Monday, October 31, 2011

Wolverine and the X-Men #1

It's opening day for the rejuvenated Xavier school for mutants, and this time it's not just the underclassmen that are adjusting to a new environment. Following the events of Schism, Wolverine's found himself headmaster of the east coast squad, and he's appointed a faculty full of familiar faces. In further evidence of the cyclical nature of all things human, (or homo superior, as it were) many of your favorite X-Men alumni have returned to their old stomping grounds in an effort to help train and teach the next generation of mutant wonders.

Jason Aaron's plot is like a glimpse back to the heyday of the X-Men family, when life as a mutant wasn't all pomp and circumstance and the crew was certainly not above leaning back on a day off and having themselves a little fun. The character-driven central storyline hinges on a crucial visit from the Department of Education, who seem to have made up their minds about the facility before they've even stepped through the front door, and their decision to give the school a green or red light with the state commission. With the readers riding shotgun, Logan and Kitty - clearly uncomfortable in their new roles as grinnin' mouthpieces - do everything in their power to make the best of an inherently difficult situation and fail repeatedly in increasingly spectacular fashion.

It's a new trial for Logan, who's long been a lightning rod of controversy among hardcore fans for being so oversaturated and resistant to change. We've seen Wolverine as the warrior, the rebel, the bleeding heart and the father figure, but never as the calm, collected institutional leader. It's a role that's going to take a lot of getting used to, both for him and for us, but one Aaron seems to have a clear, intelligent plan for. With Shadowcat at his side for counsel and a staff of close friends providing further guidance, Logan will have every opportunity to make this work, but something tells me some old habits die too hard for everything to go too smoothly. In fact, those inevitable blow-ups are what I'm looking forward to the most. When was the last time Professor X threatened to disembowel a misbehaving student?

Returning to the Xavier landscape yet again, respected journeyman Chris Bachalo delivers a special blend of character, informality and familiarity to the both student and teacher. Bachalo's had his ups and downs over the years, with tight deadlines occasionally leading to some sloppy efforts, but when he's motivated his work is among the industry's very best. Concerned readers can quit worrying, because he's brought his A-Game this month and the subject matter lends itself perfectly to his strengths. Featuring a wild variety of body types to play with, a few staggering two-page spreads and an excess of playful, body language-infused dialog, Bachalo's personality fits this setting like a glove.

It's been quite a while since I've been so impressed with a debut issue featuring a prominent X on its cover. Amidst so many years of crossover events, landscape-changing mega revelations, in-fighting and relationship drama, it's a real breath of fresh air to see these characters finally letting their guards down a bit and just being themselves. Jason Aaron's storyline is simple, deliberate and enjoyable, a basic premise that succeeds wholly because the cast is so diverse and colorful. Pair that with a lively, enthusiastic tone and a solid, appropriate turn from Chris Bachalo and you've got my attention. Where we go from here is anyone's guess. Buy it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 9

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