Sunday, November 22, 2015

'Wolverine: Season One' graphic novel review

Man or animal?

That's the Hamlet-eseque question facing Logan in the WOLVERINE: SEASON ONE graphic novel.

Published in 2013, I'm just now getting a chance to reading and reviewing it, having bought the hardcover graphic novel for the bargain price of $9.97. I also bought an all-ages digest-style trade paperback featuring Wolverine for $2.97.

SEASON ONE and the first story in the digest, "Kingdom of No," elaborate on what led to the man once known as Weapon X to confronting the Hulk in the Canadian wilderness in THE INCREDIBLE HULK No. 181.

In the digest story, Department H assigns Logan to figure out what happened to the town of Harbordale, which leads to fights with robot creatures. He ultimately finds the mutant responsible for "the human dioramas." After the mission, Logan is deployed to stop the fight between Wendingo and the Hulk.

The last panel of that story is an homage to the next story in the digest, the classic slugfest.

SEASON ONE elaborates on the pre-181 battle and and the fight itself while also telling a different story. It's not an in-continuity story — as are all the SEASON ONE graphic novels — but is a rather a retelling of Logan/Wolverine's origin, the same way other writers put a fresh take on the origins of the X-Men, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor, Ant-Man, etc.

At the beginning of Ben Acker's SEASON ONE story, James and Heather Hudson encounter a battered, bruised and nearly lifeless Logan after he took the worst in a one-on-one battle with Wendigo.

The Hudsons take Logan to their cabin, where they let him recuperate. (Yup, bub, even mutants with healing powers don't bounce back quickly from some fights.)

From then on it's Heather who talks to and somewhat counsels Logan about how important it is to control his savage animal side (basically his beserker rage, a part of Wolverine's personality that writers have downplayed in the last decade to 15 years or so.) This comes to a head when Department H assigns Logan to confront the Hulk, who "is on a rendezvous course" with Wendigo.

On the other hand, it's James Hudson who doesn't believe Logan can stay in control and says "an animal can't be a soldier." His wife takes the opposite view, that Logan be a more effective soldier — and more importantly, a better man — if he can control himself. And of course Department H wants to take advantage of both traits and exploit Logan for their missions.

Less than a third of the way into SEASON ONE, Logan (dressed in his "prototype" blue-and-yellow Wolverine costume) confronts both Wendigo and the Hulk. Wolverine holds his own for a while, but takes another severe beating and is returned to Department H to heal, one of several twists on the original story.

After this is when Acker delivers the biggest tweak to the classic story: Victor Creed aka Sabretooth volunteers his services to Department H to help Logan remember being the fighter he was, which ties into his memory loss (a weak and unnecessary subplot).

About this time, Heather Hudson supports Logan to be a superhero and not just a government operative while her husband — characterized as a fairly spineless man — gets overly aggressive once he puts on the government exo-suit as the hero soon to be known as Vindicator and then Guardian. All this tension comes to a head in the climax — a Wolverine-Wendigo-Sabretooth-Guardian free-for-all.

Afterward, the Hudsons propose "Canada's answer to The Avengers," although it seems logical that since Heather is the only voice of reason throughout this story that it's logical to assume Alpha Flight is more her idea than her husband's.

SEASON ONE ends up not just putting a nature vs. nurture spin on Logan's man-or-animal dilemma, it's somewhat an origin story also for Guardian and Alpha Flight. In turn, this later gives more credibility to Heather taking over the Guardian identity and leadership of Alpha Flight from her late husband in writer-artist John Byrne's compelling ALPHA FLIGHT run from the early 1980s. 

Heather summarizes SEASON ONE best when she tells the head of Department H: "Wolverine found his humanity and still defeated Creed, a monster who tried to kill all of us. … Our experiences with Logan helped open our eyes to strive toward progress." Grade: B+

No comments:

Post a Comment