“Wolverine and the X-Men” reaches its quarter-century mark with issue #25, in which Jason Aaron and Ramon Perez take the X-Students on the most unforgiving field trip of all: to the Savage Land. Everyone remember where they parked!
Aaron has long since proven that “Wolverine and the X-Men” is the X-Men series where virtually anything can happen (and often does), but even the appearance of Azazel a few issues ago doesn’t prepare readers for the controversial territory we enter in this issue. If you thought giving Wolverine a son was a hard sell, then bringing back his brother will definitely ruffle some feathers.
Yet, this series has the over-the-top almost cartoonish sensibility to make such a move effective. Probably because Aaron’s X-Men work has never taken itself too seriously, it’s a development that doesn’t feel any more wilfully ridiculous than the circuses and aliens and phantom pregnancies of the series thus far — it’s just another twist rooted in the same over-the-top soap opera it always has been, although in this case it’s one that happens to be grounded in a less well-trodden part of continuity than most.
Perez’s art really fits the tone of the book as well. With heavily detailed lines and a slavish devotion to making background and environment renderings as well-realized as the characters, it’s not a million miles away from Nick Bradshaw, who has arguably provided the book’s defining visuals throughout its run. Of course, while it works on that level, it also brings some of Perez’s own sensibilities, such as an emphasis on body language and expressions, immediately visible in Quire’s punker-than-thou attitude as much as anywhere.
Speaking of Quire, he’s the one who gets the best scenes in this issue as he attempts to become the de factor “leader” of the X-kids and discovers that wielding authority isn’t half as easy as kicking against it. It’s an interesting direction for the character that goes a long way to making him one of the breakout stars of this generation’s X-books (despite the fact he was created ten years ago).
If anything’s a problem with “Wolverine and the X-Men,” it’s that the sheer pace and number of storylines and characters leaves it feeling cluttered and often unsatisfying in a single-issue chunk. It’s interesting to see Wolverine’s brother turn up, but there are plots from last issue, from two issues ago, from probably ten issues ago that it’d be nice to see acknowledged, if not necessarily resolved. Yes, the concentration of material is part of the book’s charm, but it’s also what limits the amount of enjoyment you can get from any one issue. It looks great and it’s an entertaining read, but after yet another hyper-dense issue of new plots springing up every three pages, it’s hard not to feel as though a breather every now and again might be a good idea — and once again, this is anything but.