I tend to be harsh on certain characters, but I try to make sure my drunken anger is reserved only for those who deserve it. Characters like Dr. Doom, Sinister, and Rick Santorum deserve it because they're inherently evil. But for the characters that are supposedly heroes, like say Hank McCoy, the standards are a little higher and the drunken anger is that much more drunk. And as I've pointed out on many previous reviews, Beast is more than deserving of the kind of drunken rage reserved for underpaid Irish dock workers. He's been a supreme douche-bag going all the way back to the Utopia arc. He pissed and moaned about Cyclops crossing too many lines. Never mind that doing so yielded mutants their own country and helped them beat Bastion. Never mind that Beast offered no fucking alternatives aside from "I don't approve and I'm just going to be mad at you because I can!" He claims to be smart, but he's not smart enough to do anything but whine. And all he's done since joining Wolverine's side at the Jean Grey Institute is play the role of a glorified handy man.
Now some of my drunken rage may or may not be warranted, but I'm always willing to give a character like Beast a chance to redeem himself. In fact, I welcome it. He's one of the Original Five. He's got more brains in his pinkie finger than I have in ten different heads. I'd love it if somehow he could get a story where he's at least somewhat redeemed. Well he finally has a chance in the pages of Wolverine and the X-men. This series has been a top notch provider of awesome so pure that if you injected it into your arm you would die of an overdoes, but die with a raging hard-on and a big fucking smile. It has told the story of the Jean Grey Institute and how it is trying to survive in a post-Schism world where a bunch of homicidal kids are intent on killing them. So far, they've had to contend with phony pregnancies, alien infections, financial problems, killer islands, and alien casinos. If ever there was a more appropriate, albeit fucked up, medium for Beast to redeem himself it's this.
At the end of the first arc for Wolverine and the X-men, there was a brief shot of the Hellfire Kids after they were unceremoniously beaten after trying to throw an army of monsters at the institute. Since kids like to whine and moan when they don't get their way, they decided to do what's logical in the mind of a pre-teen. They make friends with a homicidal killer in Sabretooth. That's right! The guy who got fucking decapitated in the pages of Wolverine came back before Jean Grey came back and without the fucking Phoenix Force no less. There isn't a universe big enough to list all the ways that shit is fucked up. However, he has been making trouble in the Wolverine comics lately and shacking up with Mystique (who can blame him?). Now he's back in the pages of Wolverine and the X-men, giving the Hellfire Kids a quick lesson on how to ruthlessly torment their enemies. Now I'm inclined to believe that kids don't need to be told how to be monsters these days, but Sabretooth is one of those guys who can add a personal touch to being a villain. He encourages them to go for the heart and not just throw monsters at the problem. And you know what? He's right! It's refreshing to see a man like Sabretooth assist the youth of the world in becoming accomplished sociopaths.
Sabretooth's desire to maim Wolverine and his school couldn't have come at a better time. The dust from the previous arc has yet to settle. part of said dust involved Wolverine getting his fucking legs broken for trying to cheat an alien casino. That doesn't sound like much until you remember that Wolverine has adamantium bones. Joe Pesci on a meth high armed with a light sabre couldn't have broken his bones, but somehow these aliens did. Beast is understandably perplexed/curious. He says he needs some sort of matter transmutator to help heal his bones. But until then, Wolverine will have to do his best Charles Xavier impression and wheel around in a wheelchair with legs that look like pretzels. Fuck, what is it with the headmasters of mutant institutes that has them end up in wheelchairs? What happened to the good old days when being an administrator only meant the occasional piss in your coffee?
In order to get the necessary tech he needs, Beast decides to pay a visit to SWORD. They deal with aliens all the time and it's a given that they probably confiscate some kick-ass alien tech the same way cops confiscate some blow from drug dealers and share it with some hookers they arrested. Since Beast is currently boning the head of SWORD, Abigail Brand, he gets in the institute's handy space shuttle and takes off while Wolverine is stuck in a wheelchair. All the while Sabretooth is plotting to take advantage of this. During this interval, it's revealed that the conversation with Sabretooth and the Hellfire Kids took place in the recent past. Now it's easy to miss and a little confusing if you're not paying attention or just high (or both). But it is there. It's just way more choppy than it needs to be.
