I’ve been reading Wolverine as long as there’s been any such thing as Wolverine, way back in Hulk #181, and we’ve enjoyed a love-hate relationship. I thought he was great as the feral outsider who wasn’t afraid to break the rules to do what he thought was right, back in his “best there is at what he does” days, when that meant something.
Of course, over the years, Wolverine has changed a lot and different writers have different takes on his characters. He’s become lovable old Uncle Logan, protector of children and teacher extraordinaire. His healing factor has been absurd at times, allowing him to regrow his entire body from a single cell. He’s also become absurdly over-saturated, appearing in every book under the sun to draw in readers. These are some of the things I don’t like so much.
So what kind of Wolverine do we find in this new volume of his solo book? Let’s see.
Unfortunately, it’s the hyper-fast healing, jocular, buddy Wolverine with pretty much no sign of his feral side. In truth, he’s acting more like Peter Parker, popping off snappy quips, than any identifiable version of Wolverine that I enjoy. If I wanted a mellow, fatherly hero, this isn’t the kind of book I’d look to.
Anyhow, I decided to make this review about the first two story arcs because they go together. We start off with Wolverine facing a bank robbery, a mild-mannered father with young son in tow, has gone seemingly crazy with an alien ray gun that disintegrates human flesh. He’s killing all the patrons and takes a couple of pot shots at Wolverine too, but of course, Wolverine proves to be very difficult to kill, even when he’s almost reduced to bones. After trying not to hurt the assailant, at the cost of more than a few innocent by-standers, Wolverine finally leaps naked at the guy, taking him down, and displaying his presumed dangly bits at the kid. What a role model! While talking with the authorities about the assault, the boy, who has been pretty much ignored, picks up the alien raygun, which has been left unguarded in the middle of the floor, and runs away with it into the streets, shooting random passers-by. Wolverine gives chase and eventually corners the boy atop a building under construction, where Wolverine not only manages to get shot by a real bullet, he disarms the boy who then goes leaping off the top of the building. Logan goes over the edge after him, barely managing to break his fall, but the boy remembers nothing about the incident. Nick Fury shows up in his flying car to lend a hand Logan realizes that whatever this weird body-possessing flying gun is, he can smell the changes in people that have been taken over. They go back to have the bullet removed from Logan’s shoulder, hanging out at a local superhero-themed bar, and discover that it’s a high-tech casing of a material entirely unknown to science. Meanwhile, the flying gun thing ends up at a chemical plant where a bunch of possessed workers are loading up a cargo truck. Fury’s car has been tracking the gun and he and Logan head off to save the day, only to be attacked by a cadre of human powered-armor security men who are unaware that anything’s going on at the plant. After sorting out the issues with security, Wolverine heads down to the loading dock, where the truck of alien technology is just driving away, but Fury crashes his car into it (doesn’t he know that’s taxpayer money he’s throwing away?) and when they get into a fight with more possessed workers, a plane swoops in and snatches the cargo container and flies away. At another location, we find that it’s a giant alien incubator, which possessed scientists pour their life’s blood into (literally) and once they load it onto a C-130, they’re planning on crashing it into Yankee Stadium and infect thousands of people. Wolverine manages to crash the plane in the ocean and save the crowd, but they’re not out of the woods. As he stands talking to Fury, he sees the Watcher and assumes what they’re dealing with is some cosmic-level stuff. Thus ends the first arc. Hallelujah. The second, 2-issue arc begins with Nick and Logan landing on the newest S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, which unbeknownst to Wolverine, has been taken over by the alien critters. Virtually everyone is affected, save a few agents who were in a hyperbaric chamber at the time. They fight their way through the ship, which turns out to be a new variety that can operate both above and below the water, and eventually discover the source of the alien invasion, it comes from a micro universe that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been working with and the flying disintegration pistol from earlier on is actually one of their spaceships in miniature form. However, the aliens cannot possess humans who are unconscious, so flooding the ship with stun gas defeated the invasion, at least for the moment. Everything seems fine until Logan realizes he’s not healing, the alien bullet they had shot him with earlier had neutralized his healing factor.
The problems here are many. First off, the pacing is far, far too slow, the first arc didn’t need to be four issues, they easily could have done it in two. It’s quite obvious that they’re writing, once again, for the trade paperback to come. Secondly, there’s some serious Wolverine injury porn going on here, he takes an absurd amount of damage in just the first issue alone. He’s disintegrated multiple times, he’s shot, he’s hit by a car, falls off a building, all the time making it really, really, really obvious that he feels pain. Well dumbass, if you feel so much pain, why don’t you try to avoid getting shot once in a while? He just wades into firefights like he’s a human target and, of course, his healing factor works way, way too fast for my tastes. He should not be able to essentially regrow half of his body in a couple of minutes, yet have nobody notice that he’s healing that fast. The bad guys just conveniently don’t look his direction while he’s sprouting new skin all over. Finally, the characterization is all over the place. Writer Paul Cornell has said he’s experimenting with dialogue for Wolverine, it’s clear that there are lots of places where he gets it dead wrong. Oh, and I just wanted to point out that the variant cover for ForbiddenPlanet.com has Deadpool on the cover when he doesn’t even appear in the book. Two entirely over-used heroes, just to sell comics. Not good form, Marvel, not good form.
So is this a horrible mess? No, not exactly. The art by Alan Davis is well done, although there are a few panels that I winced at here and there. The basic concept of the story is relatively solid and interesting, it’s the pacing that needs serious help, it’s clear they are writing for the trade, they needed 6 issues to stick into the trade paperback version and that’s exactly how they spaced the action out to fit. I absolutely hate that. Also, it’s a bit obvious that they set up the story to see Wolverine’s healing factor stripped away, mostly so it fits in with the new Wolverine movie, which again, is kind of a cheap shot. I don’t think anything that happened in the first six issues really mattered in the larger scheme of things, it was just a means to an end and not even a very interesting end either.
That said though, I’ll continue to trudge through this comic for a while. There are much better Wolverine stories out there, the work being done in Wolverine and the X-Men is much superior and while I think there are a lot of really good stories that could be told in a strictly solo Wolverine book, I’m not convinced this is it.