Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rampaging Wolverine #1

"Sense Memory"
Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Artist: Paco Diaz Luque
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

"Unconfirmed Kill"
Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Mateus Santolouco
Letterer: Troy Peteri

"Kiss, Kiss"
Writer: Robin Furth
Artist: Nelson

"Modern Primitive"
Writer, artist: Ted McKeever
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Editor: John Barber

Every Marvel movie spawns a plethora of miniseries and one-shots featuring the characters in question. So just imagine what we get when there's a Wolverine movie on the way. We're practically drowning in Wolverine stories at the best of times - but if there's a movie coming, there must be more! There simply must be more!

And so it is that I find myself reviewing Rampaging Wolverine, a 48-page anthology one-shot that seems wholly unclear about what it's supposed to be doing (other than getting another Wolverine comic out the door).

The title is presumably a reference to the short-lived late-seventies black-and-white comic Rampaging Hulk, and the cover design has a decidedly seventies feel to it. So is it a nostalgia book? Well, not noticeably, no. It certainly has nothing to do with the sort of Wolverine stories that were appearing in the seventies, when the character was still a work in progress.

Is it an art showcase? To a point. There's a Ted McKeever story at the end, which is as spiky as you'd expect. And Mateus Santolouco's work on "Unconfirmed Kill" makes good use of dot shading, which is something you won't see too often in other comics. But on the lead story, "Sense Memory", although Paco Diaz Luque's art is perfectly solid, it doesn't seem to gain much from monochrome.

Is it, then, a vehicle for some unusual type of Wolverine story? Well, there's certainly a recurring motif. There are four stories here, but two of them (a comic and a text piece) are linked. So that's three in practice. And for some reason, they all involve Wolverine getting stranded on an island. Whether this was intended as a thoughtful exploration of the "Wolverine gets stranded on an island" genre, or whether the writers simply all pitched the same sort of idea, it's hard to say. But whatever the intention, no obvious common themes come through; it just seems repetitive.

This is unfortunate, as the repetition undermines some stories which are basically okay. "Unconfirmed Kill" is basically a Hydra sniper trying to figure out why he can't seem to kill this guy; it's simple, it's pretty effective, and the level of violence is pitched about right. That leads into a rather silly text piece about Wolverine and a psychotropic spider, of which the less said the better. The McKeever story, with Wolverine taming the local monkeys, is a quirky throwaway piece, but raises a smile.

I have my doubts, though, about Joshua Fialkov's lead story "Sense Memory." It's one of those "now that Wolverine remembers his past, he goes to sort it all out" stories, which is fair enough. And though it treads overfamiliar territory, it's competently done. But the pay-off seems to miss the point of Wolverine entirely. Without giving away the ending, Fialkov seems to have mistaken Wolverine for a cross between the Punisher and Mr A, an interpretation so hopelessly off-kilter that he and his editor should both have sent that final scene back for a re-write.

The big problem for a book like this, of course, is that if you're buying it at all, then either you're close friend of one of the creators, or you're a Wolverine completist. With the volume of Wolverine material out there, it's hard to imagine anyone but the completists making it this far down the list. And by definition, the people who do get as far as buying this thing will have read an awful lot of Wolverine stories before they get there.

Does Rampaging Wolverine have anything new to offer them? Well, it's got a Ted McKeever story, and that's something different. The Chris Yost story isn't bad either, but it's from the established sub-genre of stories based largely on Wolverine showing off his healing factor. Other than that, we're in standard fill-in territory; the book is okay, but with so many other Wolverine books out there, you've got to be better than that to earn a recommendation.

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