Friday, November 06, 2009

Wolverine: Weapon X #1-5

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

The launch of Wolverine: Weapon X has been less than auspicious. By all appearances, the big idea was to soft-launch a new Daken title. They've done this before, when Incredible Hulk was renamed as Incredible Hercules and became an entirely different book. But, because it seemed a bit like a short-term stunt, it managed to hold on to a lot of its inherited audience. (At first, anyway.)

So in giving the Wolverine series to Daken, and renaming it Dark Wolverine, Marvel seem to have had something similar in mind. And it's more or less worked - for Daken. Trouble is, then you have to find somewhere else for Wolverine to appear. So Wolverine: Weapon X was launched. But it was presented as yet another Wolverine title, and there wasn't much appetite for one of those. Consequently, the book has been ordered in the quantities you'd expect for an unwanted, unloved spin-off.

Which is a shame, because Jason Aaron's doing some good work on this title. From a marketing standpoint, it's perhaps unfortunate that the story didn't open with some big continuity event. But creatively, this is the sort of thing I want to see from a Wolverine series: a writer who gets the character, stories that make use of his background without getting hung up on continuity, inventive action, and all a bit over the top. It's a series that works in bold strokes, but there's nothing wrong with that in a Wolverine comic. And artist Ron Garney is perfectly cast here. Garney does bold, clear, straightforward, unfussy storytelling, but he knows when to push the boat out and go for the spectacular.

The plot: Wolverine is tipped off that the Weapon X Project's files have ended up in the hands of Blackguard, a dodgy private military firm who have been making their own Wolverines. And he sets out to shut them down. And that's basically it. This, by the way, is a good use of continuity: the Weapon X Project is a continuity quagmire, but for the purposes of this story, all you really need to know is that they were baddies who tried to turn Wolverine into a living weapon. And you can explain that in one sentence.

Obviously, "Blackguard" are a less-than-subtle reference to Blackwater, the private military firm that did work for the US State Department in Iraq. But Aaron isn't really interested in those controversies. Blackguard are simply a tongue-in-cheek evil corporation, complete with an anonymous and uncaring CEO, which disposes of unwanted personnel through its sinister human resources department. The CEO tells an employee who's about to be executed that "I'll have a moment of silence on my next conference call." It's all very silly, but it's the right kind of silly - Aaron manages to make these guys a genuine threat despite the jokes.

The point, sort of, seems to be that Blackguard is as corporately dehumanising as the Weapon X Project was, and has a similar cannon-fodder attitude to the staff. Their highly trained interchangeable Wolverines manage to lose a 12-1 fight against the ruggedly individual real thing because they insist on trudging around in a group, while he uses guerilla tacics and picks them off one at a time. Naturally, the long suffering leader of the Blackguard troops ultimately turns out to be a sort of noble warrior after all, and Aaron leaves open the back door to bring him back as a recurring villain.

There's some wonky plotting in here. Blackguard starts off as a Roxxon subsidiary, only to sprout its own shareholders about halfway through. A whole subplot about them trying to get a US government contract makes little sense, and seems to have been nailed on purely in an attempt to raise the stakes.

But it works, for the most part. Aaron gets the voice of the character, he writes good action sequences, and crucially, he can be knowingly over-the-top and corny without letting the story fall apart. It's a Wolverine story which is willing to be fun, and doesn't take itself too seriously; and I'm all for that.

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