My antipathy for X-Men comics in general and Wolverine in specific is fairly well known to my followers. I’ve got nothing against the character of Logan as such (us short hairy guys have to stick together) but the fact of the matter is that a lot of his solo comics in the past have been more concerned with style over substance and visceral displays over storytelling. Ironically I have the opposite problem with most X-Men comics, which I’ve found are so focused on adding onto their ongoing mythology that they are all but inaccessible to newcomers.
The new Wolverine series falls somewhere between extremes in that regard. Benjamin Percy spins two stories in this double-sized first issue. The first story sets up a wonderful mystery to draw in new readers, as Logan wakes up in the Alaskan wilderness, wounded and confused, having been sent with the rest of X-Force to investigate rumors that someone is using the flowers of the new Mutant homeland of Krakoa to create a street drug called Pollen.
The story also introduces an interesting potential antagonist in the form of Jeff Bannister; an FDA agent who is also tracking the source of Pollen, who could be a kindred spirit to Logan, preferring casual dress to the professional attire of his colleagues. He also has a sick daughter, resulting in one scene that showcases the loving nature he hides behind a warrior’s heart. Sound familiar?
The artwork by Adam Kubert with colors by Frank Martin is well done. Kubert’s skills are on full display here and I love the fine details like the intricate snowflakes falling down to a prone Wolverine as he slowly heals up between panels and gets his barrings. Martin’s palette choices are fantastic and there’s a brilliant contrast between the muted colors of the winter wonderland surrounding Logan and the vivid colors of his uniform and the carnage of the story’s action.
Talking of action, the second story is a more traditional Wolverine solo story, in which Logan’s old enemy Omega Red comes to Krakoa seeking sanctuary, claiming he just finished fighting a greater evil than himself. Logan is skeptical, to put it mildly, but he is sent off to investigate before he can come to blows with Omega Red. It spoils little to say that Logan discovers the truth of things and winds up in a fight for his life, with an unexpected ally coming to his aid. Percy’s script for this story has some fantastic monologues which speak to Logan’s warrior poet nature as he muses on the nature of forgiveness and violence… before cutting people apart who damn well deserve it.
As good as Kubert’s artwork is, I found myself liking Viktor Bogdonavic’s artwork for the second story a bit more on a personal level. There’s something about it that just seems to suit Wolverine‘s character. There is a certain sense of grit to Bogdonavic’s aesthetic, which is reminiscent of Greg Cappullo’s recent work on Batman. The color art by Matthew Wilson is also fantastic and Cory Petit delivers a masterful performance lettering this entire issue.
The one weakness of this issue is that it is rather dependent on you being at least broadly familiar with the current status quo of the X-Men titles and how most of the Mutant race is migrating to the island of Krakoa. Percy provides enough information to muddle through the major details, but there’s a fair chance new readers lured in by the promise of a new Wolverine book may be confused by things like why Kitty Pryde is now going by Kate, captaining a ship and smuggling booze for Logan. (Okay. Maybe that last part requires no explanation.)
Regardless, fans of Wolverine will love this book for what it is and all the colorful character moments that speak to Logan’s complexity whether it’s training the next generation of mutants in vital survival skills (i.e. playing hide-and-go-seek) or slashing apart the bad people who are worse than him. This book perfectly captures the spirit of Wolverine and why he is the best at what he does.