“Born in Blood” Part One
Writer: Daniel Way
Artists: Steve Dillon, Dan Kemp (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Editor’s Note: Nothing says Easter more than everyone’s favorite retractable clawed mutant wielding a samurai sword, but the first issue of Wolverine: Origins debuts this Wednesday, April 19.
Ariel Carmona Jr.:
SPOILER WARNING: These reviews comment on some crucial final page plot developments of this first issue.
Let’s take this opportunity to formally ignore the excessive nature of creating a second title for Wolverine, the most overexposed character of the last decade. Let’s pretend that the first storyline of this new series justifies a second unique title, rather than simply continuing exactly where Wolverine #40 left off, as if this were the real issue #41. Let’s imagine there’s a genuine and logical reason for Wolverine wearing the old orange-and-brown, and that it’s not simply a decision to cater to fandom.
Moving on. There be spoilers.
The introduction page says thus: “While the puzzle of his past began to take shape, certain pieces remained out of focus.” So Wolverine remembers everything, but he just doesn’t remember it well. Damn you, chaos magic, always making up the rules as you go along! For instance, you allow Wolverine to remember that an analogue of Condi Rice, who was neither in power nor even in diapers at the time Wolverine got his memories scrambled, is working for some big bad person, but Wolverine can’t remember who that big bad person is. He does, however, remember that someone he probably never met is working for that big bad person. Chaos magic, groovy.
While Rice’s appearance is rather goofy, I’ve got to give Way props for actually offing her brutally, in spite of Marvel’s obsession with clinging to reality. Though I expect this move will be ignored when she shows up along with the rest of the Bush cabinet within the next month, and when the editors try to explain it away, they’ll say she was merely replaced shortly after by another black woman.
So . . . Wolverine has a sword now. A guy with a rapid mutant healing factor and six of the most deadly and unbreakable blades in comics history . . . fights with a sword now. If I’m not mistaken, Wolverine’s samurai past originally fit in somewhere before he entered the Weapon X program and before they retroactively established that he always had claws. It wasn’t as silly then. It’s beyond silly now. What’s next, Marvel’s web-slinger gets a suit of armor that lets him fly?
Marvel writers, stop using S.H.I.E.L.D.! Why does S.H.I.E.L.D. have to appear in twenty different titles every month? Give them their own book and be done with it already! It doesn’t benefit your title character in any way to contrast them with a legion of agents who are generally more resourceful, more cunning, more powerful and more efficient, and whose commander is pretty much both invincible and unshakable. You might as well have the Rolling Stones open at concerts for MTV-pop-band-of-the-week.
Except that S.H.I.E.L.D. here is a group of bumbling idiots who can’t do a single thing right. So then . . . what was the point?
So S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t stop Wolverine – not that they really try. And a Shiva robot can’t stop Wolverine – not that it was supposed to. So, having exhausted the lamest options, Way decides the next best option is to dredge up a character from what many consider to be Marvel’s single greatest story – because if you steal from the best, it automatically makes your own work that much better, right? I’m talking about Nuke, the guy who died at the end of “Born Again” and was never asking for a return appearance. Though at the rate they’ve been bringing back characters, I suppose the only other choice they had to pit against Wolverine was Uncle Ben.
The saving grace for Origins is Steve Dillon. He’s being horribly underutilized on this title, and I don’t think his Wolverine really works, but his linework is clear and can tell a sequential visual story, and he does a pretty good job of making a story about a claw guy wearing a flimsy sword held up by a bulky belt somewhat tolerable.
It’s official: Daniel Way is Marvel’s new golden boy, a writer whose surrounding hype and praise is incongruous with the quality of his work.
Plot: Armed with the Muramasa Blade, Logan begins his search to find those who had in one form or another wronged him. His quest begins at the White House where his attempts to gain information is interrupted by an enemy from the past. Afterwards, the military makes a decision on how best to deal with the Logan problem.
Commentary: I want to personally thank Daniel Way for writing a Wolverine book that is targeted specifically for me.
I realize that there are Wolverine fans everywhere who will be upset at this and frankly I am confused on how Daniel not only discovered my existence but obviously went to the trouble of interviewing people who know me and used psychics from the failed government plan to use remote viewing as a way to spy on foreign powers to get into my head to find out exactly what my opinions were of Wolverine and his bulls@#$ “mysterious past.”
