No sooner did "Wolverine and the X-Men" come to a conclusion than it's started up once more, with a new #1 that hands over the reins to Jason Latour and Mahmud Asrar. And honestly, that shortness of time between the old series and the new does Latour and Asrar no favors, because Jason Aaron wrapped up his time on the book so well that this automatically falters in comparison.
Part of the problem is that Latour's going back to some of the same characters whose stories Aaron appeared to conclude. Quentin Quire and Idie Okonkwo are once more front and center, and while Quentin's new role post-graduation has some potential, at the same time it's better in concept than execution.
In many ways, it feels like not too much has changed. Most of the cast hasn't shifted, and while Latour has temporarily moved a bunch of them to the periphery, they're all still kicking around. But so far, none of them feel like they're really being stretched, or put into something exciting and fun. Characters are either mostly absent or grumpy, and even those shifted a bit more into center stage like Genesis come across surprisingly flat. There's little to grab onto here with them, doubly so after Aaron had appeared to tie off so many of their stories just last month.
Fortunately Latour tries to do a little something new here, too. He's introduced a new character in the form of Nature Girl, as well as moving Rockslide out of comic book limbo into a central role. Both of those are good things, if only because it will give him the chance to do something that isn't as easily compared to Aaron's run on the title. While Quire is clearly one of the central figures of this first storyline, tying into the story thread of Quire becoming the Phoenix in the future, hopefully there's more room for new creations too.
Asrar's art is just all right. When it's at its best, readers get some fun clothing styles on the characters. A spiffed up Quentin Quire looks wonderfully distinctive, from the slight tint on his glasses to the shirt/tie/pants/sweater combination he's rocking. Even a minor character like Hellion looks good in his school uniform; after seeing so many characters in either generic superhero outfits or a very nondescript student clothing set, drawing those same pieces of clothing with some style is a relief. On the other hand, some of the pages feel a little jumbled and hard to follow. The images of Rockslide smashing through the school would have worked better if some of them hadn't been so shrunken down and hard to make out, and the angles at which Asrar shows us the action are at strange tilts that don't make things any clearer. Some of the faces feel a little squished here, too; look at the last page, with Storm and Armor. Storm's head looks very two-dimensional here; there's no depth to any of her features. The next panel has Hisako looking like she's been slightly melted, with a very strange pose that never quite works.
"Wolverine and the X-Men" in its last incarnation was one of my favorite ongoing titles from Marvel, and at the moment the new "Wolverine and the X-Men" #1 suffers in comparison. Hopefully future issues will step away a bit more from the same basic cast and situations that were part of Aaron's run, letting Latour and Asrar develop their own voice and take on the title. Right now it's feeling just a little off, but I feel like improvement could be just around the corner.