Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Scanned Thoughts: Death of Wolverine #4
Well, it's finally here people. Once again, a major comic book company is killing off one of its major characters in a highly publicized event intended to boost sales and generate interest and/or troll Fox, depending on how accurate certain rumors are. We all knew it was coming. Marvel announced that Wolverine would die months ago. Since then, I've made my position pretty clear. One, he's not going to stay dead. If Marvel can bring back Bucky freakin' Barnes, they can bring back Wolverine. Two, these death gimmicks are shameless and shallow, but they work and we have nobody to blame but ourselves. And three, we'll keep seeing more death gimmicks like this so long as we keep forking over our hard earned money to buy into them.
It's because of these three points that I really can't get too worked up about Wolverine's upcoming death. It's not being set up like the deaths of Jean Grey, Johnny Storm, or Charles Xavier. We know it's coming. We know what to expect. It's only a matter of how well it's done. I'm not going to assume anybody is going to be satisfied with it. This is Wolverine, the guy who made Hugh Jackman the actor no less than 40 percent of the female population wants to bone. Killing him is not going to be satisfying for a lot of people, no matter how awesome the story. But it is what it is and I'm just the drunk who tries to determine whether it's a decent story. So as I review Death of Wolverine #4, I'm going to do my best to keep all this in mind. Fair warning though. I tend to treat death in comics the same way I treat pimples on my ass. They're unsightly and ugly, but unavoidable. It's just a matter of how we deal with them.
In that sense Wolverine deals with Dr. Cornelius in the most appropriate way possible. By that, I mean he ditches any an all sense of stealth and cunning. He just barges through the front door like the DEA at Tommy Chong's house, kills anyone dumb enough to get in his way, and fights as though he still has his healing factor. I know it's the same brutality we've seen from Wolverine since the Carter Administration, but this being his last battle, it feels right and satisfying even if it isn't spectacular. This is Wolverine at his most pure, taking on the ghosts of his past in the bloodiest, messiest way possible. Damn I'm going to miss this.
When he arrives, he finds Dr. Conrelius in the middle of doing what he does best. For some reason, somebody thought this guy who created the utter uncontrollable killing machine that is Wolverine deserved another shot. So now he's working on yet another breed of of Weapon X. And he's doing this in addition to putting a bounty on Wolverine's head. So not only does this guy have a death wish, he wants to carry it out in the messiest, most expensive way possible. That might make sense with Donald Trump or the Koch brothers, but this is just needlessly dumb.
That said, it is still fitting in a few ways. Wolverine still represents the first and probably the most successful living weapon that Weapon X ever created. Every knock-off or derivative not named X-23 has been pretty shitty by comparison. It's like Apple making only one perfect iPhone and having it be a huge success. Should they just shrug their shoulders and stop trying to make another? Fuck no. That's not just bad for business. That would be too damn humble for too many people.
It sets up what could have been a powerful moment where Wolverine confronts the man who made him Wolverine. And while there is some heated emotion here, it feels incomplete for lack of a better word. Dr. Cornelius does put some perspective into what he's doing and it's not the typical, "I do it because I'm bored and someone was dumb enough to give me a lot of money," excuse. He sees what he's doing as correcting his greatest failure. He really doesn't want to go down in history as the guy who created something as awesome as Wolverine and failed miserably to control him. He wants to at least get one knock-off right before he dies. It's not exactly a Bill Pullmen in Independence Day type speech, but it does have some merit.
To do this, he has all these nameless test subjects who are subject themselves to the same shit Wolverine went through. They don't have names. They really don't offer much and Wolverine doesn't even say much about them. They're just meat bags to Dr. Cornelius. And he makes clear that he'll go through as many of them as he needs to. Needless to say, Wolverine has a big problem with that. However, the emotions of how much this pisses him off really aren't sufficiently conveyed. He basically looks at Dr. Conrelius with a, "Really? This is the excuse you're gonna make? Fuck, I need some whiskey." That last part was implied.
There's just one missing element to Dr. Conrelius' experiment and actually, it helps make sense of why he would do something so stupid with respect to getting Wolverine involved with this, knowing Wolverine's first inclination will be to cut off his balls and rip out his heart. He needs Wolverine's healing factor so that his subjects can survive the adamantium bonding process. That seems to be the key. There's just one big problem and Wolverine demonstrates it for him clearly. His healing factor is gone. This kind of throws a big fucking wrench into his plan. Again, not much really comes of this in terms of impact. Dr. Conrelius just looks at is with a, "Oh well, guess I'll have to find another way." The flat emotions here are kind of making it hard for the story to have much impact without the aid of some good ecstasy. Since that shit is hard to come by and expensive as hell, it basically just clears the way for more killing.
This leads to what amounts to Wolverine's final major battle. It's not against Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, or all the redheaded hookers he didn't tip. It's just some random new Weapon X knock-off that Dr. Conrelius calls Major Sharp. He's not all that menacing. He could easily be an extra on a 50s era B-grade horror movie. Not much is revealed about him. It's nowhere nearly enough for anyone to give more than three hundredths of a shit about him. But he serves his purpose. He gives Wolverine someone to fight while Dr. Conrelius continues with his experiments. Because honestly, he's done so much dumb shit at this point, why would he stop?
