Saturday, October 29, 2011
Wolverine and the X-men #1 - Schooling Awesome
With all the new #1s hitting comic stores lately, both Marvel and DC are conspiring to undermine the entire number system. When new #1s come along, it's supposed to be like seeing a deer hump your neighbor's collection of creepy lawn gnomes. It's rare, it's entertaining, and it's something you don't generally forget (even if you try). DC got the ball rolling with their ambitious, massive, fucktacular reboot where they threw 52 #1s onto the racks. That's like seeing a full blown deer/gnome orgy. It's just as rare and entertaining, yet at the same time excessive and a little creepy. Well Marvel is doing some rebooting of their own. This past year they've ended two of their longest running series, Fantastic Four and Uncanny X-men. I was here to review the final issue of Uncanny X-men for all you wonderful X-men fans. It was an emotional, bittersweet, and powerful moment. Well now it's time for X-fans everywhere to stand up and say "Fuck it. Let's see what the future has to offer!"
The future is called Wolverine and the X-men #1. Granted, it's not the most original title for an X-book, but it takes what happened in Schism and the aftermath and builds a new foundation for the X-books. The man behind the madness is the same guy who wrote Schism, Jason Aaron. In that story he permanently ended the epic Cyclops/Wolverine bromance and bitterly divided the X-men over the future of mutant kind. Cyclops won't leave San Francisco. Apparently, the medical marijuana and gay bars are just too hard to leave behind. That leaves Wolverine to return to Westchester and build a new school for young mutants. But it's not the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning this time. That shit got blown up and that name is older than my grandfather's nut sack. Instead, he's constructed the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Because what better way to usher in the future than to honor the chick Wolverine wants to so badly bone?
Now I could make a whole blog post about Wolverine's choice of name. Much has already been made of it. In some ways it's utter proof that Marvel will never bring Jean Grey back again because her returning would just make it too difficult to write because Marvel would have to go through the trouble of depicting he reaction. And we all know Marvel takes the easy way out when it comes to Jean Grey. In other ways it shows that Wolverine is not above taunting Cyclops. I'm sure it pisses him off, Wolverine naming a school after his dead wife. But I think that's the point. That and it just makes Wolverine all the more creepy with his obsession with Jean. First he's gathering snippets of her hair. Now he's naming schools after her. Is he actually in love with this chick or does he only love her in the same way Mark Chapman loved John Lennon? It's creepy as fuck is all I'm saying.
But enough about Wolverine's unhealthy obsession with certain women. Wolverine and the X-men #1 is a new series for a new era of X-men. It begins in a way that you would expect of a new school. It's orientation day and Wolverine is putting the finishing touches on his new facilities. Now you would think it would take a long fucking time to build a new school, but keep in mind he's just building over top of the ruins of the old school and he has some friends with uncanny resources. Try and remember that. This new future doesn't happen without a quick revisit to the past. Professor Xavier drops by to wish Wolverine well. Since he's become too much of a pariah to start a school again, he just offers Wolverine his support while he goes back to...wait, what the fuck is Xavier in the X-men comics again aside form NOT guiding the team he founded through this difficult time? You know what? Fuck it. This isn't about him. This is about Wolverine and the X-men!
There's a lot that goes into a mutant school with all sorts of mutant-related issues too fucked up for even New York public schools. But one of the real-world issues that Wolverine must contend with is that as a school, his institute needs to be accredited by the New York Department of Education. That's right, Tea Party supporters! Even fucking superheroes aren't immune from the unstoppable force of government bureaucracy. This forces Wolverine to put on a suit and tie (which really doesn't go well with his typical wife-beater and torn jeans) and Kitty Pryde, the chosen Headmistress of the school, has to look like a real-estate agent. They're both in incredibly awkward positions, but that's part of what's so fun about it.
The inspectors from the New York Department of Education are about as snooty as you would expect. They don't look like bureaucrats as much as they do rich snobs who hang out with Prince Charles while drinking wine mixed with the blood of the peasants. They also act like it as well. They make it clear to Wolverine and Kitty that they can shut the whole place down because the state gives them the legal right to fuck with people. You get the feeling that Wolverine and Kitty would rather be arm-wrestling Apocalypse, but if they're going to be a legitimate school this is the kind of shit they have to deal with. So they put on a happy face and try to show them how wonderful a school for mutants can be.
