Welcome to Comical Musings and thank you for your patronage. Long time readers of the blog will know that a quality that we appreciate greatly in comics is “fun.” Beating up protagonists serves it’s purpose and there are many compelling plot lines in comic-dom, but sometimes it’s good to just be a little whimsical.
We are at a place where many writers feel that they need to justify the “adult” audience for their books by taking a beloved character and having them process/avenge some injustice (murder, rape, slander) in every story arc. For the most part, the days of Chris Claremont’s X-men baseball games have been numbered since sales success started requiring a body count. Cartoon-y writers fit their niche, but don’t always find success. Considering all of these facts, Wolverine and The X-men is an anomaly.
From it’s conception, the tales of the Jean Grey School Of Higher Learning have been “wacky.” Look away now if you don’t want to spoil it, but the cast of characters has gone through invasion by evil children, sentient earth, alien pregnancy, and bamf-infestation. These things are all handled lightly, with a dash of humor. Jason Aaron, known for his darker entries into comic-dom really hits a home run by exposing his softer, more humorous side here. The series has been a commercial and critical success and has delighted me since issue one. But, this post is not about issue one, rather issue seventeen.
In 2001, Marvel comics was trucking along and making it’s money. Widescreen comics were becoming a thing and Marvel was dominating the sales charts with tried and true titles, but the House of Ideas had other plans. Although money was good, Marvel was looking to shake things up. The Ultimates was in production, which would eventually become a powerhouse franchise within the brand. They would even retcon the back story of their most popular character, Wolverine. But the oddest choice was what was done with X-Force.
Low sales for X-Force spurred Marvel to change the title completely. Michael Allred (Madman) and Peter Milligan (Hellblazer, Shade The Changing Man) proved to be unconventional choices that would not only resuscitate the title, but make it a spectacle. Allred’s graphic art style and Milligan’s cynical take on the superhero genre proved to be the equivalent of an independent darling under Marvel’s own roof. Characters died and irreverent humor ran rampant. The title became interesting again and stands, even now, as a spectacle. It was a gutsy decision that created something interesting. You can’t ask for much more than that.
When the series was cancelled after becoming a brief spin-off called X-Statix, very few of the characters outlived the series. They didn’t fit into the Marvel universe as sarcastic jokes with weird powers and self-serving attitudes. We didn’t see much of Mr. Sensitive, U-Go Girl, or Phat after the series wrapped up, but one randomly endearing character lived on.
When The Jean Grey School For Higher Learning opened it’s doors in Wolverine and The X-Men, we saw many staff decisions that made plenty of sense. Kitty Pride, Bobby Drake, Hank McCoy, and Rachel Summers all fit in to place as teachers to the high-powered next generation of mutants. Even Toad fit in a janitorial role. But, none of these staffers were as intriguing as Doop.
During the aforementioned renaissance of X-Force, Doop was a groundswell member of the team. He was a weird, camera wielding, Slimer-lookalike with a past that was rumored to be dark and storied. He had a side story with Wolverine in X-Force where it was suggested that they had a past together. He speaks his own language, which some characters, inexplicably, understand. He is a very silly concept in the very serious and continuity-laden Marvel universe. Yet, Doop abides.
It makes perfect sense that he would be a staple at The Jean Grey School For Higher Learning. Not in the sense that he fits a specific role, just in the sense that his madcap sensibilities fit in well there. We have never really understood Doop’s purpose there outside of occasional substitute teaching, but issue number seventeen of Wolverine and The X-Men lays it out for us clear as mud.
Bringing Allred back to draw issue seventeen was a brilliant move as it reminds us of when we liked Doop in the first place. Throughout issue seventeen, we follow along with the levitating green ball of goo while he thwarts the plans of Nazi bowlers, sleeps with the opposition, and time travels. Through it all, we find out that Doop is indispensable to the efforts of the X-Men. He is the “krazy” glue that holds the team together and through the hijinks contained in this issue, we learn that the character is in fact a perfect fit right where he is.
This issue was done masterfully and captures not only what was great about the character of Doop in the past, but what is great about him now. I laughed out loud a few times while reading this and was impressed with it all of the way around. If you read Wolverine and The X-Men and haven’t picked this up yet, RUN to the store. If you read X-Force or X-Statix back in the day and are feeling nostalgic, pick this up. If you love Jason Aaron, go buy this! If you just want to read a one-shot issue that is funny and awkward, grab this. You won’t be disappointed.
~ Scott Deaux ~