Even amidst the debris of “Avengers vs. X-Men” as it randomly launches itself into different books across Marvel Comics, “Wolverine & the X-Men” has been consistently entertaining. Even though it ties into the big event storyline, I had high hopes for Jason Aaron and Jorge Molina’s “Wolverine & the X-Men” #14, as the Phoenix-powered Colossus stops by the Jean Grey School to take Shadowcat out on a date. If you’re thinking the next sentence should be, “disaster ensues” you won’t be disappointed with the end result.
This issue deals with several aspects of “Avengers vs. X-Men” besides merely the big date. It addresses the fact that almost all of the senior staff of the Jean Grey School are now off helping the X-Men round up stray Avengers, and the shifting allegiances of said senior staff members. In some ways, that last point feels like it actually belongs more in “Avengers vs. X-Men” than “Wolverine & the X-Men,” but unless you’re one of the main characters those smaller, “I’m having second thoughts” moments seem to get relegated to tie-ins. As for the attempts to keep the school running, Aaron seems to delight in rounding up the B- and C-grade characters left with Kitty to provide a mixture of comedy (especially anything involving Toad) and drama. It’s effective and keeps the book moving forward.
But the date is still the centerpiece, and it’s entertaining. Aaron’s script in many ways is by the book — even down to the inevitable moment when things go sour right when you expect — but it’s fun, and fun counts for a lot. Once things go sour, everything picks up a great deal. The big fight scene has just the right length, too; it doesn’t drag on and Aaron knows just when the tide should shift. Once again, the scenes between Peter and Kitty are ones that perhaps belong more in “Avengers vs. X-Men,” but they’re handled in such a deft manner here that I’m just glad we’re getting them somewhere.
Molina’s pencils unfortunately aren’t up to the level of other “Wolverine & the X-Men” artists like Chris Bachalo or Nick Bradshaw. In the first panel of the book, if the dialogue hadn’t identified Kitty by name I’d have assumed it was a mermaid, or perhaps a refugee from a generic manga title. There’s a real lack of consistency in how Molina tackles Kitty; at the bottom of page 2, she’s transformed into Natalie Portman, but a few pages later it’s Christina Ricci as a model instead. Posing is sometimes awkward too, with strange facial expressions (the number of times Kitty is drawn with her mouth in a perfect little “Oh!” of surprise gets old quickly), and a final page that looks more like a random pin-up than the actual conclusion of the story. I understand that in monthly comics sometimes it comes down to simply who’s available, but Molina doesn’t feel like he was the right choice for this title.
“Wolverine & the X-Men” #14 best serves as a reminder that just because a comic is a tie-in to a big event (be it “Avengers vs. X-Men” or something entirely different) doesn’t mean that it has to be generic. Aaron’s script does a good job of supplementing the main event comic while still establishing its own voice and moving the series’ plotlines ahead. All in all, a good job.