Shutting the Gates on the Jean Grey School

Matt Mallinson

Matt is an aspiring journalist and self confessed nerd. In addition to comics, he has a great love of film, video games and TV, particularly Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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A Wolverine and the X-men retrospective

So far 2014 seems to be the year of me saying goodbye to things I love. In January Young Avengers ended, after I had absolutely fallen in love with every aspect of it. This month I’m going to have to say goodbye to How I Met Your Mother, one of my favourite sitcoms, and X-men: Days of Future Past (whilst I’m massively excited for it), may be the last time we see many of the characters in their current forms-after all, Ian Mckellan and Patrick Stewart can’t play them forever. And now in between all of that an absolutely amazing comic Wolverine and the X-men has ended its current run.

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Jason Aaron just got the X-men in ways that a writer hasn’t for years. He balanced the more adult teachers with the students, without focusing the book on one or the other. Some characters were brought back after years of sitting on the metaphorical shelf; Quentin Quire was the most successful of these returns, turning his dislike of everything to do with the X-men into a great running gag while also developing him into a surprising hero. He also knew how to make use of old villains, while bringing in a few new ones.

Not to mention how laugh out loud funny the comic was from start to finish. Whether it was the constant quips or background gags revolving around the Bamfs – basically mini Nightcrawlers who love to cause mischief – this series was rarely total seriousness, a welcome change from the dark, gritty comics which seem to be taking over lately. Issue 17 was the most hilarious comic of the bunch, centring on Doop and what exactly he did as a member of the faculty whilst also explaining how Wolverine went about recruiting the elusive mutant. Apparently this involved him heading out on top secret missions to defend the school from anti-mutant groups and other potential threats. He also seemingly had relationships going on with several of the female staff members, which for a floating green blob is pretty damn impressive. It was ridiculous, over-the-top and possibly the best issue of the series as a result.

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Early in its run the comic was swept up in the Avengers vs X-men event, which can often be the kiss of death for a series-see the most recent X-men series losing two of its best members after the Battle of the Atom storyline concluded. However, Wolverine and the X-men was able to make some interesting comics within these confines, showcasing a chat between rivals Logan and Cyclops that was much needed amongst all the fighting occurring in the main event comic. It also took some time to focus on Warbird, a teacher from the alien Shi’ar race who knew nothing other than her life as a soldier, revealing that she always wanted to be an artist growing up giving us a glimpse at a hidden sensitive side.

The series had several artists across its run, a necessity to keep up with its schedule – which was somehow able to pump out 42 issues in just over two years when most comics struggle to publish 12 a year! Nick Bradshaw and Chris Bachalo were two of the main contributors, giving the series a realistic-yet-stylised edge. Guest artists also appeared in abundance, such as Mike Allred (one of the character’s creators) stopping in to draw the aforementioned Doop issue.

Of course Wolverine and the X-men wasn’t always a perfect comic, for that you need to track down Astonishing X-men by Joss Whedon – no seriously, just read it if you haven’t. Some of the story arcs just didn’t work, particularly the dragged out circus storyline in which all the staff members were brainwashed into thinking that they were in a freak show. It’s only saving grace was that we got to see Idie use her powers to the fullest to save her teachers. The return of Wolverine’s brother Dog (from the Wolverine Origin comic through the use of time travel) also felt totally random, with him disposing Logan as their teacher before coming to realise that Wolverine is probably the better teacher…or something.

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The handling of certain characters could also be a bit weird, for instance the alien Broo appearing to die, before being returning to life as a violent animal, then suddenly going back to normal mid-storyline. And let’s not even mention the disaster that way Husk’s storyline wherein she turned evil but got a convenient out through her powers, I can only guess because someone wants to use her down the line as an X-man proper.

The final issue provided an almost perfect close to the series, centring on both graduation day for many of the students and the far future when an ageing, and slightly broken, Wolverine is closing down the Jean Grey School with Idie by his side. It is only really marred by the fact that it’s very unlikely the future events will actually come to pass. I doubt Wolverine will remain without his healing factor for very long. The issue also saw Quentin Quire graduating and facing the daunting prospect of what does he do without the Jean Grey School, the place he claims to hate but obviously has a secret affection for. Featuring essentially every artist who has worked on the comic to date the artwork was a bit of a mess but somehow it worked, kind of like the series itself I guess.

It had its problems and clearly didn’t know what to do with some of its characters at times, but I think it will always be one of my favourite runs, keeping a special place on my iPad. The second volume may have recently begun but I doubt it will ever live up to the first, even if I may keep reading to see what happens to the characters I’ve come to love.

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