The older I get, the more I look for escapism in the comics I read, particularly the superhero genre. ‘Reality’ is old hat, so I want the worlds within those panels to be as fantastic as possible. That isn’t to say that a certain sense of consistent internal logic isn’t necessary; it’s just that any similarity to the patterns and limitations of the real world should be completely coincidental.
Suspend my disbelief to dizzying heights, I can take it. This is what draws me to Wolverine and the X-Men writer Jason Aaron’s work like a moth to a burning Phoenix: the man perfectly gets what I’m after, and delivers time and time again.
Aaron doesn’t try to act as an apologist for the sometimes preposterous trappings of the superhero genre the way some writers do, or backpedal almost ashamedly from the implausible characters and situations. Instead, he fully embraces the outlandishness of it all with a huge, rib-fracturing Colossus-level bear hug. There’s a constant sense of humor in his work that doesn’t detract from the pathos or drama native to the genre: it’s fun without ever coming across as self-parody or mocking either the characters or the readers’ sensibilities.
That’s the whole point of reading (and on the opposite side of the page, writing) superhero comics, isn’t it? To have this vast, wonderful sandbox to play in, and a chest full of strange and wonderous toys to populate it with, and not feel the least bit awkward that you’re doing what you’re doing, no furtive glances over the shoulder to make sure no one catches you letting your inner twelve-year-old run amuck.
Wolverine has always been a favorite character of mine — you can’t beat the wish-fulfillment of the penultimate hard-drinking, cigar-chomping, take-no-gruff-from-anyone-ever badass — but under Aaron’s guidance, both in his solo adventures and in this series, Logan’s evolved into a far more nuanced character. No longer struggling to keep his bestial nature and berserker rages at bay, James Howlett instead is seeking a form of redemption for a unaturally long life of past mistakes and misdeeds.
In the case of this series, it comes in the unlikely form of Logan stepping into the shoes of Professor X and restarting the classic Westchester based academy as an alternative to Cyclops’ more isolationist Utopia. This should trigger some shaking of heads — Wolverine as the headmaster of a private academy? — but Aaron not only makes the conceit work, he makes it seem naturalistic.
This particular issue, #17, is a real treat: a one-off centering on Doop, of the late and grossly underappreciated X-Statix series by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred from a while back. Doop’s a character that’s been lurking in more a cameo role in the background of the series so far, and this issue explains exactly he came to the Jean Grey School and what role Wolverine is really using him in beyond what everyone else sees — a green mutant potato-like being perpetually asleep at the school’s reception desk.
Mike Allred comes in to provide guest art for the tale, and in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of his work, and couldn’t be happier to see his interpretations of Marvel’s icons. As always, his wife Laura provides colors, and in my not-so-humble opinion, she’s the best colorist working in the medium today, the only one with a distinctive style that is immediately recognizable.
It’s almost impossible to go into detail with the story itself without completely ruining the fun — the antics escalate from page to page, and cameos from some of Marvel’s most obscure and odd characters abound. Spoilers be damned, though, there is one bit I have to point out, hands-down the best line of dialogue I’ve read in a comic this year, uttered by none other than Howard the Duck during a team-up sequence between he and Doop:
We’re trapped in a cave in Dimension ZZZ, surrounded by hordes of bloodthirsty robo-barbarians, with nothing between us but a broken sword, a rubber chicken with nails in it, and a gun that shoots bees.
We’ve been in some tough spots before, pal, but never anything like this.
It’s great to see an X-Men title that is trying to go for a radically different style and tone than the countless others (seriously, does anyone really know how many X-Men comics come out in a given month?), and this title has been a joy since the first issue. With Avengers vs. X-Men out of the way and a much different status quo for the mutants going forward, it’s going to be interesting to see how those elements play out. If you’re only looking to read one X-book, or dip your toe back in the pond after an absence, Wolverine and the X-Men is the one.
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