Saturday, February 16, 2013
Wolverine and the X-men #25 - Savage Lessons in Awesome
When I was a kid, I loved field trips in school. It didn't just mean getting out of a classroom where underpaid, overworked teachers read from a government-prepared lesson plan that slowly killed my will to live. It meant actually being in the world that I would later need booze and weed to cope with. And I always had a strong appreciation for that real world experience. Sure, some of them ended with me taking a piss on a fish tank at an aquarium or throwing oranges at a gorilla, but it beat the hell out of taking tests on material I would never have to use again in my adult life.
I imagine the field trips with the X-men are a lot more pragmatic, a lot more exciting, and don't involve getting suspended when you leave monkey shit in your teacher's purse. There's no way around it really. Aspiring X-men need to get out in the world and experience the fucked up threats that will attempt to wipe them out every other week. And since you can't exactly schedule a trip to a place where killer robots will attack (although I'm sure Wolverine is working on it), you can go to some of the more exotic locales in the Marvel universe to hone your skills. It's not the same as a trip to the zoo where you can sneak in booze, but it's right up there.
Jason Aaron's Wolverine and the X-men has attained a new level of awesome thanks in large part to its emphasis on the teaching aspect of the X-men's mission. Ever since the Jean Grey Institute was opened, he has taken time to show how Wolverine and his staff struggle to teach a new generation of mutants how to function in a world that enjoys throwing killer robots at them. In the most recent issue, that task gained some new complications as some of that staff can no longer keep it in their pants and started hooking up. Kitty is now swapping frosty semen with Iceman and Wolverine is now getting tipped in pussy after giving Storm a haircut. Yet as important as it is to get their loins wet, they still have students to teach.
But as with every great teacher, there must also be a great obstacle. Those obstacles usually involve having to deal with kids more interested in smoking pot and screwing everything with a pulse, but for Wolverine that obstacle comes in the form of one of the many relics from his past that want to see him die a terrible horrible death. That obstacle’s name is Dog Logan and anyone who has read Wolverine Origins knows why he wants Wolverine dead. But for some reason that isn’t clearly explained, he’s been biding his time by hanging out in a cabin, eating meat from animals he hunts, and presumably jerking off reruns of I Love Lucy. It takes a visit from his time traveling future self to get him off his ass to hunt down Wolverine, who he’s told is in the Savage Land. I won’t go off on another rant about how overplayed the whole time travel gimmick has been, especially since the events of All New X-men. I’ll just say that if Dog needs a visit from the future to become relevant again, either he has piss poor motivation or Marvel stopped caring about how much they fuck with the space time continuum.
This latest time fuck promises to complicate what Wolverine deems to be a very important mission to a select group of students from the Jean Grey Institute that include Idie, Kid Omega, Glob Herman, Shark Girl, Genesis, the eye guy, and some new chick with silvery skin that could fly. It may sound like Fox’s latest reality show, but it actually accounts for a nice slice of the student body of the Jean Grey Institute.
They arrive in the Savage Land where they’re greeted with the warmth of jungle humidity and hungry dinosaurs. He then explains to them that this is the ultimate pass/fail class. They’re expected to not just survive in the Savage Land, but to work together along the way. If one of them fails, then all of them fail. It’s enough to almost make algebra class appealing…almost. And Wolverine doesn’t make it easy for them either. Once he gives them their assignments, he proceeds to attack a T-Rex and ditch them. It’s a dick move, but still not as bad as my freshman gym teacher.
Now why is Wolverine doing this? In the previous issue, he got a kiss from Storm and possibly some pussy. He should not be feeling this vindictive in the slightest. Well unfortunately, the effects of Storm’s pussy is not really explored in this issue. But through a convenient flashback, we see Wolverine having a conversation with the new and improved Beast. He basically tells them that these kids need a trial by fire. Between Cyclops’s revolutionary team and the Hellfire Club, they need these kids to be ready to hold their nose when the shit starts hitting the fan.
