Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Quick Review of Wolverine and the X Men Issues One and Two

Post Civil War, the Marvel Universe has been in the market to shake things up considerably every few months in terms of character development and overarching "big change for reals" story-lines.

Also, Wolverine is everywhere.  The Avengers, Uncanny X Force, X Men, his own title, multiple mini-series, a new animated cartoon, and every single cover of Wizard the Guide to Comics ever printed.

It should come as no surprise then that one of the new X-titles to make its way onstage claims a "bold new direction" for mutantkind as well as featuring our favorite vertically-challenged Canadian with an indestructible skeleton.

Wolverine and the X Men is, on its surface, the natural outcome of the Schism story-line that ran itself into the ground anticlimactically a scant few months ago. The plot for that so-called "Civil War of mutants" was pretty pat and shook the few remaining mutants of the world up, ever so slightly.  A new generation of the Hellfire Club (literally children) opened itself up to not simply exterminating mutants but making a tidy profit off the fears of mankind with the latest Sentinel tech, a tried but true X-trope (see: Claremont's Nimrod, Morrison's nano-Sentinels).  When the latest "suitcase" Sentinel is aimed at Utopia, the last bastion of mutant hope just off the Pacific coast, a rift between Wolverine and Cyclops emerges, interestingly enough with Cyclops taking the more militant position, and Wolverine seeking to follow Xavier's old premise of a "school for gifted youngsters".

After some unnecessarily proverbial team-divvying around a metaphorical campfire, the new title is born, rejuvenating the long-bombed-out Westchester County mansion.  Hope is a scarce thing in the Marvel Universe, on a best day.  Wolverine calls in Shadowcat, Beast, Iceman, Husk, Doop and others as teachers and administrators, and populates the school with all the easy-to-relate-to quirky mutant teens floating in editorial limbo since the school was last blown up.

The initial issue starts with the seemingly mundane task of passing an inspection by the state board of education.  Predictably, things go sour from the start.     Second one features a new leimotif common enough in Marvel these days: Pym particles mixed with bioengineering, replicating a power or a creature, Sauron and Wendigo, Frankensteins with Flame Throwers. Chris Bacchalo's art is the sort of complicated scenework that keeps fanboys rereading.   His expressions have always been down (evidences available for Logan and Oya) but he seems to have expanded his sense of motion since Generation X and his work in the Ultimate Universe.  The writing is fluid if predictable. Playing on obscure tropes like the Living Island Krakoa, keeping pace with new concepts such as Danger Room being a constant hardlight physical challenge, Professor X's dry humor regarding the eventual and seemingly inevitable destruction of the school.

All in all, the title shows great promise, despite Wolverine's overexposure at all times. Give the snail's pace of art and plot a few months, we may see something pan out in the Kid Omega subplot, followed by more problems with the Marvel Evil Youth League popping up all over.

Speaking of popping up everywhere, please note the Nightcrawler imps Bacchalo has a blast drawing, mentioned ever so casually by Hank McCoy, the supposed ace-in-the-hole candidate to charm the inspectors, shortly before hurling a coffee pot at them.

But more than that we can see the expansion of Bobby Drake, Iceman, via actions taking place in a recent issue of Uncanny X Force, another winning blend of good art and complex plot that takes no prisoners.  Iceman defeats the Frankenstein soldiers using a multiple man trick, expanding his consciousness into avatars.  Rachel Summers seems somewhat free of her usual clumsiness in a plot, Kitty Pride is a Jewish goddess, and Doop of the old X-Statix team would seem to be in charge of Registration.  There are throwbacks to the Sh'iar in the arrival of old egomaniac Gladiator himself with the introduction of his son and bodyguard...

The writer and artist have found a competent inker, a good crew of colorists, and a couple dozen interns to churn out this particular pile.  Their villain is children, seemingly growing more common in Marvel 616, with his own secret assassin squad in Uncanny X Force having murdered a reincarnated child form of Apocalypse which would inherit at accursed villain packed with Celestial technology.  But not really, because Fantomex, AKA Weapon XIII, misdirected everyone into thinking that was what happened, and has seen fit to keep En Sabah Nur in a laboratory protected by Weapon XV. Right. Meanwhile?

Wolverine's constant exposure pays off greater dividends, surely, or they wouldn't farm him out so much.  Touches for characters like poor Toad, old veteran of all the incarnations of the Brotherhood of Mutants... he's gone through so many changes over the decades, and if there is one thing in this new series relevant enough to note is that Toad's a janitor. Finally. At last.

And the toilets shoot fire.

Four and a half stars out of five for the inevitable delay of the book. Bacchalo takes forever to draw. But he's worth the wait.

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