Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - Wolverine #50

Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2007
By: Keith Dallas

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Simone Bianchi (p), Simone Bianchi & Andrea Silvestri (i), Paul Mounts (colors); “Puny Little Man”: Ed McGuinness (p), Dexter Vines (i), Dave McCaig (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wolverine #50 arrives in stores this Wednesday, January 24.

Average Rating:

Ariel Carmona Jr.:
Geoff Collins:
Luke Handley:
Chris Murman:
Caryn A. Tate:
Dave Wallace:
Mike Williams:

SPOILER WARNING: The following reviews reveal plot developments of the issue.

Ariel Carmona Jr.

Plot: Wolverine bursts into the X-Mansion where Rogue is currently in charge, busts in on Sabertooth, who has been a sanctioned member of the X-Men for a while now and seeks an all out brawl with Creed to end their long running feud once and for all. In a totally unrelated story, Wolvie gets his memories back and retells the tale of his Candian encounter with the Incredible Hulk while he was a rookie member of the Alpha Flight team.

Comments: There are two stories in this book, and the second story in the second part of the comic is by far the best of the two. It uses that dot matrix type of coloring to invoke intentionally an “old school” feel in an homage to Wolverine’s first appearance in Incredible Hulk #181, but the best part is I can actually read this story and figure out what’s going on which is more than I can say for the first tale of the issue.

Though the art work is excellent, the first story uses very dark hues. I am tired of reading dark comic books. I am not sure if it is an editorial decision to make the action seem grittier and more adult oriented in theme or the colorist's fault for employing these palettes, but it lessens the impact of the final scene of the first half of the comic. The reader can’t even fully make out the pivotal message left in blood on the wall because of the dark tones, nor could I 100 percent discern what was happening in the fight with the Lupines which opened the story. It’s a trend that is becoming more and more prevalent in comics these days, and I am starting to really resent it.

I am also tired of Wolverine/Sabertooth fights. It would be cool if one of them did end it, but it’s been done so much, it’s lost its impact. It’s like Venom being killed off by too many appearances in Spider-Man comics. At some point it becomes trite. I found myself bored halfway through this story instead of salivating with fanboy enthusiasm which I guess was the intended effect. Wolverine and Sabertooth’s showdown in the Morlock tunnels in Uncanny X-Men #210-213 was suspenseful and thrilling. This not so much.

Like I said, the second story is the best part of this comic. Wolvie uses the exact same dialogue in his battle with Hulk as he does in the original Hulk comic, but what is cool is that with some clever use of retconning, Loeb explains away the reasons for Wolverine’s raw look and his somewhat hackneyed fight banter. There’s even a good twist at the end of the battle which ends the proceedings on a heck of a cliffhanger. The thing is, I am not even sure you can call it retconning because strictly speaking, the changes that are made, except for the final climactic panel, don’t really alter the original story; rather, they enhance it, which is what good storytellers are supposed to do. My kudos to the entire production team for this.

The good: The artwork by Ed McGuinness in the second story is amazing. He has done some good work in the past, but here his Hulk looks truly menacing and formidable as he should I enjoyed his work on Superman for DC, but this is really impressive stuff. The artwork in the first story isn’t bad either, but Bianchi and Silvestri’s work is mired by the poor choice of coloring.

The bad: I am sure that this book will be marketed as an extra sized comic with a larger page count. What the Marvel hype machine will fail to tell you is that the book suffers from the usual Marvel “panelitis” sydrome which I have always had mixed feelings about. I have always maintained that the bigger panels cheat the reader by actually giving us less story by cutting down on the number of panels per page. It’s hard to dispute this fact, but when the art is as kinetic and as gorgeous as it is in the second half of this comic, that’s a gripe that I almost hate to make.

Final word: Despite some apparent flaws, this comic book is still a good anniversary issue for our favorite feral Mutant.

Geoff Collins

My expectations have more than been met. Some people don’t like Loeb, but I do. If this run continues on the current path, Wolverine’s going to be much more edgy than he was during Civil War. There are some continuity issues, but they’re more than worth breaking for what Loeb is doing here.

