One of my favorite things about Grant Morrison’s classic run on New X-Men was this: he turned an oversized team of superheroes with pretensions of being something more into the cultural force fans had always pretended they were. People have always talked about the X-Men as being synonymous with various minority groups in the past, but few ever made that connection as concrete as Morrison did, creating mutant musicians, fashion designers, literature and propaganda. When Bendis decimated the mutants in January of 2006, he also decimated what made the mutants unique. But over the last 5 years, a large group of gifted creators have been pushing the various X-teams in different directions, and we’ve finally come full-circle: Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men #1 seems absolutely steeped in the idea of ‘mutant culture’ – and it’s fantastic.
Welcome to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. You’re classes will range from Introduction to Mutant Literature (taught by former Generation X heroine Paige Guthrie, aka Husk) to Psychic Self-Defense with Rachel Summers. Your staff will include Doop, Beast, Toad and more. Your fellow students will be mutants, Shi’ar royalty, and super-intelligent aliens. And you will find yourself under attack.
Writer Jason Aaron sets up the new status quo quickly and efficiently. Now officially split from Scott Summers and his group of X-Men – the reason why isn’t really discussed, so if you haven’t read Schism (and I haven’t), the book doesn’t really care to update you too much – Wolverine has taken a small group of mutants and opened up the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, alongside Headmistress Kitty Pryde. The first issue, framed as a visit from the New York State Department of Education who are considering whether to license the new school, is a rock-solid introduction to the controlled chaos of the environment.
It’s the little touches that help make it worth your while, though. Scott Bachalo’s art is well-suited to the rampant madness on display here, as the school looks like a bizarre futuristic wonderland. His characters are distinctive, memorable takes on familiar designs. The chaos occasionally gets a bit too out-of-control (the panels involving Beast, and the page just after Kilgore’s visit in particular are problematic), taking the energy from propulsive to downright unintelligible, but Bachalo manages to keep control for the bulk of the book.
If Aaron has some solid ideas for the series and prevents it from becoming just another ‘hated and feared mutants save the world’ book, he could have something special on his hands. The opening issue is positively bursting with potential, a manic, energetic run through the lives of X-Men, former teen heroes all grown up. Outside of a clunky two-page sequence introducing Kade Kilgore, the new Black King of the Hellfire Club and the presumed nemesis of Aaron’s X-team, he’s managed to create an X-book that feels legitimately unique.
– Cal C.