Jason Aaron

An X-Men Event I Can Rally Around

It's taken me a long time to invest myself into an X-Men event. It's not that I don't care for the characters. Because I do. It's not that I haven't liked the writers who are involved with the events. Because, for the most part, I have. It's just that it so often feels like "Here comes the big scary bad guy who is bigger and scarier than the last bad guy from the last event! RUN!" and then there is a big fight and the X-Men prove, once again, that when you back a group of closely knit genetic freaks into a corner that they find a way to make even the biggest and scariest bad guy regret it ... and then next summer they do it again.

The thing about Schism, the big X-Men event for this year, is that it feels like they've finally understood that big scary bad guys are certainly big and are often scary ... but what makes an X-Men event exciting is when the stitches between the closely knit band of genetic freaks starts to fray because of interpersonal issues. For example the thing that made Inferno cool wasn't that Demons found a way to establish a beachhead on Earth and cause all kinds of chaos, it was that it was all spurned by a jilted Madelyne Pryor after she learned that Scott and Jean had reunited. 

When I learned that Jason Aaron was going to be writing Schism and that it would serve as the culmination of the last several years of storylines involving, basically, the forced unity of all of Earth's mutants in order to survive after having their numbers devestated by the M-Day event, I was thrilled. Aaron was the right kind of cat to pen a story that dealt with more than just a big scary bad guy. He clearly saw that there was the potential for a growing divide between two of the most prominent mutants in the world, Cyclops and Wolverine ... and for once it wasn't over a woman.

For years readers and critics have correlated the philosophy of Professor Xavier with that of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the philosophy of Magneto with that of Malcolm X. As time has gone on and writers have seen fit those two have gone from being the forefront of mutant conflict and have transitioned to being elder statesmen of a sort. Since that transition Scott Summers has become the leader of Mutant kind. Either standing against the actions of evil mutants against society, or against the actions of humans against the whole of mutant kind. 

Gone are the days of hoping for equal civil rights for Mutantkind, now they strive for survival. So also gone is the position of Civil Rights Leader, Scott Summers has been forced to become more of a Battlefield General/Political Tactician. Gone are the days when being a mutant meant being part of a growing population the world over. Gone are the days when convincing humankind that mutantkind could live beside it in peace. Once M-Day occurred humankind saw an opportunity, to finally rid itself of the now miniscule mutant population, because stomping out a culture when it is on the rise is difficult, but when it is on the decline it's very easy to make it a scapegoat. And it always seems that when someone wants to make a point about safety in America or elsewhere in the world that the Mutants are used as a catalyst for their agenda. 

The events of Schism have been no different, as we have seen the head of the newly revitalized Hellfire Club, Kade Kilgore, the son of a recently deceased defense magnate (recently deceased because Kade found him to be of no use), wants the world to understand the value of his company and to forward his own agenda by proving the uselessness of the currently available stock of Sentinels that were in various states of disrepair the world over. His position at the head of the table of the newly rejuvenated Hellfire Club is dependent upon his being able to prove to the world that the defense technology available from Kilgore Arms is better than the antiquated Sentinel Tech that Bolivar Trask built so many years ago.

Meanwhile what he has managed to do is drive a wedge into an ever weakening relationship between Wolverine and Cyclops. And that is what Schism is about. The growing divide between the philosophical standpoints and tactical approaches between two old friends who have never been good friends. About the splintering of a dwindling population between two ideologies. About proving that the world of mutantkind is no longer about believing in Charles Xavier or Magneto ... but that there is another axis to worry about beyond "acceptance by humankind". It's no longer about establish peaceful relations or go to war ... it's about survival ... and last I checked most people, nerds included, understand that splitting the party is probably not the best way to ensure survival ... but we'll see how it goes.

