With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artist: Chris Bachalo, Nick Bradshaw
Issues: Wolverine and the X-Men (2011), #1-8
Hey, it’s been awhile! Rest assured that despite my recent gap in Marvel Comics Final Thoughts, I’m still reading them. Much of my comic reading time is taken up by my massive read-through of all The Walking Dead comics. But I do sneak some Marvel in.
Currently I’ve been blazing through the timeline circa 2011-12, catching everything up to the big 2012 event, Avengers Vs. X-Men. Most of the stuff hasn’t really been worth writing about. But then we’ve got Wolverine and the X-Men.
Following the divisive events laid out in X-Men: Schism, Wolverine left Utopia to return to the East Coast and re-open Professor X’s School for Gifted Mutants. He takes a number of mutants with him, including Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Rachel Grey, and Beast (who’d basically quit the X-Men after he found out about X-Force).
They re-brand the school as the Jean Grey Center for Higher Learning, and take on several of the younger generation of mutants as students – some of whom only recently became mutants thanks to Hope.
Call it the Harry Potterification era, but Marvel at this time was all about the youngsters. We’ve got Avengers Academy, Generation Hope, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, Journey Into Mystery, and now Wolverine and the X-Men. For the most part I’ve really enjoyed the young people as superhero stories. They’ve been approached with mature writing, interesting characters, and tackling a lot of important issues that young people face.
Then there’s Wolverine and the X-Men, which is mostly just stupid fun. The story arcs are broken up into shorter four-issue Volumes. The first Volume introduces us to the school and already tears things up, literally.
The new kiddie Hellfire Club returns as the villains from X-Men: Schism, much to my chagrin. They somehow wrangle Krakoa, the sentient island monster from way back in X-Men history, underneath the school to wreck havoc. It’s basically the opposite of the carefully constructed teen drama of Avengers Academy; this is an immediate all-out brawl.
Eventually the giant creature is psionically freed and becomes an official member of the team, and protector of the school. At that point I was actually on board with the absurdity of it all. Wolverine and company slap the Hellfire Club with some lawsuits, then he skips off to space with Quentin Quire to earn money for the school through alien gambling. Yep!
Volume 2 balances that weird alien gambling story with an even weirder return of the Brood….in Kitty Pryde’s body. One of the new characters is a student named Broo, a mutant Brood. It’s a fittingly ridiculous character for a ridiculous comic, and he’s hilariously dorky despite his terrifying appearance.
A murderous intergalactic scientist invades the school for extremely weak reasons related to culling Broo from the genetic herd. Part of his strategy is to infect Kitty with a bunch of microscopic brood for reasons I’m still not clear on.
And yet, it’s all a lot of fun. The X-Men go all Inner Space inside Kitty Pryde, punching Brood and causing Kitty Pryde some terrible intestinal pain. Yet she doesn’t sit idly by, and helps Broo evade capture until… Broo eventually goes nuts and attacks the scientist, thereby assuring the scientist that he is in fact a Brood.
Despite my haughty mocking tone I actually did enjoy reading the first eight issues of Wolverine and the X-Men. Not every comic has to be a deep character drama or continuity-laced mega-adventure. There are even a few interesting things going on that spun out of Uncanny X-Force, including the mind-wiped Angel and child-like Apocalypse, Genesis. But neither stories go anywhere, yet.
Wolverine and the X-Men stands on its own pretty well, though I’m not a fan of Chris Bachalo’s near anime-level art style where everyone looks like a warped twelve year old. Thankfully he’s only on the first few issues. Nick Bradshaw presents a much preferred balance that finds youthfulness while still making everyone looks human.
Interestingly, X-Men Legacy (which I’m catching up on now) also takes place at the new school, but with a mostly separate cast and events. I found it completely confusing and unnecessary, yet still enjoy X-Men Legacy because Rogue has been such a great character in the last few years. It’s much better written and more closely connected to the overall X-Men continuity.
Wolverine and the X-Men is a fun romp and a neat idea, but it focuses too much on the teaching staff instead of the more interesting students, features dumb villains, and is easily skipped in the overall X-Men timeline so far.