Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wolverine: Manifest Destiny

Wolverine: Manifest Destiny
Writer: Jason Aaron
Pencillers: Stephen Segovia & Paco Diaz Luque
Inkers: Stephen Segovia, Noah Salonga and Paco Diaz Luque
Letterer: Cory Petit
Colourist: John Rauch
Editor: John Barber

As most of you surely know, "Manifest Destiny" is Marvel's all-purpose label for any story connected, however loosely, with the X-Men's relocation to San Francisco. As we've come to expect, it's not a crossover at all, and barely even an event - it's just a logo they stick on the first story set in SF.

Most of the X-books have run "Manifest Destiny" arcs in the regular title. But Wolverine is tied up with Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's "Old Man Logan" story at the moment - an out-of-continuity story that would normally have appeared as a miniseries. Instead, it's running in the main title, while Jason Aaron and Stephen Segovia are doing the "Manifest Destiny" story as a miniseries. Having written the previous arc in Wolverine itself, Aaron is effectively the book's unspoken regular writer at the moment, a position which will become official with the launch of Wolverine: Weapon X (and the repurposing of the existing Wolverine book as a Daken title - gratuitously confusing, isn't it?).

"Wolverine moves to California" isn't the most thrilling concept in the world, but fortunately that's not really what Aaron does. Instead, we get a kung fu pastiche, the idea being that Wolverine passed through San Francisco many years ago and caused a bit of a mess in Chinatown, which he'll have to sort out if he plans on living here. It's a very tongue-in-cheek affair, with the familiar "hero learns new skills from wise sensei" stuff and the sort of over-the-top martial arts gibberish that Brubaker and Fraction used when writing Iron Fist.

Of course, it's all terribly silly. But there's nothing wrong with that; most writers tend to take Wolverine dreadfully seriously, and as a change of pace, four issues of undemanding nonsense work perfectly well. Admittedly, the more seriously you try to take it, the less well it works - the story forces Wolverine into the "trainee" role, where he doesn't entirely fit - but on its own terms, it's a freewheeling romp.

To judge from the range of inkers, and the appearance of some fill-in pencils in the final issue, artist Stephen Segovia appears to have run into a few deadline problems along the way. Mind you, he started off the series inking his own work, which was probably where they misjudged. He's very much in the mould of Leinil Francis Yu, but without the scratchiness. There are some points where he seems to be trying a little too hard to be imaginative, at the expense of clarity, but for the most part it's a good looking book.

From the ending, it looks as though Aaron has it in mind to hold on to his kung fu characters as Wolverine's personal supporting cast. In some ways that's a smart move, since his solo title would benefit from a bit of stability, and a setting disconnected from years of accumulated continuity. On the other hand, these characters are a little bit silly, and I'm not altogether sure about using them as recurrent characters - there's a definite risk here of re-creating the New Orleans Guilds, and nobody wants that, surely.

Still, if some elements of this story sit a little uneasily in the bigger picture, it's been a fun few issues which have helped to lighten the tone. It all bodes well for Aaron's new regular series.

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