Monday, November 20, 2006

Best. Wolverine. Ever.

We all love Wolverine. And I don´t mean in that " hidden - in - the - closet - gay - way " that somebody on the internet implied to bash all Wolverinefans. No, just because you like Wolverine as a character doesn´t mean you are gay. Let´s be real : It´s just natural to like the guy. Unless you are a Gambit fan. If you are one of the fans of this phony, lying, deceiving, shallow impersonation and mockery of an X - Men you need to stop to read just now. He´s just a two - bit Longshot clone with no dimension and no conscience at all. If you can´t grasp the reality of this ( it really is totally obvious if you have read X - Men in the 80s when the cool and different Longshot disappeared from the team only to be replaced by this carboncopy Longshot - wannabe ) and realize the glory that is Wolverine you better stop reading right now. You don´t get it and you never will.

No, I mean it. I have had many discussions with Gambitfans, online or during comic conventions and I know the result before we even start. I have heard all the arguments about why Gambit is " cool " and they are all lacking. No matter how you slice it there is no real point to this character. So let us just save ourselves hours of meaningless debating and agree that we disagree. No need to go through the three phases of Gambit defending : Fraternization, Worlddomination and Wolverine - bashing. In the first phase a Gambithugger will try to bring you to his side by pretending to like Wolverine and basically saying that he is just like you.....but that you have not realized that Gambit indeed is cool. The second phase happens when he suddenly realizes that he has failed in fooling you into believing that you are not so different from him. Now he switches tactics and will try to convince you that Gambit ( or like I like to call him : " Gambito " which is his name in the spanish translation because since the spanish are experts on " machismo " they know a wannabe when they see one ) is the best X - Men ever. The only mistake he will make is that he will use all the reasons why Gambit sucks as his arguments why he is so cool. Of course this will not win you over so he will resort to the last recourse that is left to him : Wolverine - bashing. If he can´t win you over he will now try to spoil Wolverine for you by trying to tarnish and belittle the character. Which is a futile exercise because Wolverine is just unbashable. But I realize that I´m already writing too much about Gambit and not enough about Logan. I am going to do a seperate post about why Gambit sucks and prove that he adds nothing to X - Men lore and nobody would notice if he never appeared in a comic again. Or maybe it will turn into a whole series of posts. Something like the " theme weeks " on Dave´s Longbox but my own version of it since I am not posting daily. Stay tuned for " We all hate Gambit - I just admit it ! " month next on this blog.

Now were was I ? Right. Wolverine. I may have mentioned it in a previous post but when it was announced that the Wolverine series would start over with a new number one I was not really bursting with excitement. As a longtime comicreader with more than 20 years of experience I knew that relaunches and new editorial directions can be successful but they can also turn into a smoldering carcrash like the painful " Excorzist Punisher " we all tried to forget. There was one thing that was positive about the relaunch of the Wolverine series : with an artist - extraordinaire like Darick Robertson as regular artist I already knew the book would kick ass in the art departement. The really funny thing that happened when the announcement was made for me was how many comicfans were debating online if Darick Robertson would be able to pull off drawing Wolverine. Wasn´t he this " science - fiction - artist " who did Transmetropolitan ? Would he be able to pull off a "superhero book " like Wolverine ?

First off : Wolverine is not really a superhero comic. If you really think about it it´s more of a western comic like Conan or a monster comic like Ghost Rider. Not only has he a dark and dangerous side which basically makes him a walking weapon of mass destruction, it also looks ten times scarier if he pops his claws in regular clothes than when he´s wearing spandex. Which is one of the reasons why he should wear plain clothes as often as possible.

Secondly : Before drawing Transmetropolitan Darick Robertson worked on superhero comics like NEW WARRIORS and everybody was doubting this superhero - artist could pull off a science fiction book like Transmetropolitan. Interesting how deeply readers are imprinted with this whole labeling thing.

And last : Seems that everybody has already forgotten that one of the " superhero " comics Darick did was indeed.....none other than Wolverine. So he did it once and already proved that he was able to pull it off.

