Friday, 24 October 2014

Death of Wolverine Review (Charles Soule, Steve McNiven)

Remember Jason Aaron’s Punisher MAX run a few years ago? That series killed off the classic Punisher, the Vietnam vet Frank Castle, and subsequently resurrected him as a thirtysomething vet of an unnamed war (so as not to date him). But the way Aaron killed off Frank was glorious: a heavily beaten Frank managed to kill his way through his greatest enemies before finally falling himself. It was so perfect it remains my favourite character death storyline ever. 

So now it’s Charles Soule’s turn to kill off an iconic Marvel character: Wolverine. And… it was unfortunately very underwhelming. To be fair to Soule, he didn’t have three books to build up to his finale he just wrote a four issue story where Wolverine died at the end. Even so, for such a famous character, I think Soule gave him short shrift. 

How can Wolverine die, you ask? He recently lost his healing factor so he’s now mortal. Soule’s adds a brilliant detail by taking away his claws. Every time he pops them, blood comes out, they’re usually covered in others’ blood and other germs when they need to go back in, so when they’re retracted, he risks infection. So Logan doesn’t pop his claws – he’s got to fight his enemies with his wits and his mitts, and he’s gonna get hurt too. That’s a great setup. 

Unfortunately the rest of the book isn’t as cool. Somebody’s put a price on Logan’s head to bring him in alive so all sorts of nutters are on his tail like Nuke, Sabretooth, and Viper. He fights them all in a blasé fashion and moves on. He teams up with Kitty Pryde, a character who’s essentially his surrogate daughter (though we don’t see his actual children in this story), and they go to Madripoor and Japan, both places that have enormous significance to Logan. More fighting happens then we get to the death.

The story involves a lot of elements from Logan’s past but there’s no sense that this is building up to anything. Events happen but, unless the title said otherwise, it’d read like any other Wolverine story. Soule tries to give an arc to the character’s complicated history (and wow is Wolverine’s past convoluted!!) with the final issue but its unsatisfying and Wolverine’s death is barely memorable. 

Steve McNiven’s art is always good. It’s suited to BIG comics with BIG action and Death of Wolverine is a big ‘un, though I think he’s done better work elsewhere – Old Man Logan for example, or even Civil War. 

Death of Wolverine isn’t a bad comic. Soule’s a good writer and the script is never insultingly bad. Neither is McNiven’s art anything less than good. But for a major character death, this arc was a let-down. It didn’t feel epic, or moving, or any more interesting than the average Wolverine book. 

Everyone reading this will know that Wolverine won’t be dead for long and that he’ll come back at some point in the near future. This book seems to be acknowledging and channelling that cynicism so it didn’t even try to make Wolverine’s death seem like a permanent ending. We all know this was a book designed to grab cash and headlines, but it didn’t have to feel as soulless. 

When Wolverine does die, I can’t imagine anyone feeling saddened at it – my reaction was of mirth (just from the strange visual) and a feeling of “that was it?!” It was a bit of a cop-out. 

I suppose the book could’ve been worse, but, for a character that’s had the impact on Marvel readers and the Marvel Universe over the years that Wolverine has had, it should’ve been much better than this and had something of an emotional punch to it. 

Death of Wolverine is an adequate treatment of a good character’s (temporary) demise - which is fitting as most Wolverine books are pretty average at best! 

See ya in a year or two, you crazy Canucklehead!

Death of Wolverine

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