Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wolverine: Origins #19

Since the death of Captain America, Wolverine has been doing a lot of thinking about his interactions with the American icon. The two actually have a lot in common: a magnetism to battle, a strong sense of justice and feelings displacement in modern civilization. And, having crossed paths more than once in the past, there’s a lot to reminisce about. The current story arc in Origins focuses on Logan’s memories of one such run-in.

Daniel Way’s take on that chance meeting between Cap and the Canucklehead is a nice nostalgia trip. He drops both characters, seemingly at random, into the midst of an early assembly from the then-fledgling HYDRA organization. Through Logan’s memories, he actually builds the group up significantly – he’s pointing out the organization’s similarities to the Nazi party, praising their leadership and strategy and presenting them as a real force for the first time in ages.

Even more appealingly, he’s doing so with a minimum of words. Way seems to have a knack for this: throughout his run on this series, he’s never overwhelmed the reader with needless explanation or description. He sticks to dialog, both internal and external, and leaves the particulars to the artist. He really understands the medium in this sense, and his work is a breeze to read and enjoy.

Steve Dillon’s artwork is kind of an acquired taste. I know I wasn’t crazy about it when I was first introduced to it in the pages of Preacher, but after only a few issues I couldn’t imagine that series succeeding in anyone else’s hands. He brings a wealth of personality to each character he illustrates, no matter how faceless or unimportant they might be. Take the horde of HYDRA underlings in this issue, for instance – for all intents and purposes, they’re a bunch of clones, only there to blindly serve their master. But in Dillon’s hands, we see that they’re each unique underneath those masks. One solider’s eyes even betray a sense of fear and uncertainty. The artist has a tremendous knack for establishing and maintaining that individuality, whether he’s working with a central character or an underling.

One thing he’s never been great with, though, is superheroes. He can put together a fist fight that’ll knock your socks off, but if there’s a guy there in spandex, something looks weird. In his most high-profile gigs, he’s been fortunate to avoid these situations – Preacher and Hellblazer don’t have a lot of non-civilian characters, and even Logan is running in street clothes throughout this issue. Cap, on the other hand, is in full red, white and blue regalia, and as a result something’s off. It’s not enough to cripple Dillon’s effort, (in all honesty, it’s largely some of his most consistent stuff) but it is distracting and that’s a shame.

Origins is in a unique position at the moment, in that it’s revealing untold details about a period in Marvel history that’s never been fully explored. Not only that, but the stories it’s telling have a real relevance to the present, not just with Wolverine and Captain America, but also Bucky, the Winter Soldier. The series has had its ups and downs already, I’d written it off after a sharp decline in the storytelling about ten months ago, but it’s currently on an upswing. Borrow this from a friend and see if you can get into the mood and style of the story it’s working to deliver. Chances are good you’ll be back for another shot next month.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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