This starts Volume 4 of the Wolverine comic. I’m not sure why they started a new volume with new number just until they got to what would be the 300th issue then went back to Volume 1 numbering but kept Volume 4 designation. They didn’t consult or explain this to me. Any way, the arc takes the first five issues of the volume.
Here’s the credits for the arc: Writer: Jason Aaron, Pencils: Renato Guedes, Inks: Jose Wilson Magalhaes, Colors: Matt Wilson, Covers: Jae Lee with Jun Chung, Letters: VC’s Cory Petit, Asst. Editor: Jody Leheup, Editor: Jeanine Schaefer, Group Editor: Axel Alonso, Editor In Chief: Joe Quesada, Publisher: Dan Buckley, Exec. Producer: Alan Fine.
A bit of the legal disclaimer – All images are the property of their owners I reproduce them here under the Fair Use Doctrine of the copyright law for commentary and critique.
Let’s start with the art. The covers are pretty but honestly they don’t do it for me. There’s something about the faces I don’t like, covers 3 and 5 especially. Also the hair doesn’t do it for me either. Yet I appreciate the anatomy and colors of the pieces. Over all I can say they are great art. Yet I still have to say they aren’t to my liking either. I appreciate the talent but don’t enjoy the image as a fan.
As for the interior art. I like it. I’d rate it as some of the best. It’s not cracked into ‘OMG this is awesome’ but unlike the first issues of Wolverine and the X-Men I don’t cringe and force myself to read the comic either. I enjoyed this art, it did what comic book art does – support and tell the story. It did distract with unpleasant art or unique art techniques. It supported and made itself part of the story telling experience which is what I’m looking for when I pick up a comic.
I have to admit when I learned about the basic premise of this arc I wasn’t thrilled. I was left very cold. I don’t like aliens, magic, supernatural stuff in my X-Men. I love it in my Dresden Files, Fables, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. but I don’t like it in my X-Men. Often I reimagine it to a more mundane explanation – they aren’t aliens they are other mutants, it’s not magic it’s a mutation, etc. Nothing wrong with making a story to my liking. Given that take I went into this arc reluctantly.
The basic concept is an unknown group has spiritually kidnapped Logan’s soul sending it literally to Hell. Since his body is vacant it is taken over by demons from the pit. In the tradition of the Enemy of State arc. Yeah basicly the same plot premise rewarmed with demons and a shadowy group in control instead of HYDRA and The Hand, or Weapon X, or his beserker rage, or what ever mind/body control flavor of the month. Been there done that got so many t-shirts I don’t want one that says “Possessed Wolverine Attacked Friends.” I was so bored with this part of the story I found myself flipping forward to the scenes back in Hell. I’d seen this type of story too much to care about what happened.
While he’s in Hell Logan must face his past. Yes like so many arcs where we see inside his head while he’s healing from being almost dead. Except this time he’s not in his head he’s in Hell. Again I declined the t-shirt as we visited an overused plot device.
I have to say that after reading the arc I came out with mixed feelings. Thinking about it I told Aaron what I thought and he summed it up best “bad premise good execution.” Yeah, not something you see often really. However I’m reading the arc with the knowledge of how it plays out many issues later. This is a growth for the character of Logan, something he’s been needing for some time. He’s been treading water in regrets and pining for Mariko for years. It’s also been years that he’s had his memories. He need to put to rest his daddy issues of Thomas Logan, biological father, versus John Howlett, father figure that raised him. All these agonies were moving at first but like the friend that won’t get over being dumped eventually you want to shout at him “DEAL WITH IT ALREADY.” This arc provides the answers for Logan to those things very well. He literally faces and defeats his demons. A very heavy handed way of turning a metaphor literal. That’s another thing I don’t like about it. I like finesse in writing but I admit it’s done effectively.