I’m not too familiar with Simone Bianchi, but I loved the art in this. Though he made Wolverine’s head look like that of a mouse—a fact that I’m going to make fun of for a long time to come— Wolverine still does look like a bad ass (note: in many ways Wolverine’s new mark is the first to resemble an actual wolverine, albeit with over-exaggerated features, whereas past artists have mostly ignored what a wolverine looks like). The fight scenes are graphic and detailed which can also be said about the characters. Something weird I noticed is that Bianchi only drew two close shots of someone not in some form of pain through the entire book. That might have more to do with Loeb’s writing, though.

The coloring in the book fits that dark story well. Most of it occurs in present time and is set in night, and even when the action goes indoors, it’s still pretty dark. Not only in terms of story, but in terms of colors, it’s one of the darker books I’ve seen. There is a flashback to when Logan was happy, and the mostly bright colors of that snowy, daylight scene reflect the change in mood.

The story opens with one of Wolverine’s recurring dreams, and obviously, there’s symbolism and foreshadowing in this sequence. It really sets that dark tone as wolverine/men attack a saber-toothed tiger. Aside from their teeth, I think the wolverine/men show what Bianchi was thinking when he designed this new-look Wolverine (the key is to look at the silhouette).

Following the main story is another story regarding dreams and recovered memories. This one focuses on Wolverine’s first fight with Hulk. Ed McGuinness provides the art which combines old-school with contemporary. The colors are a complete throw back, though. I haven’t read the original issue, so I’m not sure how exactly it compares, but the end has a twist.

Luke Handley:

Jeph Loeb’s much anticipated Wolverine kicks off with Logan going after his nemesis, Sabretooth. Loeb picks up on situations established by other writers: Wolverine’s quest for understanding and retribution after recovering his memories as a result of House of M and Sabretooth’s rather dubious inclusion in Mike Carey’s X-Men team.

It’s nice to have the writer pay attention to other books featuring the characters. But it does make one wonder why this story is being told here and not in Wolverine: Origins. Origins is Way’s book, and Loeb has been brought on as the new Wolverine scribe, but this raises the question: why do we need two Wolverine books, especially if they’re both dealing with similar themes, namely Wolverine looking for payback now that he has, supposedly, full knowledge of his past? Initially Marvel said Wolverine would be dedicated to portraying Wolvie’s interaction with the rest of the Marvel Universe whilst Origins would follow his quest to discover who he truly is. This isn’t all bad though, as Loeb’s story arc appears to be exploring a question that has had readers guessing for two decades: what is the relationship between Wolverine and Sabretooth?

Given that Victor Creed, a.k.a. Sabretooth, is now, sort of, a member of the X-Men, Logan doesn’t need to go far to track him down; he just sipping beer and watching TV in the X-Mansion. This is somewhat at odds to his situation in X-Men, in which he’s kept under close surveillance and is on a very tight leash. Why Wolvie’s waited till now to try to put Creed down, who knows, but he’s decided that he doesn’t deserve to live a day longer. This leads to a good old fashioned throw down between the two feral mutants. There’s just one problem here. Their fight takes place on the X-Men’s back lawn. Surely someone would try to break it up, or come to Logan’s aid when he’s getting strangled to death. Rogue has always had a special relationship with the old canucklehead and so would probably let him have his shot at Creed without interfering, but she has injected Sabretooth with controlling nannites so could just fry him at the press of a button. So Wolvie’s never really in any danger, and Creed must know this, unless Rogue really doesn’t give a damn and has just buggered off after the fight got under way.

The reason the little hairy dude is out for some payback is that he remembers Sabretooth forcing himself on and then killing his then girlfriend, Silver Fox. This isn’t a new revelation and is one of the memories Logan always had, but it has been strongly suggested in the past that it was, in part, an implant from his Weapon X days. One of the issues I’ve had with Wolverine post-House of M is that even if he now remembers everything, the reader still has no idea what is true and what isn’t. Origins isn’t exactly advancing at breakneck speed, and in many ways it’s harder now than it’s ever been to understand Wolverine’s past. There’s also the fact that during Larry Hama’s Wolverine run, Silver Fox was live and kicking and had a huge mad on against Logan. After an old Weapon X reunion tour, she ended up murdered, once more by Creed. So even is he is responsible for her death, he didn’t kill her the way that’s shown here. It could be that there’s a reason behind all this that will be explained in future issues here or in Origins, but right now it’s all giving me a bit of a headache.

