Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Snikt Fiction Double Feature - Wolverine #1 & Road to Hell Review

Wolverine is a popular character, and two of his titles shipping on the same date is not a rare occurrence, but normally I’m a one-Wolverine-title-a-month man. So why did I pick up both of these titles? Two words: Jason. Aaron. The man knows how to write everyone’s favorite Canuck superhero, and I’m a big fan of pretty much everything he has written. He is contributing a short story in “Wolverine: Road to Hell” among others, and he is the main auteur of the brand new Wolverine title. Hit the jump to see what I thought about these two titles.

Wolverine: Road To Hell

Written by Jason Aaron, Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu and Rick Remender
Art by Renato Guedes, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Onofrio Catacchio, Will Conrad, and Leonardo Manco

Road To Hell works as a short preview of the upcoming family of Wolverine titles (and yes, we are at a point in our industry where the most famous loner has a family of titles), with short seven page stories stories by the upcoming creative teams of Wolverine, Daken: Dark Wolverine, X-23 and the Wolverine-led team of Uncanny X-Force. Additionally, it also includes some sketches by the artists, and two previews (which I’ll talk about later down). I should mention that for the cover price of 3.99, it’s a pretty good value: it’s the same story size as a regular 32-page comic book, plus the extras I just mentioned.

The first story is by Jason Aaron and Renato Guedes and it’s called “Falling” and it’s about Wolverine literally falling down a cliff into hell. Here we learn that all the people he has killed in the past are all waiting for him down there, not to mention a big imposing figure (the devil?) that has wanted his soul for a long time. There is also a very creepy appearance by long-time foe Sabretooth, and a mysterious young boy with red eyes and two claws (is that supposed to be Daken?). All in all, it’s a good tone-setting piece, with a very strong horror movie vibe. It does it’s job well, which is to get me interested in the ongoing series, but there’s not a whole lot of meat to the story. Like I said, it’s just Wolverine falling, trying to not fall, and eventually being unable to escape. Guedes art fits the story quite well, and the use of long vertical panels gives the story a unique look that fits into the larger theme of Wolverine falling. There’s a noticeable lack of backgrounds but I assume that’s an artistic choice to impose a claustrophobic feeling upon the reader.

The second story is called “Brace For Impact” and it’s written by the incredibly large team of Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Onofrio Catacchio and Will Conrad. Why do you need five different storytellers for a simple seven page story? Because it is told from two different point of views: Daken and X-23, and each part is handled by different artists, even if it is in the same page. It’s an interest experiment but it fails in it’s execution because of the very clashing art styles. It’s never so bad that it impedes the flow of the story, and I’d quite enjoy the artists’ style if they were on their own. Way and Liu have been collaborating for some time now, and it shows because they make for a compelling read as both Daken and X-23 are hunting for the same ex-Weapon X scientist that is seemingly going to create more Wolverine clones (or something). It creates for a nice contrast, as Daken is brash, direct, and smug in his approach, while X-23 is more sneaky and chameleon-like in how she attempts to reach him. I almost wish that instead of each character getting it’s own title, they would share one, since it would make for some nice conflict between the two “siblings”. I can’t say I was too excited for the plot, as it seems we have seen this same story numerous time: someone tries to make a clone of Wolverine, goes horribly wrong, and they more than likely end up dead.

The third and final story is by Rick Remender and Leonardo Manco, the same team that will handle the upcoming Uncanny X-Force book. It also works as a prelude, and it shows how Wolverine invites Fantomex into the team. The two of them meet up in “Cavern X” (a clear direct homage of the Batcave, with a Brood queen instead of a dinosaur, and a crystal display of Phoenix’s costume instead of Robin’s) with Angel and Psylocke. There’s a pretty funny scene when Fantomex tries to flirt with Betsy and realizes that she and Warren are together again. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Deadpool was sent to chase ghosts so he wouldn’t bother the rest of the team, except he discovers an ominous looking cave. I can’t say I like this new grey-colored costume that they gave him, but that might be because everything looks so blurry and bleak in this story. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the artwork in this tale, as it looks a bit like photos run through several photoshop filters (especially the backgrounds). Some of it may be down to the colors and inking, but it’s hard to tell.

The two previews in the back are for the first issues Namor: The First Mutant (which is out now) and Generation Hope (out in November). I was seriously impressed by the black and white pages from Generation Hope, almost stealing the show, by Kieron Gillen and Salva Espin. It has a strong Japanese horror vibe, and Salva Espin seriously upped his game since we last saw him (in the short Exiles ongoing series, I think). The preview makes a point of saying the issue will be in full color, but I almost wish it was all in black and white considering the strength of the art here.

Verdict - Check It. I was tempted to give this a “Byrne It.” as not much happens in this issue, but when I considered the page count and price, and that the purpose of this book was to provide samples for upcoming titles, I reconsidered. It’s good for what it is, and I think it might help readers make up their minds about upcoming titles, but it is by no means required reading.

Wolverine #1

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Renato Guedes and Jason Latour

The short review of this issue would be “Could have been better” & “Needs more Logan”; allow me to explain. I’ve been reading Jason Aaron’s previous series, Wolverine: Weapon X, since it started and I stuck with it until the end, when many had jumped ship. One of the strongest points was how great of a handle Aaron has on Wolverine, probably better than any other contemporary writer, and I would even dare say better than Claremont himself (I’m not going to win any friends with that one). Aaron somehow manages to distill and inject the personality of Logan into every line that comes from his mouth, but this first issue was lacking in the Logan front: aside from a flashback scene at the beginning, and another flashback in the middle, there’s not a single piece of dialogue from the titular character.

