Jason Aaron Is Awesome

GhostRiderOmnibusJasonAaron Jason Aaron’s one of those comic writers whose career has interestingly intersected with my career as a writer about comics. When I first started at Wizard one of my buddies and an editor at the magazine was huge on his Vertigo series The Other Side. I didn’t read that one, but I did check out the Ripclaw one-shot he did as part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season not too long after that and the first few books in his Scalped series.

The first of his works that really captivated me, though was Ghost Rider. But it wasn’t until my second attempt at reading it. As I’ve written, I love the down-and-dirty, grindhouse-y tone of that book and the wild places he took it. I assumed for a while that that was pretty much his wheelhouse, but as I’ve learned recently from branching out into X-Men: Schism, Wolverine & The X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Thanos Rising, Incredible Hulk, Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine and Thor: God Of Thunder, this guy has more tricks up his sleeve than all the magicians in Vegas. Continue reading Jason Aaron Is Awesome

X-Men Trade Post: Schism, Uncanny & Wolverine And The X-Men

x-men schism X-Men: Schism (Marvel)
Written by Jason Aaron with Kieron Gillen, drawn by Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis, Adam Kubert & Billy Tan
Collects X-Men: Schism #1-5, X-Men: Regenesis #1

I’ve gone about reading recent X-Men comics a bit backwards. I actually started off with the first volume of Bendis’ All-New X-Men, but was confused about what was going on. Then I read the first Wolverine & The X-Men by Jason Aaron and Avengers Vs. X-Men but realized I needed to go back even a bit farther. I finally figured out that all roads lead back to Schism, so I got that as well as the first Kieron Gillen volume of Uncanny X-Men.

I actually read the X-Men pretty consistently during the run up to Messiah Complex, but that’s about my experience with these characters in this medium. After MC, the X-Men scored their own island, called it Utopia and seemed to be doing alright. Then Schism went down, shook things up and a bold new direction was kicked off in its wake.

In Schism, Quentin Quire, a teen anarchist mutant from Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, kicked off some trouble for the X-Men, but the real brains behind the operation are a bunch of evil, super smart kids who take over the Hellfire Club in an effort to make money and stir things up for mutants. In the process Cyclops and Wolverine come to blows over whether the kids on Utopia should be thrust into battle or be allowed to bail. At the end of the ordeal — which involves a lot of Sentinels sold and designed by the Hellfire Club kids — Wolverine decides to restart the school while Cyclops continues to train the children to defend themselves and mutant kind.

As an event, I thought Schism was well put together and presented. Sometimes these events with a clear endpoint (split the X-teams) feel really telegraphed and weak from a storytelling perspective. In this case, though, by making this an issue with valid points on both sides, Aaron and company do what Civil War couldn’t in my mind: make me understand both sides.

I also enjoyed the Who’s Who of X-artists doing their thing on this series. I’m not always a fan of the idea of splitting up a series like this with different artists, especially ones like this that are very distinct, but in this case, I liked it BECAUSE these artists all have such distinct styles. They all came to play and the results are great superhero action.

wolverine & the x-men volume 1Wolverine & the X-Men, Vol. 1 (Marvel)
Written by Jason Aaron, drawn by Chris Bachalo with Duncan Rouleau, Matteo Scalera & Nick Bradshaw
Collects Wolverine & The X-Men #1-4

As I mentioned, I was a bit mixed up and actually read Wolverine & The X-Men after AVX which is not the best order. After his disagreement with Cyclops, Wolverine has gone off to form his own school called The Jean Grey School For Gifted Youngsters. Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Beast and a few other X-folks including a good deal of the younger mutants all came along for the ride as well.

The first volume features an attack by the new Hellfire Club (a bunch of punk kids) and the introduction of a few new members like the new Krakoa, a nerdy Brood and a boy that sure looks an awful lot like Apocalypse (he’s from Uncanny X-Force which Wolverine also starred in at that time). I also really enjoyed the art by Chris Bachalo (who drew much of the Supernovas story that I’m also a big fan of) and Nick Bradshaw who blew me away with his part in Escape From The Negative Zone (dude’s like a cartoonier Art Adams). My only complaint is that the printing on this particular book didn’t seem to do Bachalo’s artwork justice.