Despite a mildly confusing set-up, the writing on this issue is rather good. Loeb’s characterisation of Logan is a good one. I say this rather than “spot on” because Wolverine has been written by so many different writers and has undergone so many “life altering” events over his 30 years of publishing existence that it would be hard to nail one portrayal as “the one.” Logan’s inner dialogue in particular is well written. The narration lends a real sense of who this guy is, his attitude to life, this situation, his past. He’s flippant but only because there are so many serious scars underneath. The opening sequence that at first glance is utterly bizarre turns out to be quite intriguing and makes one wonder if it holds any secrets about what is to come or if it’s just completely random thoughts.

Though I’ve found the covers he’s produced for DC stunning, this is first time I’ve seen interior artwork by Simone Bianchi. Not every panel is as polished as his cover work, which is to be expected, but it’s still jaw-dropping stuff. This issue, he gets to draw lots of action and blood spraying about the place, and he does it with style. One of the aspects of his art that really draws me is the way his costumes fold and crease, making the art all the more dynamic. Some panels had me staring at the page for ages; some of these are real works of art in their own right.

The backup feature illustrated by Ed McGuiness is a retelling of Wolverine’s first comic appearance. I’ve never been over-thrilled by this story, which pitted Wolverine against The Incredible Hulk. The way it’s re-told here makes it slightly more fun and McGuiness’ art is as always a pleasure to see and amusing in a good way; just like Ramos, his exaggerated pencils really suit the character, who is very much an exaggeration himself. There’s an utterly pointless panel reproduced from Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk thrown in for no apparent reason whatsoever. Why is it there? What are the creators trying to say? “Look we’re clever, we’re crossing the 616 and Ultimate Universes but not really because that’s taboo“? It is an excuse for McGuiness to draw a vivid panel, but couldn’t he have done that without reminding everyone of a series that will never be finished?

Loeb’s first issue of Wolverine gets things off to a visceral start with Wolverine and Sabretooth throwing down as only two killing machines with healing factors know how. It’s been done umpteen times before but it’s done well with some great art to back it up. Hopefully we’ll finally be getting some answers regarding the complex relationship these two characters enjoy and get a resolution to their decades’ old feud. Even though the finer points of the plot aren’t all that tight and the back-up feature is on the throwaway side, this issue holds some promise for things to come.

Chris Murman:

I just don’t know how I feel about our boy Jeph’s move over to Marvel. He produced some of the most memorable and epic stories at DC during his tenure. He contributes to some of my favorite TV shows (Smallville and Heroes). He usually gives everything his readers want (if you don’t include timeliness).

This, however, is the second stinker he as dropped on us since he moved across the street.

I disregarded Onslaught Reborn because I’m not particularly interested in that Marvel universe, plus the artist makes it that much easier to hate the book itself. This book, however, should have none of those problems. You have a wildly popular character and an artist people are going nuts to see more of. Why then did Loeb have to give us such a bland story line?

We all know the feud between Logan and Victor Creed has been going on for a long time. We know they fought together at one point in time, and the rest fighting against each other. They are the same, yet ever so slightly different. They have wanted to kill each other before, and they are going to do it again.

What about any of this is new to draw readers into this story?

Oh, I forgot to mention the line Sabretooth drops about the one thing about Logan’s memory he doesn’t remember that would change everything. Is anyone else tired of this schtick yet? Either Wolverine wakes up with all his memory, or he doesn’t. Make up your minds.

I do want to mention the art, as well, in the disappointment column. Something about how Logan’s face is drawn seems very silly. The claws are too long for me as well. I do love the half-tone style, however. The other characters Bianchi draws look pretty nice as well. If this were a Sabretooth book, I would have no problem with the art, but it’s not. If the lead character in a book looks off to the reader, they will have a hard time following much else. I’m sure everyone else loves the look of Wolvie, just not me.

I did not give this issue the lowest rating possible because it’s a bit harsh to put that on this arc right away. We don’t know the whole story yet, and it could get better. This little nugget could turn into something epic that starts a run akin to Hush, and that would be really good for this book. Our pint-sized mutant didn’t really have much to do with Civil War. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but he needs a shot in the arm to get back on the forefront of the 616.

