WOLVERINE Dissected : What you should know before seeing the movie! or “Favorite and Best Wolverine Comic Book reads!”

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Marvel is a company I don’t do on a Monthly basis anymore (DC as well for that matter), primarily because it makes no real sense to buy individual comics compared to picking up the collected trades. The ads are way too obtrusive, the price per story-page ratio… is too high, and the third thing missing is something called… feedback.

The letters page in comics.

The letterspage, true to its name, was a place in comics where letters to the editor was asked or answered. Some books’ pages were just okay, some were great, but all were appreciated. The effort and time the publishers put into producing these one or two pages, now sacrificed to ads, were appreciated, and I think helped build an audience.

And it’s not comparable to online message boards, because this dialog between audience and creator was informed dialog. And that does come from it being written and moderated and chosen, with an eye to self promotion on the companies part surely, but I also got the sense they were balanced pages that presented well thought out opinions of various shades.

Go read some of the old MASTER OF KUNG FU letters pages, or the old DEFENDERS letters pages, they are signposts of the times as much as discussion of any particular issues, and as such are great pop-culture time capsules.

And editorial at the big two comic book companies, Marvel and DC, have done away with those time-capsules, and to their detriment I believe.

When done right, that slim, floppy thing people inaccurately call a comic book, can give you an entertainment value, that you’re not going to get from the trade.

It, when done right, will give you an experience unique to the serial format. That differentiates it, from the trade paperback, or the movie, or the anime.

When done right a slim, forget the term comic book… it’s a misnomer, we’ll for this article call it a slim. 🙂 . Please send all royalties to me. 🙂 .

Anyhow, when done right the Slim… works. It’s a dose, a quick fix, as Ellis likes to say. When done right, they are worth seeking out.

Examples?

FELL by the Aforementioned Warren Ellis, bringing it back to Marvel CRIMINAL… they in scant pages not only give you an ad free story, but give you a dialog, this behind the scenes material, into the creator and the creative process.

And that’s something you don’t currently get from mainstream Marvel and DC comics.

I grew up in the 70s, so that letters page, I think for me and a generation of readers, and a generation before them; was this dialog about and into the creative process, the backmatter if you will of the stories.

And yes, I know now we have the internet, yada, yada, yada (I really hate that show 🙂 ) but that’s no replacement for a well moderated, and well edited Letterspage. But companies, want to cut costs and give you the lowest common denominator product for the highest cost.

And so today you who don’t know anything better, get the typical DC or Marvel monthly book. A book that is not worth picking up new (for me. For the rest of you buy 12 copies if you like, but for me… no).

My process typically is… if the book is getting really strong feedback, to wait a few months for the trade, avoid the ads, or pick up the back issues later for a fraction of cover price.

That said the only two Marvel Trades I’ve bought in the last year is Brubaker’s first DAREDEVIL trade, and Peter David’s first X-FACTOR trade. I’ve read quite a few at the library, and am just as glad I didn’t buy them. Now I do buy comics, I’ve spent over $1000 on books and trades last year, I just haven’t been buying Marvel.

That’s not to say they don’t have great stuff, and great creators.

They do.

But a great creator in service of soap opera drivel, is for me…a waste of a great creator.

Though I heard some of the books are really good. CAPTAIN AMERICA, WOLVERINE, GHOST RIDER, all with great creators… but I’m not piqued enough to deal with the Ads, the price, the crossovers, the lack of respect for the readers (you know what really sold Marvel Comics over DC in the 60s and 70s, it was the personality of Stan Lee. This concept of talking to, rather than at, your audience. This talk seen in his Soap Box articles (just collected), and in every letterspage. And there was something special about that particular odd brand of forum and dialog as practiced by the comics of yesterday. This arcane idea… of community.

You bring up the internet and I’m going to break your knees.)

The monthly books I do pick up, have either Letterspages (most Indies)or what Warren Ellis has coined “BackMatter”(CRIMINAL). It just shows the book isn’t just some assembly line piece of drivel, that editors are flooding the market with to try and bury books that are worth your time.

So yeah lacking all that can’t be bothered with new books from the big 2.

But as stated, I will pick up especially well reviewed book, that I find in the back issue bin for a $1 or less (the price all Marvel Comics should be 🙂 ).

And here are three old reviews I’m finally getting around to posting:

Trilogy of acclaimed Wolverine stories. They are:

Wolverine 32

Mark Millar spent a year on Wolverine, doing a story arc about Wolverine being turned by Hydra and killing heroes. While well received by fans and critics alike, I was rather underwhelmed. Finding it very much a one-trick pony of an idea, that stretched over 12 issues… felt very thin.

Millar’s last issue on the book however, in one self contained story, has more power and is plain better than his previous 12 issues combined.

