By Various (Marvel/Panini UK)
Although long touted as a story that couldn’t be told, the history of such a popular character was never, ever going to remain a mystery. Wolverine captivated audiences from his earliest appearances in the X-Men comics, and apparently did it all over again in the movie versions. Thus, in a climate of declining comic book sales, finally giving him an origin was truly inevitable. Sadly, just as certain was the conviction that the event couldn’t help but be something of a disappointment.
Since I loathe story spoilers above all things, I’m going to be as vague as I can, so suffice to say that at the turn of the 19th century, 12 year old Rose is hired as the companion of sickly James Howlett, on the palatial estate of his wealthy grandfather. Among the servants she befriends an all but feral child called Logan, the abused son of a groundskeeper/general dogsbody. She settles into the daily routine quickly, but the estate is not a tranquil place.
Tragedy occurs one night as a murder-suicide destroys the stability of the gothic estate forever and Rose and the Wolverine-to-be must flee for their lives. On the run for years the pair eventually settle in a quarrying camp where the harsh conditions and physical toil rapidly mature our mutant hero. But even here the repercussions of the Howlett Estate tragedy inevitably find them leading to a final, appalling confrontation.
This is a very disappointing book. It was never going to live up to thirty years of anticipation, and the creators should applauded for ignoring the convoluted X-Men mythology to concentrate on a more primal tale in the fashion of Jack London or Joseph Conrad, but it’s a gamble that hasn’t really paid off. There’s a distinct lack of tension and no sense of revelation at all. Every character is one-dimensional, provided for a single purpose and predictably dealt with when its job is done. From the first page we know how it’s going to end and none of the characters has enough spark for a reader to emote with.
Understandably, such a “big story” needs a lot of creators so the credits are a bit convoluted. Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada and Paul Jenkins came up with the plot, which Jenkins scripted. The artwork was drawn by Andy Kubert, but any grit and edginess that this talented gentleman may have created was regrettably lost by the cloyingly heavy digital painting of Richard Isanove, whose very pretty colours have seemingly candy-coated the traumatic life-story of this most savage of heroes.
Publishing is a business, and the market always dictates what and where the stories are, but this was not what should have happened to make Wolverine. Still it is only a comic, so when someone decides to reveal the Real, True, True Real story of… we’ll all get another go at learning his secrets. Or not.
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