Wednesday, 26 October 2011

REGENERATION X: Wolverine & The X-Men

Regenesis, the new branding and ‘relaunch’ of the X-Men, began today, with the arrival of “Wolverine & The X-Men’. Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s flagship title for the ‘gold’ side of the X-Men, this book is set to focus on Wolverine and Kitty Pryde setting up a school for young mutants, called The Jean Grey Academy. Located on the East Coast of America, the school sees a random assortment of teenage mutant (ninja) characters attempt to live a normal life, free from Cyclops’ ‘army’ set-up over in San Francisco.

And more importantly, it’s Aaron in ‘silly’ mode rather than stern mode. Silly Aaron has previously been seen assassinating Matt Fraction and creating a Phoenix Force gun, among other exploits, and his return here is more than welcome. The X-Men books have spent a lot of time being very serious, whilst retaining outlandish plots and characters – having them get back to simply living their lives is a very welcome change of pace. Kieron Gillen will be writing the more serious and angry X-Men over in Uncanny, but Aaron seems happy to focus on little blue Nightcrawlers running amok and stealing alcohol from Wolverine’s overstocked liquor cabinet. It’s a fun, entertaining issue, and so let’s analyse it to death because that’ll definitely improve your enjoyment of the comedy.

Wolverine is Headmaster of the school, and Kitty Pryde is Headmistress. Beast is actually running the school, while Iceman, Rachel Grey, Husk and Doop seem to be the teaching staff. Doop is also in charge of the reception, and choir practise. The issue is mainly concerned with establishing who is actually at the school, with subsequent issues hopefully focusing on the roles each of these characters will play as time goes on. Obviously, the majority of the kids are known New X-Men players like Hellion, Anole and Rockslide, but Aaron throws in as many bizarre choices as possible – aliens, Grant Morrison characters, and even some of his own creations – to create a feeling that mutantkind really is a very diverse society indeed. For the first time since the Morrison/Claremont years, the school is overflowing with characters and they all feel part of the same community.

Aaron’s mission to be silly spills everywhere, with Bachalo a willing conspirator. If you want a book to look and feel like it’s creating a whole new World, then you’re going to want an innovator like Bachalo drawing it. Bachalo can take a splash page of anything and make it fascinating, weird, and eerie. He can also handle things like a twelve-panel page with consummate ease. There is nothing you can’t throw at him which he can’t absolutely nail. So Aaron throws absolutely everything at him. Giant text, splash pages, odd panel structures, new characters, kooky architecture, and giant monsters. The issue feels stuffed with all kinds of weird ideas and strange characters.

Although sometimes Aaron gets a little on-point with his dialogue (such as Wolverine’s exchange with Professor Xavier, which seems more aimed at justifying the existence of the book than in doing anything else). But for the most part, he keeps things light-hearted. The actual Schism still feels forced and lightweight, but he glosses over it in order to give us a nailed-down portrayal of the new, grown-up version of Wolverine and the perpetually worried Kitty Pryde. Other characters pop in and out, but it’s clear that these two are going to be the focus of the series for the time being. Their banter feels incredibly refreshing, especially given their almost total lack of any panel-time together in what feels like years. These two finally feel like old friends, with their in-jokes and reinforcement of each other giving us a friendly reminder that X-Men books don’t have to be about people ordering each other about and shouting. The core of this book is their relationship, and that gives the silliness a place of warmth to develop from.

Wolverine & The X-Men is a superb introduction to the new World of the X-Men. New readers should be more-or-less able to follow what’s happening, while old fans will revel in the chemistry between the cast and Aaron/Bachalo’s immediate synergy. Kieron Gillen, following up with Uncanny X-Men #1 next month, has a lot to live up to.

2 comments:

Nico said...

Wow, from where is that panel with Fraction ? I love this villain !

(also, superb comics, but I attribute a lot of my enjoyment of it to Bachalo)

Steve Morris said...

It's from a comedy one-shot called "Who Won't Wield The Shield?" It was released just after Captain America was killed off