Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wolverine #1 - Renumberd and Still Awesome

Let's not bullshit ourselves. We all know that issue #1 of any comic book is by default a gimmick. It's cheap, it's underhanded, and it insults the intelligence of certain fans. But damn it if it doesn't work! Last month X-men #1 (the non-Claremont/Byrne one) topped the sales charts with over 100,000 sold. It was not only the best selling book that month. It was the only book that sold over 100,000. In an economy like this with print media dying faster than spotted owls nesting near Ted Nugent's house, that's huge. That's like a typrwriter outselling the Ipad. So it stands to reason that if it works well for X-men, it should work well for the X-men's most famous character, Wolverine. Fanboys may hold their noses at the prospect of another #1 gimmick, but even if it smells like gorilla shit laced with mule piss that's not going to stop them from checking it out. It can't stink too much if it works.

Wolverine #1 isn't what you call necessary. The ongoing series, which has been penned by Jason Aaron, was doing well enough on it's own. Granted, it wasn't selling like pictures of Justin Bieber going down on Paris Hilton, but it was a quality book. Now since the Wolverine Origins series ended and X-men relaunched, at least the timing was right even if there were no ongoing stories in Wolverine to really warrant a #1. Even so, Marvel is going through with it damn it and they're going to try and make it awesome! It's not just pulled out of Aaron's ass though. It does have some build-up.

Before this book came out, a brief one-shot preview issue came out called Wolverine Goes to Hell. It sounds like a cheap knock-off of Jason Goes to Hell from the Friday the 13th series, but this doesn't suck quite as much. It essentially does a brief prologue, showing Wolverine heading down what appears to be the path to Hell. Apparently all the killing, drinking, philandering, and cursing don't go over well with God so he's going to the other place. It's hardly surprising, but there's hardly an explanation as to how he ended up there. That's a story that Wolverine #1 picks up on.

It starts with a quick flashback. Wolverine pays a visit to his old friend, John Wraith. Now Wraith is a pastor of all things, which is sort of like Ted Nugant becoming a PETA supporter. The two men talk and reflect on the steps of a church. If this were another Wolverine comic they would be either at a bar or a strip club, but given recent news about the church this actually may be more appropriate. The key to their conversation involves Logan talking about how good things are for once. Hope has returned, he has a new girlfriend named Melita with kinky tastes(from the Weapon X comics in case you missed it), and he's got his place with the X-men on Utopia. Yet for some reason that bugs him. Some people are just too difficult to satisfy. Imagine how Melita feels.

Once the flashback ends, the action begins. Pastor Wraith (still sounds weird to say) is giving his usual god talk when someone comes running into the church with a wounded woman in his arms. Usually when someone comes into a church with a woman in his arms, she was either caught standing in line at an abortion clinic or they claim she's having a vision of the Virgin Mary in a cheese sandwich. But this woman has claw marks on her arms and that's a dead giveaway even to a superstitious religious nut.

Wraith goes onto show that he hasn't completely obeyed his vows as a pastor. He retrieves some of his old holy hardware (translation: really big ass guns) and heads off hunting for the son-of-a-bitch who gutted one of his congregation before they could pay their dues in the collection plate. He doesn't have to look too long. The asshole who took the Old Testament too seriously shows up and takes him down. He doesn't look very holy either. He looks like one of the Sandpeople from Star Wars and shows Wraith that even if God is all-powerful, bugs are still nasty motherfuckers.

Not one to stop at kicking the mans ass, this mysterious hooded jerk-off has to shoot to the top of the douche-bag Olympics. With Wraith down for the count, he rubs nitric acid in the wound by setting fire to Wraith's church with all the people still inside. It's about as evil as you can get, even in a comic book. Wraith, even with his history of douche-baggery, doesn't let it stand and goes after the guy. Again, these people haven't paid their dues to the collection plate. A good pastor simply cannot let that slide. But he's shit outta luck this time. The perp inflicts the same wounds he did on the woman he killed earlier, this time on Wraith. He then reveals himself to be Wolverine, except he's all demonified (don't know if that's a word, but it damn well ought to be). He's looking evil as hell and pretty badass, showing Wraith is more screwed than Job.

So Wolverine's old buddy gets screwed over. It's only natural his girlfriend be the next target. Melita hasn't shown up much since she and Logan hooked up in Weapon X. For those who are too lazy to Google her history, she's actually a reporter and playing Lois Lane to Wolverine's Superman (if Superman drank and was a lot hairier). Now being Wolverine's girlfriend always has risks associated with it and among those risks is the near inevitability of death catching up to her. For whatever reason, this doesn't seem to bother Melita.

