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Nov 17

Review: Wolverine #1-5

Posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 by Paul in x-axis

WOLVERINE vol 7 #1-5
issues #1-3 by Benjamin Percy, Adam Kubert & Frank Martin
issues #4-5 & issue #1 backup by Benjamin Percy, Viktor Bogdanovic & Matthew Wilson
February to September 2020

The revived Wolverine solo title turns out to be a companion book to Benjamin Percy’s X-Force. The team show up in the first arc; the Russian super soldiers for issue #3 turn up again in X-Force; and when we get to “X of Swords”, we’ll see the Wolverine chapter running through both books as if they were indistinguishable.

If nothing else, it helps to keep things straight between Wolverine’s solo and team books. And certainly the tone is very similar, though this book does benefit from being able to keep its focus on a single character.

It also carries over some of X-Force‘s flaws. The first arc immediately rubs me up the wrong way by having Wolverine kill off the rest of X-Force. The Krakoan resurrection set-up can easily tempt writers into killing off characters, because it no longer has consequences. But we’re past the point of establishing the concept now, and instead it just feels like a repeat of What If? syndrome, where characters charge into situations they’d normally take in stride, and die en masse like poisoned lemmings. It’s quite literally overkill.

I’d be more sympathetic if it served the purpose of separating Wolverine from his team to set up a solo book, but it doesn’t – he just recruits the Marauders to help him instead. But fortunately, the book doesn’t repeat that mistake. Instead it kicks off with a solid arc about the Pale Girl’s drug cartel, and a hit-or-miss vampire story that has its strengths.

Percy certainly has Wolverine’s voice down, and he understands that in order for Wolverine to work on Krakoa, he needs to be a utopia-sceptic. Granted, that sits a little oddly in a scenario where everyone is more on board with the Krakoan society than you’d expect them to be, but it’s the role that Wolverine ought to be playing. At the same time, though, Percy has Wolverine playing with the kids and taking pleasure in their happiness – which is absolutely right for Logan, who’s always keen to try and shield others from the sort of life that he led. Percy’s Logan isn’t blind to the faults of Krakoa, or the Quiet Council, but he’s happy to have a home and a clear, uncomplicated purpose in defending it for the benefit of the everyone else.

There’s plenty of darkness in this series, as you’d expect based on X-Force, but it’s balanced. The Pale Girl is more of a horror character; at present, she has no real personality beyond ruthlessness and sadism, but that’s fine – she’s clearly meant to be enigmatic, and that’s fine for her role in the plot. Mutilating the bit part characters can be cheap drama, but with her, it’s done quite an understated and effective way. She’s a telepath who gets inconvenient people to hurt themselves in ways that are not just horrific but also rather banal in their use of everyday stuff that’s lying about.

On the other hand, we’ve got CIA agent Jeff Bannister, who’s clearly presented as a counterpart for Wolverine (there are some parallel scenes to make sure you get the point). He’s given a back story that would normally be designed to make him anti-mutant, but instead he turns out to be a laid-back, reasonable man who has good reason to be sceptical about Krakoa, but works perfectly sensibly with Wolverine. The comparison with Logan is interesting, since everything about Bannister makes him less macho than the maverick-CIA-agent trope. He’s an ally who brings no continuity baggage to the story, but he’s also there as someone who quietly refuses to buy into Wolverine’s posturing side, and gently encourages him to be a bit more, well, normal.

He’s precisely the sort of character that the book needs, both in order to provide light and shade, but also to help keep it grounded when Wolverine is living on a fictional island. Adam Kubert does some great work on this series – his Wolverine is reassuringly sturdy and familiar, but his Bannister design also gets the point of the character across, and he throws himself into the possibilities of the Pale Girl as a dreamlike distant figure. There are some inventive (but always clear) layouts as well. It’s some of the best work I’ve seen from him in quite a while.

I’m less sure of the Russian super-soldiers who get followed up in X-Force. Something seems to have gone wrong with them, as the script persists in claiming that they have all sorts of iconography that just isn’t there on the page. It’s a bit weird and reads as if there’s been a breakdown of communications somewhere.

The vampire arc, which runs through issues #4-5 and a lengthy back-up strip in issue #1, convinces me a little less. Having Wolverine object to Omega Red’s arrival on Krakoa makes sense on one level, but it’s the sort of objection that the X-books generally are asking to waive. Having Wolverine kick back against the Quiet Council’s authority works a bit better to me, since he’s always enjoyed needling authority types (I’m not sure Magneto would be top of his list, but I can buy that Wolverine thinks he needs taken down a peg on an island where all the kids treat him as hero).

Vampires, though? The X-books have used vampires before, but with mixed results. They’re not a natural fit for the X-Men, and while on a small scale they might fit with a Wolverine solo book, the whole Vampire Nation seems a mismatch. On the other hand, I quite like the way that the underground vampire nation is presented as an actual functioning community of some sort, instead of just a bunch of generics following Dracula.

The attempted parallel between the undead and Krakoan resurrection feels like a strain, though. It doesn’t work because the vampires’ behaviour isn’t due to being old, it’s due to being turned into magical creatures that thirst for blood. I suppose that if you tone down the bloodlust and give the vampires a bit more free will – which they then choose not to exercise – then it might work. And I get that we’re dropping repeated hints that Krakoa’s supposed conquest of death is Very Wrong and bound to blow up in everyone’s faces. But for all that, it still feels like a stretch.

Issue #4, with Logan going to a remote dive bar to be himself, is a nice idea in theory. Bogdanovic’s art is clear enough, and he does a good Logan, but it lacks the subtlety of Kubert’s work – the vibe of the place comes across, but the designs for the other bar customers feel a bit cliche. And issue #5 feels a bit like filler, intended to get the vampire plot up and running without getting in too deep before the crossover hits.

