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Apr 29

“Wrath” – Savage Wolverine #14-17

Posted on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

Let’s bring us up to date before the next wave of books comes out tomorrow.  (And yes, I’ve given up hope on ever getting round to Wolverine Max any time soon.)

The cover for issue #14 – officially, it’s #14.NOW, but let’s smile and nod and ignore that – is presumably joking with its strap line “From the master of noir, Richard Isanove, comes a thrilling new adventure”.  Isanove is best known as a colourist on books like OriginDark Tower and 1602; so far as I can recall, this is his first high-profile assignment as a writer or artist.

Still, you can see where the noir tag is coming from.

It’s not especially from the art, which looks much the same as you would expect given his colouring credits.  He’s a conventional but solid storyteller, the colouring is subtle and attractive, and it’s a nice looking comic.  It’s also drenched in bright sunlight – in fact, it makes a point of moving its climax outdoors into the snow that it can turn up the white.  This is not a book notable for its moody shadows.

But that’s probably for the best, as it steers the feel of the book away from noir cliche.  The plot, in isolation, veers rather more in that direction, being a gangland revenge type affair – though if it weren’t for the decade, it wouldn’t be particularly out of place as a western either.  Set at the tail end of the Prohibition, it has Logan hanging around with a bootlegger who runs afoul of the local mob.  The bootlegger friend gets killed, his daughter gets kidnapped, and Logan has to rescue the daughter while taking care of her now orphaned siblings.

Logan himself has a pretty standard role as the wandering man of violence on the fringes of a more stable family.  He’s serving as a stock protagonist for the genre, to be honest.

Isanove seems rather more interested in his two main gangsters, who get almost half of issue #2 as a flashback to set up how they met.  He seems to see them almost as tragic figures, driven by previous victimhood to a philosophy of maintaining control at all costs.  It’s worked out pretty well until they ran into Wolverine.  But they have no plan B, and plough suicidally on in an attempt to restore their control of the situation.  The idea, I guess, is that this is the cycle of violence that ends up dragging down the civilians that Logan’s trying to protect.

The gangsters are quite interesting characters.  The kids aren’t so well drawn, and the story certainly doesn’t need four of them.  The eldest son, trying to rise to the occasion and protect his family, has a personality.  But the other three are basically a saintly victim, an older daughter whose main function is to die tragically of TB to crank up the sentiment, and a boy who seems to have no actual purpose other than to relay exposition.

“Wrath” is one of the occasional stories that I much preferred on a second reading.  In serial form it felt like a bit of a shapeless dirge, but in a single sitting it hangs together a lot better, not least because you’re more likely to remember the bits that get call backs in the final chapter.  True, it’s got some flab in the plot (like that superfluous child), and it really doesn’t do much with the title character.  But it’s got some subtlety and ambition, which is always good to see.

Bring on the comments

  1. errant razor says:

    They still make Wolverine MAX?

  2. JD says:

    No, but Paul has yet to review the last arc of that series.

    I think Isanove drew some of the minis and one-shots for Dark Tower, but this would be his writing debut. (Also, the Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Creators tells me he drew a story in X-Men Unlimited #48 a decade ago.)

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