The story starts with a flashback scene, that features Logan discussing with his old friend and former teammate John Wraith the state of the world, their views on religion, and the kind of men they are. Wraith is actually a pastor now, and once the flashback ends, we see him giving a sermon that is abruptly stopped by a brutal creature killing townsfolk. Wraith immediately knows that this is Wolverine, and tries to futilely stop him. Here we learn that Logan has been possessed by a demon (maybe he exchanged notes with Daredevil) and that his body is doing all sorts of evil things like killing John Wraith and burning down a church using some kind of acid vomit with all of its followers insides. I’m not exactly sure I can point out why, but this scene and the whole premise does not sit well with me. I guess I am used to Wolverine dealing with more grounded conflicts (at least in his solo titles).

The next scene involves Melita, Wolverine’s girlfriend (though you may not know this if you haven’t been reading Weapon X) and a group of wacky villains going after her. At this point, Aaron has almost made a career of using the most over the top and ridiculous villains he can find, like he did in Ghost Rider and currently doing in Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine, and though these are brand new ones, they remain Aaron-esque. Melita holds her ground using some personal defense tools that Wolverine borrowed, but eventually she is overrun. Luckily for her, she receives an assist by Mystique. I was happy to see her back on the title, as Aaron’s Get Mystique is a great story arc, and I can’t wait to see what he does with her. We also learn that a group of people that hate Wolverine are organizing an attack on everyone that is close to him, and Melita was the first one on the list, though we also see that they are going to go after other people like Daken, X-23, Jubilee, Rogue, and so on.

We also get a brief glimpse into where Wolverine’s soul is while all this happens, and a continuation of what we saw in the short story in Road To Hell, he is now in hell, surrounded by demons, including one very big and imposing boss-battle type of guy. Guedes artwork is more at home with these last two pages than the rest of the book, to be honest, as he draws very eerie looking demons.

This book also has a back-up by Aaron and Jason Latour, that features the Silver Samurai. It’s a very nice and innovative looking piece that invokes samurai movies as a group of young upstarts attempts to kill Silver Samurai. Though not expressively stated in the story, I assume it has to do with the plan put in motion by the group mentioned in the first story. Aaron mentioned on twitter that the first five issues of this series will have back-ups featuring different characters related to Wolverine.

Verdict - Check It. I want to like this issue more than I actually do. Maybe I was spoiled by Aaron’s previous work, but I was expecting more by this debut issue. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a strong first chapter with some nice mysterious hooks, but it was hurt by the absence of the protagonist for the majority of the book. And the back-up is better than it has any right to be. Don’t be afraid to check this out, as you might end up liking it and being hooked by the interesting premise.

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Ryan K Lindsay said...

I didn't pick up that Road To Hell issue because I thought it was just the first pages of each issue, I didn't realise it was actually short stories. Damn, I would have loved to check that Generation Hope preview out. I'm still unsure of what I'll do with that series.

As for Aaron's Wolvie, there's no doubt he writes a damn good one. I joined in on Weapon X for the first 2 arcs, and the Insane In The Brain was pretty damn fine, but didn't continue with it nearly completely for the price point. I just couldn't fit Wolvie into my budget, and still can't, which is a shame.

I'm hoping, though, that this title will sell a little better for Aaron than Weapon X did, especially if this one has back ups for your money.

Matt Duarte said...

@Ryan: Honestly, you are not missing much by not reading Road to Hell, and I'm sure the Generation Hope preview will show up elsewhere.

That said, I think the Last Samurai from Wolverine #1 would totally be up your alley.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't planning to pick up Wolverine however with all the hype about Jason Aaron's voice for him I had to try it out. I was impressed.

I'm not a die hard Wolverine follower. With the exception of the Civil War crossovers with his title I hadn't picked up a Wolverine book since issue #26 of his orginally run.

For a realtively new/old reader I found the first issue quite new reader friendly. I was even smart enough to figure out who Logan's new girlfriend was. If the story telling continues in the vein of issue one I'll keep picking up Wolverine.

-Retcon Joe

CreativeJamie.com said...

I didn't pick up Wolverine: Road To Hell; I feel as though the one-shots have been bad over the last few years, and after reading your review, I'm not changing that opinion.

I did, however, force myself to read the entire issue of Wolverine #1. The longer it went on, the worst it got. I wrote about this issue on my blog: with Norman Osborn out of the picture and Logan’s new girlfriend, he’s feeling hopeful for the future, for maybe the first time in his life, and it scares him. This seemed like something interesting to explore... but no wait, lets send his spirit to hell and have a demon posse his body. I, too, immediately thought of the crap-fest that shadowland has turned into, but back the the issue at hand: this just sucks out loud. If comic book readers were starting to ask themselves "Do we really need more than one Wolverine title?" I think Marvel has answered it with a resounding "NO!"
Strangely, I was a huge fan of Wolverine, Weapon X (even the weird asylum story arc that made no sense) and Wolverine: Origins, but I'm bailing on this book. Save your money!

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