Thursday, 3 November 2011

New Beginnings - Wolverine & The X-Men #1/Uncanny X-Men #1

There has been a great divide throughout the world of X-Men. Lines have been drawn and hearts have been followed. Led by two very strong characters - Cyclops and Wolverine - two distinct teams have formed around, each around a different ethos. (For more info see Schism or the recent Regenesis one-shot)

Over the past fortnight, Marvel have released two of the re-launched titles - going head to head with Wolverine’s School and Cyclops’ vision. Initially after reading Regenesis I felt I was firmly on the side of Wolverine, but has this held after reading them both?

Wolverine & The X-Men has been written by Jason Aaron which was released last week. The story revolves around a very tense and nervous Wolverine who is under quite an assault which is completely out of his comfort zone. For once it’s not an alien force or the horsemen of Apocalypse but it is in fact the new school inspectors. This is the first day and normally it should have been the children who are apprehensive but instead it’s Logan. The issue is also an opener and reaffirms the main characters who are going to be found and also how the new school is structured. There are many familiar faces in unfamiliar roles but also someone who is incredibly comfortable, Beast.

What was nice about the writing was that it was a simple and straight forward piece to read. It was aimed well at an open market for everyone to read. That said there isn’t really a huge amount of depth in the issue either. As an issue one it didn’t really hit me with anything and could have well been a one-shot or even a point one issue.

The artwork is a strange affair. Chris Bachalo has a fantastic way with backgrounds and expansive imagery. There is a particular spread about five pages in which shows the school off in all of its external variety. It’s full of detail and imagination but then conversely it changes when you have a person in frame. The lines become heavy and bodyparts are distorted somewhat, even worse is that over distance lots of detail is lost in the individuals (sounds like Ramos. BF). You do get the general feeling of it all but when I wasn’t impressed by the story, the art didn’t push any boundaries either for me.

Uncanny X-Men takes a different tack altogether. Whereas Aaron wrote to Wolverine’s weaknesses Keiron Gillen has written to Cyclops’ strength. My small knowledge of X-Men has always had Scott as decisive and focused but most of all a tactician and master strategist. His grasps of the bigger picture leads to how he is structuring his entire team for the best possible outcome. It’s a very well planned out premise for the comic which then leaps straight into action.

Now I knew that Mister Sinister would come into the story at some point as he appears on the very first page in the intro. I’ve only recently seen him in the Age of Apocalypse so what appeared to be a revival of a character made me smile and even more importantly is that he sets about doing what he does best. Creates havoc and instigates Scott’s Extinction Team to jump to action.

This is another example of the depth of thought that has gone into the team. It has a bit scary name but there is a reason behind it as well. Scott has realised the position of the team in the scheme of things and understands that as much as the team has to protect humankind it also has to be feared by them. If ever there was an offspring of Xavier and Magneto’s thinking, here it is.

The writing that wraps it all up is incredibly considered and structured very well. You also get the feeling that this then flows into the story itself as well. Gillen has done a good job and also not been shy about getting stuck into the action as well. He’s portioned time out for establishment but then strode headlong into an new opening arc which will span a few issues at least.

The artwork by Carlos Pacheco was also a good choice. A cloudy and indistinct style would have simply watered down the work that Gillen had done. It’s fine and detailed and also has some new takes and slight changes to characters as well. It kept my eye for the whole comic, even down to the peculiar “wonderland” at the end where you can’t help looking to see what else there is.

Considering that before this review I was firmly in the Wolverine camp I have to say I am very pleasantly surprised. Wolverine and the X-Men feels like a good intro title and is an easy read so will be good for new readers. Uncanny X-Men is a little more hard hitting and is more adult in a way. Scott, combined with his control and clarity and also his team (I’m liking the expansion of Collossus’ conflict with the Juggernaut persona from Fear Itself for example) have actually made me cross the line.

Matt Puddy is gearing up for a Marvel's Point One - essential reading out next week!

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