When I opened up the first page of "Wolverine and the X-Men #17," I did a double take. “Wait, Mike Allred is drawing this? When did that happen?” I said to myself, but really probably out loud. Doing some checking around, it turns out the reason I had no idea Allred was drawing this was because the originally solicited issue was an Avengers vs. X-Men tie-in, which has now been moved to next issue.
Well, thank goodness, because this might be the funniest comic book released all year.
This is what you can call a meta-issue, a comic that comments on the idea of comics. From the first page to the last, writer Jason Aaron nails it. It makes sense why the comic is structured this way, too, as it focuses almost entirely on the world's strangest X-Man, Doop. The little green creation of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred from the brilliant "X-Statix" series has been working as the front desk clerk at the brand new Jean Grey School for the past year or so. But beyond being a really great visual joke, the question was, “Why?”
This book answers that question, in spades. We find out exactly why Doop is at the school, what he does, and sort of how he does it. Part of the joke of Doop – like Squirrel Girl before him – is that he’s incredible powerful, has relationships deep in the Marvel Universe (Doop is one of Wolverine’s oldest friends and drinking buddies), yet we never actually really see him do anything.
So it’s a tricky limb to walk: the more you reveal about a character like that, the less funny the joke gets. Dan Slott managed to nail it with his "Great Lakes Avengers" stories, deepening Squirrel Girl as a character, while always making sure her finishing blows happened off-screen.
Aaron and Allred, again, nail it with Doop. I’ll ruin literally nothing about the content of this issue, but suffice to say that nearly any one of the sequences in this book would be the funniest thing you read in a comic all month. Put together, they're gut-bustingly hilarious... And there’s one two-panel sequence on page twenty-five that I could not stop laughing about for about five solid minutes, and will live on forever in Tumblr reposts and message boards. I’m honestly not over-selling it: the sequence – and issue – are just that funny.
What makes this issue truly superb though is that it’s not just a one-off for comedy’s sake. It also pushes forward the continuity of the series (there’s a pretty key reveal about the ongoing Bamf mystery in this issue, and a few bits about where the rest of the staff is at), and deepens the character of Doop considerably. That’s what I was getting at before with Slott’s Squirrel Girl, and what Aaron and Allred do here. Comedy isn’t easy, but comedy with heart is a far trickier thing to do. Here, they do it right.
Think about any comedy movie. Most capsize in the third act because they start trying to have emotional pay-off, and do that by sacrificing jokes. Aaron and Allred seem aware of this, and instead ramp up the jokes in this issue as they go, while never forgetting the emotional hook. Luckily, the team also has several other bits they use to full advantage.
The first is the sequential nature of comics themselves: they don’t need to have a huge, life changing reveal for a character, it can be an incremental step. That’s what we get with Doop… We feel for him in this issue, but there’s more places for him to go when we’re done.
The second is the visual nature of comics. The majority of the book is a montage sequence, something that would be jarring for a film, but allows Aaron to lean on Allred here to create the continuity of emotion and action. Does he deliver? Come on, he’s Mike Allred, of course he delivers.
Comedy theory aside, this is a beautiful, fun comic that works, and will make you cry with laughter. Whether you’re a regular reader or not, this is a joy to read, and stands as probably the best issue in an already excellent series. Pick it up... But only if you like comics.
"Wolverine and the X-Men #17" hits comic book stands today from Marvel Comics!