By Mike W. Barr (writer), assorted artists
To begin with, a quiz:
1) Have you ever been caught sticking butter knives and/or other cutting utensils in between your fingers?
2) Are you calling your friends and family members “bub” so often that you’re forgetting their real names?
3) Do you frequently remind your co-workers that you are, in fact, the best there is at what you do?
4) Does the word “snikt!” give you goosebumps?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you just may be a Wolverine fanatic. And if you are indeed a lover of Canada’s favorite diminutive killing machine, then holy crap do I ever have something for you. Not quite a graphic novel, this massive tome is nonetheless full of sequential graphic goodness, and is thus worthy of our attention.
Published by Pocket Books, The Wolverine Files is one part encyclopedia and one part metafiction, lovingly written and designed to look like an official dossier of all the intelligence S.H.I.E.L.D. has gathered on Wolverine over the years. By compiling over thirty years’ worth of comic panels and character sketches, author Mike Barr has somehow managed to put together an astoundingly accurate chronology of Wolverine and his actions throughout the Marvel Universe, a feat made all the more impressive considering how frequently the Canucklehead appears in comics and how convoluted his history has become. Various efforts have been made to try and wrangle all those disparate plot threads into one cohesive storyline, but few have succeeded with a final product that is as comprehensive or well-designed as this.
Barr succeeds in this by arranging his ‘dossier’ into such chapters as Wolverine’s origin, history, allies, enemies, and the women in his life (why the fuck would S.H.I.E.L.D. care about something like that is beyond me, but there you go), all of which are easily expanded on through a wealth of faux memos and paper-clipped notes, often from Nick Fury himself, and interview transcripts with people close to Wolverine. Panels from comics, covers, and characters sketches are expertly chosen to illustrate the chapters they are found in as well as highlight the many artistic treatments Wolverine has seen in the relatively short thirty-five years since he was first introduced. It was while admiring all these pictures that I fully realized what an iconic figure Wolverine has become in that time, and was pleased that a book like this was available to celebrate that.
However, this book isn’t without its faults. Barr’s text is largely hit or miss, with many portions being downright hackneyed. More than once I groaned at how purple his prose got. Granted, I understand he was trying to write as if Fury himself was commenting on Logan’s file, but it came off sounding like some Average Joe who was reading the file for the first time, and not a man who had actually gone through World War 2 with Logan. Also, I counted five chapters that were painfully frivolous and unneeded. If we’re to accept the logic that this is an actual file compiled on Wolverine, I think it’s ridiculous that a whole chapter would be committed to the women in his life, or his travels through time and space (how would S.H.I.E.L.D. have acquired that knowledge anyway!?). If I’m going to pay $40 (or if you want WCBR to hook you up with a copy…) to believe that I’ve acquired a top secret piece of intel on my favorite Wolverine, I expect that illusion to be maintained for the entire book, and chapters like these utterly destroy that suspension of disbelief.
Still, at the end of the day, the Wolverine fanatic cannot go wrong with this book. Full of insight, art, and other assorted easter eggs that you’ll need to discover for yourself, this book will make a great addition to the bookshelf.