Monday, April 13, 2009

Wolverine: Weapon X #1

"The Adamantium Men", part 1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ron Garney
Colourist: Jason Keith
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editor: John Barber

The X-books' other (quasi) first issue of the week is Wolverine: Weapon X #1, a new ongoing series from Jason Aaron and Ron Garney.

Now, obviously, the last thing the world needs is another ongoing Wolverine title, to join Wolverine, Wolverine: Origins and Wolverine: First Class (not to mention Astonishing X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Force and New Avengers). He's a terribly overexposed character. But with Aaron and Garney, this looks like being one of the stronger books. And besides, with the existing Wolverine series being turned into a Daken book in a few months time, this looks suspiciously like a soft relaunch.

Arguably, the three existing titles leave something of a gap in the market. Wolverine has effectively become a string of unrelated miniseries. Wolverine: Origins is entirely devoted to a single multi-year storyline expounding on a painfully elaborate conspiracy theory. And that means there's a space for Aaron to write an ongoing series about, well, something other than that conspiracy theory. It's easily done: you just stop banging on about the past, and move forward.

Which is - sort of - what we get here. In his first arc, "The Adamantium Men", Aaron harks back to Wolverine's origin story, but does so without getting caught up in the fiddly details. Instead, as villains, he's dusted off the Roxxon Corporation, who were Marvel's standard evil capitalists for a long while before drifting off the radar.

They're obvious candidates for a revival, if you think about it. They're topical, and they make a sharp contrast with Wolverine himself. While they used to be blatant Exxon stand-ins, Aaron gives them a new subsidiary, Blackguard, a thinly disguised version of Blackwater. They're the entirely-above-board corporate mercenary force who look after Roxxon's entirely-above-board interests; and they're in the market for super-soldiers of their own. It's such a simple idea that it's amazing nobody's done it before.

So the set-up is simple: Roxxon are messing about with the old Weapon X technology, and Wolverine's going to stop them. A good starting point. The first issue is spent setting up that point - and also introducing everyone's favourite generic supporting character, the Sassy Journalist. I'm a little less sold on this subplot, which seems at first glance like familiar territory. But we shall see.

On the whole, the book lives up to my expectations. We've got a strong central concept, which uses Wolverine's history as a springboard, but doesn't get tied up in it. And Garney is on top form, with dynamic, if remarkably bloody, action sequences.

If there's a problem here, it's that the story seems to have been paced for the first chapter of a trade paperback, rather than for serialisation. That's not to say it's slow - it's got the action quota filled nicely. But there's no cliffhanger. Instead, the last few pages simply re-affirm the premise, and then the book stops. It's an odd piece of pacing that doesn't really work in monthly format. It'll be fine in the collection, but not so much here.

That's a minor point, though. I had high hopes for this book, and I'm pretty much satisfied with what it provided.

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