Was there ever any doubt on how Wolverine’s field trip to Hell was going to end? If someone’s going to go to Hell and come back, it may as well be Wolverine. After all, it seems that the only way to affect any change to the character is through his mind and soul.
That plunge into the pit wraps up in this issue with Wolverine having one last go-around with his old sparring partner, Sabretooth. The pair scrap over possession of the Soulcutter. He who possesses the Soulcutter rules Hell, and only one can rule. It’s a simple nine-panel page, but the battle between Wolverine and Sabretooth is brutal and dark. Jason Aaron writes a choreographed fight scene that works for both characters despite their Hell-spawned deficiencies.
Renato Guedes’ art is tinged with a modicum of photo-influence, but the strength of the art is in the rugged detail etched onto the figures, their expressions, and the scenery around them. Guedes frames the book nicely, ranging from tight, pore-deep close-ups to wider range shots. He gets a bit of a free pass with the backgrounds, because Hell is what you make of it.
The backup tale explains how Wolverine came to be in Hell in the first place, and it does so in a manner that is every bit as compelling as the first half of the book. Latour’s art is reminiscent of Rafael Albuquerque’s: rich in detail, deep in shadow, and masterful in composition. Rico Renzi’s colors in the “Scorched Earth” backup (which has nothing to do with the “Scorched Earth” story going on over in “Hulk”) are spectacular, with zipatone and splatter effects that make the story seem like it was unearthed from yesteryear. It’s a nice bit of storytelling that leaves me wanting to see more from this creative team.
This issue is a stunning whirlwind who’s who from across the Marvel Universe with appearances by a pair of Ghost Riders, Mystique, Hellstrom, some X-Men, Puck of Alpha Flight fame, and a swath of baddies Wolverine sent to Hell before him. Aaron does a good job of making this story seem large and out-of-control, but at the same time, he narrows the focus. This is Wolverine’s story, everyone else is impacted by it and guiding it to its finish.
As it turns out, the finish of the story of Wolverine going to Hell is the start of something much bigger. Emotionally scarred after his trip to Hell, Wolverine is ready to lash out and Aaron sets up a surprising confrontation at the end of this story.