MINI-SERIES REVIEWS...

cover #1Weapon X: First Class

(2009 - three issues, Marvel Comics)

Writer: Marc Sumerak. Pencils: Mark Robinson and Tim Seeley. Inks: Robert Campanella.

The various "First Class" series/mini-series generally focused on iterations of The X-Men and told retro tales set in by-gone eras, often with a healthy dose of humour and whimsy and even an "All-Ages" vibe (ie: not too gritty or violent). The point was to revisit popular past eras, letting both creators and nostalgic readers revel in a one more go round with the old characters, the old costumes, and seeing "untold" adventures.

So in that sense, Weapon X: First Class is a bit of an anomaly. It was, I believe, the last use of the "First Class" sub-title, was the shortest series (only three issues) though, equally, the "biggest" (in that each issue was 30 plus pages, featuring both the lead story and a short back up tale) and instead of existing to tell new stories employing the old milieus it seems to exist more as a recap/primer of pre-existing info.

Weapon X was, of course, the codename Wolverine had before he became Wolverine. The premise is that Wolverine (set during the last issues of the classic Claremont-Byrne-Austin era of the X-Men) approaches Professor X to help him, by using telepathy, to unlock the buried memories with which the semi-amnesiac Wolverine had longed been plagued. What then ensues is the then-modern Wolverine observing past events, mostly of the time when he was first being experimented on in a sinister government project -- essentially recapping the story first told in Barry Windsor-Smith's Weapon X story (which was both collected as TPB and also novelised a few years ago).

So you might find yourself wondering what the point of it all is. At least when contrasted with the other "First Class" series and their telling of new stories.

At one point I wondered if it was because so many stories filling in Wolverine's past had been told but without Wolverine remembering them that a modern editor thought it was time to actually have Wolverine know what the reader knew. Except by the end of this mini-series Wolverine gets the Professor to once more close off his memory of these events! So then I wondered if it was an attempt to string together all the various bits and pieces of Wolverine lore from disparate stories into one single narrative. Except it focuses mostly on the Weapon X project as opposed to recapping other stories as well. And so then I guessed it was just to provide a handy (and less gritty and graphic) recap of the story for those who hadn't read Windsor-Smith's original. Though even then, it doesn't really form that much of a story for those maybe less familiar with Wolvy's history.

In addition to the main story, each issue features a short back up looking at Sabretooth, Deadpool, and Gambit respectively -- at least two of the characters also associated with the Weapon X program (perhaps justifying the First "Class" label). These too are a mixed bag. The Sabretooth piece is a mildly interesting vignette, adding a bit of a retcon to the mythos. The Deadpool piece, though, seems more like it's aimed at just refreshing the memories of fans. While The Gambit story cleverly ties into the main Wolverine story (in a sort of "Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead" way) though likewise assumes existing reader knowledge (and that fans will know who the man in the final scene is).

With all of that said and acknowledged -- there's nothing wrong with the execution. The scenes clip along, and you find yourself turning the pages easily enough. The writing is well-paced and there is some witty quips and humour (though, significantly, not as much as in the other "First Class" series). The characterization is solid -- for what there is of it, in that beyond Wolverine, Professor X, and the guys featured in the back up stories, there aren't a lot of characters.

The art on the main story is energetic and well composed. It's of a slightly cartoony, Manga style that isn't always my preferred style, but not so much so it jars with the dramatic material. While, for contrast, the back up stories are presented with a much more realist, almost painted style (thanks to penciller Tim Seeley and colourist Katie DeSouza), making for an interesting grab bag of visual styles.

But ultimately the biggest problem with Weapon X: First Class is that it doesn't simply exist to tell fresh stories in a fondly recalled old era, yet neither does it offer any significant spins, twists, or interpretations on the pre-existing lore it recounts. It's mostly aimed at Wolverine fans (and those interested in the whole Weapon X Project mythos and how it ties into Deadpool, Sabretooth, etc.) even as those fans will probably already know most of this stuff anyway.

Perhaps significantly it's the only "First Class" series that hasn't, to my knowledge, been collected as a TPB.

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