And much of this issues success is owed to the dark, brooding, yet at the same time clean, crisp art of Kaare Andrews. Very much a David Mazzucheilli (sp) vibe.

WOLVERINE 32: PRISONER NUMBER ZERO is a very minimalist tale, of the dark days of the war, a concentration camp, a new commandant, and a little man… who will not die. Compelling and dangerous from first page to last. It’s the kind of issue that you can hand to people who don’t know comic-books and they will be… smitten. B+/A-.

Wolverine 56- It would be exactly two years after Millar’s story, before anyone did anything as good with the character. In this issue newcomer Jason Aaron pens his own one-shot…. about the man who cannot die.

This story THE MAN IN THE PIT much like the earlier PRISONER NUMBER ZERO finds our protagonist trapped and at the mercy of merciless men. MAN IN THE PIT is a good story. Jason Aaron clearly showing those writing chops that impressed me so much in THE OTHER SIDE. The art however is… is bad. Which it gives me pause to say, because I’m a Chaykin fan, like anyone else. Chaykin being an artist I liked very much in the late 80s, into the 90s with his BLACK KISS, AMERICAN FLAG, and POWER AND GLORY work.

However it is now 2008, and the rigors of a monthly schedule with few exceptions is a young man’s domain. Chaykin’s work here looking very phoned in. That last page is horrendously bad.

However while the look of the art itself is rushed and unfinished, you cannot fault Chaykin’s layouts. He still knows how to move your eye, and tell a story.

So even notching it for art. A strong issue: B.

However it does point out an issue, about making Wolverine a masochistic foil. The story points out the problem of Writers, not really knowing what to do with the character of Wolverine, falling back on just testing out their latest torture or “death of the day” on him.

Because a man is capable of receiving great punishment or to an extent rising from the dead, does not mean that every story trope has to revolve around this extreme. Or that he’s going to want to be put in a position every day to test that trope.

Because of tetnus shots, I can step on a rusty nail every day and not die. But just because I can doesn’t mean I’m going to. It’s unpleasant.

Wolverine/Logan is a world class spy and fighter and survivor. Yet nearly every issue, some writer has him getting shot in the head by a two bit punk, trapped in a pit, or otherwise the male equivalent of the bondage girls of the 40s and 50s.

I give Millar’s story a pass, because it’s a fable, in its own way a ghost story. However Aaron’s story while a good read, kinda asks you to believe that a character that can survive the Hulk: A/ is going to get trapped in a pit by losers and B/ having found himself trapped couldn’t just jump out the frigging pit.

Stories like this tend to dumb down and power down the character to put him in these inane situations where writers can go for the lowest common denominator. “Look I blew his jaw off”.

Wolverine/Logan is a hero and a dangerous fucking man not because he can heal from any wound, but because he doesn’t have to.

Read that last sentence again Marvel.

Unless you are Spiderman you’re not faster than Wolverine, and you’re not going to sneak up on him. You are not going to catch him by surprise. This dude is James Bond (albeit an uncouth James Bond) with Claws. And James Bond doesn’t stand around to get shot in the fing head.

Wolverine getting hurt, needing to use his healing factor, should be the exception not the rule.

It should happen so rarely villains don’t even know about it, and then when he does get shot, and rise from the dead so to speak, it’s this moment that has weight. Because in the previous year no one has even scratched this killing machine.

Claremount and Bryne, more than creators Dave Cockrum and Len Wein, defined this character. And arguably his finest hours were with Claremont and Miller in his first mini-series (still holds up), and with Claremont and Paul Smith in their 80s run in the UNCANNY X-MEN.

That said there are some new writers on the block who are doing some amazing work.

Possibly my favorite recent Wolverine story, even topping Millar’s PRISONER ZERO is Mike Carey’s one-shot FIREBREAK. It’s a wonderful story that uses a disintegrating marriage as the framework for this tale of an out of control wildfire and a blinded hero.

I was not a fan of mike Carey’s LUCIFER but I found this one-shot completely riveting. And the art by Scott Kollins is as frenetic and beautiful as ever (though you miss the tightness of an inker. The colorist probably doing inks and colors in photoshop, and you miss the strength of a real inker, finishing and interpreting the work). We accept the blindness aspect as one of the rare times the Hero gets hurt, but beyond that he gets mauled by a bear, shot down by Hydra goons. Hydra goons?! Comeon, blind or no, there’s no way they were going to shoot Peter Parker or James Bond point blank. So how are they going to take by surprise a man who can smell their adrenalin.

But that artistic license aside, a great issue. A-.

Well That’s all for this installment. Hope you’ve enjoyed me breaking up your favorite unbreakable mutant. Just in time for the movie no less. 🙂 .

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