Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Wolverine #4

While it pains me to say it, I'm old enough to remember a time when getting lost was a fact of life. If I went on a road trip and got lost, I either had to ask for directions or retrace my steps. These days, nobody has an excuse for being lost. Every fucking smartphone on the planet has a maps feature. Sure, it makes it much harder to get out of an appointment or a court-ordered AA meeting. But it beats having to blow a trucker for directions back to the highway. The first three issues of the latest relaunched Wolverine series are dangerously close to having to blow more than one trucker. It began with Wolverine sporting a new suit, working on a new team, and ditching Storm and the Jean Grey Institute. To say it has been confusing would be an insult to any self-respecting stoner. But this series isn't so off-track that its speeding head-first into a brick wall. There are plenty of compelling elements in this series. They just haven't come together. And Wolverine #4 is supposed to make this shit less confusing. So long as it means I don't have to read this issue sober, I'm all for it.

One of the few details that has been clearly articulated in this new Wolverine series is how he's coping with his newfound lack of durability. If he can't heal when he's had over 79 percent of his flesh blown off, he might as well find a way to not get it blown off in the first place. That's where his fancy new uniform comes in, courtesy of the Superior Spider-Man. He was a major douche, but he made a damn good uniform. It shows when Wolverine tests it out in the Danger Room with Beast guiding him along. But since Beast is a major douche as well, it only succeeds in pissing Wolverine off even more.

This is one of the many details that hasn't been clearly shown. Wolverine has an awesome new uniform that still allows him to be the best he is at what he does. But he hasn't exactly been all that comfortable in it. I know if I had a uniform like that, I would pay a visit to some old high school football players who made my freshmen year a living Hell. But here he finally puts it into words. He points out how he froze in the battle at the previous issue. And Wolverine isn't supposed to fucking freeze. It gives him a valid reason to be pissed off for once and it doesn't involve Cyclops. Excuse me while I document this moment for world history.

This overdue explanation helps make Wolverine's departure, which was already revealed in earlier issues, make sense. It still took too damn long, but there's still a nice emotional scene with him and Storm before he leaves. It's a scene that has happened plenty of times before in some form or another, Wolverine getting pissed off and leaving. Hell, it was the premise of at least half the episodes of the old 90s animated X-men cartoon. But this actually has some decent emotional depth. That's something I haven't been able to say about this book s far.

It still doesn't provide clarity on the status of Wolverine and Storm's relationship. There's still clearly some drama. There's even a hint that there might have been a little going away sex, but then again I see that in every kissing scene to some extent. Beyond the drama, Wolverine says he has a mission to take care of. It's the mission that has been unfolding for the past three issues that has been confusing as hell. But now it makes half a lick of sense. It's kind of like only half a blowjob, but it's better than nothing.

It's not nearly as dramatic when Wolverine rides off on his motorcycle, offering no clue as to when he'll be back. Some of the students are there to say goodbye. They don't say much and it comes off as bland. But it gives Wolverine another opportunity to be pissed off. Sure, it makes him act like a douche to these students that he's supposed to be responsible for. But that's actually consistent with his character, which is something Bryan Singer and Brett Ratner just couldn't seem to get right despite several decades of source material. It adds more overdue details. More would have been helpful, but at this point my standards are just that low. That's what two shitty Wolverine movies will do to me.

Flash forward to Wolverine being part of this renegade new team of his that to date has been about as interesting as a 50s sitcom. This is another part of the story that's badly in need of some details. We don't get much here. We just get a reminder from Wolverine's new Kingpin wannabe boss, The Offer. It still sounds like the name of a gay porn star, but he's giving Wolverine a full wardrobe of fancy new uniforms. He's also giving him a plan to draw out Sabretooth. It's not a very cunning or devious plan. It amounts mostly to pissing Sabretooth off and hoping he'll slip up. This would be a dumb plan with any other villain. But for Sabretooth, it's actually pretty viable. How pathetic is that?

Rather than get some badly needed details on the present, we go back to the past and get yet another instance of Wolverine being a massive douche. This time he doesn't restrict himself to the Jean Grey Institute and his own staff. This time he pays a visit to the New Xavier School where Cyclops is holding up to meet up with Kitty Pryde. But what a minute? How the fuck does he even know where it is? If he knew, wouldn't he have already tracked it down and beaten the shit out of Cyclops on a weekly basis? Just when it seemed shit was starting to make sense, this kicks up a fresh shit storm of confusion.