It’s still a dick move, but Wolverine isn’t wrong. The pages of Wolverine and the X-men have already revealed some pretty fucked up threats and it would be fucking stupid to not prepare the kids in some obscene sort of way. In addition, we also find out what happened to Broo. While others were swapping spit with fuck buddies in the previous issue, Broo woke up from his coma and was understandably pissed. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Idie’s reaction or anyone’s reaction. We just find out that Broo is stuck in an angry, feral state and now Idie is lugging him around like a dog that needs to be put down. Bring him to the Savage Land is a questionable decision, but at least we get some connections to the previous issue. There really isn’t much mention of anything else from that issue otherwise. The issue still feels a little choppy as a whole, but those small connections help tie it together at least on some level.
But the point of this issue isn’t to dwell on relationship issues and who is boning who. The point is to show how this random assortment of students from the Jean Grey Institute handles themselves in the fucked up situations that only X-men encounter. It makes for some entertaining and colorful action of mutant teenagers fighting hungry dinosaurs. It an overly simple premise, but it’s still fun as hell. What actually makes their struggle even more fun is that they really don’t handle themselves like X-men. They handle themselves like teenagers, namely by incessantly complaining about how life isn’t fair and when their lunch break is. Some, like Glob Herman, actually enjoy it more than regular class. Others, like Kid Omega, are just annoyed as hell by it. It’s the full range of responses from immature teenagers and if you can get over the painful flashbacks they may cause from your own horrific teen years, there’s plenty to enjoy.
As the hapless students of the Jean Grey Institute continue to struggle, we get another quick flashback. It takes place aboard the X-jet on their way to the Savage Land. Along the way, Wolverine confronts Kid Omega who is being his usual douche-bag self. Here, we get another light tie-in to recent issues, namely the psycho circus issue. In that issue, Kid Omega actually helped save the X-men. And this is from a kid who regularly belittles them like a drunk Mel Gibson during Passover. Wolverine also pointed out that in one of his last living acts, Charles Xavier nominated Kid Omega to be class president. He essentially dared him to step up and be more than a raging douche-bag and you know what happens to douche-bags when somebody dares them. Hell, get enough liquor in them and you can get them to lick a tiger’s balls.
It’s another nice little connection to an earlier issue of Wolverine and the X-men and one that helps highlight Kid Omega in a way beyond what a raging douche he is. He’s a character that has played a major role in this series since it began. Usually, he’s just the asshole that reminds readers of the guy who always claimed to bang the entire cheerleading squad in high school. But while he has all the means to become a painful rectal wart for the X-men, he’s stuck with the school. Wolverine points this out to him and dares him to be the leader that Charles Xavier dares him to be. For a character whose sole purpose has been to piss people off since he was introduced, that’s a pretty big dare and one his character sorely needs.
Flash back to the present and Kid Omega tries to make good on the dare. He stands up and decides to take charge of his fellow students. He starts barking orders, taking on the role of a leader. He tells them to scout around, find food, and locate firewood. Overall, they’re not unreasonable requests. However, he makes them in such a way that his fellow students look at him the same way they look drunk hobo taking a piss in the middle of the road. He’s no Cyclops, that’s for sure. It’s shows that being a leader isn’t easy, but watching someone like Kid Omega fail at it is wildly entertaining.
Rather than listen to Kid Omega’s bullshit, they all separate. Genesis flies up into the trees with the new girl, Idie seeks shelter with Broo under a rock, Shark girl starts looking for food, and Glob Herman is in the process of throwing up the maggot-filled dinosaur meet he ate. Again, these are all reactions that are perfectly logical for teenagers. Some become all emo and hide under a rock. Some try to eat their problems. For some, it’s too much and they start throwing up. Maybe Jason Aaron is trying to send a message here about adolescence. I think most of us get that being a teenager sucks and these are pretty extreme examples, but that’s part of what makes the story and the whole premise of this assignment so much fun. Because no matter how old you are, seeing teenagers trip over themselves endlessly is fucking hilarious.
