Last month, I mentioned that it couldn’t have been easy to decide to create a sequel to one of Marvel’s biggest risks that resulted in one of their biggest payoffs. This month, I’m getting this out of the way early: using Nathaniel “Mr. Sinister” Essex in this story was an incredibly gutsy move considering how often that character is used to lend a false sense of import to storylines that take place within the past few centuries. And lot of those stories can be a real crapshoot, quality-wise. In this book, he fits perfectly into the narrative, even giving it a central villain. And villainous he is as he attempts to buy Logan from the Hugo Circus that has made him their central attraction, with the help of the vicious tracker Victor Creed. The circus and Essex come to an understanding, but let’s just say that it winds up being VERY one-sided. It seems Wolverine’s only salvation lies in the hands of the kind-hearted Clara, who has the power to soothe even the most savage of hearts. Kieron Gillen has picked up on something very, very core to the character of Wolverine, a surprisingly robust core for a character already so well explored and defined. Apparently there are still more stories to tell as this one continues to be extremely entertaining and Gillen’s dialog is extremely period-appropriate while still letting you know who you’re dealing with. Sinister in particular, with his role as “amoral gentleman scientist” comes off with just the right amount of noble gravitas and modern sleaze.
And speaking of period appropriate, Adam Kubert’s art is, almost entirely across the board, gorgeous, evoking a fine, wood-carved style that almost tricks the reader into believing this was some unearthed origin story from long ago and that Wolverine has been planned out THAT thoroughly. Kubert’s linework does a generally fantastic job of defining the characters and giving them a myriad of facial expressions that, since this particular issue doesn’t have much action, carries it well. There’s also an incredibly graphic vivisection of Logan that is absolutely gut-churning thanks in part to Gillen’s narration, but, of course, Kubert’s linework does a lot of the heavy lifting and I’d be derelict in not mentioning Frank Martin’s gorgeous colors. Even outside the beautifully detailed hideousness, the colors in this are a big standout as they show the treacherous, unforgiving winter covered in snow, adding still more to the general air of unpleasantness.
That linework came with a few caveats and those caveats mostly center around Clara and her bad eye. The art can’t quite seem to decide exactly where it is on her face as it mostly stays where her eye socket would naturally be, but occasionally drifts almost all the way down her cheek. It also doesn’t seem to have a uniform shape as it can be anything from circle to oval to diamond-shaped from panel-to-panel. There are also a few in which faces look oddly bereft of detail and almost half-done, which stand out a great deal against how great the rest of the book looks. It’s distracting and, particularly in a few panels, breaks the look severely. They just feel rushed.
This book is ultimately goregous and amazingly well-realized. We’ve now crossed the halfway point and this series, it seems, is another gamble that will pay off for Marvel comics, introducing an actual supporting cast for Wolverine that extends to the modern era. I’m hoping we see some of these meetings or realizations come up in the stories Logan is involved with, but even if we don’t, this book stands very well on its own.