“Wolverine and the X-Men” #10 by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo picks up somewhere in the middle of “AvX” #3 with Hope on the run, the X-Men in hiding and Wolverine back at the school awaiting further developments. And, wouldn’t you know it, further developments occur right here, as Cyclops drops by for what can only be described as a brief, friendly chat.
As such, it’s an unusually wordy installment of a series that has mostly traded on out-there action and quickfire craziness. There’s a lot of conversation going on here and not just about “AvX” — about the rest of the book’s ongoing plots as well. The discussion between Cyclops and Wolverine forms the spine of the issue, but the rest of the cast all have things on their mind too, and this issue serves as a breather of sorts, highlighting where these stories are and how everybody’s feeling about them, but with very few developments.
That’s not to say it’s disappointing, because Aaron’s dialogue is sharp and engaging and his characters are strongly defined — Quentin Quire’s brief appearance steals the show, for example — but it is an odd shift in tone for the series. The emphasis on talking also means that you could easily forget to take in the art, which depicts Cyclops and Wolverine traversing the school’s grounds. What could have been a fantastic visual tour ends up serving as mere background (quite literally) to a very long discussion.
Bachalo’s page layouts are inventive and original, but they’re not always successful. An extended conversation between Iceman and Rachel is particularly hard to follow, not least because the page flows in odd directions, and the use of negative space as panel borders is an idiosyncrasy that causes trouble with word balloons appearing to “bleed” against other panels. Bachalo’s storytelling is stronger than it’s been in years, though, and he manages to choose interesting angles and framing for even the most mundane panel.
It’s certainly a book that will delight X-Men fans with its extensive character studies and its focus on inter-character relationships all over the X-Men franchise, but it’s hard to imagine those dropping in for the sake of a tie-in will be entertained due to the focus on X-Men intrapolitics. It does answer the question of why Wolverine was willing to fight his friends, but there’s a distinct lack of “Avengers Vs. X-Men” that in the end is likely to put non-regular readers off.