When reading “Dark Wolverine” prior to this relaunch, it was hard not to feel like the writers found Daken a far more interesting character than the audience did. Each issue was comprised of endless, tell-don’t-show monologues about how scheming and interesting Daken was, but the action itself mostly appeared to be anonymous fights against poorly-defined generic villains.
Of course, if that worked for you, then good news: this issue is exactly the same. There are hints that following the defeat of Romulus, Daken has found a new direction, but it’s hard to understand why he would want an empire of his own when the one he almost inherited had no discernable purpose either. Throw in the addition of a (frankly dire) new costume, and that’s the extent of the makeover here.
Since it has the “Wolverine in Hell” banner on the top, it was a little confusing to find that this story had almost no crossover with the Wolverine “family” titles. Perhaps that’ll change in the future, but as a launch, it feels weaker for it. The familiar reference point is missing. The plot, such that it is, seems far too insubstantial to be the opening issue of a series, and there’s nothing here that makes me want to read issue #2. Looking back on similar relaunches/reworks, both “Avengers Academy” and “Thunderbolts” gave readers a final page that left you disappointed that there was nothing beyond it. The end of this issue left me feeling utterly ambivalent. The twist, such that there was one, was the reveal of a new costume -- one obscured by the lighting. It’s not enough.
Giuseppe Camuncoli’s pencils are serviceable, but there’s little in the issue which jumps out as being particularly good. Indeed, Camuncoli’s version of Daken lacks the charisma the character is clearly written as having. He’s smug, predatory and sleazy -- attributes which, admittedly, the character does have -- but those aren’t the attributes he presents to the world. It negatively affects the story, because the text suggests a disconnect between internal and external which simply isn’t there.
Ultimately, the problem with Dark Wolverine is, in many ways, the same as it always was: an unlikeable main character with ill-defined goals, and not a shred of heroism to endear him to the audience. It’s clear that Liu and Way know what they’re doing with the character, but in all honesty, they have yet to convince me that it’s worth doing at all. And if they can’t do that in the first issue of a new series, I’m not sure they’ll ever be able to.