After the introductory first issue based on conversation and exposition, Aaron kicks the story into high gear with an issue almost entirely filled with fighting. And why not?
The conceit is that the new Hellfire Club – the bratty, psychopathic kids from the pages of “Schism” – are attacking the newly-built Jean Grey School for... well, for fun more than anything. The tone of this book is as off-the-wall and manically upbeat as an X-book has been in years, and as a fan, I welcome that. It’s not an antidote to the likes of “Uncanny,” “Legacy” and “Astonishing” (that would imply they’re illnesses!) but it is an approach that hasn’t been seen for a while, and a bit of variety in that respect is more than welcome.
To Aaron’s credit, it isn’t all about the crazy ideas. Even though it’s a giant fight scene, this issue squeezes some good character moments out of its cast members, new and old alike. Fans of Iceman won’t want to miss his scenes, as he finally gets to realize some of his long-squandered potential, and for the first time in years, he also gets some hints of a love interest. The new alien students didn’t convince me in issue #1, but after this issue, Broo (the hyper-intelligent mutant Brood) is fast becoming a favorite.
Artistically, Bachalo’s working at the absolute boundaries of his range for much of the issue. While I can think of few artists whose styles could better convey the idea that the ground is attacking people, his storytelling is at its weakest during action scenes. There are sequences that would make no sense without dialogue, and indeed, there are sequences which make no sense even with dialogue. In terms of conveying the pace and chaos of a fight, it’s second to none, but Bachalo, in general, still seems to concentrate on look of the page before the expression of the story, and that results in some chafing between the writing and art.
In any case, it’s nice to see Aaron attempting something like this with the X-Men’s setup. It’s nostalgic without being retro, and the use of Krakoa is a prime example of that: it recalls, but doesn’t rely on reader’s memories of “Giant Size X-Men” #1. The mixture of characters is strong, too. Big hitters like Wolverine and Iceman ground the book in the X-Men’s legacy, fringe potential like Kid Omega and Oya give Aaron some substantial, ongoing stories to work with, and outright new ideas like Broo and Kid Gladiator tie the book to the X-Men’s past and suggest avenues for future stories.
So far, the only real problem is that the attack here does beg the question of whether Wolverine’s decision to move away from Utopia has provided any substantial improvement in their chances of survival (and it’d be good to see that addressed), but as a free-standing story, Aaron and Bachalo knows what they’re doing and it’s undeniably great fun.