Some of the plotting is a little rough around the edges, too. The mutant support group in issue #4 get cut off by the vampire plot before reaching a climax – and the idea that Logan just happens to stumble upon a bar run by someone who once saw him in a bar fight on the other side of the planet is a heck of a stretch. And the first arc has a whole subplot about Wolverine stealing Magneto’s helmet in order to be psi-shielded from the Pale Girl – only for him to bring the entirely unshielded Marauders into the fight with him.

Still, the tone of the book clicks. As with X-Force, even the issues that don’t quite connect have interesting, original parts – and when it does all work, it can be very good.

Bring on the comments

  1. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    This is a minor gripe. I sort of feel that it comes from some fanboyish depths within me, from the long ‘who would win in a fight’ conversations that I used to get involved online.

    But.

    Stories were Wolverine slaughters his comrades really bug me. He’s a strong guy with knives. He’s a street level threat kinda guy. It’s absurd that he’s able to take out telepaths and telekinetics.

    Now I know, I know, that it’s a built-in cost of storytelling. Old Man Logan is about a broken Logan who killed the X-Men. It’s not important how he did it (answer: there’s no way he would have been able to), the story is about what his life looked like later. If we were bound by logic, he couldn’t have done it, and the story couldn’t have been told. Millar wants to write the story, the readers want to read it (well, some of them) so Logan had to be able to do it or there would be no story.

    I know that. It still bugs me.

    And it bugs me that much more here, where it isn’t even a part of the story in any meaningful way.

    On a somewhat related note, it also bugs me that it’s Wolverine, specifically. It’s been done and it coasts on ‘he’s Wolverine, he’s so badass, of course he could do it’.

    Now, if anybody wanted to write, I don’t know, ‘Banshee kills the X-Men’ or ‘Pixie kills the Marvel Universe’, I’d roll my eyes – but I’d be at least somewhat intrigued…

  2. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Ack. ‘involved in’, ‘stories where’. My horse for an edit button…

  3. Daniel says:

    Wouldn’t Banshee, on a really good day, have an easier time killing the Marvel Universe, or at least the X-Men if he got the drop on them? Seems like he could incapacitate them all at once as opposed to stabbing them one at a time.

  4. Ben says:

    That’s really just a huge problem with telepaths in comics, especially in the X-Men where you can’t spit without hitting a nearly Omega level one.

  5. Thom H. says:

    It’s also a problem when you can’t define what an Omega-level telepath’s powers look like.

    In this instance, Logan killed Jean, right? Which means he had to get past her ability to read his mind from a great distance as well as her ability to lift him off the ground slightly.

    Even when she’s not Phoenix-powered, she can stop bullets. And she can’t stop a guy from running at her?

  6. Ben says:

    To be fair to this story in particular, we didn’t see what happened right?

    If she wasn’t actively reading his mind, he could have stabbed her before she could react.

    I don’t think they ever imply the telepaths walk around mind reading everyone around them 24/7.

    If Jean and Quite were close enough he could kill them both with surprise.

  7. Luis Dantas says:

    Shades of Infinity Gauntlet, when Adam Warlock put the Hulk and Wolverine aside to ask the two of them specificially not to hesitate in killing Thanos when the opportunity came.

    A Thanos holding the whole set of six Infinity Gems.

    I understand that he meant mainly that those two were the most likely to be ruthless enough to want to do the deed, but I still find it funny that among all the heroes Wolverine is considered by Warlock a strong candidate for Most Likely to Slay Thanos.

  8. ASV says:

    Haven’t we seen plenty of scenes over the years where a non-telepath thinks something to call out to or get the attention of a telepath they weren’t already in “conversation” with?

  9. Thom H. says:

    And telepaths are frequently shown to be the first to notice someone’s arrival / ill intent before they appear.

    But of course Wolverine is a master hunter, so he probably knows all this and has workarounds.

    I’m not interested in figuring out who’s more right in this conversation, just pointing out how inconsistent the portrayal of Omega-level telepaths is.

  10. Chris V says:

    The ill-intent can be seen as sensing surface moods of a person, but probably has nothing to do with residing another’s mind.
    If a person trying to hurt them was able to properly control and hide their intentions, they could probably avoid this forewarning by telepaths.

    With Wolverine, I doubt that the telepath would be on alert, since Logan is their friend and teammate.
    The telepath would probably not be on high alert, as in the case of a stranger or someone they do not trust.

  11. Karl_H says:

    Wolverine taking out the X-Men is more plausible that say, I don’t know, just as a crazy example, Moon Knight taking out the Avengers…

  12. Si says:

    I do get irrationally irritated by the way Wolverine can kill all of the X-Men, Batman can last a picosecond against Superman, or that Iron Man can whip up an armour enhancement that makes him better than everyone else no matter what their power is. But I do find it kind of funny that the one person capable of beating the should-be-street-level Wolverine, is the even more street-level Punisher.

  13. Taibak says:

    Ben: I probably couldn’t find a source for this – and I might be getting it confused with the Martian Manhunter – but I think the standard line is that while most telepaths aren’t actively paying attentions, most non-telepaths are really, really bad at keeping their thoughts to themselves.

  14. Taibak says:

    Incidentally, speaking of omega-level telepaths, I was on another forum way back when and someone asked for the top ten most powerful mutants in the Marvel universe. I think I was the only one who didn’t have Xavier near the top of the list.

    Granted, I was also the only one who didn’t have M on their list, so I’m not entirely sure what everyone else was thinking.

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