By Jason Aaron (writer), Renato Guedes (artist), Jose Wilson Magalhaes (inker), Matt Wilson (colorist)
The Story: You know it was bound to happen sooner or later: Wolverine awakens to inexplicably find himself Hell. Yep, Hell. But if he’s been cast into the Pit, who now walks the Earth bearing his likeness and signature claws, and why is he brutally eliminating Logan’s friends and loved ones?
The Good: Sigh, oh Wolverine. What the hell kind of world do we live in where a diminutive, psychopathic Canadian brandishing not one but six really sharp knives and a talent for using them has become as beloved and iconic a character as such pillars of heroism as Captain America, Superman, and Spiderman? Beats me, but it is a better world and we are better human beings for having him in our lives. Listen, I’ll level with you: in my opinion, Wolverine has always been a rather shallow character. Beyond the claws, healing factor, and never-ending struggle to control his lust for violence, what else is there about this character that any of us identify with? Little to nothing, I’d argue, but in a way that’s kind of the point. That’s kind of what we like about the little rascal. This is a comic book of clearly-defined clichés and a narrative formula that has changed little in the thirty-six years the Canucklehead has been kicking ass and taking names, and we keep coming back for more because that simple combination of the claws, healing factor, and violent tendencies, in the hands of a competent creative team, is usually a wicked and entertaining experience, and sometimes that alone is worth the price of admission.
So, with that in mind, I can safely say that all the elements are in place to make this a great addition to Wolverine’s stable of comics. Aaron does an outstanding job here of walking that fine line between delivering all the classic elements of a typical Wolverine comic while at the same time finding new aspects of Logan’s character to bring to the light. As a returning reader who hasn’t picked up a Wolverine comic in about fifteen years, I was intrigued with Logan’s confession to Wraith that, while he’s now able to deal with the darkness that lurks in him, he feels ill-equipped to handle the idea of living a life with hope, which is ironic as he’s spent his whole life fighting to attain that very thing. In Wraith, Logan has found a kind of moral and spiritual counterpoint that is poignant and especially relevant to the kind of story Aaron is attempting to pull off here. My only hope right now is that, pending the conclusion to this story, Wraith will be a mainstay on this book.
The Not So Good: You know, for the title character’s first issue, I felt like it would have been nice to have seen more of Wolverine here. He felt like a guest star in his own book, and that doesn’t exactly make me want to come back for more. While I respect that Aaron’s plot needs time to unfold over the next few months, I was disappointed that this issue didn’t have that dynamic level of action that I’d come to expect from a Wolverine comic. If that means Aaron is going to be weaving more cerebral plots in this book then I’m not opposed to the idea and will have to learn to appreciate the change in style. I wasn’t a fan of Guedes’ art here and felt that, although it was competent, it was also thin and lacked any substance on the page; his establishing shot of Hell should have been complex and horrific and utterly fucking terrifying, yet it was poorly defined, nondescript, and rendered in purple and red hues that didn’t evoke fear as much as boredom. On a final note: I can only hope and pray that Marvel’s abysmal practice of back up features comes to an end sooner than later, because I’ve yet to read one of these things that has ever been entertaining or of value. Is there something wrong with simply giving us eight more pages of the main story and still charging $3.99 for it? I thought the Silver Samurai back up feature was a complete waste of time, and if this comic is going to include back ups every month in order to justify its price increase, I might go ahead and wait for it to come out in graphic novels instead.
Conclusion: A strangely subdued issue, but one full of potential that promises to deliver one of the most surreal adventures of Wolverine’s career. This would be a good time to get on board, as Aaron’s ready to take new and loyal readers on one hell of a ride.