Wolverine

Written by Chris Claremont
Drawn by Frank Miller
Published by Marvel Comics

Love him or hate him, Wolverine is one of the most popular and exposed characters in Marvel’s stable of heroes.  And with the publisher set to kill him for a while, I thought it was time to take a look at the limited series that really cemented his character.
It’s easy to see why this comic was so groundbreaking.  Right off the bat, it establishes Wolverine as a much darker, more badass character than his taciturn, volatile persona on the X-Men.  This is Wolverine in his element, and that means hunting bears and fighting hordes of ninja.  After spending some time in the deep woods of Canada, Logan discovers that his letters to his girlfriend, Japanese dignitary Mariko Yashida have been returned unopened, and that she has left the US.  Wolverine follows her to back to Japan.  There, he discovers that her father, a presumed deceased crime lord, has returned, and that Mariko has been married to one of his lieutenants.
After being rolled by Yashida in a fight which would have killed him if not for his mutant powers, Logan is rescued by Yukio, a hedonistic assassin who is playing games of her own.
“Wolverine” is Claremont writing at the peak of his craft.  Unrestrained by the team dynamic and superhero tropes of the ongoing X-Men comic, he really digs down into Wolverine’s character.  This isn’t just four-color antics, but a rich, pulpy story about honor, appearances, and the nuances of a world shaded in gray.  And being drawn by a Frank Miller just coming into his own as an artist elevates the comic to a classic.
Delivering a gritty comic is harder than taking a cape and rolling in the mud for a little bit.  It’s something that has to be carefully structured.  The pieces all need to support each other in a way that the reader both can believe and doesn’t expect.  “Wolverine” delivers by revealing a deeper, darker world in the periphery of one the reader already knows.  It shows a midnight underworld hidden behind an upstanding daylight face.  And it does it beautifully.  Miller’s Japan is a labyrinth of towering yet indistinct skyscrapers, with scores of ninja hiding in every alley.  It echoes and reinforces the script beautifully.  Miller echoes seminal Japanese artist Goseki Kojima in this story of corruption hiding within the Yashida clan’s adherence to tradition, and one warrior willing to abandon all pretexts to expose the truth.
In graphic story telling, especially when a writer and an artist are both masters of their craft, the finished product can seem at odds with itself.  The words can be sharp and engaging.  The art can be beautiful, but they need to work together to properly tell a story like this.  Here, Claremont and Miller’s efforts are a synthesis that is greater than the whole of its parts.
The Wolverine is available from Amazon, Comixology, or your local comic shop.

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