‘Wolverine #1′ Aims For Shock, But Misses [Review]
The very idea of All-New Marvel NOW! is to try something new with the company’s legion of characters, and I can imagine that Wolverine presented one of the biggest challenges. People like Wolverine a lot, so putting him in an altogether different situation than readers are used to seeing, or somehow altering the DNA of the character, is risky. There’s a reason DC basically left Batman untouched in the transition to The New 52, after all.
To its credit, the first issue of the new Wolverine series by writer Paul Cornell, penciler Ryan Stegman, inker Mark Morales and colorist David Curiel, takes both of those huge risks. They take Wolverine out of readers’ comfort zone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work.
The easiest description I can come up with for this new take on the character is that Cornell’s script pulls a Superior Spider-Man on Wolverine. No, a supervillain hasn’t entered his brain and taken over (at least not that we know of), but the driving question of the series so far seems to be, “Just how far is this guy willing to go?”
The inciting incident here is something that actually happened several months ago in the previous Wolverine series (also written by Cornell): Wolverine lost his healing factor, which means that he’s no longer effectively invincible. That major change has turned Wolverine into a “Rogue Logan,” as the opening story arc’s title indicates, and led him to join a team of mercenaries and/or thieves working for a crime boss who goes by the name The Offer.
It has also driven him to start packing heat, something that inspired a bit of controversy in the buildup to this issue’s release. Wolverine’s gun definitely plays a part in the ending, which is meant to come as a huge shock to readers, but the scene where he actually decides to start carrying is fairly mundane. Now that he’s without a healing factor, he simply goes to Black Widow to help him with some target practice. He even notes that he used guns plenty of times during his time as a soldier in World War II.
And that is the ultimate downfall of this story. While it’s strangely invigorating to see Spider-Man committing heinous acts in the name of what he believes to be the greater good, for Wolverine this isn’t behavior that’s all that shocking. This looks and feels different, considering the circumstances with Wolverine’s powers, but we’ve seen Wolverine kill before. It wasn’t that long ago that he was leading a black-ops X-Men team whose entire deal was killing. He says outright that he’s used guns before. And yet all this seems clearly intended to shock.
Even the shock of Wolverine working for a crime boss is dulled by what seems to be an obvious ploy on Logan’s part to get to Sabretooth somehow. Wolverine going undercover is also something we’ve seen him do. The trouble with the question “Just how far will he go?” is that Wolverine has already gone there.
Stegman matches the extreme feel of the story with an extreme take on the art. While it’s really nicely crafted (and Morales’ inks and Curiel’s colors complement it well), it’s exaggerated to the point of what seems like parody. The take on Logan I’m most reminded of is when Darick Robertson drew him in the infamous crossover with Garth Ennis’ Punisher back in 2002. That story wasn’t particularly complimentary toward the old Canucklehead (he was shot in the genitals, had his face torn off, and run over with a steamroller), and this one isn’t either. The Logan who wears a crazy look on his face and says “Q.E.D and ipso fatso” isn’t the same mature, intelligent and even occasionally tender guy who’s been heading up the Jean Grey school over the past few years.
In that sense, the new Wolverine #1 is certainly a shakeup, but in the end, it feels a bit like a regression.