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Best of 2012: Wolverine and the X-Men: Seeing the Cool Tree in the Middle of the Crossover Forest

I think we likely place too much emphasis on our “top ten” comic books of the year, as obviously with the thousands of comics out there in any given year, there is a much bigger difference between the cream of the crop and the bad books than there are between the best books. So rather than giving honorable mentions in my Top Ten Comics of 2012, I will spotlight a few of my favorites through New Year’s Day. – BC

Ah…the double-edged sword that is the comic book crossover. If you’re a comic book title, you WANT to tie in with crossovers because they raise your sales a lot. But at the same time, they also interrupt your stories, even here, where Jason Aaron, writer of Wolverine and the X-Men, actually was PART of the writing staff for Avengers vs. X-Men. Still, of the nineteen issues of Wolverine and the X-Men that came out in 2012 (by the way, NINETEEN issues? Dayum) NINE of them were crossover issues with Avengers vs. X-Men. That’s a hard row to hoe, but Jason Aaron I think for the most part was able to keep his little corner of the X-Universe working as an autonomous entity. And wow, the Jean Grey School for Mutants is quite an autonomous entity!!

The first Wolverine and the X-Men story arc took place in 2011, so 2012 picked up with #4. The first arc was very good, but it was very much a set-up arc, so the story beginning in #4 was the first story arc featuring the book in its natural state. And the natural state was one of sheer inspired chaos!

Whether it being Beast taking the class on a trip into Toad’s insides to examine the human body…

Or if it was Kitty Pryde becoming “pregnant” with a miniature Brood invasion…

The book is filled with fun and outlandish ideas. Chris Bachalo was nominally the main artist on the series, but as it turns out, Nick Bradshaw (the artist above) really became the main guy. Of the 19 issues that came out in 2012, Bradshaw penciled nine of them (Bachalo penciled five, Jorge Molina penciled three, and Steve Sanders and Mike Allred did one each). Bradshaw’s style fit the over-the-top stories Aaron gave the series quite well. This is really one of the most fun X-Men titles of all-time.

Like the story of Wolverine taking the telepathic Kid Omega to a gambling planet to try to raise some money for the school.

However, one of the things that most impresses me about Aaron’s work on the series is the way that he was able to juggle so many characters while giving them all a little bit of characterization, even in the midst of a crossover. For instance, Warbird is introduced as just the bodyguard for one of the students, Kid Gladiator (Gladiator’s son), but in #13, right smack in the middle of Avengers versus X-Men, Aaron manages to give us a spotlight on Warbird that shows her unique past as a Shi’ar warrior…

That’s some powerful stuff.

Aaron even managed to use the Phoenix Five aspect of Avengers versus X-Men to good effect. In one issue, he has Phoenix Cyclops wipe out all the Sentinels in the world in a spotlight on the main bad guys of the series, the young leaders of the new Hellfire Club. I was not a huge fan of these kids when the series began, but Aaron has been doing a great job developing them as characters, especially the descendant of Dr. Frankenstein, who is part of the current story arc involving Frankenstein’s Monster and the X-Men being caught up in a circus again (remember the classic Mesmero circus from John Byrne’s early issue of Uncanny X-Men? Think that). In the other, Aaron gets to explore the dynamics of Colossus and Kitty Pryde’s relationship.

Kitty Pryde is a fascinating character. She is so ultra-competent but Aaron also manages to capture the fact that, in many ways, she is still so young and so way over her head. Only she can’t deal with it because she has to be the Rock of Gibraltar for the school. It is an interesting type of stress and it comes as no surprise that she would be drawn to the lighthearted Iceman as a balance to the daily stress she goes through as the school’s headmistress (she technically is the co-head with Wolverine but there’s a recurring joke about how Wolverine is rarely actually at the school, so he is not exactly doing much headmastering).

I would be remiss if I did not point out one of the great single Marvel issues of 2012, the Doop spotlight! Doop has seemingly just been a background character in the series, but in #17, Doop co-creator Mike Allred returned to the character for a spotlight issue where we learn that Wolverine has enlisted Doop as a sort of roving troubleshooter, addressing threats to the school before they arise, like legislators…

or extra-dimensional invasions…

Soooo awesome. The issue also has Nazi bowlers!!!

All in all, Aaron has created his own little corner of the Marvel Universe where he can get away with all sorts of bizarre stories that are just a joy to read. He is losing Chris Bachalo to the new Uncanny X-Men series, so there is some worry over who will step into Bachalo’s shoes in 2013, but for 2012, when 15 of your 19 issues are drawn by Nick Bradshaw, Chris Bachalo and Mike Allred, you’re totally set (and this is not even to knock Jorge Molina or Steve Sanders’ contributions, as they did a good job themselves).

13 Comments

That stupid crossover has sucked some of the momentum out of this book, but nonetheless it’s gotta be one of the fun, best-looking Marvel books on the stand today. Aaron is talented enough to juggle a big cast, with a deft touch that he can handle all kinds of stories, from vicious Sabretooth attacks on a space station to well…Doop tag-team wrestling with Wolverine in Mexico. It’s just a delightful, unpredictable read, month-in and month-out.

