So here we are. It’s been two weeks since Marvel has begun launching its new X-Men series after the awesome events of Schism. Each series focuses on a certain group within the confines of the two separate sides created after the great split. On one side is Wolverine and his newly founded Jean Gray School of Higher Learning and the other being Cyclops and his mutant island of Utopia. Like these two groups, the comics pertaining to both are familiar yet distinctly different.
Honestly, it’s hard to say which one I like better because the one thing I enjoy in one is something I either didn’t like or flat out hated in the other. So which one of these is the best? Well, let’s break it down.
Wolverine and the X-Men :
The Things I Liked: First, let me just say that Wolverine is not one of my favorite X-Men. He’s not even top five. I don’t hate him, but I find his character slightly overrated and, more importantly, oversaturated within the Marvel universe. He’s in practically everything and, overall, has played a one-note character when he wasn’t with his fellow mutants. So, going into this I expected much of the same thing: Wolverine getting angry, lashing out and someone having to reel him in. And, much to my surprise and extreme pleasure, this is not the case.
Don’t get me wrong, Wolverine’s attitude is is still there but seeing him trying his best to hide it and actually try and be a mentor to these children is not only funny to watch, but actually a change of pace for him. We rarely see him in this capacity unless dealing with another young, female protégé (ala Jubilee and Armor) and then to see him trying to suck up to some tightly wound Depart of Education Members butts extremely entertaining to see.
And it’s that aforementioned change in attitude, not only in Wolverine but in Kitty as well, that make this book so fun to read. The story is crafted in such a manner that it seamlessly introduces all the major players of the school, and their role, without confusing those who didn’t read both Schism and Regenesis. Jason Aaron’s has managed to craft a fluid and engaging story without getting lost in all the newness by simply doing something every school must go through: a run through of operations by the Board of Education (plus, I love all the Jean Gray references throughout the story). And, despite a sudden tsunami of exposition about the events of Schism (which was needed to fill newcomers in) there was no point in this story that I wished would hurry up and end. And, seeing how it ended and the events that were set up, I cannot wait to see what they have in store for Wolverine and the Jean Gray School of Higher Learning.
Oh, and of course there’s Kitty Pryde. Who doesn’t love Kitty?
The Things I Disliked: The artwork.
There, I said it. I absolutely could not stand the drawings in this book. Yes, some people may like the style and facial expressions done throughout, but I simply found it completely distracting. Now, maybe in a book where I didn’t know the characters so intimately, Chris Bacholo’s work would be welcome and different. But when I spend the entire book saying “Oh, that’s who that is”, there’s a problem. Even as a long time Kitty Pryde fan, I looked at her figure in the book and was simply shocked by how unlike her it looked. It took me till near the end of the conversation between Xavier and Wolverine to even realize that it was Xavier. Yes, I may be dense but it was just jarring to not be able to recognize characters that should be, you know, easily recognizable.
The only other thing of mild complaint, and it’s not even that bad, is the long exposition scene with Wolverine and the leader of the newly formed Hellfire Club. As stated before, it was a much needed exposition to fill in new readers on the events of Schism but in a story that has so seamlessly moved before, this event seemed to hit the brakes on it and cause it to lag slightly. But, there’s no one to blame here but simple mechanics of crafting a story. And Jason did a good job of shoving 7 issues worth of material into a cohesive and coherent block of space. You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going and there was simply no better way than how he did it here.
The Things I Liked: The artwork.
Yes, the opposite of the problem with Wolverine. Here, I truly loved the artwork within. I knew who all the characters were, I loved the colors, I loved the panoramic views of the city and the pretty cool fight panels. It was all good. Pacheco does a good job detailing all of our favorite X-Men and draws certain scenes as if he’s setting up shots for a movie (and as a movie geek this is much appreciated).
And it’s being able to recognize all of these characters that truly makes me eager to be reading a book containing one of my favorite X-Men, Cyclops. In the past, Cyclops has been a character who was heavily overshadowed by his bad boy counterpart Wolverine but with the introduction of Joss Whedon during the run of Astonishing X-Men, Cyclops got his badassery back and hasn’t looked back. And it’s Cyclops, for me, that makes this series interesting.
He is the longest serving X-Men in the ranks and has been leader for almost all of that time. Sometimes his decisions have been questionable while at other times they have been the greatest ever made. And it’s this dichotomy that makes him so interesting. Wolverine fights with his inner nature while having to be the opposite for the betterment of his school. Cyclops has to sacrifice basic human emotions sometimes to be the hard general and leader that the X-Men so desperately need so much of time.
Luckily for him (and most definitely us) he has Emma Frost to keep him from going too far, which is ironic for a former villain. As girlfriend and confidant of our leader, Emma herself plays multiple roles that are always fun to make, especially when she’s petting her own ego. Here’s an example:
Emma: (to Cyclops) It’s worth nothing that I, of course, am perfect in all things and haven’t a worry. You absolute weakling.
How can you go wrong?
The Things I Disliked: The story
I tried, people, I tried! I went into this expecting Cyclops’ story to blow Wolverine out of the water. It had Sinister, Emma, Cyclops (did I mention good artwok) and yet I felt the story fell flat. And a lot of it is how much weight this issue has in it.
This book has a hefty ten characters to introduce and that’s a lot to cram into a single book. And though it’s true that Wolverine hefted quite a number of people as well, where Aaron seems to be stretching things out and focusing on the characters slowly and delving into it step by step, Gillen decides to dive in head first and hope for the best and, sadly, it’s not.
The story has a lot of stuff going on and, even with multiple readings, it’s still hard to grasp everything. A lot of the characters don’t have moments to shine and maybe that’s the problem. A lot of them fade to the background, especially when the action starts. But I think that’s the lesser problem.
In the beginning we hear Cyclops’ reasons for doing the things he’s doing. Though they are logically sound from a wartime perspective, it’s hard to stay with the reasoning when you’re used to these people being superheroes and not soldiers. And though I understand where this story is going, I wish that the reasons given, by both Cyclops and Storm, were fleshed out a little more than simply being dialogue between two people with opposing views.
Overall, despite the problems, I hold out hope that this will get better after they get away from establishing who and what they are.
My Take on Things: I think both of these comics are great in their own right. I expect that, with time, the things I dislike will get better and I’ll be able to enjoy them as a whole. They’re both worth reading, if only to see how these two groups handle fighting for the same goal while going about it in totally different ways. And, as lame as it may sound, it’s the last pages that get me intrigued the most with the simple words “Things To Come”. And I only have two words to say: