Friday, November 25, 2011

Wolverine (Claremont, Miller) reviewed

Canadian born X-Man Wolverine, heads to Japan (for the first time in the comics) in search of his lost love Mariko. He finds her quickly, only to discover that she has been married off by her recently returned, previously though to be dead father.

Frank Miller's art on this book is simply stunning, so obviously it was done in a pre "I'm crazy" era, the only thing that surpasses Miller's art on the story is Chris Claremont's story. The story is introspective and thought provoking. It manages to not be dragged down by the slow beats when they drone on about honor and commitment. Not that I'm saying discussing honor is bad, it just causes the story to miss a couple of beats occasionally. 

The first half is particularly strong, a dark, moody odyssey into this fantasy Japan of honour and ninjas, and a journey into Wolverine's psyche. Chris Claremont & Frank Miller easily suck you in with words and images and a convoluted plot promising twists and turns. But it weakens a little toward the end, particularly the final climax in which all the twists and turns are gone and we just have a lengthy action piece -- action largely devoid of suspense because Wolverine is such an unstoppable fighting machine. And the climactic duel with Shingen is problematic. No matter how much Chris Claremont tries to pretend that it's an equal match, it's impossible to believe the middle-aged, normal, Shingen has any chance against the almost invulnerable, unkillable, Wolverine.

And, to quibble about comic book continuity for just a moment, Mariko was supposed to be the cousin of Sunfire, a Japanese super-hero. So where was he while this corrupt patriarch was despoiling the family name?
Wolverine, the story, seems less like a comic than a movie, or novel. That's partly thanks to the off-beat story and solid characterization (and the lack of other super-hero trappings like Sunfire).

But it's also because, as one would expect from a story featuring the ruthless Wolverine, there's little comic book-style morality. Instead it features violent, kill-or-be-killed action -- though there's more moralizing than in, say, an Arnold Schwarzenegger film. There are, in fact, decidedly disturbing elements to the story, as Chris Claremont (through Wolverine) goes on various tirades about honour and duty, and the warrior's way, all as a justification for characters hacking their way through each other. There's just the whiff of martial fascism to the thing.

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