Take thirty pages of briskly-paced story, six pages of preview for a story that kind of (maybe) feeds this one but won’t be out until later this year, four pages of cover gallery and three pages of sketchbook and insight and you’ve got an anniversary-sized issue of “Wolverine” that features Marvel’s most overexposed Canuck doing what he does best. What he does best isn’t very nice, but it does make for an entertaining read.
Jason Aaron celebrates Wolverine’s three hundredth issue by bringing him everything he could ever want: ninjas, claws, beer, old flames, older foes, honor, healing factors and lots and lots of fighting. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a Wolverine hater, I would certainly be the first in line to tell you that I think the character is over-exposed, worn out and depleted. Then I’d put a little mustard on those words, as I’d have to eat them after reading this comic. Aaron takes everything that needs to surround Wolverine -- every tired story idea, cliché and foe that you could swear you’ve seen again and again -- and delivers a story that makes you forget about those other stories. This issue is paced with breakneck action, lots of folks finding out just how sharp the claws are, and the promise of an even bigger bang in the next few issues.
There’s a surprise reappearance in this issue that I am certain will be spoiled across the internet by the time this review is posted, but let me just say this: Aaron handles it wonderfully. I found myself so wrapped up in this story and Aaron’s treatment of the characters and pacing of the action that I took myself out of deducing the middle panel reveal on the lead story’s final page.
The art in the issue -- at least for Wolverine’s segments -- is exactly what you’d expect: gritty and violent. The lines are edgy, the characters are grimacing, shadowed and injured. Adam Kubert and Ron Garney have earned their stripes both with Wolverine and titles elsewhere. This issue simply allows them to stretch their penciling hands a bit and have some more fun drawing Wolverine being Wolverine. Steve Sanders joins in the fun to draw the installments featuring Wolverine’s adopted daughter Amiko, her boyfriend, Shin (who is a little more than he seems throughout this issue) and Azuma Goda’s negotiations with a simple farmer. Sanders’ style is cleaner and more slick than his cohorts on this issue, but all the same, his work fits the story provided as he’s tasked with drawing characters whose hands aren’t as bloody as Wolverine’s.
I’m not a regular reader of “Wolverine.” I have limited income and there are way too many other books out there. Wolverine’s literally been there, done that and claimed more than a few t-shirts in the process. I’ve always been of the notion that I can be selective with how I consume Wolverine appearances as there are literally hundreds to choose from (hence the “300” on the cover). With each issue of Aaron’s stint on this title, however, my resolve to keep this book at arm’s length continues to dissolve. This one may have been the last straw.