Just over a month ago, I wrote that Jason Aaron could be the next great X-Men writer, based on the strength of the first four issues of X-Men: Schism. I still stand by that even though I didn't enjoy the fifth issue nearly as much as the previous issues.
But the event was necessary to get the X-Men franchise to this point, which is simultaneously a new direction and a back-to-basics approach. And I'm willing to bet that Marvel has wanted to have a series called Wolverine and the X-Men for years… and yet they missed the window of opportunity to put it out while there was actually an animated series of the same name.
In Wolverine and the X-Men #1, Aaron is joined by artist Chris Bachalo as Wolverine kicks off his first day as the Headmaster at the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning. Yes, that's right. He named it after the woman he loved. Suck on that, Cyclops!
The first seven pages are amazingly rendered and the design for the school itself is particularly impressive. Those pages may even rank as some of the best work in Bachalo's career… which makes it even more unfortunate that the rest of the issue doesn't live up to that promise. Maybe it's the multitude of inkers assigned to this issue, but some of the subsequent pages are very difficult to look at… and even a little ugly. At one point, Hellion looks like one of The Gorillaz, and that's not a compliment.
Where Aaron's script shines is with Wolverine himself, as he seems uneasy about his new role and yet he's excited about it as well. Aaron once wrote a story in which Wolverine explained the reason he runs himself into the ground on so many superhero teams and adventures. He's been looking for a way to redeem himself now that he remembers everything about his past and the horrible things that he's done. Here at the Jean Grey School, Wolverine has his best chance of getting that redemption. And if he shows up Cyclops along the way, so much the better.
Professor X appears briefly (looking more like Mr. Clean than ever before) as he gives Logan his blessing and remarks how much he loves the new school. It's a good passing the torch moment and a reasonable explanation as to why Xavier turns down Logan's offer to teach there. Aaron also revives the Logan and Kitty Pryde connection as they deal with each other as peers instead of mentor and protege. It feels right given their history and the fact that Kitty has aged in the comics despite some efforts to keep her a teenager forever.
The rest of the cast is only lightly touched upon, but Beast gets a few choice moments and Toad is a hilarious choice for the school's janitor. Of course, that also means that no one will take Toad seriously again, but then who ever took him seriously? I also loved the idea that the Danger Room can be activated anywhere within the school now. That felt like a very Grant Morrison moment. For the most part, Aaron seems to have a really firm take on what he wants to do with Wolverine's X-Men and it looks promising.
Which isn't to say that Aaron's script is perfect. Almost the entire issue is taken up by a tour from two inspectors from the New York State Department of Education, both of whom are only there to ensure that the school isn't a threat to the non-mutant population. In all honesty, that entire angle is pure bull-sh**ery and it exists simply as an excuse for Wolverine and Kitty to take someone around the campus and explain how the school works. Obviously the inspectors aren't going to shut down the school or this series would be over pretty fast. The twelve year old Black King of the Hellfire Club, Kade Kilgore is also starting to get on my nerves, especially since his scene here exists largely as an exposition dump. The ending of the book is also a pretty big WTF?! moment.
The back matter of the book is pretty entertaining, especially the pamphlet for the Jean Grey School; which reveals that Rogue is teaching Diction and Linguistics, Gambit is handling Sex Education and Professor Lockheed has a course called "Know Your Alien Races and How To Kill Them." I think I want to audit that class…
This issue may not be perfect, but it is a solid start for Aaron's run with the X-Men.
Crave Online Rating: 8/10