Back when my Book Report compatriot Iann Robinson was vascillating back and forth between praise and anger towards Jason Aaron about his run on Wolverine, I didn't really understand it, since it was a book I wasn't reading. Now, however, after seeing the aggravating disaster of his run on Incredible Hulk in contrast with two of the best tie-ins to Avengers vs. X-Men I've seen, I understand why his inconsistency is so frustrating.
Wolverine and the X-Men #10 gave us the most cogent explanation yet of Cyclops' side of the big AvX divide (and finally started to make note of the 'uh, hey, guys, Rachel Grey already did for years what you think is impossible to do' thing), and this week's #11 puts us inside the head of Wolverine, the hairy Canucklehead caught between the two teams as a member of both. It takes place as a corollary to AvX #4, filling in the time between Hope makes the deal with Logan to let her TRY to control the Phoenix and to kill her if she can't, mixing in a derailment at the hands of a squad of Shi'ar Death Commandos trying to kill Hope first, as the Shi'ar are historically the most anti-Phoenix folks there are.
It's a really effective look into Logan's churning anguish over all of this, through flashbacks to his inability to kill Jean Grey, the woman he loved, when the Phoenix was consuming her, and realizing slowly that he's not the devil-may-care murderer he once was anymore. Even though he works on a covert hit squad called X-Force, he also runs a school despite being the least qualified guy to do that ever (part of the reason I didn't much like this series when it started – it felt like a faulty premise shoehorned together for the questionable "yuks"). He's always seen himself as the guy the X-Men counted on to take on the harsh business of killing when killing needed to be done, but he's not going to cross that line to killing kids. At least not any more than he already did in Aaron's Wolverine run, where he apparently unknowingly sliced and diced a whole slew of his own bastard children. To be fair, I believe they were also trying to kill him at the time.
Anyway, this much-needed look into actual character motivation is woven throughout a great deal of slapfights, such as the showdown between Iceman and the Red Hulk, Iron Fist and Rachel, and the kinda cool part where Hope copies Wolverine's healing factor and claws so they can both start snikting away on the Shi'ar Kill Krew – at least before she has another one of her crazy Phoenix flare-ups and flash-fries them. Nick Bradshaw's art is pretty darn good in illustrating all of this as well, juggling the massive fight scenes while making the emotional moments reasonate strongly, be it Logan's turmoil or Hope's dangerous power bursts.
The only problem I have with all this is just a fundamental design of "events" in general, which is kind of a Catch-22. The way it works now is that the main book always feels like a disjointed, nonsensical mess while the tie-ins fill in the blanks and help inform the questionable logic we've seen in that central story. It seems like the marquee book shouldn't NEED such things, and should make sense in and of itself. However, if it was entirely self-contained like good stories should be, the tie-ins likely wouldn't have much to explore or much reason to exist, and the whole point of events is to sell more books.
How do you fix that? And while we're at it, how can Aaron make something this complicated work so well, and at the same time crash headlong into The Incredible Hulk with a reckless abandon that leaves fans wondering if he'd been dropped on his head as a child? One element would seem to be that Wolverine and the X-Men #11 isn't trying so hard to be funny that it becomes grating. There are some jokes, but for the most part, it's dealing with weighty morality issues and internal struggles in the midst of a lot of punching.
And yet, even the jokes here are pretty good – particularly Aunt Petunia's Favorite Nephew Benjamin J. Grimm aka The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing fighting Sunspot and not knowing who he is, then asking "you still got the guy with the giant maggots around?" That's just fun. So why is Aaron's Hulk so bad? I couldn't tell you. Just be glad that Wolverine and the X-Men is good right now.