Wolverine takes the X-Men back to school
Marvel’s ongoing comic series “Wolverine and the X-Men” features the team’s most popular member taking them back to their roots by reopening the school that started it all. If you don’t buy Wolverine as a private school headmaster teaching young mutants responsibility, well, there you go, that’s the hook.
I got into the X-Men in junior high, thanks to the “X-Cutioner’s Song” crossover, and followed the two main series for many years. Eventually though, the franchise moved in a direction I simply wasn’t enjoying anymore. After a few disappointing attempts to get back on the X-train, I personally labeled Scott Lobdell’s “Dream’s End” storyline as the last “episode” of X-Men for me. Joss Whedon’s aptly titled “Astonishing X-Men” run I considered the greatest reunion movie ever.
Thanks to the recent proliferation of trade paperbacks in libraries, I’ve kept up with the team’s developments. I haven’t been willing to shell out any money for the newest adventures, which often featured a massive cast that made some sense from a story perspective but felt lacking in character development.
In the wake of a major falling out between Wolverine and his longtime frenemy, Cyclops, the X-Men were recently split into two distinct factions. Wolverine decided to reopen Professor X’s school in Westchester, N.Y., naming this version after the (at the time anyway) still-dead Jean Grey, his unrequited love and Cyclops’ late wife.
The concept caught my attention, but what finally pulled me in was the cover to issue 3, featuring wannabe super-villain and reluctant X-student Kid Omega having spray-painted a wall with the phrase “Remember when Wolverine was cool? Me neither.” The content inside, whose tone is perfectly summed up by that cover, kept me coming back.
The first three-issue storyline features the faculty of the school – including Kitty Pryde, Beast and Iceman – dealing with an inspection from the state Department of Education while in the crosshairs of an attack from a reconstituted Hellfire Club. Writer Jason Aaron balances humor, action and interpersonal drama while keeping it fun, as opposed to the dark morass many modern comics, X-Men (I’m lookin’ at you, “Deadly Genesis”) and otherwise, tend to be.
Still, the series is rated T+, so it’s not appropriate for younger readers.
The contrast between Wolverine’s violent nature (he still leads a black-ops team called X-Force) and his duties as head of the school works on comedic and dramatic levels. Early on he breaks his promise not to let his darker activities intersect with the school, bringing in a pair of students with deep ties to the X-Men’s past and a possible threat to their future.
Chris Bachalo’s highly stylized art isn’t always my favorite, but it worked well for the manic opening arc. He’s been followed in subsequent issues by the solid, more traditional Nick Bradshaw.
The cast here is big too, but many of the characters have distinct voices. One of the breakouts is Broo, who would rather learn and make friends with his classmates than eviscerate them and implant them with eggs like the rest of his brethren in the alien race known as the Brood.
And while many of the characters’ backstories may have been elaborated on in previous X-books, the series is quite accessible without having to read those (I didn’t).
I’m still getting caught up, so I haven’t gotten to the issues tying in with the mega “Avengers vs. X-Men” crossover yet. But there should be a collected edition of these early issues available soon, and I’d recommend it to anyone nostalgic for the days when X-Men comics were just as fun as they were creative and dramatic.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group” (www.supportgroupcomic.com)