11th Oct2023

Wolverine Wednesday #66

by Ian Wells

X-23 Deadly Regenesis #4-#5

Writer: Erica Schultz | Artist: Edgar Salazar | Colourist: Carlos Lopez | Letters: Cory Petit

I really don’t want to come down too harshly on this series. On a personal level, it just wasn’t for me, but there clearly is an audience for the character. Before I get into what is good and bad about these two final issues I want to reiterate my two biggest grievances with this series. I have mentioned it in every review of every issue so far, but why couldn’t we get an X-23 mini in the current Krakoan Era? To me, it just makes so much more sense. I only found out the other day that she is now going by Talon in the X-Books! She has been part of X-Men since this era launched so a Fall of X tie-in would have been perfect. All of the stuff which led to her taking the Talon identity was part of a team book so letting that breath elsewhere would have been a more interesting read in my opinion. Secondly, I have mixed responses to the current trend of having a mini-series that supposedly slides seamlessly into existing continuity. On one hand, it’s great Laura is deemed a big enough character to get such a series, especially when you see the heavy-hitting characters that have had them. There is a fine line between just playing to nostalgia and good storytelling. It just being a flashback is one thing but stating so specifically where it fits in is a game changer for me. It immediately changes your expectations going in. If I was to read X-23 #1-3, Deadly Regenesis and then #4 would it a) read better and b) make a big difference to the character? There is a chance this is someone’s first exposure to Laura Kinney and by placing it somewhere so specific in continuity it needlessly creates a minefield for them! Also if they have come to this series from current X-Men comics it is like reading a completely different character. Kalman Andrasofszky has supplied amazing covers for every issue, with the cover of #5 being the highlight. Admittedly it is an image that takes always all sense of surprise from the issue, but it is amazing to see the scale of Kingpin against a young Laura and it plays on the nostalgia aspect to anyone who has read X-23: Target. Salazar on art has been the strong constant of the five issues. I really like the crispness of the line work and Lopez really brings it alive with the colours. The opening to #4 with Laura scaling a building is really striking as she pops against the electric blue skyline. Then as she enters the building there is a subtle change in hue. #5 best showcases Salazar’s control of panel layouts. When there are multiple characters on a page, exchanging words before a fight for example there are more panels per page. Close together cutting between the dialogue. Then as the fight breaks out, the panels become bigger and less per page. Allowing the action to take centre stage. I like how the action cuts between open and closed panels which helps dictate the pace of the action. In #4 Schultz offers up a plot thread which in my opinion would have been a better arc for the entire mini-series! Here it is brushed over rather quickly to get to the big reveal of Kingpin and the climax in #5. Even when we get to #5 Kingpin is used rather sparingly and as I predicted the other pieces fell into place rather easily and without great consequences. Like I said this series was entirely for me. There were some highlights along the way, especially in terms of art. Really loved the use of the sepia-esque flashback sequences and I also liked how these flashbacks informed the present story. There will be some readers who are reading X-23 for the first time and to them I hope they enjoyed it more than me. And I now know they are on an adventure with a really special character. Mini series of this nature are always hit and miss, but any negativity I have towards this series doesn’t affect me seeking out the creator’s work in the future and I feel Laura Kinney still has plenty to offer readers and creators alike in the future. I look forward to what is in store for her coming out of ‘Fall of X.’

Wolverine #36

Writer: Benjamin Percy | Artist: Geoff Shaw | Colourist: Rain Beredo | Letters: Cory Petit

Even though this is part three of the ‘Weapons of Vengeance’ story arc I wanted to review it for its own merits. As a Wolverine completest to me, this needs to read as a Wolverine comic first and foremost. If I am being honest if Benjamin Percy wasn’t writing the whole crossover I probably wouldn’t have picked up the whole thing (that said I missed Ghost Rider #17), If it had been another writer’s Ghost Rider crossing into the Wolverine series I wouldn’t care, which is why to me it still has to hold its own as a single issue. For the most part, it does achieve this, but it is a slightly up-and-down journey from cover to cover. First things first the opening is brutal! It is a throwback to the very dark days of early X-Files in tone, a moment so dark you do actually get chills reading it. Then all of a sudden this macabre opening is followed up by a moment of great humour. Now this moment of Wolverine riding Ghost Rider’s bike at the rear while he eats flame is perfect. At this stage in the story, our two protagonists are well into their adventure and things aren’t wholly accessible. The story is now moving at breakneck speed and it offers very little time to pause and catch up. I really enjoyed the stuff between Bannister and Talia Warroad. I should point out I read this issue before the Alpha and Omega instalments, so I was looking forward to seeing how they came together and how their relationship developed. It is your classic personality clash having to work together towards a common goal. A well-known trope, but perfectly executed. Anyone who has read Percy’s work will the kind of climax this story builds to. That is a high concept rooted in character and continuity. Sure Wolverine and Ghost Rider have teamed up many times before but his very much has Percy’s own unique stamp on it. I would love to be a fly on the wall when he is going through his writing process and comes up with one of these big concepts! Now I thought it would make more sense to go in depth on the art and colours of Geoff Shaw and Rain Beredo respectively in the next section. They are a welcome addition to Wolverine lore and they offer a good collaboration. While this issue does perhaps fall a little short in holding its own as a single issue, it was offset by the energy and size of the concept. Long-time Wolverine fans will have fun dissecting the ties to the older days of Wolverine continuity.

