Monday, December 28, 2015

Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron Volume 8

In the aftermath of the Battle of the Atom (crossover issues of this title are #36-37), both factions of the X-Men (Cyclops' revolutionary team under the New Xavier School for the Gifted, and Wolverine's more lenient team for the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning) may have endured the crisis it brought, but they didn't accomplish this together at all. After Hank McCoy brought back the very first five X-Men from the sixties who then decided to stay in the current timeline (Bendis' All-New X-Men), so many events have been escalating left and right, and certain relationships between each other and with human government agencies, such as S.H.I.E.L.D, have reached a breaking point that trust is hardly something both parties have earned. 

While Scott tries to maintain his recruits' faith in their revolution cause (Bendis' The Uncanny X-Men), Logan, on the other hand, as headmaster of JGS, butts heads with head of S.H.I.E.L.D Special Agent Maria Hill who happened to hire a liaison, the mutant previously known as Dazzler, much to the discomfort of her peers. 

Of course, the real Dazzler has been abducted midway and was actually replaced by shape-shifter and long-time villainess Mystique who infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D herself to gather intel and steal finances from corporations to fund her place of conquest in Madripoor which she acquired from Hydra. This is where she opened an asylum for all mutants who refuse to integrate to human society and live according to their rules. This story mostly plays out on Bendis' The Uncanny X-Men, so you can follow that plotline in said title instead. 

For the eighth and final volume of Jason Aaron's run of Wolverine and the X-Men, issue #38 opens with JGS and S.H.I.E.L.D meeting on school grounds to discuss about boundaries unresolved issues, and Maria Hill expresses her sentiments as a public servant and human being who has to deal with the bad publicity and growing infamy of mutantkind, particularly towards the X-Men. Her exchange with Logan is very important at this point in the game, arguing well-founded criticisms, reservations and fears:

Meanwhile, issues #39-40 gave us more amazing scenes and plot concerning the new students who just enrolled in JGS; the Brickmore twins known as Tri-Joey and Squidface. After their initiation to the school where Tri-Joey (Joseph) actually enjoyed becoming friends with a lot of the students, the twins were revealed to be moles for S.H.I.E.L.D., and Squidface (Josephine) was adamant in having JGS closed for good. The siblings were actually normal humans who just took mutant growth serum so they can masquerade inside JGS. As they plan their uprising, it turned out that they have been discovered from the start and everyone was simply trying to give them a chance to change their mind about JGS. Quentin, Broo, Idie, Eyeboy, Genesis, Kid Gladiator, Shark Girl and Sprite all agree that they are all strange and weird and odd and although their school has a sentient lawn and a murdering bathroom, and a lot of people are trying to kill them on a weekly if not daily basis...

It's the one place they are free to be themselves and be accepted no matter what!

The following exchanges are some of my favorities:

As the kids take control of the situation, Wolverine and Cyclops manage to run onto each other when they both decided to kill some Sentinels by their lonesome. It's funny how these so-called opposites often manage to decide on doing the same thing. It didn't go so well and they almost died (especially when Wolverine has been losing his healing factor), but by the end of the day, these two are friends. And they have a lot to talk about. It's gonna get brutal but eventually for the best.

Wolverine finds a medical kit (and some booze) so the two of them decided to hang out a bit as they rest. 

Everyone knows alcohol is the best social lubricant!
This was great because, in return, they had their most honest and hurtful but also cathartic exchange:

I would like to thank Jason Aaron for writing down the insecurities that these two have about each other and how he managed to get them out in the open during a grueling discussion. The highlights there have to be the Professor X-Magneto analogy which was something a lot of people started using after Wolverine and Cyclops had a grand falling-out; and the mentions of Jean Grey and the fact that they ended their conversation with a meaningful nod to her memory because even though they have different views and methods of doing things, what will forever bind Logan and Scott is that they love (and were loved) by the same amazing woman who has inspired them to be who they are and commit to the principles they believe in no matter what. Reading about this dialogue gives me hope for reconciliation between these two!

The issues #41-42 and Annual were all character-centric. #41 has Mortimer a.k.a Toad who had been working as the janitor for JGS since this title started. However, he also sided with the Hellfire Club all because of his girlfriend Husk who unfortunately suffered a nervous breakdown and henceforth turned rotten for a while. He eventually did change his mind and assisted Quentin and the others to bring down Hellfire Academy from within, but this just wasn't enough to absolve him of his earlier crimes. Wolverine and the rest of the faculty had to let him go, much to Krakoa's sadness. Husk (Paige) wasn't crazy anymore but she also doesn't remember her relationship with Toad. She was willing to find out why she loved him in the first place, though, and asked to get some coffee with him. Tragically, Toad helped Enrique and Max, former Hellfire Club members, to escape although he did beat up Enrique and left him back in JGS. He and Max then went together, probably to form their own new evil team. AND IT'S HEARTBREAKING! Toad has been reformed villain for a while so it makes me a little angry that he decided that being a villain is all he could ever be so instead of dating Paige again, he returned to his former life of crime. So disheartening, guys!

Meanwhile, #42 is all about graduation and Quentin Quire wasn't happy about this. There are also flash-forward scenes with an old Logan and a grown-up Idie Okonkwo as they discuss about closing down JGS for good. Back in present day, Quentin bemoans how he is officially turned into the good guy while proudly wearing his Dark Phoenix-at-Training shirt around campus where everyone is happy and celebratory. He had a nice conversation with Captain America who was proud of him for changing, and then Wolverine handed him a diploma, much to his depression and shame. Try as he might to deny that he has earned his place as an X-Man, Quentin is actually more afraid of growing up and actually making the right choices as well as being surrounded by friends who deeply care about him and believe in him. It's all nice and fluffy and sweet and Q keeps complaining in his typical fashion how this makes him sick! 

Meanwhile, Logan and Ororo are still a couple and she cheers him up by saying this:

I think Wolverine and Quentin Quire have a lot of things in common which was why it was natural for Logan to take him under his wing. Both were considered outsiders who challenged authority and are eager to prove to the world that they must be feared and will never be loved or belong anywhere. Ultimately, both are proven wrong and find themselves on the same side, both grown-up and ready to take on more tomorrows. This is also the last issue of Jason Aaron's run for Wolverine and the X-Men and I love it so much! Logan is finally happy and content, and Quentin has found his place in an unlikely home and with the best people he can be surrounded with!

Lastly, the Annual issue focused on Kubark a.k.a Kid Gladiator who may like to punch his way through galaxies but is a real softie underneath it all. He was sent back to Shi'ar in his old academy during the Phoenix Force crossover event, but he quickly realized that he misses JGS and Earth after all, but is too proud to admit it to himself, especially in front of his classmates and father.

Fortunately for him, Majestor Gladiator, his old dad, is very supportive and understands that his son finally found a place where he can thrive and be exceptional so he agrees to let Kubark return to Earth--but after he punched his way through multiple fights again and earned the respect of his peers. He even got to fight alongside the Avengers! These experiences had been enjoyable for him but he much rather come back to JGS where he is warmly welcomed in, of course. I really found this Annual issue so adorable and unexpectedly touching!

This was a really amazing finale volume! I'm glad everyone got their happy endings!


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