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Dec 1

Wolverine and the X-Men Annual #1

Posted on Sunday, December 1, 2013 by Paul in x-axis

It’s a podcast weekend!  But GarageBand has eaten it, so you’ll have to wait another week.

In the meantime, let’s have a look at the first and, it seems, only Wolverine and the X-Men annual.  This is the X-books’ token contribution to the “Infinity” crossover, which it has otherwise managed to sit out, through the clever expedient of doing a crossover of its own.  It seems we’re now back to the days when the X-books largely get special dispensation from participating in these books.

This is unquestionably an “Infinity” crossover, but that shouldn’t put anyone off.  In fact, unlike a lot of annuals, it really is a proper extra issue of the regular series, in which regular creators Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw pick up on the storyline of Kid Gladiator, who was returned to the Shi’ar somewhat against his will.  This issue is really about him failing to fit back in with the regimented Shi’ar military school, but finally getting to prove himself in battle, both to his peers and his father, and getting sent back to the Jean Grey School where he’ll be happy again.

It’s a straightforward enough story, but it shows what this book does well, when the stars align.  The series is often flagrantly ridiculous, and taken literally, the Imperial Guard school is no exception to that.  In fact, so is Aaron’s entirely ultra-military Shi’ar Empire.  But however crazily exaggerated it is, at its core there’s something recognisable in Kid Gladiator missing the school he always thought he hated, and finding himself more of an outcast in the new one.  W&TX works when it holds onto that core.  (And it doesn’t when, as with the Hellfire Kids, it parts company with human behaviour altogether.)

There’s also a neat touch in the idea that the School has an entire squadron of trainees waiting to take over for each current Imperial Guard member, so there are entire classes of Smashers and such like.  I think that actually comes from Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers, but it works nicely here, because Kid Gladiator and his father are the last of their race, so he’s in a class of one.  It’s established continuity, but it happens to play perfectly into his isolation.

Huge space battles and elaborate training bases also play firmly to the strengths of Nick Bradshaw’s art, which has a cleanly cartoony feel that fits the book’s tone.  He also makes Kid Gladiator look like more of a child when he’s dealing with his father, or the adult heroes – and he gets across Gladiator senior’s paternal instincts, which are not natural for that character.

Where does Infinity feature into any of this?  Quite simply, because the plot requires a major threat - any major threat – in which Kid Gladiator can prove himself.  The details are entirely irrelevant, which makes this one of those rare stories that actually benefits from being a crossover.  Since the reader knows the details of the invasion are being dealt with somewhere else, Aaron doesn’t have to take up time putting flesh on something which (for the purposes of this book) is just a plot device anyway.  He can borrow that from the wider crossover, and get on with the story he wants to tell.  This is how you get crossovers to work in service of the series, instead of being an imposition on them.

Bring on the comments

  1. Reboot says:

    > There’s also a neat touch in the idea that the School has an entire squadron of trainees waiting to take over for each current Imperial Guard member, so there are entire classes of Smashers and such like. I think that actually comes from Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers,…

    Oh, it predates that. They made a thing of having replacements at the ready during War of Kings, but I suspect it comes from earlier still.

  2. The original Matt says:

    I’m left to question why WatXM is being canned if Aaron is going to be writing Amazing. Surely the established book could have just adjusted tone after the current shield and sentinels arc. (I’m assuming this arcs conclusion will see schism be swept under the rug. Signs seems to be pointing to that)

    Of course, doing it this way mean marvel get to launch a new number 1, and while you can also say the get 6 months out of shipping 2 books, they could have just doubled up on WatXM.

  3. Joseph says:

    Where’d you hear they’re canning WatX?

    That’s a shame, the stable needs a book dealing mostly with the school and the kids.

    Anyway, I found the annual to be the best story of the whole event. We got gestures towards character moments throughout (Cannonball and Smasher, for instance) but never any real moments. Kind of disappointing with Hickman, he can play the long game but it just feels to mechanical. Avengers had some good character moments building up to Infinity (with Hyperion, Eden, Smasher) that lead me to believe he’d have something planned for all these new characters but ultimately Infinity was just a bunch of running around and fighting aimless space battles.

  4. Reboot says:

    One thing I forgot to mention in response – this week’s Wolverine & the X-Men “normal” issue has the bizarre setup of a main story set *after* the Annual, but a short backup set *before* it/as a lead-in to it. Some good planning there…

    Joseph > Where’d you hear they’re canning WatX? That’s a shame, the stable needs a book dealing mostly with the school and the kids.

    It was mentioned a while back, and confirmed in the last round of solicits. There are three theories going round as to what’s going on, not necessarily mutually exclusive:

    1) Marvel have pulled a stunt they haven’t really done since the Wolverine: Weapon X fiasco and relaunched the book as “Amazing X-Men” without mentioning that AmzXM was a replacement book, and delaying the actual end of W&XM as part of hiding the fact.
    2) They’re going to relaunch it, possibly as “Storm and the X-Men”, and the change is to reflect Wolverine being pulled out due to events in Paul Cornell’s series (this assumes anyone else will bother with that…)
    3) Brian Bendis is going to be doing a teen X-Men series, possibly called something like “the Utopians”, to replace W&XM.

  5. Suzene says:

    @The Original Matt: W&TX is already double shipping each month and still sells well below the other main X-titles despite it.

    @Reboot: The reason Jason Aaron gave for quitting the book was too heavy a workload. Between W&TX, Thor, Amazing, his creator-owned stuff coming out in 2014, and a couple of projects he says he can’t talk about, I can see something having to give, and it might as well be the semi-redundant title.

  6. Suzene says:

    @Reboot: Whoops, sorry. Just awake and misread what you were saying.

  7. Joseph says:

    Fair enough, Aaron’s got a lot of mileage out of WatX, I’d rather him keep working on Thor.

    And I wouldn’t mind seeing it put to rest, especially since Amazing is already out. I can imagine them relaunching it, we don’t need another book with Storm and the adult characters, the line is crowded enough. And I really have no interest in a Bendis teen book. Unless it replaces All-new….

  8. Dave says:

    “…at its core there’s something recognisable in Kid Gladiator missing the school he always thought he hated, and finding himself more of an outcast in the new one.”

    That’s pretty similar to Warbird’s discovery that she prefers being where she can express herself. And Quire realising he doesn’t really hate the school. And Broo being the outcast Brood…

    The Amzing/WatX situation seems like just an excuse for a renumbering to me, coming so soon after Wolverine’s latest relaunch which keeps the same writer and continues the same story (has Wolverine’s loss of healing factor been addressed in any other title yet?).

  9. Suzene says:

    …annnnnd they’re relaunching Wolverine & The X-Men with a new creative team. That was quick.

  10. The original Matt says:

    Saw that today, too. Guess they won’t end the schism.

  11. Suzene says:

    Yeeeeeah, considering that the writer lumped Cyclops in with the Dark Phoenix, Apocalypse, and the Weapon X program in one of the debut interviews, I’m guessing that’s around for a while.

  12. errant says:

    Cyclops has been both the Phoenix and Apocalypse and is living at a Weapon X base, so the shoe fits….

  13. Reboot says:

    Option 2 then, with the side note that no, no-one else DOES give a stuff about Cornell’s “Supervillain Wolverine”!

  14. The original Matt says:

    I wasn’t aware than any of the Wolverine solo titles were meant to be “important”. In fact, I’d still been considering Jason Aaron as the chief Wolverine writer.

    I’m adding Wolverine vol 5 to my late list*, guess. Is it any good?

    *late list: comics I buy digitally once the price drops.

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