However, Wolverine has since stopped laughing. He’s been keeping an eye on his students from afar. I assume he was banging his head against a tree at times watching these kids fumble about in a land more unforgiving than a thousand calculus classes. He starts to question that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to throw a bunch of teenagers into the Savage Land. He of all people should know the only outcome could be that of a slasher or a porno. But as he’s contemplating cutting this lesson short, he gets shot and for once it isn’t from Cyclops. Dog Logan, following the advice of his future self, has finally caught up with his old rival. He’s prepared to draw out this twisted assignment even more and make sure Wolverine has all the more reasons to grade on a curve. If only all my old teachers had a homicidal family member from their past. I would have been a straight-A student in school and I might actually have a career that affords me more booze and comic money. Alas, we’ll never know.
Since it began, Wolverine and the X-men established itself as a book that is as ridiculous as it is fun. Jason Aaron has used this series to tell the kinds of stories that are high on absurdities while throwing in a touch of drama wherever he can. It helps make for a book that doesn’t get too serious or too convoluted. The whole premise of this issue revolved around a twisted survival class in a land where anything that doesn’t run fast enough is a dinosaur’s lunch. There’s no mutant revolution or world-threatening menace that needs to be destroyed. It’s just about a bunch of students who are forced to come together and screw up in a way you would expect of most kids when tasked with something so utterly ridiculous.
Whereas the previous issue helped refocus the story on some of the relationship dramas that have been unfolding between the panels, Wolverine and the X-men #25 refocused the story on the students. That was the whole point of this series and the founding of the Jean Grey Institute, to get back to the whole schooling aspect of the X-men. This issue nicely depicts the natural chaos that comes along with tasking inexperienced kids with any complex task, let alone a life-or-death struggle. Moreover, it helps bring into context some of the other recent events in the X-books such as the events surrounding Uncanny X-Force, Cyclops’s new team in Uncanny X-men, and the Hellfire Club attacks. The time for these kids to learn survival skills is now damn it! And while it was chaotic and disorganized, it was done in a way that was completely appropriate. Chaos and disorganization seem to be what Jason Aaron does best.
What wasn’t quite as good were some of the details that Aaron glossed over, namely with Broo and the events of the previous issue. Aside from Broo becoming an enraged dog in need of neutering, nothing from the previous issue carried over. There was no mention of any of the relationships that were developed. Storm wasn’t mentioned. Kitty and Bobby weren’t mentioned. I get that the main focus of this issue was the students, but the lack of continuity between this issue and the first is pretty jarring even by Wolverine and the X-men’s twisted standards.
Another detail that bothered me was Dog Logan himself. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Jason Aaron reached into the deep bag of shit that is Wolverine’s history and retrieved this old story. It hasn’t really been touched on since Wolverine Origins and the Savage Land is the perfect setting for him and Dog to clash. But using time travel to get Dog off his lazy ass just seemed twisted for the sake of being twisted. Has he really just been sitting on his ass, eating deer meat, and watching TV Land all this time? Why the hell is a visit from his future self the only thing necessary to get him off his ass? I know from Wolverine Origins that Dog has his reasons for wanting to feed Wolverine to a T-Rex. What I don’t understand is why now of all times when not long ago he had his fucking legs broken for trying to cheat at an alien casino.
These details don’t take away from just how fun the issue is. The character interactions between the students was done beautifully. The way this twisted field trip played out was wildly entertaining. And seeing Kid Omega get frustrated to the point where he wants to melt Wolverine’s brain is always good for a laugh. The subtle details may be lacking, but the larger details that help make it so entertaining really make this issue work. I give Wolverine and the X-men #25 a 4 out of 5. However this story turns out, I think each student of the Jean Grey Institute will gain some valuable life lessons about survival and how not to deal with a hungry dinosaur. They’ll certainly get more out of it than I ever got in school. And they’re still probably safer in the Savage Land than they’ll ever be in my old gym clash. Nuff said!