Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chronic Review: Wolverine # 1!

Wolverine # 1
Marvel Comics

Script: Jason Aaron
Pencils: Renato Guedes
22 main feature pages + 8 "bonus" for $3.99

This is a hard book for me to review. I'm so caught up in rage, depression, and exasperation surrounding the business end of yet another Wolverine reboot that I can hardly pay attention to the actual guts of the thing. How can you properly absorb the contents of a book that makes you want to pull your hair out and cry just looking at the cover?

I'll try to stick to the narrative for now. And just as an aside, I didn't read the backup story and I refuse to talk about it. That doesn't need to be there, it's a bullshit gimmick to make me believe this book needs to be $3.99, and it is beneath my attention. Also, please forgive my ignorance on the finer points of the backstory, as I am not a regular reader of Wolverine, X-Men, New Avengers, or any of the 37 different $3.99 one-shots Wolverine appears in each month. And there goes the rage again - see what I mean?

Let's try this again. This issue is the first part of the "Wolverine Goes To Hell" arc, and it appears to mean exactly what it says.

The comic opens with Wolverine having a heart-to-heart chat with Wraith regarding Logan's nature. It was a curiously ballsy thing to start things rolling so slowly, although I think the concept deserves it. If you're dealing with a man's soul, it makes sense to do some soul searching as it were.

Three weeks later Wolverine returns to Pastor Wraiths church and starts cutting on people to draw Wraith out for a fracas. This is a different kind of Wolverine, though. This Wolverine spits acid, has apparently raided the drabbest corner of Fallen Angel's closet, and has hollow eyes. So it isn't looking like Wraith has much of a future.

Cut to a scene with Melita Gardner, Wolverine's new girlfriend. She's working out a story deadline when a pack of psychotic luchadores busts into the San Francisco Post looking to put her head on a stick.

Enter Mystique, who busts in on her motorcycle exactly like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2. She then tries very hard not to say the exact words "Come with me if you want to live." She sort of succeeds. At least enough to avoid an instant law suit.

Mystique lets it drop that there's a division right now between Wolverine's body and soul, and then we finally get a glimpse of Logan in the great pit itself. Something down there that acts a lot like Satan is very bored. You torture enough regular people, it just doesn't do it for you any more. Now, Wolverine....that's a spicy meatball!

If it seems like I hated the book, you got me wrong. I'm not so jaded that I can't enjoy the concept of The Devil Vs. Wolverine. It's a big idea, and it could be fun. To be honest, I really enjoyed the parts where Logan is equipping Melita with a bunch of intergalactic guns and mace in case she needs them. I would actually like to read a book where Wolverine gets softened up by a regular girl on the metro beat at the local paper, while she learns on the fly to get tough. I think I would like that book a lot.

This feels like a Mark Millar story on a half dose of Ritalin, and you know what? That's not a bad thing at all. Except.

What I read was still probably too over the top, mainly because of the hell angle. Those luchadores are just too silly for me if the goal is to really sell the "soul in peril" angle. If we're going to take Wolverine's plight seriously, why these clowns? I guess I should expect nothing less from the man who gave us killer demon nuns in Ghost Rider. My point is it makes the tone inconsistent.

And while the jumping around in time isn't a deal-breaker, there is something to be said for getting to the fucking point. Do I want to know what happened in the three weeks between Wolvie's trips to First Kestrel Baptist Church? Yeah, I do. But not as much as I want to know what's going on now. If the hook is strong, it doesn't need the bait, it can stand on its own.

Now it's time to admit the very real possibility that I'm being overly unkind because of the baggage a new Wolverine # 1 brings to my soul. Wasn't Jason Aaron just writing a Wolverine book with a $3.99 price tag? Wasn't that barely a year ago that it started? What do we need this for?

Did you notice that Ultimate Spider-Man, oh wait, I'm sorry - Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is returning to "legacy" numbering 23 seconds after it's goddamn reboot? I don't know how to feel about that. I fully expect that they'll reboot to something calling itself Comics Ultimate Man-Spider # 1 about three months later. Hey, wait...why don't we just publish a new # 1 in odd months, then publish 99 $3.99 one-shots plus a new centennial "legacy" numbered special in even months? That would be super, wouldn't it?

What's upsetting to me is that it is finally sinking into my brain that the emperor has no clothes. If Marvel cannot put together a Wolverine ongoing that will withstand a full calendar year, the emperor is butt naked, and it's time to face that fact.

And I get it, OK? We're all very stupid for now, and Marvel is going to sell more copies of this than they did Wolverine: Weapon X # 16. They will. But when the relaunch hits 16 months after the relaunch, especially with the same writer, how is that not re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? If Marvel can't keep Wolverine afloat, the ship isn't's sunk.

So should I be mad, or should I cry? Who is to blame? Is anybody? Did we not do enough as readers, or did Marvel piss away everything by failing to leverage its movie exposure into the publishing arm, or is it just fate that nothing last forever, and its time for the medium I love to die its natural death? If that's the case, then I would prefer that we just run with a book called "Wolverine", do the best work possible, and let the thing die with some goddamn dignity.

That's what I see when I look at Wolverine # 1. I see the tombstone of the medium. That and Wolverine copping a squat in Hell. It seems appropriate, somehow.

- Ryan


Irish Mike said...

Testify, brother! You're right...the comic buying public, i.e. US, are a buncha damn lemmings. Variant covers? Reboots for the sake of a #1 issue? $3.99? Shit yeah, sign us up, bitches!

It kills me. The medium that I love and appreciate with so much of my being is the same beast that threatens to sodomize me whenever I stop to take a breath.


Chronic Insomnia said...

Yeah, I know. I want to be sympathetic. If Wolverine sold 200,000 copies a month, we wouldn't see this nonsense. So I don't want to blame them entirely, they're just trying to survive. But is it our fault, then, that they can't point the MILLIONS of people who enjoy their product on film to the comic shop? So it's back on them. But if we didn't reward the behavior by purchasing more of these bullshit event/reboot books, they wouldn't make them, so it's back on us. It's a giant vicious circle of irresponsible behavior on everyone's part. All I know is that I have a headache thinking about this crap, and I think it's going to get worse for us before it gets better.