-force.

A very fun issue. Doop is such a stud. 
Despite the fact that Avengers vs. X-men got in the way, volumes 3 and 4 of Wolverine and the X-men are good comics. Some long time questions are answered (what does Doop do, exactly?) and Aaron gives us a good look at the challenges of being a teacher a school for mutants (quasi mental breakdowns and all). We also get some nice character development for the villains he introduced in X-men: Schism, the new Hellfire Club. Warbird, an alien bodyguard from the Shi’ar Empire, also gets to have a spotlight issue amidst the superhero fights scenes of AVX. I have to admit, the fact that Aaron is able to juggle his shared universe responsibilities by featuring bits of the storyline from AVX as well as continuing to write the most entertaining superhero books on the stand is an impressive feat. It’s too bad he had to write about AVX at all. Here’s hoping the next volume tightens up the focus on the Jean Grey school and captures the magic of the first eight issues. 

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