Jason Aaron and Pasqual Ferry's "Wolverine & The X-Men" #30 is not a must-own flashy comic, but it feels like the solid meat and potatoes of superhero comics. It gets the job done in setting up the next major arc for the series -- the "Hellfire Saga" -- and serves a decent jumping on point for those that want to try the book.
I confess to originally being unsure about the new Hellfire Club, but Aaron has such an effortless grasp on these characters' voices and their sociopathic attitudes that I've come around. Aaron's approach, one of Wolverine being an out of touch old man, is particularly effective (as well as funny, and kind of true) and it was probably my favorite aspect of this issue. Wolverine acting all seriously angry and threatening the Hellfire kids with a well-placed "snikt" only to have them laugh derisively at him (albeit from the safety of another location) is miles of enjoyable. That said, I do worry that Aaron has pushed this new Hellfire Club to the point that they become characters impossible to relate to, even as villains. Time will tell, but for now, Aaron's storytelling and character work are bang on.
The plotting in this issue is slightly suspect. It was obvious to me why Idie had defected to the Hellfire club prior to Quentin's detective work and so the story is not particularly engaging on that tip. At the same time, I guess I think too highly of Storm, Kitty and Iceman (or at least Kitty) as teachers in that it seemed unbelievable that they would have no idea as to why Idie defected. Aaron mitigates their terrible teaching a bit by having Iceman say it outright, but it still seems pretty thin. On the other hand, I did appreciate Aaron revealing the traitor teacher to be Husk instead of the more obvious choice of former Brotherhood of Mutants and current terribly treated Toad (though he's clearly gone along for the ride thanks to his affection for Husk). I'm not sure how I feel as a reader about Husk's defection, but I at least appreciate it as a more interesting choice from a storytelling perspective. I'm also enjoying Hank's desperation in his attempt to save Broo as a nice parallel to Hank's own general fears about losing yourself in a man vs. monster, intellect vs. instinct kind of way. It's great when a writer can deliver an enjoyable comic that's also doing other more layered things in a subtle way.
Ferry's art, with Pepe Larraz and Salva Espin, is gorgeous. However, even though in many ways it's a cleaner style that I personally prefer to Bradshaw's, it doesn't feel like quite the right fit for this title. Bradshaw's supremely detailed, crowded, almost claustrophobic style is a near perfect match for Aaron's frenetic tone on the title, and so Ferry's cleaner, calmer, work feels a bit at odds with the book. Still, it looks good and the story is effortlessly easy to follow as well as consistent. Backgrounds are sometimes a bit thin, as are details such as Broo's skin, but facial expressions and character acting are excellent, especially when it comes to Ferry's take on Quentin Quire.
"Wolverine & The X-Men" #30 is an enjoyable, solid superhero comic book. It's not going to blow your mind, but especially if you're already invested emotionally in these characters, you'll enjoy every page.