[12 March 2014]
There’s a reason why functioning societies don’t put young, inexperienced teenagers in positions of power. It’s for a very similar reason that old empires and declining dynasties ended when young men with more acne than experience were put into positions of power. Some parents and even some teachers may be willing to trust some teenagers with greater responsibilities. But as a whole, they look at teenagers as potential juveniles that still think with the wrong body parts. Some even take it to extremes, treating teenagers as criminals by default. That’s why some public schools function more like prisons than schools. The thought of teenagers having no structure or order is so horrifying that their rights and privileges are more restrained than those of actual prisoners. But is it at all possible for teenagers to function in positions of power and not screw it up?
That’s a question that the newly relaunched Wolverine and the X-men #1 tries to answer. What Jason Aaron built up for 42 issues is now continuing under Jason Latour. And the transition is both fairly smooth and thematically consistent. However, there is a clear shift in how this new iteration of Wolverine and the X-men functions. And that shift is best embodied by new role given to Kid Omega. A few years ago, any role with Kid Omega that didn’t involve giving the X-men migraines was unthinkable. But he went through many changes over the course of Jason Aaron’s run on the series. And in this first issue, Kid Omega goes through another change. But it’s not as dramatic as it’s made out to be and he goes out of his way to make sure of it.
Since his creation at the hands of Grant Morrison, one of Kid Omega’s defining traits has been his utter lack of maturity. He’s like a spoiled two-year-old with super-powers. Whenever something doesn’t go his way, his reaction gives adults all the reasons they’ll ever need not to trust teenagers. Yet during X-men: Battle of the Atom, he saw a glimpse of his future. He saw that he would one day wield the Phoenix Force. And if he weren’t mature at least on some levels, the Phoenix would have already torched the Earth and probably the Earths of several parallel universes. But he doesn’t see it that way and it shows in how he handles new responsibilities.
At the end of Jason Aaron’s run on Wolverine and the X-men, Kid Omega was given a diploma. Whereas most teenagers see this as right up there with their prom night as a major milestone, he hates it. And at the beginning of this new run, he’s given new responsibilities as a teaching assistant. It’s the kind of responsibility that some kids work their hands to the bone to get. But when it’s served to him on a silver platter, he just gags like it’s lined with spoiled mushrooms. The end result of his new responsibilities isn’t that surprising. His students take this as permission to be as irresponsible as they want. It may very well vindicate all those fears that adults have about teenagers, but Kid Omega is hardly a fitting sample size. And his ascension to this role only reveals another kind of anarchy that has taken over the series.
The state of affairs at the Jean Grey Institute has clearly changed. What isn’t so clear is why it changed in the first place. The answer is this issue’s greatest shortcoming and not just because the answer is insufficient. As it stands, the only one in charge at the Jean Grey Institute with a history of responsibility, at least when it doesn’t come to hair styles, is Storm. And she’s trying to keep the school intact while Wolverine is MIA and shortly after he gives the rest of the staff extended leave. Even though Wolverine admits throughout his tenure as headmaster of the Jean Grey Institute that he couldn’t be a less qualified teacher without being a creationist teaching biology, he essentially reinforces this to an extreme by ditching his staff and letting someone like Kid Omega in charge. That’s like cutting half the football team and replacing them with cheerleaders.
But that’s not to say he’s not looking for more help. The problem is the help he ends up recruiting might as well have come from a shady, poorly worded ad on Craigslist. Despite not having his healing factor, he ventures to The Block in an effort to recruit his old X-Force ally, Fantomex. Now this might make sense if he was putting together a new secret kill-squad whose secondary mission was to stay as far away from impressionable teenagers as possible. But Wolverine actually wants Fantomex to teach at the Jean Grey Institute. And this isn’t just a problem. It’s an act of hypocrisy.
The whole reason why Wolverine founded the Jean Grey Institute was because he wanted to distance himself from Cyclops’s more militaristic approach to training mutants. That was all well and good at first, but then he put Cyclops at the top of dirtbags-he-wants-to-stab list after Charles Xavier died by his hands. Yet somehow Fantomex doesn’t make this list? The same guy who once shot a kid Apocalypse right between the eyes? How can he trust Fantomex to teach his students while one of his sole missions in life is to denigrate Cyclops? That makes as much sense as asking the Hulk to teach anger management classes.
Wolverine and the X-men #1 establishes a new course for the Jean Grey Institute. However, that new course is poorly defined and even more poorly executed. Putting Kid Omega in charge and recruiting Fantomex make for some entertaining and colorful moments, but it’s hard to take those ideas seriously. And maybe that’s the point. Wolverine is essentially reinforcing his status as being an under-qualified headmaster and he’s doing too good a job. There are a number of flaws in the first part of this new course, but few of these flaws are so egregious that they can’t be addressed in later issues. And despite these flaws, this issue provides a fairly smooth transition, at least in terms of theme and vision, from one era of Wolverine and the X-men to the other. The Jean Grey Institute is still in a state of self-imposed anarchy. It’s chaotic and hard to follow at times. But like watching wannabe stars fail at American Idol auditions, it’s still entertaining.