Friday, October 28, 2011

Wolverine & the X-Men #1

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Company: Marvel Comics

Well, whether or not you cared for the idea of Cyclops and Wolverine calling off their friend engagement and splitting into two different factions or not, there's really no stopping it now. It's happened and even though it was forced and felt off in seventeen different ways, we now have another X-Book to keep an eye on. That said, this is a weird book. Or more to the point, a weird X-Men book. Why? Because it bashes you over the head with humor instead of mutant, death-freeze-omni-whatever blasts that we are used to, which is a little atypical of the traditional X-Men formula. If you can get behind that and the very Whedon-y style to the characters speech patterns and banter, then there is a pleasant surprise for you with this book. If you
can't, and find the humor out of place or grating, then I'm afraid to inform you that it's a deal breaker and this is probably not going to be the X-book for you.

But like I said, there's something here that is refreshing. The lightness in it, the back and forth between the characters, and really, just seeing Logan portrayed as the Headmaster of a school makes me think we've entered some sort of National Lampoons rendition of Graymalkin University, but aside from that it is interesting and indeed fun.

As first issues go though, this one takes the route of slow burn. Yes, there is a ton of information at people's fingertips here, with the cast of the teachers, the students, the cliques that are forming, and the general nuttiness that Hank McCoy has imbued into the newly minted walls and underbelly of the Jean Grey Institute being explored. What's missing however is the driving force of the book. Is it going to simply be the antics of the school? Will it be the newly formed Hellfire Club, which do make an appearance (and provides one of the low points in my opinion)? Or is it something else entirely? Hopefully, that issue can be resolved quickly though, as I love the bare bones here. Oddly enough, where Aaron is traditionally the guy you go to for darker stories, things like Scalped, The Other Side, and even Schism, his humor shines. The backups that are provided in the form of diagrams and a class schedule, which is the best part, are almost worth the price of admission alone due to the cleverness at work.

Handling the artistic duties is Chris Bachalo. On the surface, just skimming the issue, you might think that he's the wrong person for the job. The frenetic look is a bit off putting and his panel structure, as per usual, is wonky. That said, reading the title as a whole is a much different experience. Bachalo lets things go wild at times, especially with the actual look of the school (which looks like the love child of Hunter S. Thompson and a Brownstone), but the little details that he injects into the work make it something more. One of the best things is the way that his characters have an almost rough edge to them. The details, the things that make the characters what they are in our minds, are there, but the remainder of the individual is left a little muddy and said technique allows the brain to formulate the rest of the picture. It's a strange thing, but it works, especially for this very character centric tale.

Overall, this is a happy, strange, and satisfying first issue. There aren't many comics that fit that bill, which is part of the appeal. There are a few speed bumps that need to be addressed, but Aaron and Bachalo seem to have set the stage for good times.

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