Warbird, the deadly Shi’ar warrior assigned to protect Kid Gladiator while he’s attending the Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters, finally gets her well-deserved back story told. We knew it was going to be a good one because Jason Aaron himself was telling it, but in this instance he has even outdone himself. Aaron takes a new character, who isn’t a mutant and hasn’t been a big player in any of the major storylines of Wolverine and The X-Men yet, and makes her out to be one of the most interesting and complicated characters on the team. Now, that my friends is good writing.
Warbird is supposed to be a basic storm trooper type warrior of the Shi’ar Empire. Warbirds relentlessly make war on enemies of the Shi’ar Empire, which includes the illegal aliens that hid out in the sky slums of Chandilar on the Shi’ar home world. Ava’Dara Naganandini AKA Warbird wasn’t always a cold hearted and non-individualistic executor of the Shi’ar’s borderline fascist will though. She once liked to draw. She once saw beauty in the world. Her only way out of poverty though was through military enlistment: to undertake the path to becoming a Warbird. (Isn’t Jason Aaron brilliant in with his social and political commentary-however bombastic or subtle he chooses to use it? Seriously, the man is awesome.) When Warbird Delta (as she is designated on the Shi'ar home world) encounters an illegal alien child who also likes to draw and sees the beauty in an ugly world, she questions her ingrained training and hesitates to offer a final solution to the Shi’ar’s illegal alien problem…at least in this situation. It is a choice that haunts her, but also stirs the morality and humanity in her. This story is told in flashbacks as she battles the Phoenix Five and attempts to protect the lives of Gladiator and Kid Gladiator.
Much like Uncanny X-Men #15, Wolverine and The X-Men #13 is a prime example of the great stories that are being told on the periphery of the main summer crossover event Avengers vs. X-Men. While the main story has its strengths (and definite weaknesses), the side stories like these ones are the ones that are the must reads.
Back on pencil duty this issue is Nick Bradshaw, and the book is better for it. Chris Bachalo has a too irregular style to fully bring this book to worthy life. Not that his art isn’t interesting, it’s too interesting. He’s much better suited to the type of work like he did for Vertigo years ago than an X-Men book, at least as far as his current style is concerned. Bradshaw is sharp, concise, and his characters are well defined. This is something that a book like Wolverine and The X-Men needs, mostly because it is constantly introducing or reintroducing characters, situations, and worlds that need clearly defined images to convey them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The X-Books are some of the best written mainstream superhero books on the marked. A few years ago it was the Superman Family of books, and as great as they were with their World of New Krypton storylines, the current run of X-Books just might be better (AvX aside).