Monday, June 22, 2009

Wolverine #73-74

"A Mile in my Moccasins"
Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciller: Adam Kubert
Inker: Mark Farmer
Letterer: Cory Petit
Colourist: Justin Ponsor
Editor: John Barber

Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards
Letterer: John Workman
Editor: John Barber

Wolverine #73-74 have an unusual history and an unusual format. They're basically fill-in issues, seemingly intended to fill the gap between Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's "Old Man Logan" storyline, and issue #75's Dark Wolverine story. But rather than run the stories intact, they split them in two and put half in each issue.

Good idea? Well, from Marvel's perspective, it does mean that you get two Adam Kubert issues rather than just one. The stories are different in style, though it would be going it a bit far to say they complement each other, rather than just co-existing comfortably. As it turned out, they were never needed at all; "Old Man Logan" ran so far behind the schedule that these issues had to be rushed out in May.

When they rescheduled the issues, Marvel solemnly claimed that they were an ideal tie-in for the movie, suitable for new readers. Well. In their favour, I suppose, there's one story by Jason Aaron (Weapon X) and one by Daniel Way (Origins), so you could argue that new readers get to find out which book they'd prefer. Except there's nothing in the issues to tell them that. And although Way's story is a reasonably accessible, self-contained affair, Aaron embarks on a breakneck parody of Wolverine continuity which will be utterly meaningless to new readers.

Way and Tommy Lee Edwards provide a traditional fill-in story where Wolverine helps out one of his seemingly inexhaustile supply of previously unmentioned old friends. This time it's an aging biker called Horrorshow, a cuddly chap with a beard who presumably lived up to the name back in the seventies. There's an internal squabble for control of his biker clan, and a wayward son to deal with.

The wayward son provides the hook that makes this a Wolverine story: Way gets to play up the parallels with Daken. But the story doesn't actually get bogged down in any of that continuity, and really, it's a perfectly decent affair. In fact, it's a welcome reminder that when Way steers clear of his unfathomable conspiracy storyline, and has the discipline of a limited page count, he writes a good Wolverine. It's still a fill-in issue, but a solid one.

Aaron and Kubert turn in something rather more unusual, playing off Wolverine's ridiculous overexposure. The poor guy has two (now three) solo titles, New Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, Astonishing X-Men, X-Force and New Avengers. He's awfully busy. And that's the basic idea - most of part one is a bouncily insane patchwork of one-panel snapshots, labelled "Monday", "Tuesday" and so forth, each with Wolverine fighting a completely different villain alongside another team, guest star or whatever. You'd think it wouldn't work, but it's brilliantly paced, Kubert gets across enough information to give the general impression of some typical Wolveirne story in progress, and every week seems to end with Wolverine in yet another bar with yet more of his ever-growing army of previously unseen acquaintances. Aaron even manages to get in some good lines. (The X-Men, facing Mystique with a flamethrower: "I thought I told you to kill that woman." "I thought I did...")

Now, none of this will make the slightest sense to new readers, as I say. But pausing to explain it all would kill the joke. For once, I think it's worth the inaccessibility.

The second half has a stab at bringing things down to earth, with Spider-Man showing up in a bar and trying to persuade Wolverine that he's working himself into the ground. Aaron tries for a bit of tragedy here - Wolverine's got an awful lot to atone for, and doesn't feel he can let up - but it doesn't really fit with the first half of the story. Problem is, if you take Wolverine's continuity literally, and try to make sense of all his many, many engagements, it's just too stupid - and too cynical - to form the basis for drama. You can laugh at it, but when you try and shift gears and go for emotion, it rings false.

Mind you, Aaron and Kubert very nearly get away with it, which proves how good they are. But even with an ending that doesn't quite convince, the first half is so impressive that the story is worth reading for that alone.

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