Wolverine #1 is but one of four big débuts for Marvel this week. What can separate Wolverine from such a crowded pack? Well, try a gun, for starters.
Writer: Paul Cornell
Pencils: Ryan Stegman
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: David Criel
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Ryan Stegman & Edgar Delgado
Editors: Tom Brennan & Jeanine Schaefer
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Previously, in Wolverine: Wolverine lost his healing factor, so Sabertooth beat him up and gave him a nasty facial scar. Also, Sabertooth runs the ninja outfit known as the Hand, because why not?
BUT SEE, THIS WOLVERINE DOES BAD THINGS
The big idea that necessitated the soft relaunch of Wolverine is that Wolverine no longer has his healing factor, and now he’s working for the bad guys. The former idea is the grist for this first issue, while the why of the latter is clearly set up as the big series mystery. Paul Cornell does a good job in establishing the central concepts. I have not been reading Wolverine, but Cornell introduces the immediate history well. The issue splits time between Wolverine thinking about the consequences of his new status quo, and his new employment underneath a crime boss with the unfortunate moniker “The Offer.”
The best part of the issue is a wordless, three-panel stretch where Logan imagines a future for himself where he can actually grow old. Frustratingly, the issue does not build on that great character beat. The parts where Wolverine infiltrates some space base for a nonsensical MacGuffin with a team of metahumans are where Cornell drops the ball. Logan’s teammates are poorly introduced. Their personalities, their powers, their relationship to Wolverine are all unclear. And the enterprise itself is a little too over-the-top and not particularly gritty or villainous. Other than Wolverine hanging out with semi-shady types (which… has sorta been his thing at times), the idea that Wolverine is now a bad guy is mostly lost until the twist. But the twist itself is undercut by a what appears to be a very bad screw up in the lettering – a misplaced speech bubble kills the impact of the dialogue. It is also strange that the book is dedicated to the novelty of Wolverine wielding a gun. It’s the hook for the cover, there’s a key character scene devoted to it, and gunplay figures heavily into the “shocking” ending. But during the action scenes, Wolverine never even sniffs a gun, and it’s not clear why shooting someone would be a problem for a guy used to stabbing people in the face. It’s an odd conceit that is more of a distraction than an interesting character development.
HE’S GOT A COOL NEW COSTUME THOUGH
Ryan Stegman’s done some good work in the pages of various Spider-Books, and he continues his winning streak here. With Mark Morales, he creates a detailed, interesting environment populated by meaty, physical characters. The art is cartoonish, with a slightly rounded, rubbery quality to the characters, but without being exaggerated. Wolverine himself has a new costume, which is meant to be armored due to his absent healing factor. Certain portions of it look good, but I wish it were more bulky to underscore Wolverine’s new need for an armored outfit. The coloring does the job. It’s neither flashy nor monotonous, but it keeps everything looking clear and pretty. The art as a whole isn’t taking very many risks, but as far as straight-up superheroics is concerned, this stuff is the standard.
BOTTOM LINE: WAIT AND SEE
Of the big Marvel debuts this week, I found Wolverine #1 the least gripping. It’s not a bad issue, and I’m probably good for another month or two. This series will be a success if it can sort out a concept that seems a bit muddled at the moment. Is this supposed to be a return to basics for Wolverine, going back to a simpler, gruffer Logan without the professorial moralizing? If so, why is he going on space adventures? If it’s supposed to be a bold new direction, why is Wolverine against killing his opponents in a fight in one scene, then down with cold-blooded murder in the next? If the thematic issues are sorted out, Wolverine could be an interesting series, as Cornell and Stegman are a good team. As it stands, Wolverine need some work before I can recommend it without reservation.