Having taken over movies, television and animation, comics have
never been cooler. Now, Wired.co.uk picks out the best and worst of
the week’s titles for your reading pleasure.
This week, Wolverine continues his year-long march to the grave
in Death of Wolverine #1, global financial conspiracy gets
deeply personal in The Names #1, and Lex Luthor cements
his place as a would-be hero in Justice League #33.
Death of Wolverine #1, Marvel
Writer Charles Soule and artist Steve McNiven take the reins on
Marvel‘s angriest Canadian, just in time
to kill him off. Of course, this will absolutely stick and Marvel
will never, ever bring him back from the dead. There’s likely been
some back-room politics at work on the run up to this event
mini-series too, as previous writer Paul Cornell had been building
up to this story for two years, and the shift in creative direction
is a little jarring.
Having been robbed of his healing factor, James “Logan” Howlett,
the Wolverine, is at risk everytime he uses his other abilities. As
a visit to super-genius Mister Fantastic reveals, each time he pops
his claws invites bacteria into his system, his adamantium bones
remain radioactive from being in Nagasaki as the bomb dropped, and
the metal itself could trigger leukemia. He’s basically a dead man
walking, and that’s before his phone book’s worth of enemies come
looking for the now-mortal hero — not that he cares.
A mix of flashbacks depicting Howlett’s fractured memories,
minimalist narration, and McNiven’s intricately detailed linework
creates a powerful sense of a man on the brink of death, knowing
his time is drawing near and determined to close his tabs before it
does. It’s a strangely reflective issue, peppered with a few action
set pieces to liven it up. Soule’s Wolverine is a sombre character,
with few words. The book is more of a visual showcase though.
McNiven, with inks by Jay Leisten, produces a simply gorgeous
comic, with Justin Ponsor’s colours making the Canadian wilderness
and abandoned islands where much of the issue takes place seem
almost tangible. It’s simply beautiful work.
What’s truly frustrating though is the broad lack of continuity.
Soule’s script not only breaks almost entirely with Cornell’s set
up, which dates back over two separate volumes of the
Wolverine ongoing series, but seems to operate divorced
entirely from the Marvel Universe. The chief villain of the issue
who was killed off in recent issues of Captain America. A
last-page reveal sends Wolverine off to Madripoor in search of its
ruler, Viper— except
for the last year or so, the crime-ridden island has been a mutant
haven run by Mystique and Sabretooth. The latter is at least seen,
albeit chained and at Viper’s feet. Perhaps these inconsistencies
will be addressed, and with the four-part series shipping weekly
over the course of September, readers won’t be waiting long to see
if they are. However, for the first issue of an event storyline
that both ties into and impacts an entire universe, essentially
trading on readers’ investment, familiarity, and understanding of
the shared history, such huge contradictions are hard to
The Names #1, DC/Vertigo
Peter Milligan is a master of layered, complex storytelling, a
talent reinforced by The Names. When Kevin Walker leaps to
his death from an office skyscraper in an apparent suicide, his
young wife Katya refuses to believe it, despite the suicide note.
She’s right not to either, as a sadistic figure calling himself the
Surgeon was the one to coerce him into jumping. Leaving her only
the cryptic message “Don’t forget me, Champion,” Katya begins
investigating the shady circumstances surrounding her husband’s
death. Meanwhile, something or some one called the “Dark Loops”
destabilised an entire country’s economy overnight, hinting at far
more dangerous forces at works.
So begins a tense thriller taking in the world of high-finance,
global economic unrest, and an aggressive strain of sentient
information. Milligan delivers a modern pulp noir with a cyberpunk
edge, with Katya as the contemporary equivalent to the grizzled
private dick of old. In the issue’s backmatter, Milligan compares
her to The Bride from Kill Bill— a fair enough
assessment, but she’s an immediately more likeable, realistic,
character. For as much ass as inevitably begins to get kicked,
she’s also clearly torn apart by grief and anger and disbelief, but
never collapsing under the weight of it even though she clearly
wants to at points. Her investigation of Kevin’s life and business
dealings also proves a clever route to world building, introducing
the estranged son from his first marriage and revealing corrupt
business partners who conspired in his death.
There’s a real sinister element to The Names, both in
the way the impossibly rich villainous figures are presented as
almost alien and unknowable, and in how they’re shown to operate on
the fringes of the world we know. Leandro Fernandez’ art presents
them as exagerrated, almost elongated charicatures, only adding to
their uneasy presence. Fernandez’ work is fluid, amorphous,
sometimes exhibiting different styles on the same page yet Katya
remains sexy but powerful throughout, like a ’70s blaxploitation
hero, standing as contrast to those opposing her.
The mysteries of why Kevin was killed, who organisation behind
it is, and what Dark Loops are prove scintillating enough to demand
readers’ attentions going forward, in what is one of Vertigo’s
strongest new series launches since American Vampire.
Justice League #33, DC Comics
With the exception of Grayson — which sees the former
hero Nightwing forced into the life of a spy after his identity was
revealed to the world and he was left for dead — Justice
League is the only DC book that feels to have had any impact
from the drawn out, nigh-interminable Forever
Evilcrossover that ended in May. With Lex Luthor having saved
Earth from the invading Crime Syndicate (an evil version of the
Justice League from another dimension), Superman’s nemesis got a
taste for heroism and has spent the current storyarc trying to
force himself onto the League.
Writer Geoff Johns — who I’ll freely admit to not being much of
a fan of — has packed the Injustice League arc with
subplots, doing more interesting things in four issues than in the
entirety of the book’s run to date. His reinvention of the Doom Patrol is
one of the most enjoyable, twisted incarnations yet, though as one
of the most convoluted teams in comics history, they actually
benefit from the blank slate the New 52 reboot has allowed. Most
impressive is the reimagining of Elasti-Girl.
With the team intended as a one of freaks and outcasts, having a
beautiful former actress whose ability was size-changing always
felt at odds with the concept. Johns’ new take is a woman literally
defined by others’ views of her, falling apart if she thinks people
don’t love her — a nice examination of celebrity psychology.
Similarly, the redemption of Jessica Cruz, the new Power Ring
(think Green Lantern, but evil) promises to be an engrossing story
Penciller Doug Mahnke and inker Keith Champagne deliver a
fantastic, issue long battle between the League and the Patrol,
with the teams battling over Power Ring’s future. It’s a classic
superhero battle royale that constantly pops, with just enough
horror elements packed into the warped Doom Patrol members and the
monsters conjured by Jessica’s rampaging abilities to give readers
There has been perhaps a bit too much going on in places –
there was little purpose to most of the Justice League being
present here, with the conclusion coming down to a battle of wills
between Luthor and Batman — but the building of tensions and new
character dynamics through the story has made this the best of
Johns’ run on Justice League.