In Jason Aaron, Pepe Larraz, and Todd Nauck's "Wolverine and the X-Men" #41, Toad faces the repercussions of his involvement in the Hellfire Academy when the Jean Grey School's staff elects to fire him. As Aaron's tenure as writer on the series reaches its conclusion, he peters out this week with Toad-centric issue that neither wows nor disappoints. With lovely artwork and mediocre storytelling, the issue gradually pushes the series towards its relaunch in March.
After the previous arc, this issue feels like it's slowing the series down in terms action and intensity. It neatly wraps up Toad's storyline, which was left dangling during the "Battle of the Atom" event, and starts his character in a new direction. He certainly reads like he's gotten a decent chunk of development with the dramatic, decisive choices he makes throughout the story, which ultimately comes across as a nice change from his usually flat characterization. Additionally, the struggle of the Jean Grey School's faculty to fill in his vacant janitor position is genuinely funny and reflects just how much they had taken him for granted.
However, the opposite goes for Husk, who seems erratic, demure, and out of character thanks to a needless secondary mutation. Nevertheless, Aaron points her in a better direction by the end of the issue with a job position switch that sets up for some great potential stories and (hopefully) the conclusion of her and Toad's strange relationship. What's more, Aaron's periodic "humor" scenes fall extremely flat, relying on lazy poop jokes for a cheap laugh.
Where the writing is hit or miss, the artwork is both pleasant and consistent thanks to Pepe Larraz and Todd Nauck. Although their styles are different in their own subtle ways, they compliment each other and the book maintains a fluid, steady flow. Their figure work carries the humor of the issue, particularly in the last scene, and really comes together for the issue's one action scene; there is no other word but "awesome!" to describe the sight of Rachel Grey diving into battle with a psychic sword and battle ax. Matt Milla's vibrant colors make the book feel brilliant and full of life, in such a way that it really captures the youthful feel of the series as a whole.
"Wolverine and the X-Men" #41 feels like pure setup, moving the chess pieces across the board as writer Jason Latour and artist Mahmud Asrar prepare to take over. Aaron's story comes across as arbitrary and unremarkable, though it does have a few solid moments; Larraz and Nauck, on the other hand, put splendid work into their collaborative effort with stunning figure work.