“I’m Wolverining!” From Secret Wars to Spiderman and the X-men

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From the start my intention with this blog to be place to collect articles I write around the internet, blog and generally write about anything I’m interested in. The remit I set myself was to have an even mix of mainstream and small press features. There’s amazing stuff to be found in both areas and I’ve never liked the idea of keeping them both separate or choosing one over the other. That being said I seem to have been veering towards a lot of mainstream books lately, especially Marvel. While there is a lot to be dissatisfied about with the big companies, Marvel in particular putting themselves in the firing line for a lot of subjects. I’ve been reading a hell of a lot of their books recently and…well, damn they’re a lot of fun.

As the company’s universe shattering, line wide, uber event Secret Wars rages on ever further into the winter months, it gives me more of a chance to talk about it and touch upon some other related subjects that have been occupying my mind lately. Like any turbo nerd, I was more worried than excited when Marvel announced the event. When DC rebooted their universe along with the whole line they removed all of the texture, strangeness, and nuance in favour of something shrill, hard, and generic. Although I credit Marvel with being a lot smarter, I assumed they would do the same, reducing my pull list further.

I do love mega events though. After the initial trepidation and the uncertainty of what would come after it, the idea behind it, a greatest hits remix concept with all the bonkers and bizarre mini series and interactions between different iterations of characters, really started to appeal to me. It’s still a definite trade wait with the amount of tie-ins and ever distant conclusion but I’m interested none the less.

What I do worry about with events like this, is the potential for lesser known supporting characters to get lost and forgotten amid the shuffle, filling up comic book limbo. I’ve noticed this a lot with the teenage characters. Whilst some from either of the big two companies are relatively safe, like Damien Wayne for example, others might not be seen for a while. For example the kids of the Future Foundation, beyond Fraction’s and all the Allreds’ genuinely excellent run, who’s going to delve back into the Fantastic Four’s “complicated family dynamics”? How long before we catch up the antics of Mik, Tong and Turg again?

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The franchise that’s stung me more than any other is the X-Men. I think like most people I have a love hate relationship with the titles. When they hit, they really hit, but at various points in recent years it seems like a lot of the books have just been treading water. More than anything Marvel can’t seem to make a team of younger mutants stick for very long, and usually dispatches them brutally. I quickly grew weary of the relaunched New X-Men. A title I initially enjoyed I found it difficult to follow the constant title changes and increasingly grim story lines. Eventually I gave up completely when I heard that most of the leads would meet inescapably grizzly fates or become de-powered during the huge House of M crossover event. It’s one of the most prominent reasons why I gave up on X-men, and indeed comics in general for a very long time all those years ago. Same again with Generation Hope and New X-men with the more interesting but, less popular and younger X-Men pushed to the fringes.

It remains to be seen what will happen to the X-men in Secret Wars with the current plan seeming to be to put them, annoyingly, back in the same place they were ten years ago with House of M, few in numbers and on the edge of extinction. Baffling considering the amount of work numerous writers have put into making the concept workable again and building up the mutant population. It’s a resilient franchise and they’ll always come back in some capacity. Even with the recent downplaying of the X-Men books in terms of advertising and complicated rights, I can’t even envision a time when there won’t be a handful of X-men books on the shelves.

So longer story slightly shorter, and taking all this into account, I’ve been reading and enjoying a book featuring a team of characters that I highly doubt anyone was clamouring to see return. Spider-Man and the X-men.

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With Wolverine, everyone’s favourite X-Man and headmaster of the school most definitely dead for the foreseeable future, Spider-Man is called in as supply teacher. In part to Parker being the only other notable Marvel teacher and partly because Wolverines dying wish was entrusting the web crawler to root out a suspected mole within the school. In charge of the schools special class Spider-man struggles to lead and inspire his class of petulant new mutants, who resent an outsider being involved with mutant affairs. The now Spider-man lead series has him teaching a grab bag of teenage mutants from previous titles including Hellion and Rockslide from the aforementioned New X-men: Academy X series, Sharkgirl and Eye Boy from Aaron’s previous Wolverine and the X-men run and of course Ernst, No-girl and lovable asshole Herman Glob, from Morrison’s New X-men. With me so far?

Quick aside, with the aforementioned rescheduling of Secret Wars we still don’t know who, or indeed what will be behind the reformation of the Marvel Universe and why. However, from listings I can already see something that makes me chuckle. When the Marvel Universe snaps back into something resembling it’s original form, with all the details recreated, someone still found time to make sure the universe didn’t forget low level annoyance Herman Glob! In case you didn’t guess, I’m a big fan.

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Aaron’s run on Wolverine and the X-men was sensational, and the best X related title I’d read for years. Hilariously funny and at times very moving. I skipped the relaunched title written by Jason Latour. The art didn’t capture me, nor did the sudden shift in tone to brooding and angsty. While far more light-hearted and comedic in tone, this seems more of a spiritual successor to the first series.

The jokes are thick and fast, written with the quick hit rhythm of a sitcom which isn’t surprising coming from Daily Show head writer Elliot Kalan. It’s one of those books my partner dreads where I will walk in every five minutes to show him a panel or repeat a funny line of dialogue. It’s chock full of them. As well as the combination of heroes, the combination of villains, with each equally weirded out by the others rouges gallery, works too as the mutants come face to face with some of Spider-mans more colourful villains.

The comedy doesn’t come at the expense of character development however, as Kalan gives each of the disparate group a chance to shine with Rockslide slowing becoming the groups leader and Hellion given a chance to once again to be a more deeper character beyond the brash, domineering and two dimensional character of the past. I’ve heard the words “slight” being used in regards to this comic which really does it a disservice. It’s a light-hearted fast paced action romp and with six issues a done in one story arc that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

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