Jason Aaron or: How I Learned to Stop Hating and Love the Wolverine (A Review of Wolverine #1)

I hated Wolverine. Seriously. Go ahead, start frothing at the mouth and forming your posts of venom and anger. I'm ready for them. The only good Wolverine stories I had ever read had been Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown (mostly for Jon J. Muth and Kent Williams' artwork than anything else) and Greg Rucka's run at the beginning of Wolverine Vol. 3 (which abandoned much of what had made Wolverine Wolverine for the previous 10 or so years and made him more of a hard boiled detective who sought revenge for the unfortunate innocents who had met him and in doing so had been caught up the wake of destruction that follows him). And then I read that one of my favorite writers was going to be writing a BRAND NEW WOLVERINE ONGOING! and I felt the overwhelming need to do two things: 1. Not read something written by one of my favorite new writers who I wanted so badly to support -or- 2. Bite back the taste of rising bile in my throat and Buy a Wolverine comic. He had managed to make me like Ghost Rider, a task I thought patently unachievable, so after giving it a lot of thought I wound up doing the latter and I wasn't disappointed. As a matter of fact it did what I had liked about the Rucka run. In many ways I found that written correctly ... I might even be becoming a Wolverine fan. And all it took was putting my prejudices aside and following, perhaps a little blindly, the instincts of a growing super-star: Jason Aaron.

The book was Wolverine: Weapon X and it promised to be a Wolverine book without being a Super-Hero book. And it was. And it was totally awesome as well. The first arc was Black-Ops Spy fare as Logan hunts down members of the BlackGuard Security firm (owned by the always villainous Roxxon Industries) who have been augmented by scientists using the files retrieved from the wreckage of the Weapon X program. Essentially laser claw wielding mercenaries who will work for the highest bidder is too much for Logan to bear and he goes on a hunt to find and destroy these men. The story was brilliant and carried the kind of voice and references that I had become accustomed to from Aaron. 

What he brings to the book is difficult to describe ... I've often said that he is the master of the moral grey and that he writes characters who are neither heroes nor villains better than almost anyone in the industry and also has sort of an everyman's literary style (I keep trying to come up with a better phrase than that but the only thing that comes to mind is "literary by way of gutshot last words" and I don't know how well that translates if you've not read his work) and he brings both of those aspects of his style to his Marvel work with great panache, but he also brings a sort of Grindhouse style to the world of super-heroics that seems at once strange and also immensely brilliant.

The arcs that followed in the Wolverine: Weapon X series would vary greatly. The second arc brought a horror story set in an insane asylum which brought numerous chills to my spine and the final arc was a sci-fi tale of Deathlok's coming back in time to kill threats before they reached adulthood ala Terminator but with a more interesting moral message. And then the series ended. As did all the other related Wolverine ongoing series. And a slew of NEW ONGOING WOLVERINE SERIES were announced. And once again Aaron's name was attached, and this time to the flagship title, and I was admittedly a little thrilled. 

This series starts from a pretty interesting point and also clearly continues the trend established in Weapon X of treating Wolverine more as a character who just happens to wear a costume from time to time than a costumed character. The first issue begins with Wolverine trying to understand his own place in the universe. After having had his entire life history unlocked during the House of M event he very quickly began a campaign of violence against those who had wronged him in the past. But now he finds himself at the end of all of that vengeance and is, in the wake of losing his best friend during Second Coming, starting to wonder how all the unchecked aggression is going to weigh on his immortal soul. And then things get weird. But weird in the kind of way that is signature Jason Aaron. It appears that Wolverine's body may have been overtaken by a demon, and the only way for that to have happened is that his soul is no longer in his body ... which opens up all kinds of pain for the man known as Logan. 

The series continues many of the narrative threads that had begun in Wolverine: Weapon X (perhaps most essentially his burgeoning relationship with San Francisco Post reporter Melita Garner) and so for those who had been reading and loving that title it's going to be an comfortable transition. For those who hadn't been reading the title it's going to be an easy transition as Wolverine is a renowned skirt chaser and has a trail of spurned and deceased former love interests as long as his origin story, but for an easy introduction pick up last week's (8/25/10) Wolverine: Saga for more information.  I think that this is going to be one of the more interesting eras for Wolverine and for Wolverine fans and I hope that Aaron's run is as long as it deserves to be (think Bendis on Daredevil), as his voice is the kind that has the potential to revolutionize the character and get the haters (of which I was one of their number) off James Howlett's back.