Okay, so I had no doubts about the artist. In fact as soon as I knew who would draw the series it already was on my pull list. I just was not sure if it would be on the same level storywise. The only thing I had read from the new writer ( if I remember correctly and am not confusing him with another writer....which may just be because I can´t even remember his name ) was that colossal BATMAN - NO MAN´S LAND fiasco I´m still getting nightmares from. But luckily all my doubts were unfounded. The new series turn out to be one of the best ever. From the gritty, real world feeling of the first storylines with Darick Robertson to the high espionage, blockbuster superhero ninja clan action of the John Romita Jr storylines ENEMY OF THE STATE and AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D it was all good. Even the Texeira issues were really entertaining even if the main part of the action happened in the new ORIGIN series. Yes, I tend to refer to runs on the artists side and not on the writers. That´s because as an artist myself I tend to remember the artists more and it´s usually the first thing I look for in a comic.

It seems I never learn. When the new team of Humberto Ramos and Marc Guggenheim was announced I was thinking about taking the book of my pull list.

Oh ye of little faith !

Thank god I gave the book a chance because I would have missed one of the best Wolverine stories. Ever. If you really want to call yourself a Wolverine fan you just have to read this. Don´t mind the CIVIL WAR banner. You can read the whole thing without ever having read an issue of CIVIL WAR. Everything you need to know is in the Wolverine issues. Now you may have noticed that I commented on the first issue of this storyline but not on any of the subsequent issues. That´s because my comicshop skipped issue 43 which was the second issue of the storyline. Remember kids : if the gaps between issues are too long it may be because your comicshop didn´t get the latest issue. Now there are some comics were I just read ahead if I missed an issue but this was not one of them. So I wanted to wait till I got the missing issue all the while the new issues kept piling up ( alongside other series like SUPERMAN / BATMAN, EXILES or JUSTICE ) but it seemed I was waiting in vain since none of the online comicshops had the issue. Thankfully the CIVIL WAR hype was in full effect so that the issue was reprinted and I got a chance to continue reading. I just hope that the first issue of the run gets also reprinted since I am hesitant to read my signed copy.

Okay, the issues I am going to write about are Wolverine 43 to 47 ( which you may have already guessed since if everything goes according to my plan the pics I have posted till this point are the covers to issues 43 to 47 - with one or two other ones inbetween ) and I don´t know if I am able to keep it all spoiler free. The preview pages I am going to post ARE indeed spoiling some things so from here on - consider yourself warned. I prefer to post links to previews but since they sometimes are put off the net again this is sometimes the only way to illustate my post which could get harder if it was all text with no pictures inbetween.

Like all CIVIL WAR tie - in the WOLVERINE story is part of a bigger picture but it works also without the main CIVIL WAR series for which I must thank Marvel because so far the whole event has lived up to all the hype. In issue 42 we saw how after the events in Stamford it seems that everyone is busy with their own agenda. The government is using this incident to finally force all superheroes to work for them, S.H.I.E.L.D is using the situation to solidify their power and getting rid of anyone who would oppose them, the media is putting all the blame on the only surviving ( well, one of the few surviving ) member of the NEW WARRIORS and the heroes themselves are busy picking sides. Seems like everybody is debating what to do or trying to stay neutral like the X - Men. Well, if you know ONE thing about Logan it´s that he´s not very good at things like staying neutral or not getting involved. Like Captain America he remembers world war II and knows that sometimes you don´t get to stand at the sidelines because sooner or later you will get involved. So while the rest of the X - Men are busy trying to stay under the radar of politicians and power players Logan does the thing nobody else seems to be interested in : getting the guy who really is responsible for the catastrophe in Stamford. But it turns out more difficult than Logan thought and the story quickly turns into a version of GET CARTER on acid.

