Monday, September 1, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Wolverine #12

I often have nightmares of waking up in the principals office of my old high school. I'm 16-years-old again, I've just been caught stealing the cheerleaders' underwear for the fourth time, and one of the cheerleaders happen to be my gym teacher's daughter. I know I'm really fucked. I know it's going to be bad. No matter how long I live or how long the alcohol and blow take to kill me, my worst hell will go back to moments like that. For a guy like Wolverine who dealt with the equivalent of asshole principals armed with killer robots, I'm sure his version of hell is a lot worse. At the same time, it always comes back to Sabretooth, who is like an asshole principal armed with an atomic bomb. Since Wolverine lost his healing factor, everything has revolved around getting back at Sabretooth. He's gone to great lengths to put himself in a position to make him want to throw himself into a meat grinder to be served as hot dog filling for Raiders fans. Well Wolverine #12 promises to be the end of that journey.

It hasn't been a smooth journey to say the least. At times, it has been like driving an old pickup truck over a road paved with bowling balls. Wolverine pretended to ditch his friends, then he didn't. He boned another woman and got a tattoo along the way. At times it felt no different than an all-nighter in Vegas, but now the party is over. The big showdown is here. I've got my popcorn, my whiskey, and an ice pack for my balls if necessary. If I get to use all three, I'll know if this was worth the complications.

From a purely tactical perspective, Sabretooth has employed a strategy that would make General Patton proud. Armed with the alien weapon, he has isolated his enemy from any support. He's created an impenetrable shield around the mall where he and Wolverine are trapped with dozens of innocent civilians. He also uses the weapon to summon an army of alternate versions of those allies so they'll be too busy to help him. It's probably only slightly more effective than an army of ninjas defend him, but I give it points for creativity. It does exactly what Sabretooth needs it to do, ensuring the battle is just between him and Wolverine. Sure, he had to go to excessively elaborate measures, but it's probably still cheaper than paying an army of ninjas.

That doesn't mean Sabretooth has shunned ninjas entirely. He still has a few guarding him while he's using the alien weapon to keep everyone outside the barrier occupied. He also still has Pinch's daughter as a hostage. He has every possible advantage. He also won't shut up about creating a new world for himself, one where Wolverine dies a terrible death every hour and beautiful naked women roam the planet with whiskey dripping from their nipples. It's the kind of ambition that he essentially plagiarizes from the Red Skull or Loki, making him feel less like Sabretooth and more like just another guy begging to French kiss the business end of Wolverine's claws. It's a trend that has been unfolding throughout this series. It does little to make Sabretooth more compelling as a character, but it gives Wolverine yet another reason to kick his ass because he can never have too many of those.

After a few more annoying monologues from Sabretooth, Wolverine finally gets into position to get this pay-per-view worthy event going. All the civilians that could've been caught in the crossfire have conveniently gotten away. Now Sabretooth is isolated in the open, surrounded by only a couple of ninjas and a little girl. It's a strategy that would make General Patton roll his eyes because it essentially ignores what could have been a much more chaotic fight. Instead, Wolverine just decides to wait until Sabretooth is about to kill Pinch's daughter before throwing the first punch. It's as predictable as it sounds. But at least that means the battle can officially begin, right?

Wrong. This is where the pay-per-view scale of this Wolverine/Sabretooth battle starts to feel like a bigger ripoff than a pack of used Q-tips. The battle outside with all the alternate versions of Lost Boy, Pinch, Thor, and anyone else who decided to help contributes nothing. It just serves to ensure that everybody else stays busy and doesn't bother Wolverine and Sabretooth. Then after Wolverine makes quick work of the three or four ninjas protecting Sabretooth, they just start talking.

That's right. They don't tear into each other like a drill sergeant at a camp for fat kids. On top of it all, Sabretooth says that he has the power to remake the whole fucking world with the alien weapon in his hand. He doesn't even need to fight. He just needs to flip the proverbial switch and the next thing he knows, he's in a world where every river flows with whiskey and Wolverine's blood. Then Wolverine points out that he can't remake his world with him still in it. For some reason, Sabretooth has to kill Wolverine first before he makes this world. Anyone looking for an explanation here can smoke all the dope they want. They're not going to find it. For some reason, this alien weapon isn't powerful enough to get the job done while Wolverine is still breathing. If it were a new smart phone, I would have kept the receipt and traded it for an old iPhone. It does finally get Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting, but not with the same emotion that we had hoped.

Nothing they say to each other builds up the big moment whatsoever. The only thing it accomplishes is getting Wolverine to ditch the special armor he's been using to compensate for his lack of a healing factor. That's like daring someone to fight a tank with a butter knife. Taking that dare isn't a show of badass toughness. It's a show of Jackass style stupidity and not in the way that'll make anyone laugh. All it accomplishes is getting Wolverine in his underwear. The ladies might enjoy it, but anyone looking for Wolverine to fight smart will be pissed off.