Understand that my teenage collecting years (1989-1994) were spent primarily following the adventures of Superman, but I dabbled in Marvel’s world and like just about everyone from that era, I liked Wolverine. What wasn’t to like? He had the claws and the attitude and the berserker fury thing. The average comic fan at the time needed all of the vicarious red ass beat downs they could get and by “they,” I mean me. I distinctly remember reading Wolverine Saga and thinking how awesome the scene they used from the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller mini-series where Wolverine tracked down his lady love, found out she was being abused by her husband and then picking said husband up with one hand while cocking back the other, claws out, when the abusive waste of space came home and threatened her with more maltreatment. It was one of those visceral moments where you think, in one way or the other, “Oh man. That is one dumb S.O.B.”
(Cut me some slack. I was sixteen. At least I didn’t have one of those Flock of Seagulls haircuts or listen to Nirvana.)
The thing is that eventually all of the fight scenes and great costumes and questionable relationships with underage girls will get boring if you don't have a solid foundation. As great as Logan was, the whole mysterious past thing was played up and played up and played up until I just didn’t freaking care anymore. Add the other characters that had mysterious pasts (yeah I’m talking about Cable) and things got silly in a heartbeat. So I pretty much dropped out of the X-Men-related universe and moved on with life. I didn’t dislike what had come before but then the current stuff was doing nothing for me.
Sometime back the manager at the comic shop where I keep my box told me that because of the whole House of M thing, Wolverine now remembered his past. He went so far as to show me the comic where the information that he remembered his past got out. I became interested, and that interest turned into curiosity, and I decided to check out this Wolverine: Origins because I knew no matter how bad it could be, it was still probably going to end better than the Paul Jenkins written mini-series of a similar name. (Loved the book until the last issue when I wondered where the ending was.)
While I was joking a bit with the whole Daniel Way reading my mind stuff, it wasn’t far off. The book opens with Wolverine in his brown costume. I love that costume. It is flat out my all-time favorite Wolverine costume. I knew right then and there that things were going to go smoothly. I was right. The issue plays like a song. There are a few turn-your-brain-off moments (two words: cruise missile), but the whole thing flows so nicely that it doesn’t matter. It had everything you would want from a Wolverine story: action, a bit of humor, more action, Wolverine not giving a crap about the damage he causes in pursuit of his quest, and an ending that makes you want to come back for more.
Steve Dillon’s artwork was also a real treat. I will admit that there were times when I thought, “This is one messed up issue of Preacher,” but that only speaks to how highly I thought of the man’s work on that title. Dillon adds a certain realism to his work that gives it an added level of credibility. His ability to draw great action scenes is only matched by the emotion his characters convey. He is not the first artist I would think of to draw a title like this, but his work on this issue was so solid that now I can’t see anyone else drawing the book or at least this first story arc.
In The End: If you haven’t read a Wolverine book since the mid-nineties, I highly recommend that you give this book a try. Daniel Way has such a great handle on the character. I am pleasantly surprised at the villains he has introduced into the story because these aren’t new characters. In some cases these aren’t even characters that have been seen in a book for nearly two decades. Steve Dillon’s art really brought the story to life, and you will never feel sorrier for Dum Dum Dugan after reading this book. This comic has the potential to change Wolverine forever.
And by “forever,” I mean changed until the next generation of comic writers and editors decide they want to undo everything. For right now, though, this is an awesome direction to go in.
Ariel Carmona Jr.
Plot: Wolverine is looking for revenge. Not even S.H.I.E.L.D., who usually do a good job of keeping up with the feral mutant know what he’s up to, until he shows up at the White House, taking apart their defenses. When Logan confronts the Secretary of State about who she’s “really working for,” a Samurai robot is dispatched to make sure she doesn’t reveal a thing.
Comments: The very first thing any discerning X-Men or Wolverine fan will notice upon reading this comic is that Wolvie is not wearing his Astonishing X-Men duds, or a variation of the yellow suit which he sports in modern comics, but his brown and tan uniform from the 80s. This is smart move to usher in an introductory title, as is getting some new talent to work on the book. I have to confess that I am not too familiar with Daniel Way or Steve Dillon, who are handling the asthetic and writing chores on this new title, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy their work. Dillon does a good job of channeling some of the great artists who have handled the character in the past. Or maybe it just seems that way because he uses the old costume? How cool is it seeing Logan in that suit carrying a huge sword? Way cool. Pardon the lousy pun.
