Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciller: Nick Bradshaw
Inker: Walden Wong, Norman Lee and Nick Bradshaw
Colourist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Previously, in Wolverine and the X-Men: The Phoenix is on its way to Earth, with its sights set on Hope Summers as host. The Avengers and X-Men have battled over her fate, but Hope has taken matters into her own hands and escaped from them all. Meeting up with Wolverine, she has decided to go to the Moon and meet the Phoenix head-on.
Meanwhile, some of Wolverine’s fellow faculty members at the Jean Grey School have joined Cyclops’ battle against the Avengers. Additionally, the Shi’ar Emperor Gladiator has dispatched a squad of Death Commandos to kill Hope and save the universe from the Phoenix, and follows them close behind in order to retrieve his son, Kid Gladiator, a student at Wolverine’s school.
I’m in two minds about this issue. On the one hand, it impressively fills in a gap that the main Avengers Vs. X-Men storyline omitted, but on the other, it wasn’t quite so savvy with the plotlines in its own book. Remember in one of my earlier reviews for this series that I was talking about fake-out cliffhangers and how annoying they are? This issue finally deals with the Shi’ar Death Commandos plotline that has been hanging around for the last three issues, only to have it completely annihilated within three pages. I’m all for dramatic tension, but building up a threat for three issues and then having them be nothing but cannon fodder is a poor story technique.
This does however make way for the aforementioned story point gap being filled. Why did Wolverine tell the Avengers where Hope was in Avengers Vs. X-Men #4? This issue expands on the point in the aftermath of the Death Commandos battle to truly show how far Wolverine has come as a character under Aaron’s pen. Whilst most characters in the Marvel universe (and most readers, probably) view him as a killing machine with no qualms about killing anyone, it’s a testament to the journey that Aaron has taken the character on that Wolverine isn’t all that he appears. The sequence in this issue really reinforces why Wolverine is the right person to run the Jean Grey School, even when all the evidence suggests that it’s utter madness.
Aside from the Wolverine/Hope storyline, there are some more flashes to the battles going on in Latveria, Wundagore et al, and a brief look back at the school where unrest seems to be reigning, with the students anxious to get out and do something useful. That time looks like it is fast approaching, given the cliffhanger for the issue, but the bulk of this book is devoted to Wolverine and Hope, and almost rightly so.
Nick Bradshaw returns to the title for this one issue, bringing along his bright, vivid style that clashes terribly with Chris Bachalo’s earlier doom and gloom issues. The total difference between Bradshaw and Bachalo is insane, and it alters the tone of the book completely. Where Bradshaw’s pencils are clear and easy to discern, Bachalo’s are dark and require a magnifying glass to decipher. I’ve often said that Bachalo is the weak link on this book, and whenever Bradshaw returns to pencil, it only emphasizes my point.
This issue of Wolverine and the X-Men fumbles the ball a little by reducing a potentially interesting plotline into nothing more than page dressing, but redeems itself with some truly wonderful storytelling later on in the issue. Aaron knows what he’s doing with this book, even if the Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover might not be letting him do all he wants with it just yet. One misstep in eleven issues is hardly anything to complain about.
GO Rating: 3/5