Wolverine & The X-Men by Jason Aaron Volume 4

Marvel Comics, $19.99, color, 112 pages

Reprinting Wolverine & The X-Men #14-18

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artists: Jorge Molina, Chris Bachalo, Michael Allred

For those who have ever complained that the X-books were too static, this title is for you.

I actually read the first four Wolverine & The X-Men books at a sitting before this review, so I'm really reviewing the series as a whole through issue #18. And my reaction is that the old X-fanboy in me doesn't like everything Aaron is doing here, but he definitely is trying a bunch of new things, and overall I'm entertained. And what more could you ask?

Well, a little more bang for the buck, for one thing. The first two volumes only collected four issues each at $20 bucks a pop! That's not inflation, that's highway robbery.

But that's not the fault of the creators, who do a splendid job here, for the most part. Aaron, for example, gives us a number of new students, some of which are cool, and some of which are dreadful. That's the way it always goes when a host of new characters are introduced all at once, so that's to be expected. And the cool ones outweigh the dumb ones. And some are stars -- like Broo, the intelligent mutant Brood, whose needy earnestness one can't help but like.

I can't say I like the idea of Wolverine running a school, because it's such an obvious stretch. If Wolverine wasn't the most popular X-Man, he wouldn't be here, and someone -- probably Cyclops -- would be instead. But Wolverine is more popular, so Marvel has wrecked 40 years of characterization to make the less-popular Scott Summers a bad guy to get him out of the way for Wolvie's ascension. To headmaster, of all things.

There's no sense me hashing out how much I hate what they've done to Cyclops. Regular readers of my ramblings can well guess what I think of Marvel turning my favorite X-Man of 45 years into, essentially, Magneto. I've no choice but to swallow that, so I have.

Doesn't mean I'm going to transfer that affection to Wolverine, though, and I haven't. I like the character well enough, but he'll never be my favorite X-Man. Sorry, Wolvie fans.

At least Aaron had the sense to make Headmaster Logan look as bad a fit as it is. But Wolvie is giving it the old college try, and in the process other X-people are finding themselves in unfamiliar roles and trying new things. Which, as much as that rankles the traditionalist in me, I sometimes find quite refreshing.

Tired of Kitty Pryde's perennial role as wide-eyed naif? Good, because she grows up here and is a real adult. Tired of Iceman being an idiot? Good, because he also has to grow up, and is beginning to realize some of his "alpha mutant" power. Never liked The Toad? Me neither, until now -- he's the janitor at the X-school, and comedy relief. (His conversion to good-guy status is one of the many unexplained things here, but I just ride with it.) Do you like The Beast? Good, because he doesn't change much at all, and gets a lot of "screen" time.

There's stuff I don't quite care for. I'm not sure what they're doing with Angel, but it's as boring as it is baffling. I have never liked Doop, and he gets star treatment in one issue here. I intensely dislike the new Hellfire Club, and they are the chief antagonists. I'm not quite sure how I feel about a budding romance between two of the "professors."

And I might as well mention that the fourth volume is the least interesting so far, because it's full of tangential Avengers vs. X-Men stuff, a story primarily told elsewhere, so this feels like echoes or smoke from a distant fire.

I confess that any issue drawn by Chris Bachalo makes me grin ear to ear. I don't know what it is about his work, but I always find myself lingering over it, smiling like a schoolboy. I'm not quite as thrilled by Jorge Molina, and when he's on the art I find the cracks in the series' premise more readily apparent because I'm not distracted by Bachaliciousness.

But for the most part, I'm having a lot of fun with Wolverine & The X-Men. (or, as the indicia reads in the collections, Wolverine & The X-Men by Jason Aaron. What's up with that?) From what I read on this board, I'm far from alone.

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An interesting review, and I was going to try it, until I got to the point where they're charging $20 for a reprinting of four issues each. OUCH!   I guess maybe I'll wait until these unwanted trades fall by the wayside on ebay, and then maybe I'll try them. I know I gave the series a chance, but I don't recall if I lasted the first four issues.

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