Wolverine/Ghost Rider: Weapons of Vengeance Alpha & Omega

I am not usually a variant cover guy, but upon seeing the Mark Texiera variant I did feel the need to get it. Tex was a big part of both Wolverine and Ghost Rider in the 90’s. He was also one of the first artists gravitated towards when picking up back issues. The story opens with a Logan and Johnny meeting within 3 pages. This is a big tick for any crossover, get your characters together early. We then get a complete turn of pace as we spend a good amount of time setting the field with the other players. It is here that the dark X-Files tone I previously mentioned is set in stone. As a reader what really hit home for me was the innocence of youth I felt for Bram, a young boy with a haunting gift. Seeing this boy in the Xavier Mansion was a highlight of the storytelling. Essentially he is us the reader who wanted to walk those halls! Of course, there is a slight tinge of nostalgia for this whole sequence as the X-Men have been away from the family environment created by Claremont for so long now. When I read the credits page with the ‘previously’ information in Wolverine #36 I assumed Bram might have been a D-list character from an old Marvel Comics Presents issue or a Ghost Rider issue I knew nothing about. That wasn’t the case and therefore 90% of the issue is set in the past and Percy does a great job of telling a lot of story. Again this is something all crossovers should strive to do. The quicker you get your building blocks in place, the quicker you can bring it all crumbling down! Nearly all the pieces are in place by the end of Alpha, you now know as a reader you have three issues of action and resolution. I often sing the praises of Percy’s handling over pacing. I did feel however that Omega was a little too frenetic at times. I do admire his enthusiasm for having an idea and just running with it. Omega did have the feel of hit a beat, hit a beat, hit a beat big fight and everybody breathe! Shaw and Beredo do a lot of lifting when it comes to creating the tone of the two parallel stories. Modern comics get a bad rep for being too brown in colour. The stuff with Bram of course is darker in tone, but it isn’t dull on the eye. If anything it is well lit, better to call it moody. The flashback elements involving Wolverine and Ghost Rider are actually bright and eye-catching. I think this works well because it is the opposite you think of for these two characters. Shaw’s Wolverine is brilliant! Funnily enough, his depiction does have a slight feel of Texiera about it. There is one pose in particular in Alpha that made me think this and it was cool seeing Wolverine in the yellow and blue again. It was a simple, yet effective way of placing the story in a certain time and also it made a nice change as he has been in the brown and tan under Percy’s watch. There is a lovely bit of cartooning when we see Bram’s reaction to Kitty and Nightcrawler using their powers. The shifting of colour palettes between timelines and settings is on point and not one of them is dull. The use of flames really pop, artist and colourist know when to big on flame or when to draw back. Often Ghost Rider’s flaming chain is used as a directional device to guide the reader through the action. The biggest compliment I can pay these two issues is that it really made me want to check out Ghost Rider. I want to know how Ghost Rider got to where we found him at the start of Alpha, what are his motivations nowadays? How did Talia Warroad come into his life? From what I read here it seems as a creative team they are pushing the dark, horror and gore as much as they can in a parental advisory comic. Overall this crossover highlights to me what Percy does well and that is the fact he remembers comics should be fun. Yes he ties into continuity deep cuts at times, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all. For example in the Alpha issue an early manifestation of Bram’s power occurs on the faithful night Johnny Blaze crashed his motorcycle. It is not a major change to continuity, think of it more as a familiar point for him to anchor his story on. Everything after that is all him. All in all, this was a lot of fun and well worth a read. If you haven’t read it yet it may be worth waiting to read it in one sitting. It is a story that will definitely show up in my re-read pile in the future.

Wolverine #37

Writer: Benjamin Percy | Artist: Juan Jose Ryp | Colourist: Frank D’Armata | Letters: Cory Petit

