Return Of Wolverine #1 // Review
The Return of Wolverine #1, by writer Charles Soule, artist Steve McNiven, inker Jay Leisten, color artist Laura Martin, and letterer Joe Sabino, is, well, the return of Wolverine. Four years after The Death of Wolverine, Charles Soule and Steve McNiven reunite to bring back Marvel’s most popular mutant. Will this book go down in the pantheon of great Wolverine stories?
Wolverine awakens in a destroyed lab, surrounded by dead bodies and blood, his claws burning and his memory gone. A wounded scientist asks him for water and tells him about the place he woke up in: a cloning facility run by a company called Soteira. He tells Wolverine that the company and its head, a woman called Persephone, plan to destroy and replace mankind, and asks him to stop them. Wolverine pursues the Soteira team that destroyed the lab to another nearby facility. One of the doctors there asks him for his help in getting back her son from them. She tells him a story about when she saw him save a hospital and he decides to help her.
From the first page, there’s a feeling of familiarity to this story for long time Wolverine fans and that’s both good and bad. In The Death of Wolverine, it was very much apparent that Charles Soule had either done a lot of research into the character or was a huge fan, because that book was full of homages and callbacks to earlier Wolverine stories. Right off the bat, this book feels a lot like Weapon X by Barry Windsor Smith. It opens in a destroyed lab full of dead bodies with a wounded Logan with no memory of how he got there or what happened. The difference being, of course, that the Logan of that story was a feral monster, while this one merely doesn’t know who he is. Later in the book, Soule uses a stroll through a prison in Logan’s mind as a way to show that his memories are locked away, and uses this sequence to reveal that Persephone brought him back. It’s a good metaphor, and begs the question of what Persephone and Soteira did to take away his memory. There are a few exciting action sequences in the book, and the conversation between the doctor and Logan really sell the perception of Wolverine as a superhero.
However, there’s a problem with all of this, and it’s simply that this is a story that fans have seen before. The Death of Wolverine was a travelogue through Logan’s life that ended with him fighting the ghost of Weapon X one more time. Soule got a lot of the themes right but the story was nothing new, rendering what should have been a special event into something that readers have gotten before. In this one, the same thing is happening again, except instead of Weapon X, it’s a new evil science group. The aims of the two groups are different, but the outcome is still the same. Soule can seemingly only write one type of Wolverine story. It’s a perfectly competent story, but when it’s a story for a return of a character as important as Wolverine, perfectly competent is a disappointment. On top of all of that, there is some really terrible, on the nose dialogue from the two scientists Logan encounters. The first one’s exposition dump isn’t really necessary, at least not in the detail that its given, and the second one’s dialogue about Wolverine being both a killer and a hero feels a little out of place. It’s true as far as it goes, but no real person would talk that way. Also, as far as the new “hot claws” development, nothing in this book explains them and they’re only on the first page.
Steve McNiven’s art, especially when he’s drawing Wolverine, keeps up the Weapon X feel. His Wolverine looks a lot like Barry Windsor-Smith’s, and that plays to the whole homage feel this book has. Unfortunately, like most of work lately, his line work in other parts of the book is sketchy at best, with his facial proportions being off in a several panels. The art, much like the rest of this book, is a mixed bag. It’s not completely bad, and in some places it’s very good, but, taken overall, it’s varying quality is off-putting.
The Return of Wolverine #1 is competent yet uninspired. It’s not a bad book, like Soule’s Astonishing X-Men, but this book is the return of one of Marvel’s most popular characters ever, and it doesn’t feel special at all. It just feels like a Wolverine story that fans have gotten a thousand times before. Taken simply as, say, a homage to Weapon X in a regular issue of a Wolverine comic, it would work rather well. However, this is the big return, and there’s really nothing to keep readers coming back but the love of Wolverine. There’s no real central mystery to the whole thing, other than the hot claws which aren’t touched on at all, as the book goes out of its way to set up everything immediately. There are some bright spots, but the story itself isn’t one of them. All in all, for fans of Wolverine, this is a book worth picking up, but it’s not going to wow anyone, and it does nothing to make itself special. Since Wolverine died, readers have gotten great Wolverine stories from the likes of Jeff Lemire, Ed Brisson, and Tom Taylor. In an environment with stellar stories such as these, nothing in this book makes a case for why it needs to exist.