David Lapham is the latest creator to write Marvel’s latest one-shot, a trend that’s been growing recently as they seek to increase the number of times their comics get released without burdening the main creators. Following on (in spirit, rather than continuity) from "Wolverine: Firebreak", this issue contains three short stories about Marvel’s most popular Canadian.
Despite being written by Lapham, who gained critical accolades on his creator-owned "Stray Bullets," and marginally less favorable reaction to recent new release "Young Liars", it’s all fairly standard Wolverine fare, the kind of story that would previously have popped up in "X-Men Unlimited". If you’re a Wolverine junkie, you’ll probably be pleased by the execution as well as the distinct lack of standard superheroics.
The mixture of settings and background is good, and there’s nothing technically flawed about Lapham’s stories -- it’s just hard to fathom what Wolverine’s doing in them. In the first two, he appears almost in the role of supporting character as the narration comes from someone else in the story. The third short, which is the only one narrated by Logan, ironically seems to be the least applicable to the character as he chases down a freakish parasite after encountering it in Coney Island -- almost any superhero could’ve filled his role in it.
The title story is perhaps the most Wolverine-specific, showing him captured and left in a circus sideshow during the 1930s, though I’m not sure why he doesn’t use his claws at all during the story. The second tale is perhaps the most ridiculous as a bus driver that Wolverine saves begins to emulate him by, er, dosing himself up on hormones, re-styling his hair and attaching knives to his arms. It’s all a bit "Kick Ass" really, but without Millar’s twisted sense of humor to lighten the story. Nothing technically wrong with it, but it’s a little too ridiculous for my tastes.
It’s easy to sympathize with Lapham and his creators -- after all, Wolverine is well-trodden ground as a character, and it’s very hard to do a story that both fits him specifically and says something unique, especially with the mandate that it can’t really change him in any way. One benefit is that Wolverine can, without too much concern, be placed into a number of situations spanning the last hundred years, but the more this is done, the more the character is harmed. Between comics like this and "Wolverine: Origins", Wolverine will have spent his entire life spinning from unlikely situation to unlikely situation.
What really hurts this book rating is the price tag -- at $4 for a bunch of ultimately inconsequential Wolverine shorts, it needed to really justify that expense, and doesn’t really do so. In fairness, there is an audience for this sort of material -- the casual Wolverine fan who simply wants a quick read -- but it’s not going to be a must-buy for anyone except die-hard Lapham fans.