This January, Marvel Comics and writer Jason Aaron's "Wolverine & The X-Men" ongoing series will welcome a brand new artist and a very old foe. It was revealed at Fan Expo in Toronto over the weekend that Eisner Award winner RamÃ³n K Perez will join the book for a five-issue arc starting with issue #25 which will among other story turns bring Wolverine's half brother Dog Logan into the modern era.
"The kids get taken to the Savage Land as part of a class," Aaron told CBR of the arc's hook. "[It's] survival 101 with Professor Wolverine. This will be the first time we'll have seen Wolverine himself teaching a class. As you might expect, given that for part of his life he lived in the wild with wolves, Wolverine has some unusual methods when it comes to teaching."
The writer noted that Perez's style fits well into the visually packed mold set for the series by the likes of Nick Bradshaw to Chris Bachelo. "Yeah, it has been a pretty dense book. Part of that is me, part is the artists. I don't think I've ever written a 12 panel page for Chris Bachalo. I would never have the guts to write very many 12 panel pages for anyone. He just draws them that way, and of course they look awesome. Nick Bradshaw will also pack his panels with detail, including some bits going on in the background that I never wrote. In other words, I've been lucky to work with some amazing artists on this book. Guys who bring a lot to the table -Â who don't need me to tell them how to draw. I just have to get out of their way.
"RamÃ³n is going to be a great addition to the art team on this series, as anyone who's seen his work knows. He's someone I've wanted to work with for a while now. If you don't know his work, do yourself a favor and pick up the 'Tale of Sand' graphic novel. It's a jawdropping piece of work. With RamÃ³n coming onto 'Wolverine & The X-Men,' I'll just try to keep my scripts as loose as I can and let him go crazy. Comics are expensive these days, we all know that. And page counts have gotten shorter. Storytelling real estate has never been more precious than it is right now. But I'm proud of the product we've been putting out in 'Wolverine & The X-Men.' I think we're all doing our best to pack as much fun and excitement into each issue as we can."
For his part, Perez said that he wasn't looking to emulate the art already seen in the book, but the creators he's following will have an impact in other ways. "I don't think this has directly impacted my pages so much as I've been a huge fan of Bachalo's for years. He was a big influence on my earlier work. And Nick's art I became aware of during his run on 'Wolverine & The X-Men,' and his work there reminds me of Arthur Adams who was also a big influence on my art early on," he explained. "So both of these guys have, in a way, influenced me in an inspirational way. But I think their storytelling styles are also very different from one another, so it should be interesting when I come on. I think I lean more towards Bachalo storytelling-wise because he gets more funking with his panels. It will be interesting to find out where I fit in between the two."
The artist told CBR that taking this assignment after the award-winning Jim Henson graphic novel and a well-received run on Marvel's "John Carter: Gods of Mars" mini series was a natural step. "I like to mix it up. I like to jump genres. I've always loved superheroes and specifically superhero team books where multiple characters are playing with each other. I think for the most part, a lot of my superhero work has been with one-off characters like Captain America, Deadpool or Wildcat. I thought it would be a lot of fun where A) I loved the X-Men growing up, B) Wolverine is one of my favorite characters and C) Jason Aaron's writing is amazing. It basically all lined up perfectly.
"When I got offered the job, I said yes immediately because I thought it would be great to do this book with a cast of multiple characters that would be well-written. It's also a great chance to showcase what I can do in that regard. I can have more fun with the action, and Jason has a lot of action planned for the five issues I'm doing. It's going to be very different compared to something like 'Tale of Sand' where it was one guy wandering through the desert encountering different scenarios. This is going to be like two armies of characters interacting. I think it will be a lot of fun and very different to what I've done recently."
On the story side of the coin, Dog Logan should shake up the series in a major way in the wake of its "Avengers Vs. X-Men" crossover tales. The villain was a major player - and major mystery -Â in Marvel's successful "Origin" series where it was revealed that Wolverine had a half-brother, but since then the character's appearances have been few and shrouded in secrecy. Most of that was by Aaron's design. "I've always had plans for Dog, ever since having him pop up in 'Astonishing Spider-Man And Wolverine," the writer said. "And I'm really excited about the chance to dig into his character and really figure out what makes this guy tick. He's one of those deeply-flawed sorts of characters that I love to write. And while he will be coming back into Logan's life to raise some hell, I want him to seem like much more than just some mustache-twirling bad guy with a grudge against his brother. I think Dog is a pretty tragic figure, so I want him to be a much more complicated villain. But he's also still a Logan. And Wolverine's big brother. So I would expect there to be plenty of asskicking going on."
Perez agreed, though he said he's still trying to find the right level of violence to fit both this revenge story and the feel of the series. "There are going to be a lot of fight sequences. Jason and I have been talking casually about things over the past few weeks, so I'm not sure how gruesome I'm going to get just yet. Let's say there's the potential for a lot of gruesome fight scenes. Jason is keeping the scripts fairly open for me to play with - especially in the action sequences. The tone of the book is very interesting because it has a light-hearted tone in some regards but it also can have a dark edge. What I like about it is that it reminds me of the classic [Chris] Claremont issues of 'X-Men' where he'd have great stories that had fun but also got serious when they had to. What I hope is that I think there's a certain levity to my style that I can also balance with some good action and serious moments."
Of course, being a school-oriented book, readers can expect this "Wolverine & The X-Men" story to place its teenage cast into new situations as well. And Aaron teased that the specifics of that teenage cast will be unexpected. "There will be new faces. But I can't say anymore with [edior] Nick Lowe watching me," he joked.
Perez expanded upon the idea. "I gave Jason a short list of which characters I like. Unfortunately for me, in this arc none of the main teachers will be in it except Wolverine. That was somewhat disappointing because I was looking forward to drawing Beast of Iceman, but there are some great kid characters. And the great thing about having a cast that's less established is that I can play around with them visually. This arc has about three new characters that have barely appeared before I come on. It will be fun to play with them and solidify them as characters. I'm happy."
Overall, Aaron said that while the series wasn't relaunching as part of Marvel NOW!, the story starting in issue #25 would present a fresh start for fans to come into the world of the Jean Grey School for Mutants. "It's a new season, yes. There are shake-ups in the cast. We get a new teacher at the school, and some new students as well. A couple of the students who were already there.... well, let's just say there'll be a couple of empty seats in class. We continue to learn more about the villainous kids of the Hellfire Club, including the first hints of their wicked new plan for how to deal with the problem of the Jean Grey School. It's one I don't think fans have seen coming. So yeah, there are lots of big surprises coming. More romance. More villains. More Doop. You name it."
"Wolverine & The X-Men" #25 ships in January from Marvel Comics. Stay tuned to CBR News for more from Fan Expo.