In which Liz and Taylor both have a read of the same comic and write about it. Sometimes they agree. Lots of times they don’t.
What can I tell you, we love Wolverine?
The MAX imprint is a curious one. MAX seems to mean “universe where characters can swear, screw, and be seen to bleed profusely”, which is great because there are certain characters that fit more comfortably into this scheme that that of the 616. As Karl mentioned in the store the other day, it always seems weird that Wolverine isn’t swearing. It’s a little like those issues where Cap gets uncomfortable because he remembers that Logan’s killed almost as many people as cancer. Logan is a beer-swilling, cigar-chomping, snikt-happy berserker who is arguably kept civilised only by the restrictive tightness of his uniform.
So a new MAX title is exciting, as it promises an opportunity to see Wolverine as he really would be, rather than as he needs to seem in order to be Marvel’s chief lunchbox-adorner. I admit, I was also excited by the involvement of Connor Willumsen, whose self-published work is creepy and weird and brilliant, and which you should buy now from http://www.connorwillumsen.com/store/
But Connor is only involved in 6 pages of this comic (the most visually and thematically interesting 6 pages, nevertheless), and has since posted on his blog that he tried to get his name taken off the book, and won’t be working on any more issues.
So what we’re left with is the old chestnut of Logan waking up legless and shark-mauled after a plane crash, being rescued, taken to Japan, made a headline story as the sole miracle leg-regrowing survivor of said plane crash, and then surrounded by Tokyo SWAT just as he remembers his real name. Well, maybe the specifics aren’t old, but the amnesia concept is hardly new, especially when Bunn is mining the gaps in Wolverine’s post Dr Rot memory over in 616 Wolverine, and Daniel Way made a title and his career out of exploring Wolverine’s lost memories in Wolverine: Origins.
You should fully see the contrast between what Marvel is doing with this book, and the 6 page glimpse of something fresh and vital that Willumsen graces it with. And if you’re a die-hard Wolverine fan, the twists and turns of what is sure to prove to be a labyrinthine plot to frame the ol’ Canucklehead should entertain you. With added swears and burgundy.
But while you’re reading, think about how cool it would be if Marvel actually unified the “gore & swears allowed” policy of this MAX book with the sophistication of previous MAX titles like Supreme Power and Aaron’s PunisherMAX. That would be good comics. TO THE MAX!
For the past few years, it would be fair to say that if you were looking for a great Wolverine story, you’d do better to look outside the main Wolverine book. Though the main title has had some great moments, the overall best depictions of the character can be savoured in the bright pages of Wolverine and the X-Men or the dark epic Uncanny X-Force. Wolverine has worked better as a supporting character, because it takes the spotlight off and allows him to exist as the guy that grunts and drinks beer and does the dirty work when it needs to be done (i.e. the character everybody liked in the first place).
The game-changer at play for this particular solo book is the MAX imprint, Marvel’s line for mature readers. Few characters at Marvel are as good a fit for the no-holds-barred treatment as Wolverine; profanity, sex and violence are implicit to the character, yet so often need to be played down. Simply by removing those constrictions, the writer has got more room to play with the darker aspects of the character. It’s a luxury that writer Jason Starr seems to embrace whole-heartedly, as we open to an orgy of shark entrails.
Amidst the wreckage of a fiery plane crash in dangerous waters, there’s enough profanity and gore in the first few pages to lay down the ground rules for the book. It’s reigned in fairly quickly and then it’s on to the story. The story so far is that Wolverine is the sole survivor of the crash and has complete amnesia at the outset, which sets the stage for a mystery to unfurl. It plays a bit on his time in Japan (a subplot that will surely take on a larger role later) and there’s the appearance of an old foe. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before per se, but it’s handled well and there’s still something about it all that feels fresh and ripe with possibility.
What stands out most is the artwork, particularly the flashback sequences by Connor Willumsen. Composed of squiggly lines and blocky shapes unusual to see in a Marvel comic outside of Strange Tales, these provide some interesting discrepancy alongside the handsome clean work of Roland Boschi.
With Uncanny X-Force coming to an end, the presence of a darker Wolverine tale is welcome, and this could be it. It was a very decent first issue, and I’m curious enough about where it’s going to pick up the next one and hope that it doesn’t hold back.