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Mar 27

Wolverine #14-19

Posted on Sunday, March 27, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

WOLVERINE vol 7 #14-19
Writer: Benjamin Percy
Penciller: Adam Kubert (#14-16), Lan Medina (#17), Paco Diaz (#18), Javi Fernandez (#19)
Inker: Adam Kubert (#14-16), Cam Smith (#17), Paco Diaz (#18), Javi Fernandez (#19)
Colourist: Frank Martin (#14-16), Espen Grundetjern (#16), Java Tartaglia (#17-18), Dijjo Lima (#18), Matthew Wilson (#19)
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editor: Mark Basso

I know. This review is so late that the trade paperback has been out for over a month. But still, it’s the last really late book on my review backlog, and better late than never. So.

Benjamin Percy’s approach to his ongoing titles has always involved cutting back and forth between different story threads every few issues or so. It’s not so much a case of everything dovetailing together. It’s more a way of doing lengthy storylines without devoting 12 straight issues to them. In theory, at least, if you don’t like this one, there’ll be another one along in a minute. Here, we have two arcs from ongoing storylines plus a curious little final issue experiment – and yes, they are indeed different.

I find Percy’s work a bit of a mixed bag. You certainly can’t accuse him of taking the line of least resistance. Both here and in X-Force, he’s not a writer given to replaying the hits – which is a bit ironic, considering that he’s just done X Lives of Wolverine, but we’ll come to that. He likes the organic tech, the big ideas like fiction-themed mind control, the new characters like Solem. That’s a big plus. On the other hand, not all of those ideas are winners, and the execution can be patchy. Still, it’s good when it all clicks, and it earns some goodwill from me, even if there’s other stuff that frustrates me.

Issues #14-16 continue the Solem storyline. You’ll have noted from the credits above that these issues have an absolute torrent of artists working on them, but at least some consistency has been maintained within arcs. This one gets Adam Kubert, which is very much for the best. He really has done some great work on this book. Just look at the opening pages of issue #14, not just the establishing shot of the wrecked Marauder (though he really gives that some reality), but the sequence with the cup and ball trick. He’s great at selling the crazy pirate graveyard, and putting over Solem’s rogue persona. He really does synch up with the material.

Solem himself remains a weird character. You can sort of see the idea at a high concept level. He’s the anti-Wolverine, with unbreakable skin instead on unbreakable claws, a lack of moral centre, a smirking charm, but in his own way equally untouchable. That’s perfectly solid as a concept for a Wolverine villain, and a different thing from Sabretooth as the dark Wolverine. But he’s a difficult character to get a handle on, since it’s far from clear what is going on below the surface with them.

That ambiguity is at least partly intentional. We’re given an origin story with traditional tragic tropes, and both Wolverine and Sevyr Blackmore seem unsure quite what to make of the guy or how far to take anything he says at face value. On the other hand, Solem defies those tropes by persistently refusing to actually show any hidden depths. Maybe that’s the point; the anti-Wolverine is a relentlessly superficial character who doesn’t really have much going on beneath the surface, and lives for his own nihilist amusement, but there’s a limit to that character. And there’s a nagging feeling too that we’re being lectured about how awesomely cool this guy is, instead of being left to come to that conclusion for ourselves.

What really doesn’t work is ending that arc by wheeling out Emma Frost to casually outmatch him. Sure, yes, he’s vulnerable to psychics… but you can’t do three issues pitching him as some sort of untouchable trickster god only to have him summarily outmatched by a regular, even if she’s a regular from another title. That doesn’t work, and it feels flat. I’m still kind of interested in where we’re going with Solem, but I’m not wholly sold on him.

Issues #17-18 are entirely different, or at least, as different as you’re going to get with the same guy’s Wolverine stories. Instead of lunatic pirate coves and insane powers, we’re back to Jeff Bannister and the double-crossing Maverick, with scenes in diners, offices and motels. Bannister is probably the most rounded character Percy has introduced to the book, and really helps to ground the book in the real world – when that’s what the story wants to do, anyway.

Visually, though, we’re dealing with two different artists in two issues. Lan Medina’s work is fine, but it does suffer by comparison when you read it right after Kubert’s issues. Medina’s art is relatively bland by comparison and feels like a fill-in. Diaz is crisper, and he gets to do a pretty good truck chase scene, something that’s notoriously not easy to pull off. It isn’t quite as distinctive as Kubert’s work, and it feels a bit bright at times, but it’s entirely solid.

The main issue with this two-parter remains Percy’s take on Maverick, which doesn’t work for me. I suspect it’s more a case of missing the intended tone than misreading the character, since Percy has Wolverine argue that Maverick is not an enemy, merely a mercenary. The previous Maverick arc tried to set him up as having a personal connection with Wolverine that transcended his normal amorality. I get all that. And I can see that part of the angle is that it cuts both ways – Wolverine’s history with Maverick leads him to make excuses for someone who is acting as an unequivocal villain.

