Some of the best ideas in human history were a result of someone being in a fucked up state of mind (or just being fucked up in general). I'm convinced that the only difference between genius in madness is marketing potential. Jason Aaron is one of those comic book writers you suspect has just the right balance of genius and madness. If you laid out his ideas on paper, you might say, "What the fuck is he smoking and where the fuck can I get some?" But when he puts them into a coherent story, they make for some of the best comics you can read without taking a hit of acid.
Jason Aaron's Wolverine and the X-men series has been a consistent comic since it's inception. By that I mean it's found a way to balance the serious undertones of the X-men comics with some good old fashioned fun. Sometimes that fun is the kind of fun you would only get by spending a weekend with Gary Busey and two trash bags of imported weed, but it still makes for a damn good comic. Wolverine and the X-men was one of the few books that remained fairly consistent during the Avengers vs. X-men tie-ins and didn't resort to cat people dongs to be unique. Even Jason Aaron's genius/madness has its limits. But is one of the few X-books that actually WON'T be getting relaunched under Marvel NOW! Instead, it's merely going to continue exploring how the Jean Grey Institute functions in a world that's now infinitely more fucked up with a fresh population of mutants.
Recent issues of Wolverine and the X-men have been transitional, which is mostly why I haven't reviewed them. There's really not much the series can do while the Marvel universe is still shoveling away the the piles of shit left by Avengers vs. X-men. It's had a few twisted tales about Doop and the Jean Grey Institute looking for new teachers now that the mutant race has been unfucked. Now new mutants are spreading faster than herpes at the Jersey Shore. The Jean Grey Institute is going to have have to adapt to a world that's fucked up in an entirely new way. And who better to tell that story than someone with a fucked up kind of genius like Jason Aaron?
The premise of Wolverine and the X-men #20 is similar to the premise that All New X-men #1 so masterfully followed. It takes a closer look at some of the new mutants that have emerged since Cyclops ended up being right and the Avengers tactfully ignored what assholes they've been. One new mutant happened to emerge in Brazil, a country known for soccer, thongs, and bikini-waxes. And never one to pass up a chance to use a hot Brazilian woman, Marvel makes this new mutant an attractive young woman who suddenly had the urge to hop a fishing boat and eat raw fish. And she's not even Japanese. The guys who own the boat are not thrilled, which is crazy because if a hot Brazilian chick shows up on your boat with a taste for fish then your dick is usually the first thing to temper your outrage. But in this instance, it's probably a good thing that these guys aren't thinking with their dicks because the girl happens to be someone vicious towards men who get between her and her seafood. I know women who are the same way with shoes and it's a very dangerous predicament.
Hours later after this confused woman has time to digest her new appetite for fish, she's approached by Angel. He comes to her in an entirely peaceful and non-threatening manner. He's a rich, attractive guy with wings. He's probably the least threatening person the Jean Grey Institute could have sent to a scared young girl. Then we're reminded that Brazil is a country where the Catholic church still exercises some influence so it's not unusual for people to still believe that angels are a sign that God is about to take a heavenly shit on the world. It leads the woman to scream and jump into the water to reveal that her new love of fish comes mostly from her now being part shark. That's right, this woman is now part Brazilian and part shark. Odin have mercy, I get a huge boner just thinking about it.
This shark girl is pretty confused and pretty erratic. That or it may be that time of the month for her. I've seen women bite into strange things than raw fish during that time. But Angel manages to wrestle her out of the water and calm her down long enough to explain that she's a "wereshark." It's basically like a werewolf, but with sharks and no Twilight connotations. The woman is not too enthusiastic about it even if being part shark sounds awesome to most normal young people. Angel continues to be very generous and very kind in offering her a chance to join the Jean Grey Institute. The woman rejects him as if he asked her to strip naked, put on a clown costume, and peed on him while he jerked off. It makes you wonder if maybe it is that time of the month for her.
But why the hell is Angel off on this mission in the first place? How did he draw the short straw in dealing with an angry PSMing shark woman? Well, that's explained in the form of a flashback. Earlier, Angel was getting a quick check-up by Beast while explaining how he had wrestled back control of his company from the Hellfire Club, which happened in the previous issue. He discussed how the Jean Grey Institute would now have plenty of funding moving forward thanks to ventures that involve fat free doughnuts, teleportation, and space tourism. It sounds only slightly less lucrative than having Bob Marley pay you a dollar every time he smokes a joint. Beast also describes how he's changed since the Dark Angel Saga, which finally explains how the fuck he ended up with metal wings.
It's a nice connection to a story that may have been resolved a while ago, but still has a huge effect on characters like Angel. Those effects haven't really been explored much to this point, aside from showing how fucked up Angel is from having his mind erased. But Aaron throws in another twist in that Beast reveals that the life seed used in the Dark Angel Saga is still coursing through his body. It's not clear what kind of crazy shit that will cause, but it's something he has to watch because if he uses it up he may be as dead as his old self. But that doesn't dissuade Angel in the slightest. He just shrugs it off and uses it as all the more reason to pull his weight at the Jean Grey Institute. That's the kind of don't-give-a-fuck attitude that used to make such great Eminem songs.