To make it even worse, Wolverine confronts Kitty Pryde and it gets pretty damn ugly. She points out how he fucked up during the Killable arc by walking right into Sabretooth's trap. And she's right. He did fuck up. His reaction? He fucking pulls his claws on her and threatens her. Now I know Wolverine is supposed to be an asshole to some extent, but there are lines he usually doesn't cross. This is a line that puts him into Hank McCoy level douche-baggery. All it really accomplishes is reminding Wolverine how badly he failed and how vulnerable he is. It's a powerful scene, but one that only makes Wolverine come off as pathetic. And if I want to see Wolverine look that pathetic, I'll watch Wolverine Origins.

Flash forward again and this time we get some more useful information. One of the most defining moments of this new batch of Wolverine stories was how he shot a man dead with a gun. He didn't gut him with his claws or decapitate him like he just killed Jean Grey. He shot him like Samuel L. Jackson did in Pulp Fiction, minus the badass bible quotes. It marked a very different tone for Wolverine's character and that tone is only becoming more relevant. However, that scene wasn't quite as badass as initially seemed.

In this jumbled journey through the timeline, Wolverine actually meets up with his victim before they even meet. The victim isn't even much of a victim. He's some sort of SHIELD meat puppet whose sole purpose is to get shot and die. That way he can endear himself to Offer and be in position to piss off Sabretooth. It seems needlessly elaborate and it sort of takes away from the power of that moment in the first issue. At the same time, it adds more context to why Wolverine is going through this transition. He wants to be in a position to fuck with Sabretooth. That's perfectly in line with his character and it requires him to work smarter, harder, and with a bit more brutality. And that, my friends, is why Wolverine is awesome.

Flash forward again. Wolverine has run out on his friends and ditched both the Jean Grey Institute and their hated rival at the New Xavier School. After getting pissed off at Kitty Pryde, he can expect about as much sympathy as Bernie Madoff. He starts bumming it out, sleeping on park benches like drunks who forgot where they parked. Having done that myself on more than a few occasions, I'm in no position to judge. Eventually, the Offer does show up just as Wolverine hoped. He still looks like a Kingpin wannabe. He seems better suited to be one of the before pictures in a weight loss infomercial. But he gives Wolverine the opportunity he needs and that helps makes yet another overdue connection. As strange as it seems, the story is now starting to feel coherent. And it only took until the forth issue. Not the worst offender, but still worth pointing out.

Flash forward a little again and Wolverine is cocking his gun and for once, that's not a dick joke. The story is finally catching up to the events in the first issue. Wolverine is meeting up with his new team and he's getting ready to prove his loyalty to the Offer. It's not much of a cliffhanger because this shit was already spoiled back in the first issue. But that's part of what makes it work. The dramatic shift in Wolverine's character over the past few issues finally makes sense. There are still some details lacking, but it gives some badly needed weight to the overall story. The time jumping is still confusing as hell. At least now it's coherent. And that kind of coherence can mean the difference between passing a sobriety test and spending a night in jail.

I don't claim to have the best attention span. I freely admit I can barely watch the first 10 minutes of Inception before I go back to watching Michael Bay's latest bit of disaster porn. I really had to push that attention span to bring myself to enjoy this series, but with this issue it finally felt like I didn't need an extra bong hit to enjoy it. This issue essentially explains the circumstances of the previous three issues and does a pretty respectable job of it. I found myself looking back on the previous issues and getting more enjoyment out of them now that I knew what the hell was actually happening. It's refreshing, but overdue. It also has the effect of not moving the story forward that much. In some respects, this issue should have been the first issue. If I want my perception of time fucked up, I'll take a hit of LSD. That's why I give Wolverine #4 a 7 out of 10. It's solid and concise on its own. But in the context of the series, it's like that guy who keeps making shitty cookies until Gordon Ramsey yells at him to a point where he remembers to add the chocolate chips. Damn I'm hungry now. Nuff said!

1 comment:

  1. I'm betting a lot of people were thinking that Logan killed a LMD before this issue.