He still finds a way to say some meaningful shit along the way. He points out the differences between Major Sharp and Wolverine. He talks about wanting to make something perfect and without flaws. That means making a living weapon that doesn't maim everybody who made him. He thinks this is the only way to fix his mistake and change the world for the better. Because using this same science to cure all disease, end poverty, and heal those who have been mortally wounded just isn't enough. It gives some depth, but not nearly enough to give enough noteworthy shits.
It really isn't too epic a battle. Major Sharp is no Sabretooth. Hell, he's not even Daken on a bad hair day. He just gives Wolverine a good workout until Wolverine tricks him into breaking the barrier that's protecting Dr. Conrelius. It's the kind of tactic that is in no less than half the World War II shooters for X-box. Even grade-school kids could see this shit coming. For a guy like Dr. Cornelius who is smart enough to make Wolverine, he has no fucking excuse. It makes the fight feel even less epic because it's too predictable. But it still helps move shit forward because dragging it along at this point would only add to the stupidity.
And this is where Wolverine's fate is finally sealed. To this point, this battle has unfolded in the same way as every other battle has. Wolverine breaks into a facility, fucks up the experiment, and seeks to murder the asshole responsible. Even without his healing factor, this is one of those battles he would usually survive and still have the energy to get drunk at the nearest bar afterwards. But instead, he makes a fateful choice that changes everything in a way that ensures his date with the Grim Reaper.
It starts when Dr. Conrelius bolts. He triggers the adamantium infusion process on the nameless saps who somehow got tricked into being test subjects. I imagine they probably thought they were buying a time share. Rather than have them go through what he went through, Wolverine stops it by cutting the tanks and letting the liquid adamantium pour out all over him. And to make sure the test subjects survive, he gives them what's left of the healing agent that Kitty Pryde used on him in a previous issue.
Now at this point, he has to know he's dead. But at the same time, I can't help but wonder what the fuck he was thinking. Couldn't it have just been easier to pull the damn plug? Did he have to just break open the tanks? It really feels like he just went for the messiest possible solution when he didn't have to. It's conveyed as a noble sacrifice, but it comes off as one of those reckless mistakes that costs him his life. It's tragic in the context of drunk driving. For Wolverine though, it just feels unnecessary. That's not to say it isn't fitting. He gave his life to stop more Weapon X victims. What makes it feel flat is that he really didn't need to give his life to stop it. He just did it anyways.
With death now set to dry hump his ass to the afterlife, he staggers forward before the adamantium can harden. He's somehow able to catch up to Dr. Cornelius, who was wounded by a shard of glass. He's still trying to get away, but the underpaid helicopter pilot probably knows a bit more about Weapon X's history than Wolverine does. So he just bolts and leaves Dr. Conrelius to die. That makes him by far the smartest person in this whole story. It really negates the need for any more struggles. Wolverine doesn't have to slowly torture him to death like he probably wants. He probably can't in his current state anyways. He and Dr. Cornelius are just left to die. It's as exciting as it sounds.
So there's really not much left to do at this point. There's no inner musings. There's no sad thoughts about everything Wolverine will be leaving behind. Again, it really limits the emotional impact here. There are so many things that could have been explored in Wolverine's final moments. And to some extent, we get that. After Dr. Conrelius whines about what kind of legacy Wolverine is leaving behind, we get a very short montage of how far he's come. It's not much and doesn't even begin to cover the extent of his life. I want to say it's better than nothing, but it's too close to nothing. It still sends the right message in that Wolverine feels like he can die knowing that he's accomplished enough. That makes his death as honorable as a guy like him ever could've hoped for.
Now I guess this is the part where I try to read a eulogy of sorts. I've never had to give one while sober so I'm not going to start now. I'll just say that Wolverine's death here was fitting, but unnecessary. There was nothing about what he did here that made his death unavoidable. There were plenty of ways he could've stopped Dr. Cornelius and still saved those test subjects. Instead, he chose the most reckless tactic possible. He beat Cornelius and got himself killed in a way that might have had some poetic justice, but it still felt forced. It wasn't epic. It wasn't this huge battle against overwhelming odds. I'm not saying that it had to be that way. Him dying at the hands of Galactus would've been a lot less satisfying than this. However, it still feels like the kind of death that really didn't need to happen. For a character like Wolverine who has survived way worse shit on the weekends, it just doesn't feel epic enough.
It leaves me somewhat torn. This series was built on the premise that Wolverine would die in a way that would close the book on his journey in a meaningful way. In that sense, it succeeded. Wolverine's journey ended in the same way it began, fighting Weapon X. It didn't feel too crass. It wasn't like Wolverine died from choking on a pretzel. He died destroying the very thing that made him Wolverine. In that sense it works, but only in a very shallow sort of way. It doesn't really hit all the right emotions, but it does hit enough to not be a total disappointment. I give Death of Wolverine #4 a 6 out of 10. It's good. It's not great, but it's good. It won't make fans cry like they did when they found out they actually paid to see Wolverine Origins in the theaters, but it does give a sense of closure.
For that, I'll raise a glass of whiskey and thank Wolverine for all the awesome he brought us in life. In death, his impact will surely carry on that legacy of awesome. Now I'll just have to figure out what I'm going to drink once he eventually gets resurrected. Because let's face it, if Bucky freakin' Barnes can come back from the dead, so can Wolverine. Nuff said!