But… if there’s meant to be complexity in Maverick’s personality then it’s not really coming across in the story. He just feels like a mercenary villain, if anything a mildly sadistic one. And that’s way off beam for any previous reading of the character; aside from the fact that Maverick had his own series for a while as a more-or-less hero, his whole function in Team X stories is to be the Nice One, or at least the relatively uncompromised one. The trouble here is that the story has to invoke Maverick’s history with Wolverine in order for it to carry weight, but that same history doesn’t fit with the way Maverick’s being written here, and it… doesn’t ultimately work.

The series rounds off with issue #19, a strange little issue which follows up from that time Wolverine met a giant sea monster in X-Force. On its own terms, this is probably the most successful thing here, since it’s something of a declaration about how Percy sees the character. Wolverine is out on his own, detached from a society he doesn’t quite believe in, and standing alone against the existential horrors in order to protect everyone else from it. This is a fairly traditional take on how Wolverine sees his role – he’s already morally corrupted and he’s the one who’ll face the awful things so that other people don’t have to – but Percy and Javi Fernandez restate it effectively and with some lovely atmospheric, spacious artwork. It seems to be the core of how Percy sees the character in X Lives and X Deaths too, and it’s a perfectly solid reading.

This is the thing about Percy’s Wolverine run – there’s plenty of interest here, and a lot to like, but it’s mixed in with prominent things that don’t quite hit the mark. It feels just a little bit off to me, and yet I keep finding things in it that hold my attention despite myself.

Bring on the comments

  1. Si says:

    The names don’t help these new characters. You can just about get away with Solem if you don’t think about the early 90s, but Sevyr Blackmore? He sounds like a drow with a stratocaster.

    As for the story, it does seem to suffer from the same bug a lot of the other comics have. They’re doing “tell don’t show”, but also cutting back on the narration so sometimes they don’t tell or show.

  2. Allan M says:

    What is weird to me is that when Maverick crops up in X Lives of Wolverine, he is being played as being the, if not “good one”, then certainly the most reasonable member of Team X. So is depiction in the modern-day Wolverine series meant to be intentionally having him take a darker turn, and if so, why?

    Given his backstory with Team X and being a mercenary, Maverick really should always have be a more morally gray character than he has traditionally been, but Percy’s gone way, way too far in the other direction in this story.

  3. Josie says:

    It kind of infuriates me that Marvel wastes Adam Kubert like this. They should be putting on projects that he is able to draw completely, regardless of how long they take, not attaching him to something with a cavalcade of lesser artists whose names would never get you to buy a comic on their own.

    Yes, he is not speedy and can maybe draw 6 issues a year at most. So take that into consideration when giving him assignments.

  4. Omar Karindu says:

    Solem also seems like someone read Fantomex’s first appearance and then nothing after that.

    Between this and X Lives/Deaths, it all feels a lot like the convoluted, self-consciously “extreme,” but ultimately directionless mid-90s era following the departures of Claremont and then the Image founders.

    The choice to linger in Krakoa rather than let the intended plot advance also seems an awful lot like the supposed “never actually resolve storylines” edict from the 90s X-office.

  5. Luke says:

    Adam Kubert’s art on this series has been phenomenal, and the stories have been fun but slight. Definitely echo Josie that he deserves better material to draw.

    I’m bored of all the X Force/Terra Nova/Russia stuff but I much prefer it to the X Lives/Deaths car crash.

  6. James Moar says:

    “This review is so late that the trade paperback has been out for over a month”

    Could be later. Could be Wolverine vol 1 #14-19.

  7. wwk5d says:

    So other than the Adam Kubert drawn issues, is it worth it to read these issues?

  8. Mike Loughlin says:

    wwk5d: I really liked the art on issue 19. It’s a story about Wolverine going to sea on a boat to kill something (IIRC). I’m an art-first guy, so as long as the story’s ok I’m usually fairly satisfied.

    Benjamin Percy’s Wolverine has been fine. Not as bad as Frank Tieri’s, not as good as Larry Hama’s better issues. He keeps the pages turning, sometimes the prose is better than fine. None of it is an X-Lives/X-Deaths trainwreck, but I’ll remember Banshee skin-suit and Omega Dick far longer than Solem.

  9. Adam Farrar says:

    I only picked up the issues with Maverick in them because I like Maverick. It’s a tough road to hoe when you buy comics for a character. It’s a habit I mostly broke decades ago but there are some characters who I’m invested in enough and appear rarely enough, that it’s worth it.

    So I buy these books with Maverick in them. He doesn’t act like he’s Maverick. The characters don’t treat him like he’s Maverick. But they say he’s Maverick.

    Besides that, nothing in the comics I’ve read have inspired me to keep reading.

  10. Josie says:

    Maverick’s 30th anniversary was just last month.

  11. […] the mixed bag of Benjamin Percy, Adam Kubert, Lan Medina, Paco Diaz, Javi Fernandez, et al’s Wolverine #14-19; the slight narrative of Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, et al’s X-Men Legends #11; and the […]

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