Saturday, April 27, 2013

Wolverine and the X-men #28 - Flat-Footed Semi-Awesome

Sometimes it takes a number of painful lessons to get a point across and more often than not, it takes even more to get those lessons across to hormonal, whiney teenagers. I know I harp on teenagers a lot on this blog, but I’m only speaking from both experience and personal trauma. Reading Wolverine and the X-men and seeing mutant teenagers experience trauma in the form of a trip to the Savage Land doesn’t make me feel a lick of sympathy. It only makes me envy the students of the Jean Grey Institute for at least having something to brag about that didn’t involve banging one of the art teachers.

Despite my envy, I’ve enjoyed Jason Aaron’s efforts at giving the students of the Jean Grey Institute some obscenely harsh life lessons in the Savage Land. Hell, they’ve been a lot harsher than even he planned since his asshole brother, Dog Logan, decided to show up from the future, rough him up, and fuck with his students. If that weren’t enough, a number of high tech poachers have also joined the lesson and have decided to add mutants to their list of things they want stuffed and mounted on their wall. It may have some subtle hippie rhetoric from PETA and the environmental douche-bags that scold you whenever you order a steak, but it’s still plenty entertaining.

Wolverine and the X-men #27 showed Wolverine’s lesson plan for his students going horribly wrong. His students, who are a bunch of inexperienced teenagers who have yet to shit out their excessive hormones, didn’t exactly become Superfriends in their efforts to survive. They didn’t even ask questions when Dog Logan showed up and offered to be a substitute. It’s odd how teenagers will always question authority when it comes to sex, pot, and borrowing the car. But when it comes to creepy bearded guys with serious daddy issues, they just shrug their shoulders and go with it. And that, my friends, should tell you everything you need to know about teenagers.

The lesson continues to unfold in Wolverine and the X-men #28, but not without another quick preface from the past. Throughout this arc, Jason Aaron has sprinkled in a few quick flashbacks to add some context to the overall story. And like sprinkles on an ice cream sunday, they can sweeten the deal. But like piss in your coffee, it can also make it suck (see the first arc of Cable and X-Force). In this instance, thankfully, it’s the former. We see Wolverine musing over how much he wants to protect these kids. Given that he’s been such an unapologetic douche-bag lately whose sole purpose is to find new ways to hate on Cyclops, it’s a welcome shift. He does genuinely care about more than Jean Grey’s pussy and I think that sort of sentiment is long overdue for a guy like him.

But that isn’t the only flashback we get. Like a drunk Doc Brown we skip ahead just a little bit to reveal another little tidbit that also helps improve Wolverine’s douche-factor. In previous issues, you could make the argument that Wolverine was just playing the part of a sadistic gym teacher that got caught screwing the principal’s wife and was stuck teaching gym for the rest of his career. Throwing his students in the middle of the Savage Land without much preparation certainly puts him up there with those same teachers that threw basketballs at your head if he caught you nodding off in the middle of class. But apparently, he had a little meeting with Broo shortly after they arrived to let him know where the X-jet was in case shit got heavy. It’s like a gym teacher keeping some morphine on hand in case he gets too rough. He’s still a douche, but he’s prepared to make up for it, which is more than I can say for half the teachers I ever had.

The only problem is that it still doesn’t address what the hell even happened to Broo a few issues ago. That has been an ongoing problem with this arc since it began. Wolverine and the X-men #25 ended on such a dramatic note with Broo waking up from his coma and Wolverine swapping spit with Storm. Yet we’ve had absolutely no fucking explanation or hint of any juicy pillow talk that transpired after. It been all about teenagers trying to survive attacks by dinosaurs. Granted, that’s probably more entertaining, but fuck if it isn’t a gross oversight. At the very least, this scene shows that Broo hasn’t completely lost his shit.

This information does come in handy because Broo manages to lead Idie to the X-jet by swapping her bible. While I doubt Wolverine expected that he would have to deal with his dipshit long lost brother, Dog Logan, I’m sure he’s glad he had a backup plan. That’s usually the kind of shit that only Cyclops thinks of. It came in handy here because it got Idie to the X-jet. It also ensured that she was there when he clawed his way half-digested out of the stomach of a T-Rex. And no, that’s not a colorful jungle metaphor or a poop joke. Wolverine actually had to do that. Who else aside from him could handle being digested by a T-Rex and clawing his way out? He’s a douche, but he’s still more badass than we mere mortals can ever hope to be.

Back with the other students, they’re basically getting a new lesson now with Dog Logan. But like learning calculus from Paris Hilton, it doesn’t exactly sink in. And like the schools Paris Hilton thinks she went to, it eventually devolves into a bunch of teenagers bitching and moaning. Because of this, they’re not exactly prepared when one of the high tech robot poachers that have been chasing them decides to target them the same way a hungry grizzly targets a wounded dear. So not only is Dog Logan a douche, he’s a really shitty teacher.

But this scene accomplishes something other than showing that Dog Logan doesn’t know how to reach teenagers. It shows that these young mutants are still teenagers at heart. As such they don’t take kindly to authority, they incessantly bicker with one another, and they couldn’t degree which direction was north if they all had a compass glued to their wrist. And some, like Eye Boy, get fed up and decide to lash out at the machines before they attack by becoming badass just long enough to shoot them. But sadly, the rest of the team is too busy bickering to notice. It’s a painfully accurate portrayal of how teenagers are and is sure to give me nightmares of third period English during my junior year tonight.

Dog Logan, having such limited experience in dealing with teenagers, gets exceedingly pissed off that these punk teenagers aren’t listening to him. That only means he’s failing once again to prove his dick is bigger than Wolverine’s. It makes for a nice moment that shows just how big a douche Dog truly is. He’s getting pissed off at a bunch of teenagers for not listening to him. He might as well get pissed off for the sky being blue or for his shit being brown. That or Wolverine actually did a halfway decent job of conditioning these students to have decent bullshit detectors. It may not help them survive in a jungle full of dinosaurs, but it will go a long ways to avoiding assholes whose lessons are best left ignored and/or forgotten. There’s another nightmare about one of my old English teachers in there, but I’ll skip it and just take a bong hit to help avoid further recollections.

Having failed to fuck with his students, Wolverine eventually catches up with Dog. Idie and Broo are with him and he’s understandably pissed. Nobody is allowed to torment his students but him and given the whole sibling rivalry, they have plenty of incentive to beat the everloving shit out of each other. It has all the makings of an epic battle that the rest of the students get to watch. It sure beats the hell out of watching your typical violent TV shows that don’t involve animated coyotes or road runners. But it’s not all that epic in the end. The battle between Cyclops and Wolverine in Schism was a trillion times more awesome in scale. It’s still satisfying to see Dog get his ass kicked, but not as satisfying as you want it to be.

The not-so-epic battle ends in a not-so-epic manner when the guy with the iron mask NOT named Tony Stark catches up with them. He’s stopped taking out his frustrations on the Jean Grey Institute students and decides to focus on the guy who looks like he belongs on a sex offender registry. It took him long enough to do something that made some fucking sense and Dog reacts like a total pussy and once again whines about his daddy issues. Then he uses that special crystal his future self gave him earlier in the arc and disappears.

In terms of not-so-epic resolutions, this is right up there with it all being a dream from having eaten one too many tacos and had one too many shots of tequila. There’s no real resolution here. Dog just runs away and Wolverine treats it like a fucking hangnail. Usually when shit from his past comes back to haunt him, it’s a lot more dramatic. For it to just vanish, it doesn’t just feel underwhelming. It makes all that brutality seem worthless. Now I’m usually all for mindless brutality, but it makes for a lousy resolution to a story.

As underwhelming as it is, the ending isn’t completely without some ominous complications. Not every student in the Jean Grey Institute stuck around to watch the battle between Wolverine and Dog. Glob Herman, despite looking like a walking lava lamp, chickened out like a little bitch and ran off. He basically ditched school and decided that falling in with the wrong crowd was the way to go for him. Except in this instance, the wrong ground involves Sauron, who offers him a spot a welcoming little place called the Hellfire Academy. So the seeds of the next conflict have been sewn and hopefully this one isn’t completely ignored like the last arc.

As for the students who did stick around, there’s a nice yet still underwhelming moment where Wolverine basically tells them they passed the course, as if it’s possible to get a C- for a course that involves surviving dinosaurs and asshole brothers. At the very least it reinforces that Wolverine does care for his students. It also helps reinforce that he’s a better man than Dog. Then again, that’s like saying your dick is larger than a two-year-old’s. It’s not a fair comparison.

And as for Dog, he basically just ends up getting the shit beat out of him by his older self. It’s a very flat and bland way to end a story that he was practically rushed into. It could have been much more epic, but now he’s just back to being a whiney old bitch with daddy issues. In other words he’s right back to where he started. He would have made more progress just getting drunk and watching reruns of Two and a Half Men. That alone should kill any possible sympathy you might have for this character.

I liked this issue, but only to the extent that I like cold pizza. I’ll still consume it. It won’t make me throw up and if I’m stoned, I’ll even enjoy it. But it’s not like biting into a freshly baked cookie or licking ice cream off Jessica Alba’s ass. It’s a somewhat bland taste that’s utterly forgettable. It still gets the job done. The students of the Jean Grey Institute, minus Glob Herman, learn a few valuable lessons about survival. Dog Logan is defeated. There’s some nice insight into Wolverine’s dedication as a teacher. But overall, it falls flat.

This arc had a fun premise and plenty of nice moments, but this issue really didn’t end it on a satisfying note. It was disorganized and chaotic at times. It failed to address pretty much every major issue that emerged in the previous arc where so many characters hooked up in a helping of juicy schoolyard drama. And it was really had to take Dog Logan seriously as a compelling character. He hates Wolverine, blames him for everything, and wants him to suffer. I mean why don’t you just make him a teenage girl who takes it up the ass for five bucks because her daddy didn’t pay attention to her? While it was still satisfying to see him defeated, the resolution felt incomplete and bland.

There was still a number of things to like about this issue. It continued the theme of showing that Wolverine isn’t a complete douche-bag in that he genuinely cares about protecting these kids and is willing to throw them in the middle of an inhospitable, dinosaur-laden wasteland to teach them. Okay, so he is still a douche-bag on some levels, but there was purpose behind this lesson. And Jason Aaron also did a great job of showing repeatedly that these students are still irrational, ill-tempered, ill-mannered teenagers. They all behaved as you would expect teenagers to act if they had superpowers. They have egos. They don’t care for authority. And some think having pink hair actually looks cool. It was enough to give a guy like me flashbacks/nightmares of my own high school experience, but in a good way for once.

Wolverine and the X-men is still a fun series with a distinct theme that focuses on mutant students trying to survive life at the Jean Grey Institute. Wolverine and the X-men #28 maintained that theme for the most part, but failed to make it as compelling as previous arcs. Too many details were just poorly developed. Dog Logan came off as the least interesting wannabe badass since MC Hammer tried to make it as a gangster rapper. And the overall resolution was just under-developed and overly rushed. The art was still awesome and so where the characterizations of everyone not named Dog Logan. For that, I give Wolverine and the X-men #28 a 3 out of 5. So nearly every student managed to pass this twisted course in the Savage Land. I guess it’s all downhill from here. Once you’ve survived attacks by dinosaurs, a calculus exam is like a massage and a blowjob. Nuff said!

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