She enters this story with a lot less spectacle. He's not a nun by any stretch. She's sitting at her desk working like everyone else, dividing her time between writing stories and working on shitty blogs when her boss isn't looking. That's when some of Logan's old friends (enemies) show up. Naturally, they're after Melita. However, she shows that she has the balls (along with the hot ass) to be Wolverine's girlfriend and fights back in a way that would probably give her man a hell of a boner if he saw it.

She goes on the run and naturally, Wolverine's old pals chase her. They try to corner her, mindful of the fact that she's not a mutant. She's just a hot chick armed with some weapons Wolverine gave her just in case. Well those weapons don't exactly work as well as they should. She ends up getting cornered by a woman who looks like a cross between a dominatrix and a bad Final Fantasy character. Then a shameless ripoff of Resident Evil comes into play and a motorcycle come crashing into the building, crushing the dominatrix and saving Meltia. Since another Resident Evil movie is coming out soon, this has to be the least subtle cross-promotion in the history of comics.

It helps that the biker chick in question is even hotter than Milla Jovovich. She's Mystique, who is the absolute last person anyone would ever want to be saved by. But Melita doesn't have enough experience as Logan's girlfriend to know that so she's got no choice but to go along with her. Now this raises some interesting questions. Wolverine left Mystique to die in the "Get Mystique" arc and would love nothing more than to see him rot in Hell while she laughed her ass off at him for all eternity. But for some reason, she wants to help Melita and claims the people after her hate Logan even more than she does. Since Mystique always has an angle to play, it's hard to even speculate what she could possibly have to gain by helping out rather than sitting back and watching Logan's loved ones suffer. Perhaps she just wants to reserve that right for herself.

With Mystique's help, Melita gets away. The freak-show gangsters hired to take her have to report to their superiors they failed. Thankfully, they're no Cobra Commanders. In fact, the faces behind this plot aren't all that intimidating. They're essentially a collection of old Japanese retirees that look about as intimidating as box of puppies. But seeing as how Wolverine has many ties to Japan, many of them of a very unpleasant nature, it does't come completely out of left field. They don't look like your typical badass Weapon X knock-offs, but they know enough about Wolverine to go after him and that's badass enough (just barely).

While Melita's riding with Mystique, she asks the same questions that readers have been asking since the beginning of the issue. What the fuck is going on and when is Mystique going to get naked again (the latter question being implied of course)? She asks where Wolverine is. Mystique responds with some Lost-style foreboding. Somehow Wolverine's body and his soul aren't in the same place anymore. Okay, it's not completely as subtle as Lost, but it's still pretty ominous. I mean, it has to be if the title of the arc is Wolverine Goes to Hell, right?

Well any sense of subtlety is lost in the next scene when Wolverine is shown in the inner rectum of Hell itself. He's still naked. Let's face it, the ladies deserve some exposed man meat as well with all the tits and ass comics throws around for the guys. He's not in a very sexy position though. If anything, he looks like one of those cute anime girls just before they get horribly raped by a tentacle-dicked creature. It's not sexy and it may even be a little homoerotic in some ways. But it's still pretty badass and shows just how fucked Wolverine is (hopefully NOT in more than one way).

Now in terms of #1 issues, this is no masterpiece. But it's not a piece of crap either. It's too good to just be called a gimmick. It's not good enough to be called a historic moment in comics either. It takes a story that began with the prologue issue and sets up a thrilling, horror style comic that Wolverine fans should appreciate and general fans of horror should find titillating. It seems a little off-pace at times because it starts with a flashback and you don't see Wolverine in the present time until the end. But it still makes good use of the moments in between. The characterization of Mystique, Melita, and Wraith is solid. There's a lot of mystery to unfold. The only underwhelming part is the supposed villains behind Melita's attempted abduction. Not that it had to be Mephisto or anything, but for a story that involves Hell it seems out of place.

Overall, there's a lot to enjoy about this comic. It's as solid a #1 can get even without living up to the gimmick. It does more than just not suck. It sets the stage for a new series and does a pretty decent job of it. So for the final score, Wolverine #1 gets a 4 out of 5. It's a great jumping on point and it has enough story to keep the reader intrigued enough for the second issue. Between this and X-men #1 it's a great time to get into the X-books! I would say fans would be wise to join in now, but with how often comic companies pull this shit there's no rush. Nuff said.

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