And Wolverine choosing the dumbest possible means of attacking Sabretooth isn't even the worst part. All the talking they did that led up to this stupid decision didn't really amount to much. All the history and hatred these two have for one another is supposed to make it one of the greatest rivalries in the history of comics. But none of that shows in a word they say. It's just Wolverine taunting Sabretooth about how he would make a shitty god to a new world. That's like George W. Bush saying, "We may have mismanaged Iraq." It's one of those "No shit!" moments that really doesn't need to be belabored. There are so many other things they could have said to add some fuel to this battle. But all it did was show that Wolverine and Sabretooth would make shitty motivational speakers.

The big battle finally begins. It's pretty basic, but still fairly detailed. Wolverine and Sabretooth punch, kick, slash, and scratch at each other as they've done countless times before for far less compelling reasons. But at no point does it feel anywhere near as epic as it was built up to be. Hell, the fight between Cyclops and Wolverine was far more epic in Schism and they were on the same fucking team at the time. It's not very bloody. It's not very brutal. It's like a PG-13 version of a slasher movie. It so watered down that it feels like a rip-off. Even when Wolverine throws in a little inner monologue, it adds nothing whatsoever. It just makes keeps this fight and a disappointingly pitiful scale.

But the most disappointing part by far is saved for the ending. Like every shitty sports movie made since the Mighty Ducks, Wolverine manages to overcome the fact that he's in his fucking underwear and has no healing factor to deliver the knock-out blow to Sabretooth. There's still no blood. He doesn't cut him in his jugular. He doesn't try to decapitate him the way he's done in the past. He just hits him with one punch to the jaw. Let me say that again. He hits Sabretooth with one fucking punchy. And somehow that's enough to knock him out. Sabretooth, the guy who is at least two feet taller and has a healing factor, gets knocked out by a single punch from Wolverine to end what was supposed to be such an epic fight. That's the ending the final episode of the Sopranos with some overly ambiguous fade to black. Okay, bad example.

It is by far one of the most disappointing final battles in quite some time. This whole series was built around the premise of Wolverine seeking a rematch with Sabretooth after he got humiliated in their last encounter. They went to all these crazy, fucked up lengths make it happen, going so far as Wolverine pretending to quit the X-men. And in the end this rematch was about as epic as a Happy Days rerun. Nothing was really accomplished. Wolverine beat up Sabretooth, stopped him from using an alien weapon, and saved Pinch's daughter. And he did it in the most boring way possible. If it were a Disney movie, even kids would say, "Well that sure was a waste of time." Anyone who had any excitement whatsoever for this battle would be better off watching reruns of Miami Vice.

Even after his victory, it doesn't get any more satisfying. Wolverine wins, he conveniently passes out from his injuries, and he wakes up in a hospital bed to find out from SHIELD that all the boring clean-up crap that nobody wants to read about has been taken care of. The alien weapon is contained and Sabretooth is in custody, as if that ever stopped him before. He even meets up with Pinch and Lost Boy. Even though he betrayed them, using them only to get to Sabretooth and putting Pinch's daughter in danger in the process, they shrug it off and wish him a fond farewell. There's being forgiving and then there are symptoms of severe head trauma.

There's no emotion here. Pinch and Lost Boy did nothing to endear themselves to Wolverine or anyone for that matter. They might as well have been stunt doubles. If these two never showed up in another comic book again, I don't think too many fans would get pissed. Then again, fans get pissed enough when Wonder Woman's uniform changes so it's hard to say.

There is still some effort to add meaning to the end. Kitty Pryde pays a visit to Wolverine while he's recovering. They have a little chat, but they don't say much. It basically amounts to Wolverine accepting his mortality, as if being beaten to death before didn't get the point across, and wanting to enjoy what little time he has left. There's really nothing groundbreaking about this. He probably could've come to the same conclusion from dry-humping Storm. While I do give some points for effort, it's a piss poor effort that doesn't come close to make up for a piss-poor conclusion to what had been set up to be anything but piss poor.

When I finished reading this book, I reacted the same way I imagine Warren Buffet acts when someone tells him he made another million dollars today. After so much build-up and so many elaborate, needlessly complicated plots, this final class between Wolverine and Sabretooth just fell flat. The alien weapon and the cut little hostage he went to such great lengths to torment did absolutely nothing for him in the end. It just turned into a typical Wolverine/Sabretooth street fight, one that could have easily have happened anywhere and for any reason. In the end Wolverine won, but it was about as satisfying as seeing the Yankees win another World Series. There was nothing epic about it. There was little drama surrounding it. They fought, Wolverine won, he headed up, and that's about it. There might have been some deeper symbolism to his victory here, but it's the kind of symbolism that adds nothing to the plot. It's like the plot just went, "Ah fuck it, let's just get this over with and get drunk."

So all that popcorn and whiskey I saved up for this blockbuster battle ended up going to waste. That in and of itself is a tragedy from which this book cannot be redeemed. Wolverine #12 gets a 4 out of 10. In the end this story is painfully simple. Wolverine battles Sabretooth. Wolverine wins and learns to appreciate his new limited life a bit more. That's it. There's no need to draw it out for 12 fucking issues and waste a bunch of perfectly good whiskey. Nuff said!

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