But Angel's happy-go-lucky attitude runs into some stiff competition with the new mutant woman, whose name is revealed by Rachel to be Iara. Apparently, Mystique has been doing some recruiting of her own. Having probably gotten bored getting gangbanged by Sabretooth and Daken in Uncanny X-Force, she's now out to recruit some of these new mutants. She also brings some extra muscle in the form of a very high tech looking Silver Samurai. So while she makes her pitch, the Silver Samurai keeps Angel occupied. It's a conflict we've seen in X-men comics many times before, the X-men and their enemies trying to win the hearts and minds of new mutants. But it never involved a shark girl and it still feels awesome.
Initially, Iara is more intrigued by Mystique's pitch than Angel's. But the thought of either going with a crazy blue-skinned woman or some hippie pretty boy with wings that may or may not be a sign of the apocalypse doesn't appeal to her. So she just decides to shrug them both off and go back to chomping on raw fish. But like Ted Bundy at a sorority house, Mystique doesn't take no for an answer. She shows off her shape shifting talents and attempts to force Iara into making a different decision. She eventually does, but this one involves her turning into a half shark again and biting her fucking head like it's a jawbreaker. Now I'm not an expert in marketing, but I'm pretty sure that when your sales pitch ends with a shark woman trying to bite your head off then your strategy needs to be adjusted. It's the kind of fucked up yet awesome action that gives Wolverine and the X-men its charm. Even Silver Samurai admits that it's hot. Even if Angel agrees with him, it doesn't stop him from beating him up and flying Iara away.
Later on, Angel wakes up at the Jean Grey Institute after making a rather violent escape and discovers that his first recruitment run was a success. Iara is now a student at the Jean Grey Institute and a favorite to win every swimming competition for the foreseeable future. It leads to a nice moment between Angel and Iara about her establishing a new life at the Jean Grey Institute. It's yet another example of this comic utilizing those classic elements in an X-men comic, namely having young mutants come to terms with their powers and build a new life at a school. Even if it means coming to terms with being part shark, it's still a fuckton less nerve racking than high school. I doubt that being part shark will have Iara being forced to lick a toilet seat clean in the boys locker room after gym class.
While the X-men were successful with their recruitment run, there are still plenty more mutants in the world that are ripe for exploiting by the Mystiques of the Marvel universe. One happens to take place in Alabama, a part of the world known for rednecks, football, and Forest Gump. Another new mutant that appears to be part human and part lobster (a "werelobster" if we follow Angel's logic) is getting a pitch from another mutant group. They include the kind of figures that have fucked with the X-men in the past and are probably right at home in exploiting ignorant rednecks. They could probably just tell them that Jerry Fawell's ghost told them to recruit mutants and that would suffice. But moreover, it shows that the X-men are going to have some stiff competition for these new mutants and not every new mutant is going to be as reasonable (or as sexy) as a shark girl.
Going back to what I said earlier about good ideas coming from fucked up minds, I'm convinced that Jason Aaron either has remarkably fucked up mind or he has a hell of a shark fetish. It may be a little of both, but damn it if it doesn't work in an obscenely awesome way. Walk up to anyone who isn't drunk or stoned and pitch for them the idea of a story about a Brazilian woman who becomes part shark. They'll either look at you like you just rubbed your dick in their soup or say it's too fucked up to work. Yet Jason Aaron makes it work here in a concise, entertaining story that effectively brings Wolverine and the X-men into this new world of new mutants.
In many ways, this issue is like a one-shot that covers what the Jean Grey Institute has to deal with after the events of Avengers vs. X-men. It doesn't just have new mutants. It has new competition for reaching out to them and it isn't just Cyclops's revolutionary Che Guevara approach. It has a very classic yet nuanced feel to it. I honestly can't recall the last time we saw a hot chick turn into a shark in an X-men comic or any comic for that matter. But it followed some age old X-men traditions of having X-men recruit new mutants to their school. In this case, it was a success. Angel, in addition to demonstrating that he's still fucked up from the Dark Angel Saga, demonstrated a more active role and one that made for some great moments and a pretty awesome fight scene.
The concise nature of this comic makes it a solid story that nicely follows the overall themes that Jason Aaron has established with Wolverine and the X-men. At the same time, however, it's a bit too concise because it doesn't effectively link up with the previous issue. In fact, the previous issue was officially the first post-Avengers vs. X-men issue of the series. That comic did establish a few plots that weren't really touched on this book. So reading the previous issue along with this issue flows about as well as Los Angeles traffic during rush hour. It was a good comic, but it just didn't really fit into the grander scheme of Wolverine and the X-men.
If at all possible, use a marker to scribble over the issue number so you're not reminded of the sequence of things. I'm not saying you should adopt the willful ignorance of a creationist, but this is one instance for light details like that are best overlooked. With this in mind, I give Wolverine and the X-men #20 a 4.5 out of 5. This is one of the most complete X-men comics to come along in quite some time. It clearly establishes new conflicts and opportunities for the Jean Grey Institute. It also established a new shark fetish for the readers. It leaves you wondering just what kind of fetishes Jason Aaron will establish in future issues. Nuff said!