It’s fair to say that I’m not thrilled with this first installment, but this creative team will give a boost to the sales of the book and may get them on board for whatever they have in store for the character.

Let’s just hope people are still on board for when that happens.

Caryn A. Tate:

I was mildly disappointed with this issue of Wolverine, admittedly because my expectations were pretty high going in. I mean, this is Jeph Loeb and Simone Bianchi. So while this is, overall, a positive review, I have a few nits to pick.

In issue #50, Wolverine comes to Xavier Mansion to confront Sabretooth. In flashbacks, we see Logan’s history with the latter and why there is such hatred between the two. Many years previous, Sabretooth did some horrible things to someone that Wolverine loved, and he did it only because of the relationship Logan had with the victim. Because of Logan’s newly resurrected memories, he couldn’t stand Sabretooth being on the X-Men team, pretending to be a hero, with all of the things he’s done in the past.

I understand that Mr. Loeb probably had to, or at least needed to, reveal the history between these two characters in detail to maintain the continuity from past comics and to show us why this fight has to happen. But all of the dark and dreary specifics from Wolverine’s past were a little much for me. I don’t want to read a depressing Wolverine comic; if I want that kind of story, I’ll go find a different title to read (probably not a superhero one). For this type of title, I want a fun, action-packed, well told story. That’s it, really. Now and then a writer can surprise me with a better story or better characterization than I expected, something that goes beyond your typical realm of possibility for the superhero genre, but I definitely don’t expect or want something dark and somber. And, frankly, I was a little disappointed to see something like this from Mr. Loeb, who is usually such a fun writer.

The gloominess in this story wouldn’t have been nearly as intense but for one detail. In the flashback, when we see what Sabretooth did to Wolverine’s loved one, it was taken to the extreme. That one detail is enough to depress any comic to the fullest, and honestly, I can’t help but feel that this element is an action that seems to be taken much too lightly in popular culture these days. I’m tired of seeing it done so commonly, and I’m tired of seeing it thrown into a story in such a seemingly thoughtless way.

The dialogue, overall, was realistic and fits the way that Wolverine speaks, but now and then the exchange between him and Sabretooth got a little trite. When they fight, the dialogue between them is at times so simple and basic that it changes from “a good example of Wolverine’s characterization” to “a not so great example of superhero action dialogue.” Mr. Loeb can do better.

Other than those few complaints, though, the characterization of Wolverine is classic, and Mr. Loeb really captures Logan’s voice and personality overall. I thoroughly enjoyed his narration of the story, and aside from those moments of cheesy dialogue that I mentioned above, most of the comic captures his voice very well.

Before those dark moments that I mentioned occur, the story is engaging and, at times, fun. Mr. Loeb pulls you into the story he’s weaving, and Wolverine—and his world—seem so real. Now that the continuity of the history between these two characters has been established, I’m hoping that the rest of Mr. Loeb’s run on this title will be more like the first half of this issue.

The art is amazing. Mr. Bianchi’s pencils are as meticulous as I’ve ever seen them, and it’s so good to see him on a regular title. The intricate details in each panel are admirable, and the pencils combined with the inks and colors create pages that are, simply put, breathtaking. At times I almost felt that this art seems like pieces that I could see hanging on a wall or in a hardcover book of stellar comic book art, rather than in a regular monthly comic. Not that monthly comic art shouldn’t be this good, but it’s rare that it happens, and it’s so refreshing. Mr. Bianchi was an inspired choice for this title.

All in all, this was a pretty good comic, and I’m interested enough to check out issue #51. With talent like this, I can’t believe that my complaints from this issue will continue. I have a feeling the title will expand upon the greatness of the first half of this issue and become one of the best monthly titles out there.

