Arriving amid promises of a new era for Marvel's mutants and a pair of frustratingly Twilight influenced "Team Wolverine/Team Cyclops" taglines, the "X-Men: Regenesis" storyline can't help but be a goldmine for the cynical among us. While the accusations fit (Marvel yet again attempting to bleed more sales from a notoriously bloated franchise!), it's also clear that the X-Men lineup was in desperate need of a refresh. Apart from the largely crossover-free X-Factor, I've avoided the X-Titles entirely, scared off by the increasingly complicated history and Michael Bay-style imbalance between action and characterization. Too many titles, too many characters… the comic equivalent of George Costanza's wallet.
It's not that I didn't WANT to be enticed back into the fold, but for years I just haven't felt like the right bait was being used to hook me in. Or maybe the bait was there, just surrounded by a ridiculous amount of trash and pointlessness. The events of "X-Men: Schism" may have changed that. The trash and pointlessness is still there, but the bait's a little bigger at the moment. With human/mutant relations again at an all-time low, the divide between Wolverine and Cyclops reaches an uncomfortable impasse — Wolverine leaves to reopen the Xavier Institute For Higher Learning and teach young mutants how to better control their powers, while Cyclops takes a more militaristic approach, aiming to turn the young mutants of Utopia into genuine peacekeepers.
Unfortunately this second issue of Wolverine And The X-Men didn't snag me the way I had hoped. The first issue provided a neat introduction for new readers and old fans alike, walking us through Wolverine's role as headmaster at the newly christened Jean Grey's School For Higher Learning. Jason Aaron's knack for strong character definition came to the fore, his writing leaning more towards humor and conversational dialogue than domineering action scenes. With the lineup and setting established, the issue ended with an attack on student grounds by the new Hellfire Club, a bizarre group of twelve year olds intent on demolishing the place entirely.
With the introductions dispensed with last issue, Aaron opts for an all-action outing this time round. The young Hellfire Club launch attack after attack on the mansion, resulting in scene after scene of disorientating explosions and fighting. For the second issue in a new series it lacks any real sense of danger or excitement, and at stages feels like Aaron is simply going through the motions. Amongst all the damage though, there are small hints to the kind of development the writer is becoming known for. With constant reminders of his untapped potential early in the story it's good to finally see Iceman dominate proceedings. Each character definitely seems in good hands with Aaron at the helm, and small touches throughout the story prove he's well-read on X-Men history.
As a huge fan of Chris Bachalo, it's still great seeing him on a major X-Title too. Some pine for the less cartoonish aspects of his early work, but I've always preferred his more stylized penciling. His distinctively detailed art is tailor-made for a character like Iceman, providing ample opportunity for Bachalo to structure his pages around Bobby Drake's now unhinged displays of power. Shards of ice pepper every panel, and make a nice contrast inside the dense action sequences. Bachalo's exaggeratedly stocky rendering of Wolverine is less impressive, but overall his artwork is as sharp as ever.
The biggest flaw is actually the combination between the two. Bachalo's art is as panel crowding as ever, and when paired with the word heavy storytelling Aaron employs in this issue it becomes even harder to distinguish. The pacing seems uneven, and with so much of the story devoted to action scenes, what little breathing space there is somehow feels forced and just a little awkward. A random kiss between two characters during the heat of battle feels too contrived and unnecessary, and is sure to confuse fans of at least one of the heroes involved.
Overall,Wolverine And The X-Men #2 supplies the action that was left out of Issue #1 and little else. Some fans will love the return to all-out conflict, but the result is a shabbily structured second entry for the series. The ending provides a solid setup for next issue, though, leaving a neat cliffhanger to carry on with.