Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo's "Wolverine & The X-Men" #9, despite being a tie-in book to the massive "Avengers vs. X-Men" crossover still maintains its identity. It also remains a pretty good book, which is no small feat when getting swallowed by such a gigantic idea so early in its existence.
Aaron continues to use his characters in smart ways and he has such a diverse and interesting cast at his disposal that he can lean heavily on how compelling everyone is, regardless of the very weak plot he's given. This issue begins slightly before the scene with Captain America and Wolverine prior to "Avengers vs. X-Men" #1 but then continues on after it. The integration is nearly flawless and it's a credit to Aaron that he accomplishes this with such apparent ease.
Bachalo's art is some of the best I've ever seen from him. As a fan of his kinetic and sometimes hard to read style, I found myself really appreciating the way he tackled this issue. It's much quieter and almost smaller in a way than Bachalo usually goes and as a result it feels much like the calm before the storm. The visuals alone serve to build the tension of the issue wonderfully and the choice to roll things out this way proves Bachalo to be an even cleverer artist than I took him for.
The primary problem that plagues this event and thus any book that's tied to it, is that I still can't make any sense of what Avengers characters actually want. We are treated in this book to yet another example (like what we saw in "Avengers vs. X-Men") of the Phoenix Force flying through space, destroying entire inhabited planets as it passes by. So what exactly do the Avengers hope to gain by taking Hope into custody? If they cannot stop it before it arrives, isn't letting it inhabit a human host a better plan than say...letting it devour Earth in moments?
This would all make more sense if the X-Men of Utopia were terrorists that were super excited to have the Phoenix Force under their thumb so that they could take over the world. But they're not terrorists. They're heroes. And they also have little hope (if history is any indication) of actually controlling the Phoenix Force even if they wanted to. So what's the problem? Seems like the Avengers (and whoever else) should head on out into space and try to stop it. If they can't (and we all know they can't) then let it come on down and inhabit Hope and then everyone can go from there. Train Hope, kill her, imprison her, make her a god, whatever -- but you know, at least everyone didn't burn up in a fiery inferno on contact. Right? I just don't get it.
I know we all want to see the Avengers and the X-Men fight on some level. The fifteen year-old me got in an argument about it just yesterday, but the adult in me feels strongly that we need to know at this point what the parties involved are actually thinking...because as of now everyone just looks really stupid.
Fortunately for this book, the writing is excellent, the visuals are absolutely stunning, and the though the core idea as it relates to the event doesn't make any sense, the people involved still know how to put together an entertaining and beautiful book. However I'll be very glad when "Wolverine & The X-Men" can return to business as usual. It's a much smarter book than this event will allow it to be.