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Wolverine and the X-Men #36

Wolverine and the X-Men #36

Wolverine and the X-Men #36300px-Wolverine_and_the_X-Men_Vol_1_36

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrew Currie

Colorist: Matt Milla with Edgar Delgado

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The brilliant thing that Brian Michael Bendis did with All New X-Men is to make our presenttime the dystopian “Days of Future Past” for the original X-Men. Today is the future that young Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast and Iceman don’t want to see come to be. They’ll do anything to avoid the future they were brought to where Cyclops killed Professor Xavier. In Wolverine and the X-Men #36, the past and present X-Men have to fight alongside and against an X-Men team from the future who want to send the original X-Men back to the time they really belong. (Who says time travel stories aren’t confusing?) “Battle of the Atom” continues with Jason Aaron and Giuseppe Camuncoli stepping in to  move the plot along while they lead us into the second month of this crossover.

This issue dismisses most of the students who Aaron’s series has focused on (except for a delightful but quick cameo from Broo in an unlikely role for him) as it picks up the plot of the “Battle of the Atom” crossover. Instead of embracing the unique tone that Aaron has established for this book, this crossover issue adopts a generic voice as Aaron has to try to blend in with Bendis and Brian Wood, the other writers of this crossover. It’s unfortunate that Aaron has to pick up Bendis’s characters, building on their story more than able to move in his own directions. The remnants of his usual cast, mostly Wolverine and Storm, come off as stodgy school marms, trying to punish the young Jean Grey and Scott Summers because they sneaked out of their dorm room after curfew rather than as heroes trying to set things right. Filling in his time on this story, Aaron gets to show the battle that’s been brewing for a year between Wolverine’s X-Men and Cyclops’ rookie team but the real battle is between two Jean Greys, past and future. Depicting the psychic battle, Aaron and Camuncoli go old school, drawing a battle of two titans on the astral plane. The comic looks like something deliriously more out of an old Sal Buscema Rom or Hulk comic than a 2013 X-Men comic but Camuncoli uses these old storytelling techniques to instill this issue with crackling energy.

In a giant battle of X-Men versus X-Men, Aaron and Camuncoli’s story is remarkably understated. The thrust of the fight is a bunch of psychics standing around and staring at one another as they wage a war with their minds. So much of this book is actually just characters trying to stare everyone else down. Camoncoli gets a lot of characters to draw, but he only gets a few big moments to draw. For such a tense battle that’s been brewing for over a year now, Aaron and Camuncoli don’t get a lot to do with this issue other than set up the second half of “Battle of the Atom” with a cliffhanger that just adds to everyone’s time travelling confusion.

Wolverine and the X-Men #36 is a solid issue that feels like it should have been great. X-Men versus X-Men; past versus present versus future. Multiple versions of the characters running around, struggling to prevent some version of the future from happening. These are all of the classic ingredients of these giant X-Men stories and Aaron and Camuncoli get stuck trying to stuff them all into one issue. There’s just not enough room in the book for everything so the issue ends up being good when it could have been mind-blowing. Like during AvX, Wolverine and the X-Men loses its unique perspective on the mutant school as it becomes just another X-Men book caught up in the crossover machine.

–  Scott Cederlund