I’m glad that Aaron wrapped up the younger Hellfire Club story, at least partially, because I kind of hate the idea of killer kids in general. I appreciate the idea of balancing the physical superiority of heroes against the smaller-of-stature children, but I always have a hard time buying into the idea that children are these awful, murderous creatures. It’s a personal hang-up of mine that doesn’t reflect on the story at all. Anyway, I’ll definitely be back for more of this book because it had a really fun tone, set up a lot of interesting relationships and makes me want to find out what happens to them next.

Uncanny X-Men By Kieron Gillen Vol 1Uncanny X-Men By Kieron Gillen Volume 1 (Marvel)
Written by Kieron Gillen, drawn by Carlos Pacheco, Rodney Buscemi, Brandon Peterson, et al
Collects Uncanny X-Men #1-4

With mutant life hanging in the balance, Cyclops develops a simple plan: make the humans so petrified of his squad that they won’t be jerks to less flashy mutants. This so-called Extinction Team consists of Cyke, Emma Frost, Magneto, Magik, Colossus, Storm, Danger and Hope. In this first outing they go up against Mr. Sinister who has siphoned the power of the Dream Celestial and built a city of his own clones.

The first three issues are pretty tight and do a solid job of both explaining and showing what Cyclops’ mission is. I’ve always had a hard time understanding how the people in the Marvel U can be so bigoted against mutants when they live in a world filled with other people with strange powers, abilities and afflictions, so it was interesting to see Cyke go on the offensive against those people. All in all though, I’m not sure how long I’ll be on board this book. I loved WATX because it was fun and a bit light, but this one, like Cyclops himself, might just be too serious for me at this point. Still, I’ve got the next few volumes of both requested from the library and will let you know how those reading experiences go!

Just Finished Wolverine And The X-Men (2009)

I actually feel bad writing about Wolverine And The X-Men before talking about the second and third seasons of Beast Wars, but seeing as how the Marvel toon is fresher in my mind, I’m going to roll with it. I have a long history with animated versions of the X-Men. I remember seeing Pryde Of The X-Men when I was a kid on VHS at a friend’s house, I was a huge fan of the arcade game (technically animated, I guess) and was all over the 90s cartoon when it was on. That also lead to me buying a ton of the 5-inch Toy Biz X-Men and X-Force action figures. I have a two-stack printing paper box packed to the gills with them back home. I think the X-Men work best in this kind of “let’s pull from the comics, but not be glued to continuity” way. I’ve said this before, but most long-running mainstream comic books tend to be huge sandboxes littered with toys that other kids have created their own adventures with. You can go in and pick out the toys you like, maybe borrow a few of the elements that the other kids created, but then go off on your own.

What I liked most about WATX is that the whole 26 episode season felt like a great example of long-form storytelling. Plus, even though it borrowed some of the larger story elements from the comics–even ones that were already done in the 90s cartoon–the overall story felt fresh. Speaking of the story, in the very beginning of the series, Professor X got zapped and is unconscious. This lead to the break-up of the team, but Wolverine needs to put them back together. He also happens to be communicating with Professor X who has woken up in a very “Days Of Future Past”-esque future (but one populated with latter day mutants like Hellion and Marrow). This storytelling device really broadens the story because you’ve got Wolverine not only trying to put the team back together but also trying to prevent whatever leads to the devastation in the future. At the same time, though less frequently shown, the Professor fights in the future to figure out what happened so he can tell Wolverine.

But, don’t be scared away by the show’s long-form storytelling. Most of the episodes work very well on their own and even hint at other future stories they might have gotten to had there been a second season. I actually wish that this was my very first exposure to the X-Men because it would be pretty amazing. Sure, a few things were changed or simplified, but overall I think it’s a great dose of X without getting too complicated. On the other hand, there are so many cameos from comic-based characters that even I had trouble keeping up. To be fair, though, I’m not exactly an expert by any means, but having read a few X-books in my time, watched the movies, seen the cartoons, collected the trading cards and just been around comics for almost two decades, you absorb a lot.

So, yes, I absolutely recommend watching Wolverine And The X-Men. It’s on Netflix Instant, so it’s easy to track down. The only downside? It’s only one season! The story completes pretty well, but then they do an Age of Apocalypse tease at the very, very end that made me really sad that I’d never see those episodes. That’s one of my all-time favorite alternate reality stories ever!