Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Wolverine and The X-Men Vol. 7

Couldn't find a good cover image, so here's this chart.
After the six issues included in this particular volume, which collects Wolverine and The X-Men #30-35, there are only seven issues left of Jason Aaron and company's Wolverine and... series (Although it was relaunched just one week later with a new creative team and a new #1). But of those seven issues, two are spent on the "Battle of The Atom" crossover, and unlike the many issue of this series spent on tying-in to the Avengers Vs. X-Men event series, "Battle" completely took over the title for a few issues, replacing whatever story Aaron might have otherwise wanted to tell in Wolverine and... #36 and #37 with chapters of the "Battle" (I reviewed the book collecting the entire "Battle of the Atom" storyline at the bottom of this post, if you're interested).

I'm not sure what Aaron does with the last five issues of Wolverine and The X-Men (#38-42)–the trade collecting those final issues hasn't been released yet—but I have to imagine it consists of some kind of denouement, because this trade sure as hell reads like a climax for the entire series. It includes the five-issue "Hellfire Saga" story, drawn by Nick Bradshaw (with inks by Walden Wong as well as Bradshaw himself) and a one-issue "Hellfire Saga Prelude," primarily drawn by Pasqual Ferry.

Aaron's Hellfire Club, a group of four super-brilliant, ruthless tweens who are in the business of selling mutant-hunting killer robots, have been the primary antagonists throughout the series, and while they might seem like an odd fit in terms of archenemies for Wolverine, the fact that they are unsupervised kids make them ideal antagonists for Wolverine the teacher, providing an example of what can become of extremely gifted kids who don't have the likes of the X-Men teaching them to use those gifts properly.

Over the past few volumes, the Club has been embarking on a gradually revealed new strategy, and in this volume it is fully revealed: Hellfire Academy, an evil opposite, villains' equivalent of the Wolverine and The X-Men's Jean Grey Academy. Staffed entirely by X-Men villains, some traditional foes like Mystique, Saberteooth, Sauron, Windigo and a version of Mojmo, and some pulled from throughout this particular series' past storylines and Aaron-written Wolverine comics, like Dr. Xanto Starblood, Dog Logan and Lord Deathstrike.

New students include young mutants Infestation, Mudbug, Snot and Tinman, although Hellfire Academy also has its share of turncoats from the Jean Grey Academy, including teacher Husk, janitor Toad and students Glob Herman, the still brain-damaged Broo, Idie and Quentine Quire, who is there mainly to save Idie.

During the Ferry-drawn prelude, we see the Academy making its final recruitment push for faculty and students, while the X-Men begin a worldwide manhunt for the Hellfire Club. And then the "Saga" proper starts, and Aaron and Bradshaw give us a nice, fun tour of this school that is every bit as big, crazy and funny as the Jean Grey Academy, only, you know, evil (Their school uniforms, for example, are less prep school and more Hitler Youth, right down to funny hats and arm-bands.
Fun fact: "Flamin'" is Canadian for "Fuckin'"
By the time the X-Men finally find them and invade, there's a nice Everyone Vs. Everyone climactic battle, made all the more satisfying because it includes so many pay-offs from so many long-running sub-plots: Toad and Husk's relationship, and where the villain-turned-janitor's loyalties really lie; Idie's seeking vengeance for what happened to Broo; the state of Broo's mind; Kid Omega picking a side, and doing so for noble reasons; and the (likely temporary) final fates of all four Hellfire Club kids, two of whom end up forcibly enrolled at the Jean Grey school. Hey, it worked for Quentine Quire...
The volume ends with a tease about Nightcrawler and The Bamfs, which looks like Aaron will actually pick up in Amazing X-Men rather than Wolverine and The X-Men Vol. 8, but I guess we'll see. But as I said, this sure reads like the climax, if not the actual end, of the years in-the-making, 30-some issue epic storyline. It was a blast, and it's rather careful construction also made it narratively satisfying to read.

I'd kind of like to declare this the best run of an X-Men comic I've ever read, but I'm not exactly sure how to rate it against the Morrison run, given that Aaron's Wolverine and... was built on some of Morrison's particular innovations (like turning the Xavier School into an actual school), and that Aaron's run was visually superior, thanks to far fewer artists than Morison's run dealt with.

Whether it was actually better or not though is, I guess, irrelevant: It was an excellent series, and I'm going to be a little sad to read the next and final collection of the series, even knowing there's a kinda sorta continuation of it in the first arc or so of Amazing X-Men.

I did read the rebooted, "All-New Marvel Now" Wolverine and The X-Men #1 by Jason Latour, Mahmud Asrar and Israel Silva which, at least in title, promises to continue this comic book, but I didn't like that first issue at all, and now, a few months later, can't even remember anything that occurred within it, except that Quentin Quire had a conversation with Idie.

This "Animal Variant" of a cat dressed in a Wolverine costume for the first issue of the new series was awesome, though:
(Not sure why he didn't go with a wolverine wearing a Wolverine costume).


I liked this brief exchange between Sabertooth and Dog:


The Doop vs. Lady Mojo fight sure is...


I had to Wikipedia both The Siege Perilous and Master Pandemonium; the latter of whom seemed so ridiculous I was sure he had to be a recent creation of Jason Aaron's, but I was totally wrong on that count.

I was catching up on this series in trade at the same time I was catching up with the Rick Remender-written Uncanny X-Force in trade, and it was kinda weird that both overlapped in certain ways, including the presence of the Siege Perilous, Sabertooth and Mystique joining a group of villains, and Sabertooth finding himself working with one of Wolverine's blood relatives.


Eric Lee said...

I wouldn't say that it is the best X-Men run ever, but it certainly one of the most fun. For example, half of the villains teaching at the Hellfire Academy were chosen because of how ridiculous they are, like Master Pandamonium.

Unknown said...

Lady Mojo, not Mondo.

Caleb said...


It's fixed now.

Anonymous said...

Okay, can someone explain Doop to me? Or is this one of those things where I just have to read everything he's ever been in? Because his wikipedia page only creates more questions than it answers.

Caleb said...

I don't think anyone can explain Doop, which is a large part of the character's charm.