In issue 43 Wolverine is getting nearer to finding Nitro but it seems there is an obstacle in his way : namely Iron Man. The sellout. Tony has been tracking Logan to find Nitro and tries to bring him in without Logan. Because basically he fears that when everyone´s favorite canadian gets ahold of that scumbag he will do what he does best. Punch his ticket - permanently. Cause that seems like the right thing to do. Right ? Well, when the S.H.I.E.L.D striketeam and Wolverine try to apprehend Nitro they get a firsthand demonstration of his powers - everyone dies. Luckily if there is one thing Wolverine´s good at it´s getting better. But before Logan is again ready for action Nitro makes an important phone call. Seems that somebody is pulling strings behind the scenes and manipulating everyone to serve his own agenda. And just before we come back to Wolverine kicking ass we find out that Logan is not the only one who is after Nitro. Now it all turns into a race.

Like in the first issue Marc Guggenheim just delivers the best dialogue in the series whenever characters are interacting. Not only does he nail Wolverine no matter if he is talking with somebody or delivering his inner monologue but he writes everybody as good as this. Additionally the longtime reader can easily see that he knows his continuity by little bits and comments he puts in the story without hitting the reader over the head with it or distracting from the story. I would really like to show a few examples of the dialogue but it´s just better if you read it in the issues and in the right context for the first time. Trust me.

Mr. Guggenheim just knows his Wolverine. I can´t explain it any other way. This guy just has a real gift for channeling his inner Logan. ( Wow, I soo want this on a t - shirt. The cover to issue 42 and the words " channel your inner Logan " on it. That would be totally airwolf ! ) There are some writers who don´t understand machismo and some who don´t know how to write Wolverine. It´s a common belief that there is nothing complicated to writing him but if history has taught as anything it´s that it is not always a matter of what is done but also of who does it. I have read comics where Wolverine behaved totally out of character and was suddenly hitting on Spider - Man´s wife or where he cried like a little girl because Spidey bonked him on the nose. I have read comics where he behaved like a total asshole in addition to getting drunk but caved in when Captain America ripped him a new one ( I´m looking at you Mr. Bendis. ) although he is neither american nor does Logan gives a rat´s behind what Mr. Flagman says. He doesn´t even like the dude, man. So writing Wolverine is not as easy as it seems. And in this story we may just see the essential Wolverine. Because the writer just cuts down to the quintessence of what makes up this complicated and multilayered character and puts him under the microscope.

Artwise I was a little concerned if somebody like Humberto Ramos could click with the book having a more cartoony style sometimes but from the first issue on you can see that he is delivering the best work of his career. And I´m not only saying this because I met him in Erlangen and he did a sketch of my favorite Speedster for me. There are a lot of artists out there who draw in a certain edgy, mangainfluenced style but most of them are just copiers or followers. Not that there is something inherently bad with copying. Most artists start this way and later evolve like Brian Hitch who at the beginning of his career was copying Alan Davis and has nowadays surpassed him popularitywise. But there are people who are influenced and there are people that are an influence. And Humberto Ramos is one of the guys being an influence.

By the way, since we are on the subject of copying I just wanted to point out that it is a common mistake that Carlos Meglia is often labeled as an Humberto Ramos clone. Which is not true since Carlos Meglia has been drawing in that style for years while Humberto´s style just evolved into what it is today. So Mr. Meglia came before. Just check out his issues of CYBER SIX.

The next issue opens up with Wolverine giving Nitro a taste of his own brand of justice - while he is buck naked. Yup, that´s right. The explosion in last issue of course fried all his clothes but that doesn´t stop him from laying down the law. In fact at the end of the issue he still hasn´t covered up. That is just so cool. Of course, this being an all ages comic and not part of the Marvel MAX line we don´t really get to see Wolverine´s dirty parts as they get covered up with shadows and leaves falling from trees but nevertheless it is still extremely cool and just nails his personality. Now while Logan tries to have fun the other people who are after Nitro appear and try to talk Logan into handing Nitro over to them. Now, even if Logan would be okay with handing a mass murderer over to a bunch of strangers he never met without any knowledge what they plan to do with him - there is just a little problem with that. Just before the strangers turned up Nitro was trying to make a deal with Logan and telling him the name of the person behind it all. So now it turns into one big brawl with everybody against everybody while Logan has to keep Nitro alive. And if it´s only to kill him himself. In the end of this issue we find out who these strange people are and another mutant guest star has his big entrance.