But a plot about Beast making a booty call to his space-faring girlfriend would be too boring for Wolverine and the X-men. The heart of the book is still the students. And like any young students in a school, they find ways to get into trouble. Most settle for just riding around with paintball guns and knocking over mail-boxes. For this round of trouble, Angel decides to start some shit. Why Angel? Who by all accounts has been utterly mind-fucked by the events of the Dark Angel Saga? Well he's going through a bit of a Rick Santorum phase where he thinks he's a real angel meant to carry out the will of god. He's been randomly healing people and acting like every character in a romantic comedy played by Matthew McConaughey. Then when he couldn't heal Wolverine he took it personally and decides to play the role of Angel of Vengeance by traveling to the alien casino planet. It's a very fucked up method of thinking, but then again reason rarely follows religiously motivated vengeance. He doesn't have to go it alone either. Kid Omega and a group of others that include Idie, Broo, Genesis, Kid Gladiator, and Warbird demand to go with him. Kid Gladiator is especially insistent. He's just not happy if he doesn't beat the shit out of someone every day. He's almost like a young Mike Tyson, minus the pigeon obsession.
The kids go off in their twisted space adventure. Meanwhile, Beast prepares to make what should be a simple space booty call to his girlfriend. But when he arrives, he finds out that Sabretooth made himself right at home at SWORD. He started by slaughtering a few hapless SWORD agents and turning them into smears on his spacecraft. He also shows that he has Abigail Brand in a headlock and outside in the vacuum of space no less. He basically dares Beast to take him on in the most hostile environment imaginable. Usually, a man of Hank's IQ would be able to conclude that fighting a sociopath in space that can heal is not a good idea. But the man has his girl. IQ quotients mean dick. So like a good pussy-whipped boyfriend, Beast ventures out into space to take on Sabretooth.
This is the kind of action that Beast hasn't been a part of in nearly a decade. He's been either imprisoned, side-lined, or just fodder in other battles. He's rarely had a personal stake like this, making him seem as relevant as Kathy Griffin in the annuls of X-men. Here, he gets to channel the kind of heroism that made him a member of the Original Five. Now it's still choppy as to how Sabretooth got up into space and overpowered Abigail Brand, but Beast still looks pretty badass for once. So for the first time in my brain damaged memory, I can't come up with a justifiable way to call him a douche-bag.
But even with his girlfriend under threat, he doesn't fare all that well against Sabretooth. He may have the body of a half-man, half-oversized cat but Sabretooth has Weapon X training and routinely practiced kicking ass with Wolverine. Being more brains than balls just doesn't cut it here. Their fight goes from space and crashes through into the SWORD space station, allowing for some gravity assisted ass-kicking. However, Sabretooth has the advantage here and makes good use of it. He not only roughs up Beast. He destroys any nearby space helmets so he can't go after Sabretooth when he leaves him behind to go torture his girl. It's cruel, it's mean, and it's brazen. But it's Sabretooth. Fuck, I didn't realize how much I missed his ugly ass until just now.
While the battle against Sabretooth and Beast is rife with heart-wrenching anger, the battle at the alien casino isn't quite as spectacular. Angel and his fellow students arrive and start randomly picking fights. It's not nearly as well-thought out or well-depicted either. I may just be too drunk, but didn't Angel just want to come to this casino to pay back the guys who broke Wolverine's legs? Or is this just how they decided to skip class? That's not very clear. It would have been okay if the battles were nicely depicted, but they aren't. The only decent moment is when Genesis shows some of his apocalyptic potential and roughs up some of the alien casino thugs. It actually makes for a nice moment between him and Angel, who each reflect on the knowledge that they've had their lives erased and fucked up. Considering their connection, it's ridiculously ironic. It would just be more awesome if the action here was halfway fleshed out.
