Monday, September 3, 2007

Wolverine #57

Wolverine is all over the place anymore, possibly more so than ever. Between several X-Men books, the New Avengers, his frequent guest shots and a pair of ongoing solo titles, Logan constantly pushes the boundaries of overexposure. Judging from this issue, that overuse and over-saturation is beginning to show.

Writer Marc Guggenheim has an intriguing take on the character. So many times we’ve traced Logan’s steps as the feral super-mutant, sniffing the air and immediately understanding where the opposition lies, that we take his abilities for granted. Guggenheim takes the time to explore those animalistic senses just a bit further than the authors who came before him. No matter the occasion, he’s reminding us that Logan’s faculties are much sharper than our own, for better or for worse. While he’s gripping the bottom of a speeding aircraft, for example, we’re reminded that “at mach-20, a speck of dust or a hailstone hits you like a bullet.” When he’s reminiscing about his own wartime experiences, he recalls the occasion through the scents, tastes and sensations that he associated with each locale. It’s a fresh new interpretation of the character, and a great device for delivering a little more detail to his adventures.

Too bad, then, that the rest of the story couldn’t match that level of originality. Take away the interesting asides about his heightened senses and this would be just another plain Jane, run-of-the-mill “Wolverine vs. mysterious threat” storyline with an open ending. Logan takes a randomized mission somewhere in the world, kills a few bad guys, meets a serious challenge, finds himself in peril, tune in next month. That’s it?

I know Logan isn’t the brightest bulb in the fixture by any means, but I’ve got to believe he’s smarter than the way he’s presented here. Sure, he has a history of charging into battle, but there’s enthusiasm to throw down and then there’s pure, mindless idiocy. Allowing your enemy to force an explosive down your throat in the middle of a battle is stupidity on an almost uncharted level. Guggenheim treats the character with such a small amount of respect that it’s staggering.

Howard Chaykin’s work as this issue’s artist feels much more like a fill-in than a regular gig. He doesn’t connect with Logan, rendering him with an uncharacteristically bulging, thick jaw line and a tiny face. He’s missing his trademark stubble and the clean-cut look doesn’t fit the character he portrays at all. On the large, Chaykin’s style is incredibly uneven and unrefined. I can’t tell if he wants to be Jim Lee or Bryan Hitch here, but he’s a long ways off in either instance. His artwork in a few select panels throughout the book is so bad that I couldn’t fathom how he wasn’t turned away from this job.

He was even granted the big opportunity to design and introduce a new villain in this issue, but what he delivers looks so common and unspectacular that I kept mistaking him for his own henchmen. His battle with Logan yields a few great opportunities for a big, dynamic panel or splash page, but Chaykin misses almost universally. His paneling is tough to follow, his foreshortening is a major stumbling block and his action scenes feel lame and unexciting. His constant missteps taint the book as a whole, giving it an amateurish vibe.

Outside of the opening flashback, where Guggenheim works most of his magic with Logan’s heightened senses, this issue is tough to read. The dialog is nothing special, the story has been revisited a dozen times already in Logan’s past, and the artwork is often hideous. I’m giving this a skip, and I’m almost ashamed for Marvel. This isn’t nearly up to the standards I’d expect from one of the biggest books on the market.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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