Wolverine_and_the_X-Men_Vol_1_31WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN 31
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nick Bradshaw
Publisher: Marvel
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

With all the hoopla surrounding Bendis’ jump into the X-verse, people seem to have forgotten about the elder statesmen of NOW, WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN. Before the original fab five were thrust forward from the 60’s…I mean 80’s, Jason Aaron was already bringing the X verse back to its plain and simple roots as a school for mutants. Alive with the frivolity of youth, but also forever juxtaposed by Wolverine’s surliness, WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN above all other X-titles remembers that comics should be fun…damn it…harrumph!

While an integral part of the X-verse adventures, especially with the original team now under the roof at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, the book has never been mired in events. It’s lived as a wonderful bastion of hope despite the cataclysmic events of the past year. Even now, as the original team is split down ideological lines, Aaron alludes to events without ever miring the title in them. The students come first in this book, with their training to be tomorrow’s X-Men always a priority.

I know many who tried this title and jetted because of distaste for Chris Bachalo’s art. If so, come back, Bradshow is nowhere near as stylized, but still offers a unique and fresh feel. Then there are some who simply didn’t like the “jokey” air of this title (including this reviewer in the first issue). Fear not, the jokes have been tempered greatly without suffocating the fun. And there are finally those that simply hate the over saturation of Wolverine. Well, to those folks I will say this is a very different Wolverine than any other book. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Wolverine as a guiding mentor instead of a killing machine. Also, he’s only a small part of the title – again the book is about the students with a smidge of the happenings in the various professors’ lives.

Issue 31 is a great jumping on point for the newbies and those that have strayed from the flock. As we begin “The Hellfire Saga,” new threats loom, old relationships are tested and now there is yet another splintering of the race to control all of the new mutants cropping up across the globe.

If you think Scott Summers School is “evil,” this issue will make you think again. Personally I don’t think Scott’s mission is evil, I call it self-preservation, but that’s an ideological debate we can save for another time. The Hellfire Club has always been evil incarnate, but it feels especially icky now that the Chess based leaders are all disciples of Bieber. Kade and crew’s adolescent visage is a stark juxtaposition to the dark cynicism of their souls. I laughed at the concept at first, but as time passed it became more of a bold decision than a mistake. After all, how many more times do we want to watch Sebastian Shaw rise and fall.

The kiddie leadership remains fairly behind-the-scenes for this issue, instead letting professors like Mystique, Dog Logan and Sauron bestow the next generation with evilocity. Teaching classes like Public Relations for Psychopaths, Better Living through Superior Firepower and Getting the Most for Your Soul When Dealing with the Devil the act of villainy has been legitimized in a way we never saw back when Emma Frost was running her crew of bad guys. It’s not as subtle, but WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN has never been the subdue type of book. With adventures that ranged from intergalactic casinos to following Doop around for a day, you must be willing to plant your tongue firmly in cheek to enjoy this title…sorta.

For as much camp Aaron infuses into the book there are genuine moments of emotion as a respite. Quentin Quire has truly grown as a character throughout the series and never more so than in this issue. As much as he and Wolverine have had a hate-hate relationship, there’s definitive respect between the two. So much so, that even though Quentin joined the Hellfire Academy as an F.U. to his headmaster nemesis, he’s remembered some lessons on right, wrong and teamwork. Sensing something rotten in Denmark when students never return from detention, he throws himself headfirst into the Black King’s clamping maw.

I know I tend to be an X-apologist because of my love for this side of the Marvel Universe, but on the same token, I’m not a babe in the comic woods. Basically, I know when I’m blowing smoke up your ass and I do try desperately to temper my fervor in those moments. With WOLVERINE & the X-MEN though, this is no bullshit or hyperbole. It’s one of my first reads in my weekly big pile o’ comics and with how many books I get it says something about title quality and consistency to rise above all others month after month.