This issue represents the first time I ran into problems with the series connecting to the wider X-Verse. It feels like ‘Fall of X’ has been bubbling under the surface for months now. But for me not reading any other X-titles I have no idea who Orchis are or what their motivations are. Is this issue Percy telling the story he wanted to tell, but within the confines of ‘Fall of X’? Right off the bat how can you not appreciate another stellar cover by Leneil Yu. This time homaging the famous Incredible Hulk #181 cover, with the roles of Wolverine and Hulk reversed. And that Wolverine font really pops in Hulk green to really hit home if you didn’t know already who is guest-starring in this issue! Once again we have a situation where it feels the story is tailored to get the best out of Ryp and what he does well. Together with D’Armata they deliver a bright, eye-catching colour palette which does feel like a big change compared to the vibe of recent issues. For me, Percy is still channelling James Bond and the art does well to match this action, adventure yarn. Wolverine and the reader go on a journey from the expanse of Canada, to the forests of Japan before ending in the fake opulence of Madripoor. The Japan stuff is Ryp being Ryp and there are an array of colourful characters in the Madripoor sequence that harken back to my first experience with Ryp in the series Wolverine: The Best There Is. Percy has this knack of being able to tell a completely fresh and modern Wolverine story whilst also being able to slip in some nods and winks from past stories. These elements don’t just feel like they are there for the fans, they naturally feel like they are moving the story along. A good example is the inclusion of Wendigo in this issue, it is not just a case of furthering the homage to Incredible Hulk #181. He uses it as a clever connection to the Wolverine clones and it provides a piece of the jigsaw to move the story onto the next step. Also, there are moments like the clones being in the Howlett mansion from Origin. It’s not a major thing but really the clones could have been hiding out anywhere. It is a small detail that elevates the story, especially for long-time Wolverine fans like myself. The icing on the cake has to be the appearance of Wolverine and Banner in white tuxedos when in Madripoor. As always with Percy the pacing was top-notch. I enjoyed what was on offer, even if I didn’t totally understand the motivations of the characters involved. I think the best way to sum it up and I mean this in the nicest possible way; it reads like a fan fiction, whilst also wrapping up a loose plot thread. This issue was a fun enough read, but felt a little constrained by the tie-in element. After the recent highs of the Beast story arc and the crossover with Ghost Rider, it felt like a step down.

Predator vs Wolverine #1

Writer: Benjamin Percy | Artists: Ken Lashley, Greg Land, Andrea Di Vito & Jay Liesten | Colourists: Juan Fernandez & Frank D’Armata | Letters: Cory Petit

This starts off very strong both visually and narratively. I think I heard Brian Bendis say once the best place to start a story is by putting your character where they don’t want to be. In a 5 page opening sequence, Lashley gives the readers a bruised and battered Wolverine. I love the detail of the broken Adamantium shoulder sticking out, the broken fin of the mask and a big chunk of his head missing! This is my first time reading anything with Ken Lashley’s art and I would have absolutely no problem with him coming onto the main Wolverine series. On the first page turn we get the iconic 3 red dots across Wolverine’s face and it signals a go for the issue, but then again pacing has never been a problem for Percy. Anyone who has read my previous Wolverine reviews will know I highly rate Percy’s handle of Wolverine’s voice. This works out really well in this issue as 90% of it is internal monologue. What I really like about this story is that Percy plays in the gaps of Wolverine’s long history. The majority of this opening issue takes place a number of years after Origin, as a young Logan is living off the land in the Alaskan Territory. Now this raises an interesting point. Wolverine got his memory back years ago after the events of House of M. But I believe this to be the first time he has narrated a part of his life from so far back. It all feels very natural to be set here and it also plays up to the popularity of the movie Prey, a Predator can come to Earth at any time. With Wolverine as the protagonist, it allows plenty of scope to utilize this story device, which I am sure we are going to get more of in this series. Later in this issue, we get a Team X mission that crosses paths with Predator. It is going to be very fun to see how not only Wolverine but Sabretooth and Maverick face up to their new foe! This segment of the story hits on the nostalgia of the first Predator movie as it is black ops out in the jungle. It would have been easy to fill this with lots of homages. But Percy doesn’t go heavy, I would say there are maybe three moments people would readily recognise from the Predator franchise. The three eras of the story are each told with different artists, and as expected each brings different strengths and weaknesses. For me, Land isn’t a good fit for the young Logan sequences. The biggest problem I had with his work in this story is that his Predator lacks the detailing of the one on the cover by Mark Checchetto. In the flashbacks, I did appreciate D’Armata’s colours being very close to that of Richard Isanove’s in the Origin mini-series. Whether this was by design or coincidence I still liked it. The opening page of the Team X sequence is amazing, it really evokes the feel of the first Predator movie and war movies in general. The watercolour effect of the blue night sky, with a helicopter silhouette and the team zip-lining out of it, is just perfect! The sunrises and then the colours completely change and again you are in the mindset of that first movie. If I am being ultra critical maybe the faces are a little too cartoony, especially Sabretooth. As for the story, I don’t have any real complaints. Although there is one major one. One that has nothing to do with Percy or any of the artists and that is the price. For £7.99 there is a lot of comic on offer, a writer at the top of his game, two cultural icons slamming together and three stellar artists. If it was a one-shot I would have less of a problem with it. But being a mini-series I expect every issue to be the same price and that is a little pricey. Of course, though I am now along for the ride and I am really looking forward to what moments in Wolverine’s long life we make stops at. If you are a fan of any of these two characters this is a must-read. Hell, it’s pretty great even if you aren’t it would still be a good read for first timer.


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