The first issue of Marvel’s new Star Wars ongoing is in stores today, and it seems like the Marvel announcement was just yesterday. There’s a certain mistrust among the hardcore fans about this comic’s quality and it’s easy to see why: Dark Horse Comics were a class act, one that is going to be hard to follow, and modern Marvel are an unknown quantity for a big chunk of the fandom.
Just who are these guys that are going to be headlining the new canon on a monthly basis in 2015? As we feel that most comic book fans are Star Wars fans, but not necessarily the other way around, we are going to profile a series of single issues penned by the authors of the new Marvel books (that’s what serious comic nerds call comics, “books”, get used to it). We are going to be spotlighting comics that we think could be the most representative of what to expect or, at least, the ones that feel closest to what their Star Wars book might end up being. And we are going to start with Jason Aaron and the first issue of Wolverine and the X-Men.
When Wolverine and the X-Men was announced as a “fun and crazy” book, readers were understandably skeptical. Jason Aaron (who had already been named by Wizard Magazine as the best comic book writer of 2008 and 2009) had made a name in Marvel by writing dark, gritty and violent comics: Wolverine, Weapon X, Punisher, Black Panther and a much-lauded Ghost Rider run. Comics that dealt with murderers, antiheroes, and the darkest side of human (and mutant) nature. His creator owned material wasn’t much lighter: his two Eisner-nominated series The Other Side (a horrific Vietnam War-themed anthology) and Scalped (a police procedural set in a South Dakota indian reservation) aren’t exactly light reading material. So Aaron wasn’t the kind of author you’d expect to see on a “fun and crazy” comic, and definitely not the kind of author you’d expect to take on Star Wars in the future. But let’s not forget that, before he became the premiere name in Star Wars comicdom, John Ostrander was once known for writing series like Suicide Squad and GrimJack. And like him, Aaron would prove his versatility.
The whole setup for the series follows the fallout between Wolverine and Cyclops stemming from the X-Men: Schism event (penned by Aaron himself), that ended with Logan gathering some supporters and starting his own mutant school: the Jean Grey School. If the “Headmaster Logan” idea sounds ridiculous to you, don’t worry: it’s supposed to. On his first day as Headmaster, two clearly hostile state inspectors arrive at the new school, a school that Chris Bachalo’s pens turn into a delirious sci-fi environment with little to do with the X-Mansion of yore.
The gimmick of the state inspection allows Aaron to ease us into this new status quo in a fun way, avoiding any kind of heavy exposition and sending us head-first into the sheer madness of the JGS. Through the inspectors’ eyes we are witness to the craziness of this mutant school for the 21st century: there’s a bathroom that doubles as a Danger Room for unsuspecting students, some of the teachers seem more than willing to beat on the students, classic villain Toad is now working as a janitor, and there’s a nerdy Brood (think Marvel’s equivalent to the Alien xenomorph) among the student body… By the end of the issue, the inspectors have had more than enough and announce their decision to tell the Department of Education what a crazy place the JGS is. And that’s when the main villain makes his entrance and all hell breaks loose…
In just twenty-two pages, Aaron manages to combine the lateral thinking of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men with the melodrama of Chris Claremont’s classic run, infusing his script with a heretofore unseen sense of whimsical fun. The issue also has a serious side, focused on how Logan has to fight against his violent nature and try to become a model for the kids, and it also features heaps of non-stop action and heart: just so much heart. Exactly what we would expect from a good Star Wars comic. The art is representative of Bachalo’s recent output, that’s, stylized to the point of making it sometimes hard to tell exactly what’s happening, but achingly beautiful.
So what can we expect from the Star Wars comic if Aaron follows this template? We can expect some classic Star Wars adventures, with their witty banter, their deep emotion, their clear character arcs, and their non-stop action. But we should also be ready for the unexpected and the crazy: this is the guy that took Krakoa, the original kaiju-inspired bad guy from Giant Size X-Men, and turned it into a defense system for the school. This reviewer is more than okay with a bit of craziness: it’s a large galaxy, after all.