Dave Wallace:

Superstar writer Jeph Loeb begins his much-trumpeted run on Wolverine this month, but despite the ballyhoo about how his story will finally resolve the ongoing feud between Logan and Victor Creed, this first issue doesn’t offer enough of a compelling story to make readers care. When Wolverine returns to the X-mansion, he decides to pick a fight with Sabretooth, and they slap each other about for a few pages. And that’s it. Sure, there’s a bit of dry humour and the usual butch bravado and swagger that accompanies any Wolverine story, and Loeb slips in some vague mumbo jumbo about how Wolvie and Sabretooth are connected, but it doesn’t excuse the thin plot or two-dimensional characterisation, and anyone looking for any added depth in the relationship between the two characters will likely be disappointed by what this issue has to offer. Simone Bianchi’s artwork does provide some diversion, with its delicate linework, fine detail, strong action sequences and lush, painterly colouring. Still, the pretty art can’t redeem a story that is ultimately shallow, with only a few interesting nuggets (such as the more considered flashbacks to Logan’s past, or the metaphorical (?) dream sequence) to keep readers interested.

I can’t help but feel that this story is going to follow the X-Files and Lost template of teasing fans with a promised revelation for so long that the payoff can’t help but feel like a letdown. With lines like “How long have we been dancing this dance, Logan?,” Loeb acknowledges that this ongoing fight between the two characters has been covered many times before and is in danger of coming off as done-to-death as a story idea, but unless he can bring something truly original to the match-up, then why is he even bothering to go over the old ground? Granted, this is only the first issue of a multi-part story which shouldn’t be judged on the strength of this chapter alone, but anyone who is bored of repetitive Wolverine/Sabretooth pairings which don’t do anything new with the characters would do well to skip this issue and start picking up Loeb’s Wolverine once something interesting actually happens.

This issue also includes a bonus short story which sees the present-day Wolverine narrating a flashback to his fight with the Green Goliath in Hulk #181. On its own, it would be a cute enough - if inconsequential - throwback to Logan’s first appearance (with suitably chunky art by Loeb’s future Ultimates collaborator Ed McGuinness and some neat retro colouring from Dave McCaig). However, Loeb chooses to end his short story with an ill-judged, fourth-wall-breaking reference to Damon Lindelof’s terminally late Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk miniseries. If there was a point to be made by that nod to one of Marvel’s more embarrassing delayed projects, I didn’t see it.

Mike Williams:

“You got all your memories back, ‘cept you can’t remember the one thing that would explain it all.”

Sabretooth voices the frustration of Wolverine fans everywhere. Ever since Logan’s supposed total recall at the end of House of M, Wolverine fans have been teased by promises of answers to his enigmatic history, but more than a year later we still know little more than we did then, Origins title notwithstanding (“Origins” - yeah, right). Now Marvel is offering up a showdown (“quite possibly the last”) between Sabretooth and Wolverine, and hope is renewed that this battle will lead to new revelations about the hero.

We’ll see. The fiftieth issue of Wolverine doesn’t offer up much in the way of revelations, though to its credit it actually does begin the bloody brawl between the two. Wolverine begins by describing a dream he’s been having, a dream in which animals that look like they just escaped Dr. Moreau’s island (“the lupine”) fight and murder one another. How the lupine pertain to Logan’s history is anyone’s guess right now, but these dreams have led Wolverine back to Xavier’s mansion to pick a fight. Both Wolverine and Sabretooth promise that this fight will only end with the death of the other, and the issue ends on a tasty note of suspense; even knowing that this arc is running at least three more issues isn’t keeping me from wanting to know what happens next.

The fight is remarkably and appropriately violent; blood spatters freely as the two combatants trade blows. Bianchi’s art is such a good fit for this book. There’s a “dark” look to it that seems to emphasize the nature of the tale. The pacing of the issue is fantastic; he captures the viciousness and the speed of these two enemies, and I found myself wincing at a few of the wounds inflicted. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this battle in the next issue.

Loeb’s story is just starting up, so it’s difficult to evaluate right now. As far as characterization, Loeb nails it. Wolverine’s narration is grim and honest (though I thought Logan could have used the word “raped” rather than the euphemism he does when recounting the familiar story of Sabretooth’s murder of Silver Fox), while Sabretooth is suitably arrogant toward the “runt.” In other words, this issue gives us exactly what we’ve come to expect from a Wolverine/Sabretooth fight, so how Loeb will make this storyline his own remains to be seen. The lupine dreams do suggest something’s going to be added to the Wolverine mythos, but whether that “one thing” Sabretooth alludes to actually exists is Loeb’s (and Marvel’s) dilemma. Deep down I fear the end of the arc is only going to leave more questions.

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