Apparently Jason Aaron felt the need after having the students and staff of the Jean Grey School take on FRANKENSTEIN’S MURDER CIRCUS to dial things back a bit. So this volume has Wolverine taking certain trouble members of the school on a field trip… to the Savage Land! Being the teacher he is, Idie, Quentin Quire, the now feral Broo, Genesis, Shark Girl, Eye Boy, Sprite and Glob Herman are being graded on a pass (you get a flight home) or fail (you get eaten by dinosaurs basis). It sounds crazy, but in one of the book’s many clever moments Beast acknowledges that most of these kids could handle a trip to the Savage Land in their sleep. Which is why Aaron has seen fit to bring back Wolverine’s half-brother Dog Logan to decidedly mixed results.
Before you think that the writer has pulled this character out of nowhere, he originally appeared in the “Origin” of Wolverine miniseries and was brought into the present day at the end of Aaron’s excellent “Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine.” This arc also borrows the “time diamonds” MacGuffin from that story as well with Dog’s gimmick being that he’s just as mean and ornery as his half-brother, but with the aid of future technology to back him up. It’s clear that some thought has been put into this take on the character, yet he doesn’t really wind up being a compelling villain. Despite his family connection to Logan, the “future tech” stuff feels bolted-on and not really an organic extension of the character. It’s a trait that could’ve been swapped out for any number of other things like refurbishing an old villain’s tech or identity, buying superpowers of his own, or finding a magic doohickey. Oh, wait, he did that too.
These issues may have been easier to overlook if Dog’s scheme to bring some time-travel craziness to the Savage Land didn’t backfire on him. Though Aaron has said that he intends for this character to be a major villain in this series, it’s hard to see him as a real threat after he’s defeated by his own actions. At least the material with the kids is pretty solid. Not only does Wolverine show that he actually has something resembling a plan when it comes to teaching these kids, as seen in his one-on-one moments with them, they wind up bearing out his lessons pretty well over the course of the story. Sometimes it’s played for more overt comedy, as in the cases of Quire and Herman, and then there are examples that actually make a character more interesting. I was indifferent towards Eye Boy and the new Sprite when I began this volume, but now I look forward to seeing what Aaron has in store for them in future arcs.
Speaking of which, the last issue is essentially one big advertisement for those stories… set in the future. After the students of the Jean Grey School bury a time capsule in the present, Wolverine winds up finding it fifty years later. The good news is that the school is still around and things have only gotten crazier since then. With the science vampires attacking Earth from orbit and all. It’s just that the sight of the capsule reminds Ol’ Canucklehead about all of the bad things that have happened since it was put in the ground. (Things like the Hellfire Academy, as we’ll see in the next volume). This is the kind of crazy that I like seeing in this series and I wish we had gotten a little more of it in this volume.
Artist Ramon Perez also proves himself to be a good fit for the title as well. He may not have the lively cartoonishness that Nick Bradshaw brings to it, but he can draw a five-way battle between the students, robots, cowboys, cavemen and dinosaurs and have it all make visual sense. There’s also some real versatility to his style as the painted flashbacks show. Perez’s scenes with the kids further illustrate that he can handle character as well as spectacle and certainly a talent I’d like to see in this title again.
It’s not one of the title’s better volumes, yet there’s still fun to be had here. Aaron clearly has plans here so it’s not like the events here were all for nothing. Though at this point he certainly has his work cut out for him if he wants to make Dog Logan into any kind of worthwhile villain.