25.10.12

Schism

I know Jason Aaron mainly from his unremittingly grim Vertigo series Scalped. He carries forward some of that bleakness into writing superheroes, but gives it a sardonic twist. Basically, rather than wallowing in the pits of despair the human condition can throw us in, we get satire and snappy quips from Wolverine instead. Sadly, this playfulness gets toned down in the later issues as the more serious threats and dilemmas emerge. The first issue is very funny however, and rather artfully sets up the theme of the book. We see Logan dragging himself back from whatever mission he was sent on, ridiculous war wounds visible – 'Just the usual', apparently. He dismisses the combat training class he has scheduled in the morning, and asks why these kids aren't off enjoying themselves, before being reminded that persecution has forced them all to become soldiers. In several subsequent conversations with one young mutant called Idie, Logan becomes convinced that under Scott's leadership, the X-Men have drifted too far from their pedagogic duties. 'I wish we lived in a world where you could all afford to act your age' declares Scott in a speech rousing the young mutants to defend their home. Against the odds, Logan decides to make that world possible.

I've been reading some of Dan Hind's and Laurie Penny's writings on the Occupy Movement, which may be why I find it tempting to add an Occupy gloss on this 'Schism' idea – Logan retreating to a radical alternative tradition in which the young's abilities will be nurtured and their potential fulfilled, while Scott sticks to the practicalities of equipping those under his care to fight and survive in a hostile environment. This reading may not have been intended by Aaron, but his choice of villain is significant – privileged, psychopathic children who overthrow the Hellfire Club and set out to terrorize the planet with the aim of making millions. Unlike Idie, these kids truly are monstrous, and they serve to highlight the possible dangers of Scott's brand of leadership, though through my revolutionary lens I'm also seeing allusions to callous and irresponsible masters of finance holding governments to ransom.

Scott's reference to Jean Grey was a bit out of nowhere. Aaron leaves it up to the reader to decide whether he has identified the underlying reason behind this most recent case of Logan's recalcitrance, or whether Logan is simply astounded at how off-base Scott is in bringing her into this. I would side with Wolverine against Scott on this one, but I would have preferred if both gentlemen had been allowed to move on from that old love triangle.

Kieron Gillen's Regenesis was tasked with explaining the splits in the X-community. It could have been quite a dull housekeeping issue, except that a framing device is used which serves to undermine the ostensible agreement that the decision to stay or go is a matter of conscience. In bleed panels, prehistoric analogues of Cyclops and Wolverine slug it out around a campfire, claiming supporters one by one. By framing things in this way, Gillen suggests that this IS a competition, one where the personal strength and charisma of the rival leaders is playing a decisive role in apportioning followers.

Sidebar: by accident I skipped pages 5 and 6 of that issue, because apparently turning pages properly is still a challenge for me, but I was surprised by how little story I lost in the process. There was some minor character stuff with Iceman on page 5, and Psylocke on page 6, but you still understood the basics of what was going on. Which shows that an already compressed issue (a bunch of characters were given just one panel to explain themselves) could have been EVEN MORE compressed.

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