by Jason Aaron (writer), Jefte Palo (art), Nathan Fairbairn (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: Melita throws a surprise birthday party for Logan, but the guest of honor finds himself side-tracked by some grotesque bad guys.

What’s Good: Wow, you could not get a comic with two more different halves.  On the one side, you get a feel-good party with the Avengers and Melita and on the other side, you’ve got a gritty tale of Logan battling cannibals in the backwoods.  How the hell can two such different things actually fit together?  The fact that Aaron manages this and makes both sides entertaining is already an achievement.

On the cannibal end, the Buzzard Brothers are a blast to read.  Aaron writes them with absolute glee and their dialogue is ghoulishly entertaining.  Yes, they’re appalling, but they’re also really, really funny, particularly when they bicker.  For them, murder and cannibalism is an everyday thing, so their dialogue and sibling animosity takes a ridiculous tone that I couldn’t help laughing at.  Despite being a bit of a cliché in concept, Aaron’s lively dialogue combined with Palo’s awesome character designs raises the brothers up into something special.

At the party end, the huge ensemble of Avengers actually helps rather than hinders.  Aaron successfully puts across the fact that Logan isn’t alone as he thinks.  The party comes across really naturally and is a perfect fusion of the mundane and the superheroic.  It feels like an ordinary get-together, till you notice all the jets parked outside.  Either way, all the characters work great and Melita is as likable as ever, if only because she acts like a perfectly normal human being amidst all the spandex.  Better still, her birthday present is touching.  I also have to highlight Deadpool’s role this month, which was absolutely hilarious, and I’m not even a fan.  Aaron used him so expertly this month, inserting him here and there as a kind of punch-line.  He’s far from being in a starring role, but his peripheral presence makes for plenty of laughs.

What’s Not So Good: While I loved his Buzzard Brothers, Palo’s art overall is a bit of a mixed bag.  At times, it looks great, but at other times, particularly during the party, I can’t help but notice the lack of detail he puts into his characters’ faces.  Also, most of them look far too craggy.  Palo’s art isn’t pretty or polished, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the craggy grittiness that he brings just doesn’t jive with the lighter scenes in the book.

Much as was the case with Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man #500.1, the whole .1 thing also lingers over this issue.  One can’t help but notice the weird game this issue plays, continuity-wise, as a result.  We know that it’s after Logan’s trip to hell, but it’s also presumably taking place long after the events of Wolverine #4.  When we saw him last month, Logan was mentally confused, about to enter a full story-arc of him, disoriented, and locked in conflict with the X-Men.  I’m honestly not sure how this works, and it’s never made clear.  More confusing still is the issue’s ending, which leaves on a cliffhanger Aaron promises will be followed up in his ongoing, but when?  The next arc deals with the X-Men, not the Buzzard Brothers or the Hand.  So is this .1 issue meant to set-up a story that won’t start up until May at the earliest, once the X-Men vs. Wolverine arc is done?  How does this then serve as a jumping on point for new readers picking up Wolverine #6?

Conclusion: Much like Fraction’s attempt at it, this is a solid issue held back by Marvel’s nebulous point on initiative

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans