by Jason Aaron (writer), Billy Tan & Steven Sanders (art), Jason Keith & Sotocolors (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Wolverine and Yukio battle the mind ninjas while Amiko attempts an ill-advised rescue of Silver Samurai II.

The Review: This issue, and really this final Jason Aaron arc in general, has a lot of what you’re likely for in a Wolverine comic: lots of action, lots of stabbing and slicing, ninjas, gangsters, and a general sense of wackiness/over-the-top irreverance.  While this makes for a generally fun comic, however, it’s odd that for his final arc on a title he’s written on for so long, that Jason Aaron’s ambitions for this arc don’t seem particularly high.

While there’s lots of action and slicing and some goofy bad guys in the goofily named “mind ninjas,” the story doesn’t really have a particularly emotionally resonant core to it, which seems like a missed opportunity for a Wolverine story involving Yukio and Amiko.  It seems that Aaron is content to tell a simple, straightforward action story with lots of killing and while this delivers a decent amount of surface level fun and makes for an easy read, it doesn’t make for much more than that.  Even when Aaron tries for a little more introspection, allowing characters to narrate the action, it feels forced, a little awkward and little hollow.

That said, I may have been less aware of all of this if the art weren’t such a mess.  Two artists have been assigned to divide duties on this issue and their styles are WILDLY different, leading to a very choppy, segmented experience.  This choppiness is only exacerbated by Aaron’s inexplicable decision to divide a 22 pages comic into “chapters” with, at times, the two artists splitting a single chapter between them.

It doesn’t help either that while Tan’s work is passable enough, it’s literally a sigh of relief every time it’s his turn, because Steven Sanders’ work simply is not impressive.  It’s too soft-edged and rounded for a gritty book such as this, the level of detail isn’t overly impressive, and there’s a distinct lack of polish to the work.  Sanders’ action scenes are also weak as well, where he often relies on a single panel to portray a single character doing a multititude of actions.  It doesn’t work.  Worse still, much of the violence is rendered in a ludicrous Looney Tunes slapstick fashion (ninjas are chopped up into steak-like wedges).

Overall, the issue, with its chapters and division of art duties feels messy and chopped up.  It doesn’t flow.  Furthermore, there’s a simplicity to the story that makes it feel mailed in.  There’s the betrayal that isn’t very surprising at all, there’s the fact that the Silver Samurai II remains completely unlikable and poorly developed as a character, and Sabretooth and Mystique are really merely narrative devices at this point, neither of them having particularly complex or unique motivations.

And really that’s the thing:  there aren’t any particularly compelling character motivations here and there isn’t the sufficient character-work to carry what is a remarkably, perhaps overly, simple story.

Conclusion: Don’t get me wrong, for everything I’ve said, this is not an unenjoyable read.  It’s the equivalent of a light, breezy beach read of a novel (albeit with stabbing).  It’s just strange that Aaron would end on such a simplistic arc.  Furthermore, it’s hard to wholly enjoy an action heavy “fun” comic when one of the artists isn’t quite up to the task, as comics like this one often rely on the artist to do the heavy-lifting.

Grade: C

-Alex Evans