Well…the time had to come…nothing lasts forever, and one of the brightest, fun-loving, yet still important titles of the last few years has come to a close.
Jason Aaron’s run on Wolverine and the X-Men should serve as a how-to guide for DC to reinvent themselves, and re-embrace the idea that you can have fun and still kick ass, laugh and still be taken seriously, and not have to be grey, dark, and gritty to be a great series.
Wolverine leaves the X-Men of Utopia after a philosophical disagreement with Cyclops, and founds a school on the grounds of the old Xavier School. Wolverine as a headmaster and administrator just wrote it’s own jokes.
There was so much to love about this series, both from the fun, and the actual important parts too. One of the factors that I HOPE gets carried forward, is that Jason Aaron created some new teenaged mutant characters that I actually ENJOYED reading about. Usually I skim the shit out of that stuff, but here, between Quentin Quire (Kid Omega), Kid Gladiator, Broo, Kid Apocalypse, Shark Girl, Eye Boy, Irie, and the new Hellfire Kids, Aaron has created some characters that have the potential to grow into bigger players in the Marvel U. He even showed us this, by having a couple issues shoot forward in time to see them as the future X-Men, directors of SWORD, Phoenix Entities, Avengers, and educators themselves.
As to the book itself, we start with the return of Kid Gladiator, who was removed from the school by his father a number of volumes back. It was a bit of a loss, as he seemed like an important figure. Here, we get the entire Annual issue focused on him, his time away from the school, fighting in space alongside the Avengers (which he made sure to mention to anyone who’d listen – including Arm-Wrestling Thor, Punching Hulk, and having a blast of a time.) There’s also some good (ie. non-sappy) stuff between him and his father about responsibility and growing up, that Aaron is able to actually write very well, which doesn’t make it as lame as many lesser writers would.
When we jump back to the series itself, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill and her Mutant Liason Officer Dazzler (actually Mystique in disguise, and NO this isn’t a spoiler, as the editing staff tell us right away) arrive to tell Logan and co. that they’re being watched. This is a perfect example of combining humour with serious storytelling, which Aaron does perfectly in this whole series:
Wolverine: Nobody does Nothing. Unless I give the signal.
Warbird: And what is the signal?
Iceman: I’m guessing it’s “SNIKT, SNIKT, Stab.”
See? FUNNY! In a tense situation! And not out of character, trying too hard to be funny either. Using Bobby Drake, a known smartass, works perfectly here. I wish more writers knew that it was OK to be funny, and that the readers will still get the situation is tense, but that jokes are GOOD in COMIC BOOKS!
Back to the plot: S.H.I.E.L.D. has Sentinels, which is NOT cool with mutants of any sort, so Wolverine goes off to investigate on his own. Meanwhile, 2 new students enroll in the Jean Grey School…
At the same time Wolverine goes off, his counterpart gets the same info, and then run into each other in a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base…of course, they’ve both been set up, to take each other out (thanks to Mystique) which gives us a long awaited showdown between Cyclops and Wolverine.
This may be the best interactions between Scott and Logan since the days of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. The tension is done right, but so is the long long long history between the two, even down to the nearly unspoken mention of Jean herself.
Artist Pepe Larraz deserves a shout out here, as the 2 page spread of Cyclops and Wolverine coming face to face is done beautifully…
The next few issues follow the rest of their tete-a-tete, as well as the experiences of the new “students” at the Jean Grey School, and what exactly they get up to. It’s also another chance for the students to kick some ass.
I don’t want to spoil any of the great stuff here, so I’ll leave it to you all to read.
The last 2 issues, 1 is all about resolving Toad’s dangling plotline, which involves Husk, Hellfire Kids, and Janitorial Services. It’s done well considering he’s supposed to be a semi-joke most of the time, Aaron gives him a lot of gravitas.
The final issue (of Aaron’s run – they continued the series with a Vol. 2, but who knows about that) involves Graduation Day, as well as flash forwards in time to see where people are down the road. It also features an Old, Grizzled Wolverine, who Aaron has featured before. I think he’s itching to write his own Old Man Logan (which I would buy sight unseen). It also features a cameo from Aaron himself, in a subtle way…(Roll Tide indeed)
The final few pages are focused on humour, with Doop defeating 2 D-list villains from the past of the series, on the morning after graduation…Using “The Power of the Funk”. Yes. Quentin Quire also plays one last trick on Wolverine, and we get to see the venerable Headmaster with a smile on his face at the end.
It’s a fitting ending for a great run, a smiling Wolverine, giving advice to kids, but not made entirely toothless, which was important.
The best part for me, is Aaron’s letter at the end, which gives us his mantra for the series:
FUN IS NOT A DIRTY WORD.
Take note DC, take note.