Does the world need another Wolverine comic book?
That’s the question, fair or not, that every new Wolverine series must answer. This is especially true when the new series is part of Marvel NOW, which is all about putting a new spin on classic characters. In that regard, this series has a leg up on other recent Wolverine launches, as the first issue finds Wolverine in a unique situation: robbed of his healing factor, functionally mortal, vulnerable. It’s a status quo that was established at the end of his previous series (in a story titled “Killable”, also written by Paul Cornell), as an alien virus took away his mutant ability to heal before he was brutally attacked by Sabretooth/ In theory, “Killable” sets this series up to do something wholly unique and interesting, to explore the character in a way rarely done before. In practice however, this isn’t really the case, at least in this first issue.
The best thing it has going for it is a parallel structure, two storylines set at different times. The first, picking up shortly after the end of “Killable”, is meant to show Wolverine coming to terms with his new limitations, while the second, set some months later, begins in media res, with an armored and gun-wielding Wolverine (complete with external claws mounted on his armor) working with a group of super-powered guns-for-hire under the employ of the mysterious Offer (so called because he makes people offers they can’t refuse, not because he offs people). It essentially sets up two questions for the series to answer – how does Wolverine deal with his new condition, and why he is working for a villain? The problem is that the script seems to think the second question is far more compelling than the first. It’s not.
As much as a mortal Wolverine is a novelty, a morally-comprised Wolverine is not, yet that’s the focus of this issue (and, presumably, the series). The whole idea of Wolverine being willing to cross moral lines isn’t new or shocking; that’s been his entire schtick since not long after he joined the X-Men, and it wasn’t that long ago he was leading a squad of mutants with the express purpose of terminating their foes. His seemingly-villainous actions in this issue are also undermined by the art, which is clean and bright and energetic, and thus out of synch with the grittier, morally-dubious tone the story is trying to create (and the big mystery of why Wolverine is working with the Offer is undermined by some things that make it pretty clear it is all just a means for Wolverine to get close to Sabretooth).
As much as the comic book market may be glutted by comics featuring Wolverine, there is definitely still room for a series which uses the character in unique and compelling ways, and there are still unique and compelling ways to use Wolverine. Unfortunately, despite being gifted a premise that would make that relatively easy to accomplish, the initial issue of this series fails to pull it off as it downplays the more intriguing elements in favor of more of the same. Potential remains, but the series has an uphill battle to earn its continued existence.