Ben Reilly Happens While You're Busy Making Other Plans

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wolverine Was Too Cool For School...Now It's Too Cool for Him!

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"You're a headmaster now, Professor Logan. Best accept the fact that you will never again seem even remotely cool to any of your students." --Charles Xavier

So I picked up my first X-Men comic in years this week only to discover that Wolverine has lost his claws, figuratively speaking. Wolverine and the X-Men 1 apparently picks up where mega-event Schism left off, with the X-Men divided into two factions: one, a school in the vein of Xavier's original vision, and the other a militant group dedicated to protecting mutant interests at all costs. And since Wolverine would be the perfect candidate to lead the militants, he's naturally been recast as Dumbledore at the mutant equivalent of Hogwart's.

Except, you know, Dumbledore actually knew what was he doing.

"We're just hoping everything goes smoothly," Wolverine tells Xavier, who's stopped by to offer his blessing.

"Yes, I'm sure it will," Xavier smirks. "Just as it always does in a school full of teenage mutants."

I'll admit I went in to this as skeptical as I was intrigued, but it's that sense of whimsy that won me over. Aaron's wit and Bachalo's energy make for a winning combination.  The issue isn't heavy on action, but it's incredibly entertaining in a sitcomish 'disaster waiting to happen' way. The premise is tried and true fun: two state inspectors determined to shut the school down won't need to look hard for reasons. The running gag is that Beast's designs make the school a death trap and everything that can go wrong does.

There's also some very weighty moments that are played for laughs, in a tragi-comic kind of way. Like when one of the students makes for a very uncomfortable moment by telling the inspectors that mutants are monsters and she'd rather be cured than taught, but she appreciates the school because she'd just assume not kill again if she can avoid it. Awk-ward!

And then there's the absurd, hyper-reality moments that are strikingly relevant. Like when Wolverine's arch-nemesis turns out to be a trust fund baby who's dedicated to destroying the school because he wants to sell Sentinels. I never thought I'd see the day when a twelve year old kid could walk on campus and tell Wolverine he's going to destroy everything he's built with such impunity, but that's why it's so effective. The ol' Canuckle head is facing problems he can't deal with by popping the third claw--teenagers!

So far, Wolverine and the X-Men strikes me as M*A*S*H meets Harry Potter. A natural born killer viewing the world the lens of schoolmaster makes for the same kind of tension as a medic viewing the war through the lens of pacifism. Throw in the fantasy wish fulfillment and hijinks you get when kids with special powers get together, and you've got something that should click with fans of all ages.

And speaking as a fan of the X-Men from the 80s and 90s, this series seems to address the primary problem I've had with the franchise lately. I like Wolverine and I like Cyclops, but I don't like what they've become when they're together. The X-Men movies made Wolverine a badass at Scott's expense. Then they added insult to injury when they overplayed the Scott/Jean/Wolverine love triangle, which shouldn't define the characters.

That's why my favorite X-cartoon is Evolution, which took the triangle off the table from the very beginning. It freed Scott and Logan up to be something more than guys in a giant pissing contest over Jean. Since Marvel is in no hurry to move away from that, at least they're doing the next best thing by giving Scott and Logan some breathing room. I hope Aaron and Gillen have the good sense to keep Logan and Scott from crossing paths for the foreseeable future.

I look forward to Wolverine's journey as headmaster. The idea seemed somehow off at first, but I'm warming up to it rather quickly. It can't be easy to move such a cherished character's story forward without losing something fundamental, but if this issue is any indication, that's precisely what they're doing. They will have to do something about his tagline, though.

Wolverine isn't the best there is at what he does anymore, but what he does is kinda nice...

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