Let’s face it Logan’s 130 years old. It’s about time he grew up and dealt. He’s in a stable relationship with a good woman. Melita fights for him in this arc. He’s got a good moral compass and he has more experience that any other mutant on his various teams. So it stands to reason this well trained warrior take on leadership despite being some what of a lone wolf in aspects of his personality. What endears him to me is that he is the romantic that despite this hard life he has he still aspires to love, to goodness, to right winning even if that doesn’t mean he gets those things. He’s willing to make the most noble sacrifices of all, self sacrifice. He’ll do anything for a friend and that is what’s used as a turning point in this story. Which is what sells it to me. That and the fact that to reach all of Logan you gotta beat the answer into him, and trust me the Devil is the one to do that. He’ll enjoy beating bitter lessons into a reluctant hero.
The final selling point for me was I knew going into reading this arc that what happened here and followed made major life changes for James Howlett. I hope we don’t ever have to endure another possession arc (Yeah I know Dr. Rott is out there and in the current arc) or another confronting demons in alternate reality (be it in his head or in Hell). That is what would make this arc more powerful. It ended all that and opened a new era for the character. Did it? Well only time will tell.
Now for the fun part – individual pages or panels from the issues with my comments. WARNING THESE ARE SPOILERY
At the start Logan has gone to talk with Rev. Wraith about dealing with life. In the old days these were the kind of chats he had with Kurt, Nightcrawler, over beer somewhere. Now that his BFF is dead Logan’s gone to an old friend to hash out some stuff. I always agreed with what Kurt said. I don’t agree with all that Wraith says here but he does have the point that Logan is afraid of life being too good. Then again who can blame the man? Sometime the hardest thing is dealing with life when it’s going right. If you’ve lived a life of hard knocks like Logan you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. What really turns out to be great about this panel is the very thing that keeps him going in Hell is hope, hope of returning to what he enjoys in life. The one thing he’s fought for and hunted for when he had amnesia was the hope of something better. It’s what he’s wanted most and now he’s getting it. That’s when the maturing begins. I got this now what do I do?
One of things Hellverine does for the secret shadow group is go after friends and family of Logan. He goes after Silver Samurai and kills him. I thought the observations Silver makes as he’s dying are touching and so true. I think the older we get the more we understand the water through the fingers thing. The years don’t seem to take as long now as they did when I was say 5.
Okay this bugged me. We are continuity error hawks when watching movies. We’ll stop a movie and rewind and play multiple times to chat about continuity errors we spot. Things like look car has a dent in the front fender but they turn the corner and it’s gone. Or the bed in other room in the background is unmade then made then unmade again. So lookie here the last panel where we see our hero he’s nude in Hell. Yep even got his leg doing the strategic comic bend to keep from showing his junk. The Devil opted for the odd shadow from nothing to cover his. IF the devil has junk to cover anyway. So the point is the last panel of Logan he’s nude in HELL then…
Here’s our next look at him fighting those he’s already killed in Hell. He’s got PANTS! Yes somewhere in Hell our hero found pants. Sometime during eternal torment he found the time to get dressed. All the times in real life, in the real world he’s fought nude he just can’t do it in the heat of Hell. He’s got to put on this ratty pair of pants he found. And what’s that on his chest? Was that ever a shirt? Did he also put on the tatters of a tortured soul’s discarded shirt? I don’t get what’s going here if I go with the concept of really being in Hell. I think Aaron’s suggestion was the best. In the last panel the Devil and Logan were comparing equipment and the Devil felt intimidated so being as he’s ruler here he MADE Logan put on pants. It’s a form or torture. FIGHT CLOTHED DAMN YOU!
I’m not the only one who is tired of the mind control bit. Here Amiko, Logan’s adopted daughter, faces down a possessed Daddy again. She’s sick of it like the rest of us. Really is it Wednesday again? Time for possessed Logan to make a run through the apartment. It’s even become the butt of jokes in the books themselves and recently even on covers. There’s a great cover for Wolverine and The X-Men mocking the number of times their headmaster has been mind controlled. Though in Alpha and Omega I know it happens again and with Dr. Rott yet again. Can’t we lay this to rest Marvel if not for all time for at LEAST a decade? Hmm? Whadda ya say Joe Q?
