Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Marvel Unbound - Wolverine: First Class - The Rookie

Marvel seems to have struck gold with the “First Class” franchise of their X books. They started out with Jeff Parker’s excellent eight-issue X-Men: First Class series in 2006. That series, focusing on the original X-Men recruited by Professor Charles Xavier, was so successful it was granted an on-going that lasted nearly a year-and-a-half. This was followed by the Wolverine: First Class on-going (2008), the three-issue Weapon X: First Class (2009), and the new Uncanny X-Men: First Class on-going (2009).

What’s great about this franchise is Marvel has put quality writers and artists on it, kept the stories all-ages, and let them breathe between the panels of the original runs of the X books history. (Similar to what Joe Casey did with Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin.) X-Men: First Class dealt with Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, and Angel. Uncanny X-Men: First Class explores the group originally formed in the pages of 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1... Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and more. (Incidentally, I loved this First Class so much I actually bought the original art for page 5 of the Giant-Size Special #1 from Craig Rousseau. Gorgeous stuff!) I haven’t read the Weapon X: First Class books, but they strike me as designed to cash-in somewhat on the popularity of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie.

More “Kitty Pryde and Wolverine: First Class” than actually just Wolverine: First Class, writer Fred Van Lente has a lot of fun with these characters. I had picked up the first two single issues when they were on the stands, but decided to trim my pull list in favor of trade-waiting and snagged this first collection at Wizard World Chicago. It’s slight, to be sure, pulling together only the first four issues of the on-going, but it’s a fun read and something (again, like Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin) I can (and have) handed off to the kiddo to read without reservation.

The issues collected here consist of two one-and-done stories (issues #1 and #2) and a two-parter (issues #3 and #4). I haven’t read beyond these four issues, so I can’t speak to how formulaic the series gets. Even over these first few issues the “Wolverine doesn’t want a sidekick/Wolverine reluctantly brings Kitty along/Kitty and Wolverine both learn a lesson” blueprint is obvious but not a deterrent.

The Rookie isn’t an omnibus, nor does it claim to be, so you get a reprint story in the back, along with five pages of Salva Espin’s character and cover sketches. I only have a sort of half-complaint with the reprint story in that it’s Wolverine’s first appearance in Incredible Hulk #181. I say “half-complaint” because I had never read it before, so that was cool, but given the timeframe the Wolverine: First Class series covers, it might have been more appropriate to include something from the Kitty/Wolverine ’80s Uncanny X-Men instead.

Regardless, it’s a fun collection and I’m definitely planning to pickup volume two from a bargain bin somewhere down the road, if only because it includes an Alpha Flight story and is something I can pass along to the kiddo!

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