“Wolverine & the X-Men” #13 is yet another “Avengers Vs. X-Men” crossover. The draw for this story, at least going in, is that Gladiator has come to Earth to stop the Phoenix Force and he has brought a whole lot of Shi’ar with him.
Jason Aaron puts the story of Gladiator battling the Phoenix Five in the background, tucked neatly behind Warbird’s origin story. Normally relegating a titanic tussle like that would lessen the impact of such a battle, but Aaron manages to make Warbird compelling enough to drive the story. That’s not to say that he completely dismisses the fight, nor does he telegraph the outcome. We see Gladiator take on four of the Phoenix Five in the background as we learn through Warbird’s own words how she found herself in service of Kid Gladiator. Aaron, like Jeff Parker in his countless Marvel comics, has made it possible for me to enjoy characters that I never thought I would ever care about in “Wolverine & the X-Men.” Warbird is a character I now find compassion for and want to know more about, something I would not have conceived of prior to reading this chapter.
Nick Bradshaw returns to draw this issue, introducing readers to new aliens and new interpretations of Shi’ar forces. Bradshaw’s detailed work brings electricity no unlike that found in the work of Art Adams. True, Bradshaw is nowhere near as accomplished as Adams, but he has drawn a few more comics in 2012 than Adams has. In addition to keen detail, Bradshaw brings emotion into Warbird’s retelling and even makes the new aliens worthy of empathy.
“Wolverine & the X-Men” #13 is about as far removed as a comic book can be from the expected content as Wolverine is nowhere to be found in this issue and the X-Men (save the Phoenix Five) are only barely present and certainly not the focus. Furthermore this “AvX” crossover doesn’t offer much to advance the grander narrative save to rearrange a few pieces on the board. That said, this is still a comic that offers nice character beats and impressive art. The pricepoint might incense some folks expecting more X-Men, but if you’re simply looking for a decent read, you can find it here.