The battle for Beast's fuck buddy is much more defined. Despite being stuck on the SWORD base with no space helmet, he prepares to go after Sabretooth before he can do a little zero-gravity dissection on Agent Brand. Again, he shows that he has the scrotal strength to go along with his brains. With blatant disregard for his own safety or well-being, he leaps out into the vacuum of space with the understanding that his head may explode and knocks Sabretooth away from his girl. And being a grateful/vindictive woman she is, Brand retrieves Beast and her gun that she had dropped earlier to do a little target practice on Sabretooth. The furball is bloodied, wounded, and blown all the way to the moon. For anyone else, you would consider that excessive. Seeing as how this guy survived getting his head chopped off, it's more than appropriate.
It ends up being a very clean resolution for the X-men, relatively speaking of course. Beast has his girl back and plenty of reasons to guilt her into mountains of makeup sex. The students arrive back at the Jean Grey Institute where Angel reveals that he didn't just go to the casino to rough some people up. He went there to retrieve that transmutator that Beast said he needed to heal Wolverine. It adds some purpose to their little trip, but the poor organization of the fight still made it utterly forgettable.
What's not as forgettable is the lesson Sabretooth taught the Hellfire kids. Even though he ended up getting his ass blown to the fucking moon, he still proved his point. He showed that the best way to attack an X-man is to hit him in the heart. Now the Hellfire kids are ready to prepare their next attack (after retrieving Sabretooth from orbit of course). With the events of Avengers vs. X-men looking to take hold in the pages of Wolverine and the X-men, they'll have plenty of opportunities and Jason Aaron has a twisted enough imagination to make it awesome!
I've been waiting for a story like this. No, I don't mean a story where Sabretooth gets horribly maimed in an excessively brutal way, although that is plenty appealing in it's own right. I mean a story where Beast actually comes off as someone you don't want to kick repeatedly in the balls with steel-toed boots. This story doesn't completely make up for him being such a massive tool in previous stories, but it does help make him more likable. He braved the icy vacuum of space to save his girlfriend from the clutches of a madman. There are guys in this world won't pick their girlfriends up from the airport if it conflicts with a baseball game. You have to respect that. You also have to respect any story that ends with Sabretooth getting his ass shot to the fucking moon.
It was a satisfying issue for anyone looking for Hank McCoy to finally shine in ways that don't involve him being a wise ass. It wasn't quite as satisfying in the way it dealt with the side-plot involving the impromtu field trip by the students. I get the intent. The plot on the alien casino was a lot of fun in the previous arc. Why not return to it and see what other kinds of awesome you can milk from it? It just could have been a bit less random. It still had some nice moments. Seeing Angel and Genesis reflect on the somewhat fucked up nature of their situation was pretty interesting. Since these two were so strongly linked during the Dark Angel Saga, it's makes sense that they would be linked now and there's definitely some potential for story there. That potential is just lost when there's so little purpose behind returning to the casino other than to pick a fight with the pit bosses that threw their asses out.
This issue wasn't terribly epic, but it made for a nice one-shot that offered some nice character moments for Beast, Genesis, and Angel. It also offered a nice opportunity to bloody up Sabretooth, which can make any comic entertaining. It wasn't a story that needed to be told in the form of an arc, but it still worked and worked well. The lack of rhythm in some areas keep it from being as awesome as it could be. However, it accomplished an important feat in making Beast more likable again. For that in conjunction with Jason Aaron's colorful brand of storytelling, I give Wolverine and the X-men #8 a 4 out of 5. Beast is still an asshole until he walks up to Cyclops and admits that it's bullshit to criticize him for making hard decisions without offering viable alternatives that would have turned out better. However, this arc makes him a little less douchy and worthy of not being the butt of every hairy pussy joke. Nuff said!