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Greg Rucka’s Wolverine

Greg Rucka’s Wolverine


A few months back, I penned a rather vitriolic piece decrying the state of everyone’s favorite six-clawed murder machine, Wolverine, calling foul on his portrayal as a swaggering, invincible, unstoppable alpha-male sex symbol in most contemporary media. I’m sure many readers were wondering what my alternative would be, and this month’s theme of favorite Marvel Comics runs has given me license to point directly at Greg Rucka’s year and a half tour as writer on Wolverine’s solo series beginning in 2003 and say “That. Right there. Right that there.”

The run takes a very, very back to basics approach with the character, keeping him out of costume and dialing the super-powered shenanigans down low. More often than not, the poor saps on the receiving end of Wolvie’s rage are plain old people, the kind of actual evil that doesn’t wear a cape and skull mask and threaten to turn major cities into compost heaps with home-made ray guns. Normally I’m averse to the kind of “gritty realism” that’s been oh-so-prevalent in comics lately, but for a character who’s been allowed to spiral further and further into absurdity, to the point that he’s become a self-parody, maybe a little grounding isn’t the worst thing ever.

Everything that’s been dialed up to the point of ridiculousness in other Wolverine stories gets dialed back under Rucka’s watchful eye. While most of the time Wolverine is a tall, ruggedly handsome example of manliness, in Rucka’s work, Wolverine is precisely what he’s meant to be: a short, plug-ugly ball of hair and muscle, looking more like a squat caveman than Hugh Jackman. This is pulled off by the expert hand of Darick Robertson, who worked as penciller for most of Rucka’s 19 issue run. Where other books would give Wolverine’s claws more exposure than Eva Green’s crotch in Beautiful Dreamers (to the similar effect that they cease being interesting at all), Rucka has Logan keep the claws in whenever possible, giving them that much more weight when they finally come out.


And when Wolverine does finally let the beast out of the cage in the climactic finale of the first storyarc, to a similar effect to dropping a dropping a rabid mountain lion in a room full schoolchildren who’ve been bathing in A1 Sauce, it drives Logan into such a depression that he drives halfway across the country to seek absolution and beer with Nightcrawler. Because as it turns out, no one can go into a rage and kill 27 people without it having an effect on them.


Of course, nothing’s perfect, and as much as I’d like to present Rucka’s Wolverine as a bastion of perfect and consistent writing, it does have its low spots. The run never quite comes back from the high of the first six issues, which sees Wolverine hunt down a survivalist cult that’s been kidnapping and killing local women. The second and third storylines see Wolverine takes a trip south of the border to shut down a human smuggling ring after uncovering a deserted truck full of bodies ala season 2 of The Wire (thankfully without Ziggy) and then cross paths with another victim of the Weapon X program. Both these storyarcs are still good, but don’t quite match the quality of Wolverine’s first outing on Rucka’s watch.

Looking back, Rucka’s Wolverine run seems like the antithesis of everything awful and wrong about Wolvie’s portrayal in the vast majority of comics and other media. Unlike many writers, Rucka handles Wolverine less like a caricature, two steps removed from parodies like DC’s Lobo, Rucka writes Logan like an actual human, and is one of the few writers to do so to any great degree. Add to that a level of restraint that has similarly been shirked by most other Wolverine writers, and you have my favorite Wolverine run ever.