I think the future is bright for this title. No big crossovers next year for them to do, Jason Aaron aint going anywhere, the artists of Bradshaw and Ramon Perez(on the five-part Savage Land story coming up) are wonderful, and this cover promises some good times ahead:

http://images.wikia.com/marveldatabase/images/8/8f/Wolverine_and_the_X-Men_Vol_1_25_Variant.jpg

Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of Mystique and the School for Evil Mutants and possible adventures in the Siege Perilous sounds like it was written just for me. And if Aaron can pull off a good story starring Azazel, I’ll knight him New God of All Comics myself.

I’m gonna miss Bachalo on this book, but I’m all invested in the characters now! I’ll keep reading it more-or-less forever.

As well as being Marvel’s best title this year, Wolverine and the X-Men managed to take the crossovers and do something great with them, even though the eponymous character was being dragged all over the Marvel universe to be an Avenger and chase after Hope and beat up Cyclops. Every single WATXM crossover issue could be read on its own as a great story and didn’t suffer from the same problems as the other X-titles (other than X-Factor) which were often just retellings of what was happening in the main crossover.

(Brian, there’s a Gump in the title’s forest.)

@Drancron Maybe second-best. I love WatXM but there’s no way it even comes close to being as good as Hawkguy.

Definitely one of Marvel’s best titles of the year. It was one of only two titles (Avengers Academy was the other) that managed to use the seemingly interminable and certainly tiresome A vs X crossover to good effect while other books faltered, put their character development and plots on hold, or trudged through stories that contradicted what appeared elsewhere.

Wolverine and the X-Men has a heart and a spirit of fun that it managed to keep it through all its storylines, and it manages to balance comedy and drama excellently – no easy task. I’m very happy that it didn’t get rebooted or changed.

I have real problems with the concept of Gambit teaching responsible sex ed. Kind of like Emma Frost teaching ethics.

Also, I do NOT want to know what Doop and Warbird get up to.

They cannot bring back Kid Gladiator fast enough for me.

loving the series. espically when kitty learned the brood was up to their old tricks. not to mention found the ways doop would go to to help the school was priceless . though the bit with war bird and him and her idea of certain type of toys is a little crazy besides her and doop an item.

The book looks like fun, although Wolverine is an odd choice to lead such a book concept.

The doop jokes are quite a bit on the dirty side, however.

And I wonder if there is a plot explanation for the ridiculous cheesecakey chestpiece of Warbird’s costume.

Have to say, while I enjoyed this for a while, I actually got a little bored with it and ended up dropping the title. Bachalo’s art was terrific, a good fit for the casual insanity Aaron was going with, but I didn’t care for Bradshaw’s work nearly as much.

There are other problems too: with such a large cast, there wasn’t as much character work as I would have liked, and the disruptions of the monumentally stupid A vs X crossover made it much worse. And while I found myself enjoying the no-limits storytelling while Bachalo was drawing the insanity, the uber-power levels and so forth have also managed to take some of the suspense out of it for me. It’s sort of like Silver-Age Superman stories: a nice diversion, but you get a little bored with it after a while.

At $3.99 and 18-odd issues, I found it not in the budget. Wolverine & X-Men or 2 titles I enjoy more?

I really wanted to like this, but the forced premise, the changing artists, and the interruptions of A vs. X, the high price, and the relative lack of fulfilling storytelling…I;ve come to the conclusion that’s it’s occasionally interesting but sadly overrated and not all that great.

I actually found Wolverine and the X-Men to be the most disappointing book of the year. I was expecting great things from Jason Aaron, but the overwhelming focus on comedy and wacky B-movie ideas turned me off. When nearly everything’s over-the-top crazy, nothing is, and the result gets tedious.

If there were more issues like the one explaining Warbird’s backstory, and fewer issues dealing with stuff like the insufferably overpromoted Hellfire Kids, I’d love this comic.

I have wanted to check this out, but haven’t had a chance yet. While the whole dickhead-Cyclops/responsible-Wolverine switcheroo was scary to me when I first heard about it, it has actually been one of the main factors of my returning interest in Marvel.

Also, two of my favorite artists in comics (Chris Bachalo and Frank Cho) have been regular X-title artists on-and-off over the last couple of years, and I haven’t been a regular reader. This shames me.

Looks like I’m going to need to start picking up trades.

This has been one of the few titles of recent memory that feels like an X-Men comic book. So I agree with it’s mention. I also concur that the only weak spot to me has been the emphasis of the new Hellfire Club. Because no matter now nasty he makes the little brats, the idea of them as a threat just isn’t convincing. I keep expecting the story to end with Wolverine taking them over his knee. They’re lucky they’re fighting the X-Men (with new headmaster Wolverine), and not in a Punisher comic. Because the story might last one panel.

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