Sep 192012

When I first heard about Wolverine and the X-Men (The comic, not the animated series from a few years ago), I didn’t think much of it. I was never much of a Wolverine fan, so the idea of him being the one to run a school for mutants wasn’t too promising. What was he gonna do, teach them all how to gut criminals and in indulge in some pity party after the fact? The comic version of Wolverine I was familiar with represented everything that made me run away from these comics back in the day, so when I dove back into comics recently this was on the bottom of my list of potential reads.

Then I actually read some comics. Turns out Wolverine’s become a good deal more tolerable in recent years. His rivalry with Cyclops had been reversed, with Wolverine being the more reasonable and down to Earth of the two. Apparently he regained all of his past memories, so that existential identity crisis was no longer there. He’s become a full-fledged member of The Avengers, something that would have seemed unthinkable when I first started reading comics. Yeah, it was a decision clearly made by the marketing department– get all of the big names on one team regardless of reason– but that team’s attitudes seem to have rubbed off on him.

Wolverine’s mellowed, and dare I say I actually like the dude now. While writers always tried to imagine him into some grizzled modern-day samurai– world-weary and burdened by the blood on his hands– by toning down his edge they’ve finally succeeded at that.

So with that in mind I finally got around to reading Wolverine and the X-Men, and it’s probably my second-favorite X-Men comic right now– X-Factor being my favorite.

So yeah, Wolverine breaks with the isolationist mutants who set up shop on an island called Utopia, which happens to be off the coast of San Francisco or something like that. He isn’t too keen on Cyclops’ stance on human/mutant relations. I’m not up on all the details of that storyline, but that’s the gist of it. Wolverine returns to the site of the previously destroyed Xavier school and sets up shop again, rechristening it as the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Some other X-Men come along and help run the place. A bunch of young mutants enroll.

It’s pretty much your standard anime high school dramedy set-up. For reals.

The comic does a pretty decent job of dividing its time between the older faculty and the students. In addition to Wolverine, Beast, Iceman, and Kitty Pride get the most screentime. That’s pretty awesome in and of itself, since those three are some of the most sensible, baggage-less, and humorous characters from the X-Men roster. A few other X-Men are on the staff, like Gambit and Rogue, but you don’t see much of them in this particular comic.

But it’s the kids who make this comic really stand out. They’ve assembled an awesomely quirky cast. Call it Azumutant Daioh.

  • Oya: African girl with temperature controls. The closest thing they group has to a “straight man,” and she’s a deeply religious sort with fatalistic views of her mutant powers. She’s awfully adorable when she’s calling herself a monster whose damned due to her genetics.
  • Kid Gladiator: Son of oldschool alien X-Men ally Gladiator. Half of the words that come out of his mouth are synonyms for “punch.” Kitty Pride is infected with microscopic Brood? Shrink down, go inside of her, and punch them to death one by one!
  • Genesis: Clone of X-Men villain Apocalypse. Wants to be a real boy. Will probably destroy the world in the future. Basically Shinji.
  • Broo: A mutated member of the Brood race. The Brood are essentially Xenomorphs from Alien, and Broo’s mutation is that he’s devoid of the urge to kill inherent to his species. Really nice and naive and fully capable of eating your face.

My favorite one out of the core group is Kid Omega. Apparently he’s been around for a while, and he’s always been something of a villain. He’s done legitimately nasty things, killing people and inciting terrorism. Despite all that, Wolverine thinks he can rehabilitate him. The way Wolvie sees it, if the kid’s locked up in prison someplace, he’s gonna turn into an even worse villain. Kid Omega has telepathic powers, and he’s shown potential to rival the likes of Professor X. The last thing the world needs is for the next Magneto to have that level of command over the human mind, so Wolverine wants to set Kid Omega straight while he can.

What I like about Kid Omega is how they show his rage to be wholly unjustified. He’s that rebellious kid you knew at school who came from a good family and had no damn good reason to be the prick he was. Yeah, maybe he didn’t get the sort of attention at home that he wanted, but whatever low levels of perceived neglect he received didn’t equal his levels in Asshole. So that kid takes comfort in fringe religious or political beliefs, going around acting like he’s “seen the light” and is gonna prove to the world that he’s a bright, shining, unique star and that he’s the only one who can provide said light. Despite all those delusions of grandeur, he’s just another clueless kid taking tough, except he has the mental mutant powers to occasionally back up on that talk.

To put it another way, if you’ve ever seen that British comedy The Young Ones, he’s basically Rik if he was a badass telepath.

I like the kid. He’s a prick, but he’s my kind of prick. I can relate to that sort of impotent teenager raging at the world– convinced you know better because you’ve read some obscure philosophy you’re convinced no one else is hip to when you’re really just the latest brat to stumble across that book at Barnes & Noble.

And i’m digging the way he and Wolverine interact. Kid Omega’s still convinced he knows how things work, but he’s also becoming more and more willing to help out. My favorite bit from the comic thus far deals with how Wolverine commandeered Kid Omega to come along with him to a casino planet–

Casino Planet.

Yeah, let’s stop right here for a moment.

The other thing I really like about this comic is how it embraces the inherent absurdity of the X-Men canon. X-Men isn’t just about real-world civil rights parallels. It’s also about crazy space opera adventures and hidden jungles in the Antarctic and all sorts of other pulpy elements. It’s the sort of stuff people like to laugh off– they ignore it in favor of the oh-so-serious “mutants are hunted down for being different, just like real minorities” angle. Not that such parallels are bad or anything, but it isn’t the only thing that’s endearing about the franchise. I love this whacked out stuff where you can just hop in your space ship and take off to a planet completely covered in casinos and other businesses of ill repute. A planet where you can bet on which planet will be next on the Phoenix Force’s path of destruction is just as inherent to the X-Men mythos as anything.

So yeah, Wolverine and Kid Omega go to said planet because the school is running out of money. Wolverine needs cash fast and he’s run out of Earthly options, so he decides to scam this casino planet with the aid of a telepathic kid with less than scrupulous morals.

They almost get away with it, but as expected the guys running the place catch on. The ensuing fight has two neat twists. You know how Psylocke and other telepaths have been able to manifest psychic weapons? It’s always been knives or swords or whatever. Kid Omega realizes those guys have been limiting themselves, so he reveals he’s developed how to make a Psychic Shotgun. It’s a shotgun that shoots mental blasts– pretty straight forward, but pretty ingenious when you consider how much your usual telepath limits themselves in such ways. The other neat twist is that Wolverine gets his ass kicked. It isn’t because he meets someone who’s more of a badass than he is, it’s because these space mobsters fight dirty and use some freaky matter ray that distorts any sort of metal– even adamantium. So Wolverine basically gets his knees capped by the Space Mob, and he spends an issue or two in a wheelchair, embarrassed he’d let anyone get away with messing him up that bad.

And it’s that sort of attitude that makes this comic work. It’s ridiculous, but it plays everything straight. It realizes the X-Men are an absurd concept, so it embraces that absurdity, runs with it, and takes it to logical conclusions few ever make while writing these comics. The only problem with the series is that it got wrapped up in the whole Avengers vs X-Men thing pretty quickly. It only had eight issues or so before that crossover started, and the last eight or so have taken place during said crossover. Hopefully it’ll get right back to being awesomely absurd when that damn thing is over.

Also: The new Hellfire Club consists of a bunch of little kids. One is essentially Light from Death Note, since he’s just as hilariously sociopathic. Another looks exactly like a young Vash the Stampede. Another looks like a young Bad Girl from No More Heroes. Yeah.

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