Which brings us to issue 45. If you have seen the cover I posted above you already know who that mutant is : it´s Namor, Marvel´s first mutant. Now the atlanteans, and Namor especially, want to bring Nitro to atlantean justice because when he went off and killed almost all NEW WARRIORS he also killed a member of the atlantean royal family. I´m not going to say who that is. If you know your Marvel history and your New Warriors you know who I am talking about and if you haven´t figured out who that may be in spite of all the clues I just gave you I´m not going to spoil it now. So a big brawl between Wolverine and the atlanteans breaks out which ends with Namor and his subjects taking off with Nitro.

By the way, the following preview pages are not in reading order so you can´t guess what happens in the issues. Thankfully Marvel posted them without dialogue so there are not that many spoiler on that front.

So now the atlanteans have taken away Nitro to give him a taste of their own brand of justice.

And the story could end just there. But Logan still doesn´t know who is behind it all and he has to get Nitro before atlantean justice leaves him in a condition where he is unable to talk. More than that, before Nitro was abducted Logan gave him his word he would protect him if he told him who was behind it all. Wolverine has always been a person who keeps his word no matter how painful that may get. Since he can´t breathe underwater he calls in Iron Man to talk to Namor and try to persuade him to hand Nitro over. Of course the conversation between the two turns into a confrontation - especially because it is not Tony in that Iron Man armor but Logan. The resolution to the whole dilemma is down very intelligent and Logan has to think about what he really wants. Does he just want to kill the guy ? Or does he want justice ? Is he willing to let Nitro off the hook to get the bigger bad guy ? Or is the only thing he is interested in keeping his word and his honor ?

In issue 46 Wolverine starts to go after the REAL bad guy who was revealed at the end of issue 45 and he is none other than the CEO of.....Damage Control. Which is another reason why this story is just too cool for words. Every comic reader just loves Damage Control as well they should. The concept of Damage Control may just well be the only genuine sign of genious at the House of Ideas. Damage Control was so successful with fans that it lasted three whole miniseries even as the art was getting worse and worse. So any book that includes Damage Control, like in Carlos Pacheco´s sadly underrated Fantastic Four run, is okay in SUBZERO´s book. Anyway, the interesting part in this book begins when Wolverine realizes he can´t win this fight with the usual means because the bad guy is a company. An artificial person. And this is when Wolverine gets inventive.

  • Issue 46

  • Issue 47 has the big resolution which is the reason why I am not going to mention anything that happens in the issue. If you have read so far you already have a lot of spoilers but I´m not going to ruin the big finale. Let´s just say that there is a lot of action and leave it at that. Sadly issue 48 which is announced as a sort of epilogue is the last one from this creative team thus ending one of the best Wolverine stories ever. It was mentioned that there may be the possibility the team might return for another round with the old canucklehead. Like all internet rumors I´m going to believe it when I´m holding the issues in my hands. What I do know is that I just can´t wait to see where Humberto Ramos pops up next. And I´m definetly going to keep my eyes open for the next comic project from Mr. Guggenheim. I´m pretty sure that I´m not the only one who needs to remember this name.

    Wow. At times like these it´s just great to be a comic fan. So this comic falls into the " well worth the money " category and if you have skipped all the spoilerfilled comments about the single issues you really don´t need more information than this. If you have a chance, go and get the single issues. If not, get the trade.

    I have read many a Wolverine stories in my long and tumultuous comic reading career and the really good Wolverine stories have been not nearly enough.

    Attention : No Gambits were hurt in the making of this post. I just wish they were. Sigh.

    New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

    Invincible punch !

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