The story isn’t too bad. It’s not completely original: Logan is seeking revenge, he’s on a journey, he’s going to “make them pay.” These are all statements I seem to have read before, most recently I think in Wolverine’s regular book. The pacing here is good, the action picks up right after S.H.I.E.L.D. discovers Wolverine has broken into the White House and doesn’t let up until after Wolvie’s fights with the Shiva Robot and the government decides to take matters into their own hand. Then we get that final, gasp inducing reveal which has become a staple of many modern Marvel comics.
The book ends with a plug to read the next issue and the current ongoing which is at issue #41. This raises the question of whether Wolverine won’t suffer from overexposure like various other Marvel properties have in the past such as The Punisher in the 80s or to some extent, Spider-Man in the 90s. Only time will tell, but I would wager to say that unless they do something completely inane to screw it up, such as the clone saga which almost killed off the Spider-Man books, then it is unlikely Wolvie’s popularity will fade after more than 30 years. It seems he’s on the cover of Wizard every other month and people still love him, and as long as he keeps being an interesting character, we will keep reading his exploits, both solo and with his X-Men buddies.
Final Word: There’s not much more I can say about this book. I am not completely sure why it’s titled “Origins” because it doesn’t really tell the origin of Wolverine, but I surmise it’s an extension of the “Origins” storyline and that it will go on to tell tales of his life prior to the X-Men and his days before and after Weapon-X. It’s a very enjoyable read and seems poised to deliver on future goods.
Apparently oblivious to the character’s already obnoxious level of market saturation, Marvel have decided to launch a second ongoing Wolverine title. It’s a ridiculous prospect and the company has an uphill struggle to prove this comic’s worth. Sadly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Marvel doesn’t manage to pull it off.
The script is dreadful, ranging from clunky dialogue that aims for dramatic but settles for amateurish, to narration that pedantically explains the obvious whenever it can. It reads at times as if Daniel Way has no interest in characterisation and just needs dialogue to either drive the plot forward or fill up space, as it’s all so very soulless, functional and generic. On the other hand, Way does tell a fairly good story. The plot rattles along at an exciting pace, and while it’s not the most original or innovative bit of writing, that pace does at least keep things entertaining.
Steve Dillon impresses as usual, but the art is not without its problems. Storytelling and characterisation are top-notch, as expected, but his version of Wolverine looks a bit off. He’s too tall, too thin, and too clean, and it’s a tad jarring. Dillon does a good job, but I can’t shake the feeling that he’s miscast on this book; or perhaps if Wolverine were not in costume, the gritty thriller feel they’re going for would come through more clearly and Dillon’s strengths would be more evident. Either way, there’s something just slightly wrong about the art.
With an issue like this, the burden is on Marvel to prove that a second ongoing Wolverine title (on top of his numerous team book appearances) is a worthwhile venture. Based on this first issue, I have to say that they’ve failed to do so. There's nothing here which couldn’t have been done in the main book (as was originally intended), and there’s certainly not enough in the way of distinctiveness or innovation to justify this as a separate title. This is a perfectly acceptable (if generic) Wolverine story, but it’s also utterly pointless and unnecessary.
Wolverine’s search for the missing parts of his past resumes in this all new series continuing the storyline started both in House of M as well as the ongoing Wolverine series. In this opening issue, all hell breaks loose at the White House. Someone has sent a missile on a collision course with the residence of our commander in chief, and all fingers are pointing at Logan. Oh, and he just happens to show up right when it makes impact…but are things what they seem?
I have to admit, I’m a sucker for mysterious origin stuff with regards to Logan. I really enjoyed the Origin miniseries, and have been really looking forward to this storyline with the hopes that it would tie into that story. Unfortunately, so far with the parts of this story that were in the main Wolverine comic, I have been sorely disappointed. Nothing of consequence has been revealed; it’s simply been Logan fighting some people and crawling around in dark places complaining. What’s new about that?
The art is good on this title, but for some odd reason, maybe it’s just me, Logan just doesn’t really look like Logan in the front face shots. He looks like some non-comic generalized version of Wolverine, without any real “character” to his appearance. Plus I’m more of a fan of his X-Men uniform as opposed to the brown one, but that’s just me. I also like continuity. He’s wearing the X-Men uniform in New X-Men and Young Avengers, among other titles, yet wearing the brown one here. Small change, sure, but it is part of his character, and Marvel hasn’t seemed to be too big on continuity as of late.
I like the idea of this series, but I really hope there are some major reveals very soon or else this one is going to stay on the shelf at my comic shop.
Wolverine begins his quest of vengeance against those who ruined his life and stole his memories. Now that Logan knows his entire history, there’s more than a century of retribution to dole out. First stop: Secretary of State of the USA. But the spooks in S.H.I.E.L.D, Weapon X, and other shady government agencies have their own contingencies in place.
