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Aug 12

Hunt for Wolverine: Adamantium Agenda

Posted on Sunday, August 12, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

On with the prequels, then.  From the look of it, these Hunt for Wolverine minis have two main functions: first, to revisit a different part of Wolverine’s life and define him in his absence; and second, to set up a plot point for the main event to come.

This one has Tom Taylor writing and R.B. Silva on art, a promising start – and most of the series lives up to that promise.  While last week’s Weapon Lost seemed only tangentially connected to Wolverine, this one is much more clearly linked: it’s a New Avengers miniseries.  It’s perhaps more surprising just how much actual Wolverine there is in it, given Marvel’s determination to delay gratification for as long as possible (and more).  Half of issue #1 is flashback; the remaining issues have much less of him, but he’s still actually in this story to a surprising degree.

The opening flashback sees the New Avengers dealing with a deathtrap.  It’s a bomb which is supposed to have a blast radius of a mile, and it’s going to go off in five minutes, but if somebody stands right next to it and sets it off by hand, the blast will only be two hundred feet.  It’s staggeringly contrived, of course, and everyone knows it – it’s presumably the work of a sadistic ethicist or something – but naturally Wolverine offers to set it off, since he’s probably unkillable.  And indeed he is.

The present day set-up is that all of the former New Avengers promised, in one way or another, to make sure that Wolverine’s body wasn’t exploited after his death, and so Iron Man rounds them up again to help investigate.  Because we need to get into the plot, Iron Man has a lead: there’s a black market auction coming up on a submarine in international waters, where a baddy is selling “someone’s entire genetic code”, and who knows, maybe it’s Wolverine’s?

Now, it’s worth pointing out here that Taylor has his tongue pretty firmly in his cheek for a lot of this.  There’s no pretence that the bomb is anything other than a ludicrously contrived plot device.  And Luke Cage’s query as to why the baddies are willing to trust to getting paid in cryptocurrency meets with the response: “We’re half a mile underwater in a highly pressurized tube with a host of unstable criminal figures who are probably going to be haggling over explosive experimental weapons, and you’re worried about Bitcoin?”  Basically, if you’re going to go mildly silly, and you commit to mildly silly, you’ll be fine.  And this book is not embarrassed to be mildly silly.  Silva’s art fits well for that, too – bright, clear, and relishing the chance to draw hulking bad guys, stupid masks, and hi-tech armour.  (The flashbacks are bit more subdued and rather keener on repetitive panel layouts, presumably as a nod to Bendis.)

In fact, as it turns out, the auction doesn’t have a Wolverine DNA sample at all.  By pure coincidence, they’re hawking around a DNA sample of Danielle Cage, Luke and Jessica’s daughter.  Luke and Jessica are outraged… only for it to turn out that all the other bidders were expecting Wolverine too, and have not the faintest interest in Danielle Cage, who barely even rings a bell.  So they just buy it.  It’s a cute bit of wrongfooting, though it does make the issue #1 cliffhanger a bit cheap.  Fortunately, this is not the end of the plot, as Iron Man at least has a go at seeing whether anyone has contacts that might point them in the right direction.  This flushes out Mr Sinister, from whom the Danielle Cage sample was apparently stolen by an overlooked henchman – and the current Wolverine, who was following the same lead.

Mister Sinister’s stock really has fallen since the late 80s, when he was virtually invincible; aside from a brief period where Kieron Gillen was doing interesting stuff with him, he seems to have settled into being a much more beatable mad scientist type.  Nowadays, it seems Laura can hurt him.  But he’s a good fit for this story; of course he’d be interested in experimenting on Wolverine.

But in its final act the series overplays its hand a bit, with another contrived idea.  It turns out that Sinister has assembled not just a database but a physical collection of “the genetic make up of every single person on the planet”.  I get the point of this.  The point is to create an appropriate dilemma for Tony Stark, who, being a libertarian techno-utopian by inclination, instinctively feels that a massive database of human DNA would be a very bad thing in the hands of a bad person, but a wonderful resource for somebody like him.  Infused with the spirit of Facebook, Tony simply doesn’t see what the issue is with gathering all this lovely data about people.  Or at least, he doesn’t see it until it’s pointed out to him, and he’s reminded that this is in the spirit of the promise he made about protecting Wolverine’s body from experimentation.  That’s the idea, and it’s fine.  It ties in with the reveal that the contrived deathtrap is based on a design stolen from Iron Man, who is the sort of person who would make such a thing just to prove that it was workable.

There are also a couple of other plot points arising from the DNA database.  For one, while he’s searching through the data, Iron Man discovers that one of the X-Men – conveniently, he doesn’t find out which one – isn’t a mutant, and is presumably an impostor.  That’s the plot set-up for something to come.  For another, Taylor takes the opportunity to sensibly kill off the idea that Laura is a literal clone of Wolverine, and establish Sarah Kinney as her biological mother.

But this feels too contrived even against the background of the rest of the series, perhaps because it’s also played pretty much straight – and it probably needs to be, given that it’s the central hook for Tony’s ethical dilemma.  Why do the Avengers jump to the conclusion that this is the DNA of everyone on the planet?  How can they possibly judge that?  How could it be, anyway?  Is Sinister supposed to be doggedly sampling newborns in remote mountain tribes?  It’s all a bit too absurd, even for the tone that the book has set, and that’s a real problem for the final issue.

Still, it’s a good looking book, and it was bouncing along quite merrily until the end.  Not bad.

Bring on the comments

  1. deworde says:

    Starts reading, having dropped this at the end of the first issue.
    Gets to the bit where they “just buy it”.
    Goes and gets the rest of the comics.

  2. deworde says:

    Starts reading the *review*…

  3. deworde says:

    I think that the “everyone’s DNA” works. I read it as sort of as an aim rather than “actually complete”.

    Also, Sinister is *exactly* the kind of maniac who doggedly collects samples from remote mountain tribes…

  4. Brian says:

    We of all people know how collectors and collections work. If Sinister was just grabbing samples from urban babies, that’s creepy and stupid. But if he was making the effort to be the one guy wandering the jungle to collect samples from the babies of uncontacted tribes, he’s dedicated and got something to talk about at the next convention!

  5. RonnieGardocki says:

    That kind of dedication is what separates the mad scientists from the mere scientists.

  6. Luis Dantas says:

    Charging four dollars per issue for this kind of tale goes a long way towards explaining why comics as a commercial activity are having such a hard time.

    How many people can truly be willing to pay over sixty dollars just to be teased about a foregone end result?

    Maybe it is just me, but I found the first issue unreasonably light on both plot and characterization. Pretty dismal for what is supposed to be a jumping in point.

  7. Chris V says:

    Ah, but the answer is that some people are going to buy all of these comics.
    As long as Marvel is pumping out so very many different series continuously, flooding the market, and some people are still buying some of those very many comics, it keeps Marvel as the leading comic book company, even as their readership sales continuously decline.

  8. ASVa says:

    These minis are pretty unnecessary, but they seem to be basically internally consistent stories that just aren’t that much about Wolverine. I still have yet to see anything come close to the level of uselessness met by Prelude to Schism.

  9. Voord 99 says:

    I suppose the question is whether that’s just making sure that you continue to have the best deckchair on the Titanic.

  10. Brendan says:

    I could see Sinister collecting a comprehensive database of the entire human/mutant/inhuman/etc genome. Mr Sinister is the poster child for 90’s excess villainy.

    I do agree Sinister is part of a growing trend of villains who have gone from formidable to branded cannon fodder. I could see Mr Sinister as the X-Men’s version of Malekith from Thor in the right writer’s hands.

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