Wolverine Vol. 01 by Benjamin Percy – Comic Book Review

The first volume of Benjamin Percy’s Wolverine has me more excited about the violent midget ninja than any X-Book has for close to a decade. Not Death of Wolverine, not Hunt of Wolverine or Return of Wolverine or Prom of Wolverine 2: Stabby Boogaloo. But enough jokes; at the heart of this first volume is Wolverine’s unease with what has become the heart of mutantkind: their island nation of Krakoa. I’ll have to talk about Jonathan Hickman’s fascinating House of X/Powers of X elsewhere, but for the sake of context, I’ll just say that his vision of the X-Men’s new place in the world has revitalised my favourite superhero team, and a franchise that was really struggling for several years, especially with the Red, Gold, and Blue titles. If you enjoyed those–power to you. Me? I stopped reading for three-four years.

Hickman’s vision has drawn me in; Percy’s Wolverine has shown me that the characters I know and love from childhood are alive and well. Wolverine’s role in Krakoa is to make sure threats moving against the mutant nation are quietly taken care of, away from prying eyes. In this first volume alone, there are plenty of those–and despite Wolvie’s skills, as sharp as they ever are, he’s feeling the weight of that change. Krakoa has shaken Logan up; he’s slipping, missing things he shouldn’t be missing, and facing foes who are a whole lot more elusive and ingenious than he’s prepared for. But he’s still Wolverine, and he’s sure as hell going to take care of business because (you know it!) he’s the best there is at what he does.

Percy’s villains work really well against Wolverine. Logan is known by his reputation–how could he not be–and the cast of antagonists exploit his weaknesses in the most delectable ways. Tension abound. One, the Pale Woman, might be an original character; I, at least, have no memory of every having . She’s being treated as a question mark, a powerful telepath whose powers rival some of our mutant A-listers. She’s dangerous enough to do all kinds of nasty things to Wolvie, as you’ll see. Then there’s a familiar vampiric face (rhymes with Shmacula) that the X-Men have come into conflict with many times before. He’s got a whole new do-0ver and where I’ve previously found his use uninspired in Marvel’s hands, here I am genuinely eager to see how the conflict between mutantdom and this new iteration of the Vampire Nation will play out.

This volume has scope–from Alaska to Russia to France to Canada. Each location is well-defined, drawn in a way that feels true to the real-world locations. More importantly, each presents its own serious set of problems. A rival mutant society, a Vampire Nation newly unified under Dracula, the Pale Woman…Percy and co. are placing a wide range of chips, and I am eager to see where they will each fall.

Nor is the support cast anything to sneer out. Beyond Krakoa and a score of mutants whose voices felt authentic for the first time in years, there are several original characters here who steal the cake; a DEA agent with a tragic backstory, a vampire-hunting French woman Logan exchanges a few sparks with, and even a bunch of unusual kids. Okay, I’ll mention the mutants I loved seeing again most: Kitty was great, everything with Jean killed me, KID OMEGA OF ALL PEOPLE was a lark, but also the Stepford Cuckoos were great to see in their five-in-one hive mind again (even though I’m sad to see that individual character growth they’ve gone through since Grant Morrison’s run disappear).

Two specific interactions between Wolverine and another character brought about the most tense and humorous moments both. The first is with Omega Red–the history between him and Wolverine is long and bloody, and Red serves as a foil to Logan; they are two sides of the same coin, in much the same way that Sabretooth and he often are. The second is Magneto; from a fun moment I did not expect to taunting and a revitalised mutual disdain between the two, I alternated between grinning and reading with bated breath to see how each scene would resolve.

The art is intense. Artists Adam Kubert and Viktor Bogdanovic share in the burden, providing some stunning, action-heavy pencil (and maybe ink?) art; it’s dynamic, it’s gorgeous to look at, it’s colourful in a measured way, with each scene capturing a different mood through use of cooler or warmer tones(thanks to color artists Frank Martin and Matthew Wilson). Kudos to the whole team – this has proven a great book to start off the X-year!

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