One of the things we learn is that Hell is better if you got friends. Then again what hard time isn’t easier with friends in your corner? Here Puck gives encouragement to Logan. We all know Logan will do ANYTHING to help out a good friend. Here he kicks the Devil’s ass for Puck. Why is Puck in Hell? I dunno. I don’t know his story that well to say. I’d like to think it’s not because he slept in on Sundays (or Saturdays depending on his religion). I know he had an alcohol problem and Logan helped him out of a tight jam with that more than once. So maybe when drunk he did something he has to atone for doing. Whatever it is Puck is convinced he can get out of Hell now and is doing his best to do so. He also knows that Logan can get out not being dead yet and all.
Here’s our first look at the shadowy group behind this. Apparently it’s an angry at Wolverine grass roots movement led by Ross Perot! Lookie it’s got a truck diver, a veil wearing woman, a boy, and Ross is right there in front. We don’t know who they are but what we do learn is they are pissed at Wolverine and want him to suffer. They are willing to kill innocents to do it. We also learn Ross look-a-like here is the leader. He controls Hellverine and the group that went after Melita called the Marauders. Don’t know who they are either but they are obviously mutants, bad and work for Ross-a-like/shadowy group. They don’t look like a group that could do so much damage to one of the world’s super heroes do they? Well it takes a village as they say.
Here we meet the Marauders and get their codenames. The one with the cowboy outfit talking to Tiger Tyger there is called Gunhawk. I have to say I think Cannonfoot is silly. He’s got to carry around heavy balls and wear stupid looking shoes to do his thing. I have the knowledge of who these people are. I let you in on a secret Gunhawk is William Downing. Any way they are all introduced and everything. The other thing I like here is Gunhawk pointing out one of Logan’s deep buried secrets is he’s a romantic at heart. He’s keep things that aren’t intrinsically valuable but have emotional meaning for him. Another aspect of Logan that endears him to me.
Now we get to Logan’s Daddy issues. Just like Daken has Daddy issues Logan has his. Except Logan’s are more classic nature versus nurture type. Here we learn that Thomas Logan is our Logan’s father as was hinted in the Origins story. We don’t know if Thomas raped Elizabeth Howlett or it was an affair. Given his personality I’d think it’s the prior. Also we know Thomas was a drunk that cruel to his son Dog and killed Logan’s adoptive father (and Elizabeth’s husband) John Howlett. Give all of that Thomas is now in Hell where he rightly belongs. This second page is where he gets a private talk with James. He’s all the things James has always feared of becoming. A man who revels in violence and enjoys pain. He lauds James for being a ‘true’ Logan by killing all he as and sending them to hell. But true to his hopeful nature Logan won’t do that. Once he kicks the Devil’s ass he gives up ruling in hell and rejects Thomas as his father. I like to think it was John Howlett, Jame’s real father, that gave him his good strong core, those things he hopes and fights for. Occasionally he gives in to his Logan tendencies but deep in his heart he’s a Howlett.
Here James is on his way out of Hell. He goes back to get his love. Logan has been dealing with his love for Mariko for years. He made a breakthrough about it during his last talk with Kurt. Yet here it puts a final cap on on it. It was beautiful short time between them but it’s over forever. I think that’s partly why he’s willing to leave her is he’d come to the same conclusion before this. He just couldn’t go until he knew she felt that way too.
Why is Mariko in Hell? Well she ran a crime family for years before they got married. One does assume she did some sinful things while doing that which landed her here.
That’s my 13 favorite panels/pages from 5 books. There’s lots more in there and I’d say it’s well worth the read. The next arc is Wolverine Vs The X-Men and deals with James returning to his body before the demons in possession were exorcised by Mystique, Melita, the Ghost Riders, and some Devil Son character I don’t know. But first we have a stand alone that’s give an issue 5.1 designation. In it James “Logan” Howlett is the birthday boy!
Until next time!