Friday, April 10, 2009

Tough Little Canadian

Seems like a good time to talk about Wolverine, as his movie is going to be leading off the imminent season of summer blockbusters. Star of movies, cartoons and pretty much every monthly comic Marvel produces, there's not much doubt that he's the most popular super-hero around. Why? I figure it's got a lot to do with the fact that he's about the toughest thing around, though his life has basically been one horrible, torturous loss after another (and nothing makes a better hero than fighting on when things are at their darkest). That and his claws. People really seem to love those claws.

With the movie in mind, I encourage you to have a look at Weapon X (by Windsor-Smith), which was the very first attempt to attribute some kind of origin to the little Canadian. Part of his appeal, no doubt, was the fact that his past was steeped in mystery, and this story cleverly reveals a little, but not too much. What we have here is basically the tale of the nefarious Weapon X project as it carries out a grim experiment on this feral mutant which, in the end, goes horribly, horribly awry. You get tantalizing snatches of Wolverine's background and the full explanation of the admantium bones and claws so central to the character's mythology. The art, by the way, is appropriately sinewy and gritty and recalls Windsor-Smith's early work on another savage hero, none other than Conan the Barbarian.

While you're at it, have a look at Wolverine: Origin (by Jenkins and Kubert). This one went much further back and examined Logan's earliest life, covering not only the discovery of his mutant powers, but also the secret of his relationship with archenemy Sabretooth (also appearing in the movie) and explains why Wolverine has a soft spot for red-heads.

The movie script delved deeply into both those books for inspiration. But, if you're lo
oking for the best Wolverine story out there, that's got to be Wolverine Volume 1 (by Claremont and Miller), which collects his first solo miniseries from 1982. This is two superstar creators (Claremont made the X-Men what they are today and Frank Miller, well, between Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300, I can't imagine you don't know who he is) working at the absolute height of their talents. Wolverine goes to Japan and winds up tangling with the deadly Ninja clan known as The Hand, as well as a beautiful assassin who maybe friend or foe, or even both. This truly shows Wolverine off at his best, when he was still cloaked in mystery, when his tough, noir-ish voice-over felt fresh and crackled with menace. This has got a seriously brutal final battle, which powerfully reflects the character's dark nature, and it has a last panel that will make you shake your head in surprise.

Right, so, there's your Wolverine. Next month, the the subject of the movie I'm most excited about this summer: Star Trek.

No comments :