Let’s say you’ve got a hundred years or so worth of supporting characters to introduce, catalogue, and build an interesting story around. Let’s say, for the first issue, you start with two or three. For God’s sake, please make them worth sweating over. A handy assortment of near-anonymous secret service personnel makes for great set dressing, but when they get center stage for more than half the issue and the reader still has no investment in any of them, it makes for a pretty weak introduction to new series. Perhaps some of the names will be familiar to longtime disciples of the Gospel of Wolverine, perhaps some are even well known to regular readers of Logan’s main title; but a series like Origins is going to draw in fans who don’t know the whole story, who maybe don’t follow Wolverine very closely at all, who are maybe just curious about the ultimate revelation of the Secret Past. And anyway, a number 1 on the cover ought to mean something: when you’re starting at the beginning, start from the beginning.
Aside from the generic canon-fodder cast, Wolverine: Origins suffers from a bit of over-the-top tough guy dialogue. With thought-captions like “This ain’t like the old days. This is a new day... and I’m packin’ a whole new kinda heat,” one has to wonder if even Bruce Campbell could rattle off such a line with a straight face. Toward the end of the book, the General knocks off a list of calamities in almost the exact rhythm as Ted the Bellhop’s phone-call resignation in Four Rooms—which isn’t a terrible thing, but the progression is much more interesting when played for comedy.
Steve Dillon’s art is superbly realistic—almost too much so for a man of Wolverine’s fashion sense. Dillon’s Wolverine looks like there’s a living, breathing man inside the costume—a much taller, leaner man than the one seen in other titles —which is quite stunning to behold. Strangely, though, the Government Action Heroes look almost like toys, with too-sculpted hair and uniforms equipped with improbable pouches.
Mostly, though, the flaw of this issue is the failure to tackle the rich, intriguing premise with any sort of depth—or at all. With a series promising big-time revelations about Wolverine’s past, it would be nice to get at least a taste from the outset. Over the course of the series, he’s meant to be traveling the world, reconnecting with old friends and lovers, and sticking it to the bastards who stuck it to him. But in the first issue, all we really discover is that Logan’s history is intertwined with the government—high up in the government. Which we already knew. And while there aren’t going to be many people picking this up who don’t have at least a passing knowledge of who Wolverine is and what he does, he’s still got to be character within his own book. There’s really only so far a taciturn “Hurricane Wolvie” presence can carry a story—and apparently that distance is less than 24 pages.
I think my first real issue of the old Wolverine comics that I went out of my way to find was Wolverine #50 which dove into the Weapon X project from Wolverine’s standpoint. I had just finished reading the Barry Windsor Smith run on Marvel Comics Presents #72 – 84. As with most of you, I didn’t fully understand everything that was told and have since reread those issues about a bazillion times. I never understood how Wolverine’s whole body could heal itself, even regenerating missing flesh, but his mind couldn’t rebuild his memories. I was told by many comic “experts” that I was reading too much into it and that there were real reasons why he just couldn’t remember.
I can honestly say that I had almost given up hope that Wolverine would ever be an actual 3-dimensional character, complete with memories like the rest of us. Every time we turned around, it seemed everyone including Captain America, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and others knew more about Wolverine’s past than he did. Frankly, it just got REALLY old!!!
Well, the time has come for Wolverine to exact his revenge on those who have done unto him. This issue begins Wolverine’s hunt for revenge in the White House by assaulting one of the President’s Secretaries (doesn’t say which but I think you’ll see some current similarities). To make matters worse, a missile lands in the White House lawn with a Shiva unit aboard that fries the Secretary. Thank your stars that she wasn’t cut to pieces so you’d be blamed for that act of treason as well, Wolvie!!! Actually, since you’re a Canadian, breaking into the White House would be more like an act of war, but that’s being a little picky. Anyway, there are indications that there will be a lot more investigation into the various “Weapon X” programs and participants.
The storyline shows promise although I still don’t get why he has to have the mystical sword. If he were still under the “authority” of someone, a samurai would be expected to act with honor and keep his sword with him as a symbol of his honor and soul, but as a ronin (a wandering samurai) the rules change and the sword has no symbolic significance. I think the ride will be interesting and hopefully lays down a definitive history of our beloved clawed one. If this turns sour, like so many of Marvel’s current projects, you’ll forgive me if I bail out and disavow all knowledge of ever writing this review. Gotta run, I think I hear a scratching at my door…
What did you think of this book?
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