Friday, 27 December 2013

New Beginnings - Origin II

For a long time, Wolverine's s history was a mystery obfuscated by time, memory loss and narrative conceit. Then came the X-Men movie franchise and the possibility that if Marvel didn't make some revelations soon, Bryan Singer and his cohorts were likely to just make something up. As a result, we were treated to the Origin miniseries from Paul Jenkins and Adam Kubert, running from late 2001 into 2002.

Since then Logan - aka James Howlett - has one of the most tinkered with and revisited backstories in the entire Marvel Universe. It’s had many additions and revisions, especially in the fallout of House Of M with the Weapon-X survivor remembering the events of Origin, leading to the Wolverine Origins comic.

Now Keiron Gillen steps up to the plate, with returning artist Kubert to present us with Origin II. Gillen of course spent a few years writing Uncanny X-Men, so he's no stranger to the Children of the Atom. The news that Sinister will be playing a part in this new Origin miniseries should entice anyone who enjoyed that aforementioned run on Uncanny X-Men.

The first thing of note is the production of this comic. When you see it on the shelf with its glossy and enticing cover, you'll quickly discover there is a lovely little surprise. The clawed hand on the cover in the forefront of a pack of wolves is actually a thin clear acetate sheet, which in part hides extra detail on both the front and back. It’s a simple little thing but works very nicely for a first issue gimmick. As well as looking great, it adds a depth to the covers that a reader can get into and creates an instant collector's item.

Moving to 1907 we are reintroduced to a far more feral Logan. This could well be considered his wilderness years. He has chosen to remove himself from civilisation and the people who would bother him, now running with a pack of wolves. He’s been taken in as one of them, part of the family and part of the life cycle. There is an unspoken understanding and belonging.

Unspoken is also a very apt word in fact. Throughout the entire comic there is no written dialogue at all and the story is guided by image and narration instead. This doesn’t detract from it in any way and strangely the completely detached narrator also keeps things focussed. It's very reminiscent of a classic issue of GI Joe or indeed Marvel's wonderful 'Nuff Said month back in 2001. 

Hunting and living together means that with rewards and opportunities also comes the threats. On one hand there is the lone wolf. Calculated, cruel and patient, he is a serene threat in waiting. One that is ready to strike when the right moment presents itself. In true opportunistic fashion this does happen, but only after the main threat of a great white bear has torn his lupine family apart.

Wolverine, whether man or wolf, only knows a few ways to deal with something like this and reacts with all his force and beserker rage, leaving only bodies and carnage behind. A body that also carries the marker of Weapon 11.

It’s hard to read the comic without trying to divine some greater narrative meaning behind it all. There are several analogies that can be or should be applied to the story. So the economy of words Gillen has used helps to open it up for potential personal interpretation. A multilayered story inside and out.

The artwork is nothing less than you would expect from the house of Kubert. It sits extremely well with me as I am a fan of fine artwork; the definition in Logan’s muscles and the fur on the wolves and bear in particular. Some of the detail is lost in the bigger pieces but you come to expect that. Still, visually it is very good and adds a lot of details to what is essentially a barren wasteland.

Wolverine fans will lap this up. It’s a well produced and presented comic with a good story between the covers. For those who haven’t been following as well it’s a standalone book that can also be read as part of the richer tapestry. Part two comes out in January and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gained some new followers.

Matt Puddy is ready for the next challenge, bring on 2014!

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