In an effort to combat their snootiness, they gave the two bureaucrats a tour. They drop in on one of the classes that could only be taught at a school for mutants. Rachel Grey, apparently back from space for all those of you following the X-men Legacy story, is now teaching students how to defend their minds from psychics. This is a remarkably pragmatic course because seriously, who wants psychics knowing who you fantasize about when you're waxing your carrot or where you keep your porno stash? Jason Aaron finds time to throw in a little humor as well and for a series that has been so painfully serious with events like Schism, it's a welcome change.
Wolverine and Kitty show the boring ass paper pushers a few other areas of the school. They show them a class that's being taught by Husk, which is kind of like being in a class with a teacher who has a pet grizzly. They also introduce them to some of the students, who make about as good an impression as a date with Andy Dick. Hellion once again shows that he's still a douche-bag and losing his hands is not an excuse. We see him taunting a new student named Sleazoid, which isn't an insult actually. It's his fucking name because he's one of the Brood. But he's not the typical eat-your-flesh-and-shit-out-your-bones type Brood. He's actually a mutant Brood with a little restraint that's why he's in Wolverine's school.
Now this scene seems like a bit of an aside, but it points out something very important regarding Wolverine's school. It's actually a touch of realism because like any school, there will be douche-bags that pick on others. Hellion has long flirted with such douche-baggery. Since X-23 left, he's practically date raped it. But every school needs a guy like him (my old high school had a fucking army). So it's still a nice touch.
Unlike my school, this kind of shit doesn't go unpunished. Wolverine doesn't take kindly to his students acting like douche-bags, especially when brown-nosing bureaucrats are present. So while Hellion and his skeleton-glob buddy are in the bathroom taking care of business, Wolverine takes it upon himself to start up a quick Danger Room session to help both students relieve their constipation. It's quite possibly the most appropriate punishment ever dished out in a school since one of my old principals got back at a bully by sleeping with the kid's mother. It gives the solid impression that there's a sense of justice at this school, which already places it above 80 percent of pretty much every other school in America.
But not all students are dicks. Wolverine and Kitty go out of their way to introduce some of their nicer students. This includes Idie, the only one of the Five Lights to join Wolverine at the school. She comes off as much nicer to the snooty bureaucrats that seem so eager to find shit wrong with this school. Well Idie should be loveable enough to sway their opinions, right? Well, not quite. Keep in mind this girl is still somewhat traumatized by having to kill in Schism. She still refers to mutants as monsters and that really doesn't help Wolverine's case. But still, Chris Bachalo's art makes her look so cute! They can't say no to a face like that, can they? Oh wait, they work for New York Public School? Never mind.
Since they're having so little luck with the students, Wolverine and Kitty show their guests to where the institute gets all the fancy shit that helps it control the chaos. It's all courtesy of Beast, a character that I've found many reasons to despise for being such a whiney dick over the past few years. However, the man is still brilliant and he could probably create a weapon of mass destruction out of a vibrator. So with help from a little Shi'ar tech (a hint at how the arc in X-men Legacy ends?) he's created a school that can power itself, provide all the necessary food, and probably provide high speed internet so that students can get all the porn they so desperately need. He also is wound tighter than Rush Limbaug's asshole. He keeps listing a number of outrageous problems such as an inter-dimensional gateway that's letting in all sorts of sinister creatures, a kitchen that's overflowing with sewage, and mysterious tremors underground. And he's doing this in the presence of the inspectors no doubt. Hank McCoy may be a brilliant scientist, but his people skills suck. How he got a chick as hot as Abigail Brand to fuck him simply defies all logic.
Now with all this Shi'ar tech, you might be wondering how the fuck they could get so much under such short notice. Well that's dealt with as well. Apparently, the school isn't just for mutants. It's opened it's door to aliens too. No, not the illegal kind that Republicans smear in every debate while claiming it's not racist. We're talking real aliens, including Warbird and Gladiator's kid, Kid Gladiator. Okay, so having all that strength doesn't make him creative, but you get the idea. They arrive at the school and add to the douche-bag factor that Hellion has already established. But if they bring the kind of Shi'ar tech that allows Beast to not be such a dick, I'd say they're worth putting up with.
