Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Steve McNiven – Pencils | Jay Leisten – Inks | Justin Ponsor – Colors
Logan sits bloodied and battered on the porch of a house that is almost as broken down as he is. Is this the Death of Wolverine? Not yet. A one-man army, he gets to his feet to trod down a literal war path that is strewn with bodies. A flashback shows Logan paying a visit to Mr. Fantastic. Without his trademark healing factor, Wolverine’s life is in serious danger. The outlook is bleak, but Reed is sure he can come up with a solution. He just needs time, asking Logan not to get into anymore fights and emphasizes the importance of not using his claws. Cut back to the present where Logan enters a bar that he has apparently been a regular customer of for a very long time. A few moments to clean his wounds and drink some fine Canadian whiskey, Wolverine leaves the bartender with a word of caution: someone will come looking for him. That someone turns out to be Nuke, the flag-faced cyborg. Wolverine left a note with his exact location, so Nuke sets off with his lackeys to take the tiny mutant in. Nuke quickly discovers he isn’t the first to try to take Logan down, and confesses to being after a bounty placed on Logan’s head. Logan only has one question at that point. Who set the bounty? He then proceeds to beat the answer out of Nuke.
Charles Soule doesn’t waste a lot of time in the first issue of Death of Wolverine. He quickly establishes that Wolverine is the best there is at what he’s the does: kicking ass and taking names. The book wastes no time in showing that even without a healing factor, Wolverine is a force to be reckoned with. The only fight we see is the one with Nuke toward the end of the issue. Scores of would be assassins lay dead or dying all over the island that Wolverine has hidden himself away on. With the exception of the flashback to Reed’s lab, and the scene in the bar, the rest of the book is pure action. Soule tries to inject some humanity into our protagonist by having him call a “friendly voice” that is never identified. Aside from that moment, we see him as a visceral, violent man. Wolverine has always been depicted as animalistic, sometimes trying to fight against his nature to be more human. In this book, he doesn’t even try. Now it’s all about surivival. The fight with Nuke goes beyond knock-down, drag-out. It is a fight to the death, and Wolverine isn’t going down without a fight. Honestly, it’s pretty much what you would expect from a Wolverine story. Given the material, I thought Soule did an excellent job of writing it, not belaboring any points but moving along at a brisk pace. Is it weird that to me, the most interesting part of the whole story is a single panel flashback of Logan walking into the same bar many, many years ago? I feel like there could be a story there that’s more interesting than watching him pummel goons. Or, it could just be a story about him getting a beer. What do I know?
When Steve McNiven drew Civil War a few years back, he was toted as a super star artist. Flipping through the pages of Death of Wolverine, it’s not hard to see why. The first page made me go, “Wow,” and it was just Wolverine sitting in a chair, all beat up. But damn if it didn’t look real purty. The rest of the book is just as impressive. You can see the regret on Reed’s face when he delivers the bad news. You can feel how bad it hurts, how much is must suck, for Wolverine to pop and sheath his claws. The assorted bodies of cyborgs, ninjas, agents of both AIM and Hydra, and other nameless lackeys that Nuke discovers on the beach almost gives the carnage an element of beauty. The final fight with Nuke is surprisingly raw and bloody for a mainstream comic, and again, it makes you believe the characters are in serious pain. The writing in this book is sound, but McNiven ensures that there is nothing dull about this slugfest.
One thing that bugged me about this book is the fact that it’s $4.99. I’m not a huge Wolverine, nor am I his biggest detractor, so shelling out this kind of money for a death story that will most likely be undone in the not too distant future was kind of painful. Fortunately, the book was pretty decent, and Marvel provided some extra content to make up for the extra dollars spent. There’s samples of McNiven’s rough pencil’s with commentary by the artist, an interview with Len Wein (Wolverine’s creator), and a Director’s Cut, which shows the art through various stages from start to finish, along with excerpts from Soule’s script. These extras may not do it for everyone, but if you’re a process nerd like me, they’re kind of cool. I’m not sure if they’re five bucks cool, but cool nonetheless.