There were a lot of good titles this week, on both sides. “Future’s End” is a mix of decent stories from across the DC universe while “She-Hulk” continues to impress. But if I’m going to talk about a book then it should be either very well crafted or exemplify an issue with the comic book industry. Luckily this week should cover both topics well as I take a look at “Death of Wolverine”.
Now admittedly I am a staunch Wolverine detractor. So when Marvel announced “Death of Wolverine” I thought perhaps Christmas had come early. Yes, yes, I know—death in comics is as substantial as a ‘Nilla wafer these days. But if I could just get three panels free of the hairy canuk it would bring a euphoria the likes of which haven’t been seen since Joss Whedon was tapped to direct “The Avengers”. It’s not that I hate Wolverine; what I despise is how Wolverine has become a one size fits all addition to any book. Do you need a berserker animal? Wolverine. Do you need a brooding father figure? Wolverine. Do you need a mystic warrior trained in every form of martial combat to be undefeatable? Again, Wolverine. The problem is that each time a new writer gets a crack at Wolverine they take one aspect of his personality and blow it up while washing away everything else. This isn’t actually a problem in “Death of Wolverine”. For once they balance everything Wolverine has to offer.
The book takes part in the Canadian wilderness, for the most part. Steve McNiven is absolutely astounding with the scenery and completely mind blowing on the character art. If I get to watch Wolverine die there is no better artist to bring me to the end. And the fighting! This book is absolutely top notch for fighting. There’s a page full of Wolverine’s berserker rage as he head butts Nuke for the entire page. What’s great about McNiven’s art is his expressions. With Wolverine’s healing factor gone, he now feels every cut or bruise because they don’t go away like they used to. You can see the pained expression in his face as he retracts his claws, an act that used to be subconscious but now is very painfully present to Wolverine. One thing Charles Soule does to highlight this is Wolverine thinks about everything that hurts. If he is thrown against a rock a textbox has vibrant red letters that read “SPINE”. When there’s a blow to the face the box says “HEAD”. And when he pops those claws, “HANDS”. It may not seem like much but the text boxes are very sparse in this book so it gives the impression that the pain is so overwhelming it is all consuming.
So that’s it then. Great story, great arc, I guess this is thumbs up and smiles all around. I’m going to go ahead and stop you there. If you pick up this book, you may notice a few things. Right off the bat, the cover is a hardy card stock with foil print, which is very nice. Your eyes may also drift to the size of the book because it is double the size of a regular book. Then you may notice that it is double the price. “But it’s double the size so everything is fine right?” Well, yes and no—mostly no. Once the story ends in the book there’s an addendum stapled on the back. Inside is all kinds of sketches from McNiven which are kind of neat though I prefer just looking at the actual art. After that is an interview with Len Wein about the origins of Wolverine which has all the exact same information as Wolverine’s Wikipedia article. So that’s a nice cover, some sketches, and some redundant character background stapled to the book, a book that costs double a regular issue. Now, I am fully aware that “Death of Wolverine” is an event, but doesn’t this kind of thing reek of cashing in? We the fans are barraged with events, each with their own variant covers or special issues and I begin to wonder what we’re actually getting out of this if the characters that die end up coming back a few months later for yet another event? Maybe I’ve got this wrong and Wolverine will actually be out of comics for a long time in which case I will personally bake each of my readers a cake.
The thing about “Death of Wolverine” is that it is a four issue event and he is already bruised and beaten. That means all four issues are going to be about his decline towards his inevitable demise. It’s a brutal fight against impossible odds with gore aplenty. And you know when I talk about gore I have to compare it to “Invincible”. Ryan Ottley’s gore is the most iconic gore in the comic book industry. Because of Robert Kirkman, Mark Grayson has suffered through some of the most gruesome injuries despite the fact that he is “Invincible”. There was that time where he fought his own father and was nearly reduced to a smear on the asphalt. Oh, how about that time he fought Conquest and nearly had his insides punched out? And who could forget when Mark regained his super strength but not durability. When he threw that punch and his arm exploded into a surgeon diagram I thought he was going to be an amputee. But all of these serve a purpose, they force Mark to see his own humanity. Any time someone as mighty as Mark is beaten close to death it brings them down, thrashes their ego and makes them think about mortality.