Current Reviews


X-Men Unlimited #50

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2003
By: Paul Brian McCoy

“The Swordsmith”

Writers: Kazuo Koike and Kengo Kaji
Artist: Paul Smith

Publisher: Marvel

While in Tokyo, Wolverine stumbles across a young woman being attacked by what appear to be three samurai and their boss. Needless to say, he helps out, and is drawn into an adventure protecting a mystical sword from a villain whose been hunting it for years.

Sometimes I think too much. When I heard that Lone Wolf and Cub writer/legend Kazuo Koike was going to write an adventure for Wolverine, I thought, “How could it get any better than this?” When I heard that Paul Smith was going to be doing the artwork, I thought, “Wow! I haven’t seen anything Smith has done in years. I used to love this guy’s stuff!” I didn’t know what to think when I saw the name Kengo Kaji as co-writer. I still don’t know who this is, but I’m starting to think bad thoughts.

If there was ever a writer suited for Marvel’s vaunted “decompressed” storytelling, it is Koike. His pacing is generally superb; legendary, even. However, as the credits clarify, only the idea for this story is purely his. The actual writing is a shared duty, and it just doesn’t work. Mainly, the problem with the writing seems to break down into two areas. First, the story is just crammed into too short a space. One issue, consisting of 24 pages, is just not enough for the subtleties of this idea to play out. There are 4 or 5, depending on how you count them, combats that take place in this book. In 24 pages. Have you ever read Lone Wolf and Cub? A single fight can last an entire book of over a hundred pages. It is in the combat that the characters are revealed; that insight is gained; that learning takes place. While that doesn’t mean that these things can’t be accomplished in a single issue’s story, the second big problem then comes into play. The scripting falls entirely short. It is filled with clichés and corny dialogue and, to be honest, Wolverine is kind of out of character for most of this story. Especially when he “borrows” the sword to see what the fuss over it is all about. That just struck me as contrived in order to get Logan out of the house for a few minutes and to reveal the big secret of the sword. There just isn’t enough time allowed for a smooth unfolding of the story to take place.

And the art. What can I say about the art? I still wonder where Paul Smith has been, but I don’t really care where he’s going to pop up next. Unless what he’s done here is just an out-of-character attempt to match his art to the story. Fittingly, the art is sloppy and the delicate grace that I associate with Paul Smith is nowhere to be found here. The fights are poorly staged and there is never a sense of urgency. Not on a single page. Overall, this is just a huge disappointment to me. Maybe it was supposed to last longer, but the book was cancelled. I don’t know. I can’t explain it. All I can say is that I was horribly disappointed with every aspect but the initial idea. And even that leaves a little something to be desired. The one good thing about this issue art-wise, is the pin-up section at the end. “Wolverine” by Zin Mera, “Rogue” by Natsuki Sumeragi and colored by Joshua Middleton, “Storm” by Mizuki Sakakibara, and “X-Men Happy Meal” by Emiko Iwasaki, are all very nicely done. They serve as an agonizing contrast to the rest of the book. Sigh.

Final Word:
Painful as it is to say, I didn’t really see anything in this story worth recommending, except maybe the pin-ups at the end. I need to go read some Lone Wolf and Cub to wash this hurt away.

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