So the inspection from the state is going bad. It's increasingly likely that they'll condemn the whole school as a crime against children. Wolverine's day is going to hell, no doubt about it. How can it possibly get worse? Well how about a homicidal kid? Remember that crazy kid from Schism that became Black King of the Hellfire Club? Yeah, that whole premise bothered me because who the fuck lets a kid take over the Hellfire Club and take over his father's company? Aren't there child labor laws in he Marvel universe? Well apparently not because this Killgore kid (probably a registered Republican and Tea Party supporter) pays a visit to the school and confronts Wolverine. Then in a move that's either ballsy or stupid, he confesses to being the one behind the whole affair that led to the schism. Furthermore, he says he's the one who is making a metric fuckton of money off selling fancy new sentinels to those who fear mutants. So he threatens to destroy the school so they can't work on building peace.
Now aside from this being a real dick move on the part of the kid, it still has the same problems it did in Schism. Seriously? How the fuck does a kid who doesn't even look like he's started shaving become this competent and this crazy to fuck with the X-men? Now I've been willing to overlook the sheer ridiculousness of this premise because the stories have been so solid. I'm willing to do it with this comic too. But at some point Marvel has to address just how the fuck this kid could do half the shit he did. Did Sinister put him up to it? Did aliens abduct him? In Marvel that's not out of the realm of possibility. It's a fucked up plot that at some point needs to be unfucked.
But I do have to give the Killgore kid credit in one respect. He delivers on his threats. Shortly after Wolverine threatens to fuck him up in ways that violent movies could never fuck up a kid, he unleashes yet another monster against the X-men. This time it isn't a sentinel. Remember those underground rumblings that Beast was babbling about? Well the source wasn't your typical Earthquake or a stampede of Apple fans running to get in line for the new Iphone. It was a massive rock creature with a head the size of a fucking blimp. So all the introductions and all the brown-nosing is officially over. Now the X-men must get back to doing what they do best, fighting off killer monsters and running around in skin-tight outfits so fans can jerk off to them. It's as classic an X-men moment as you can get.
Back before there was hair on my balls, I dreaded the first day of school. Wolverine and the X-men #1 is a playful introduction to the very beginnings of a new school and all the ways it can go horribly wrong. For it to end with a fucking monster attacking them, I'd say that's pretty much par for the course. And you know what? It's fucking awesome! It's the kind of X-men comic that X-men fans really haven't had in a while. House of M and the Messiah Trilogy really didn't leave a lot of room for the school aspect that the X-men were founded upon. This comic really gets back to basics, taking major characters like Wolverine and Kitty Pryde and building up a new world with a very different backdrop than what has been done in Uncanny. And Jason Aaron make this shit work in ways that are a pleasure to read.
Even with the influx of #1s, it's a mighty tall order to start a new series like this. Wolverine and the X-men #1 strikes all the right chords. It's a fledgling new school being led by a guy who admits he has no understanding of what he's doing. It has a very different tone compared to Uncanny. By being a school the whole concept of Wolverine and the X-men #1 is more playful and upbeat. For some school is a story about innocent youth learning about the world. For me it was like 6 hours of state sanctioned torture, but then again my school wasn't half as awesome as the Jean Grey Institute for Higher Learning. Jason Aaron did more than just set up the school. He hit the ground running, utilizing real world issues like getting approval from the local education department and completely fucked up issues like some homicidal kid unleashing a monster on campus. It's like the yin and yang of awesome. It's hard not to love it.
More than anything else, this comic is just fun. Wolverine and the X-men #1 takes what happens in Schism and pushes it forward. It's as great a first issue as any X-men fan can ask for. It covers all the right bases, sets up all the right details, and provides plenty of reasons to pick up the next issue. Jason Aaron did something amazing with Schism. Now he's poised to do something just as amazing with this series. For this, he deserves all the praise and booze that New York City has to offer. I give Wolverine and the X-men #1 a very spirited 5 out of 5. It's a great day to be an X-men fan! Hell, even if you're not a fan and you're just curious, this is the perfect opportunity to jump aboard! Wolverine and the X-men brings back all those fond memories we all have of a major change in life. That or it just makes you remember how much high school sucked. Nuff said!