Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review # 171: "Wolverine Epic Collection Vol. 1 - Madripoor Nights"

Great writers fuel great characters, and Wolverine has had quite a few. Larry Hama, Joss Whedon and Jason Aaron are among the many who have given Logan a great voice, but there is no one better than the man who gave Wolverine a great mind, Chris Claremont.

"I'm the best there is at what I do. And what I do isn't very nice." Words spoken in Logan's head, not from his mouth. One of the many first-class quips from Claremont's patented inner monologues for Wolvie, which played a great role in making the character an A+ property. His miniseries with Frank Miller is legendary (I'll get to it on this blog one of these days); His sequel with Kitty Pryde is underrated; His third and fourth go-arounds with Logan started a series that has lasted - at least in spirit if not in issue number - to this day.

"Madripoor Nights" collects those third and fourth go-arounds in the form of the "Save The Tiger" serial from "Marvel Comics Presents" and the first 16 issues of Wolverine's permanent solo series. Claremont makes the wise move of disconnecting the proceedings completely from the pages of "Uncanny X-Men" as the team had recently set up shop in Australia. He creates the semi-nearby fictional island of Madripoor in southeast Asia, a wretched hive of scum and villainy perfectly suited to Wolverine's needs. "Save The Tiger" ties up a loose end from the X-Men arriving down under as Logan is forced to support a crime boss in a tale of choosing the lesser of two evils. It's an exciting plot if not as ground-breaking as what we've seen from Claremont when writing for Wolverine before.

With the Madripoor playground established, Claremont sets out on the actual solo series. Wolverine beating up thugs is nothing new, but the scenario is kept fresh by an eyebrow-raising supporting cast. I was surprised to see post-Spider-Woman (and pre-Spider-Woman, I suppose) Jessica Drew show up possessed by an evil sword. Karma of the New Mutants makes an appearance as well, and Silver Samurai and Grey "Joe Fixit" Hulk have brief roles. Claremont's use of the Hulk as a comedy setpiece is impressive, and very well-executed given that humour is not what he often goes for.

The show-stealer from Claremont's run is the tenth issue (his last) which pushes the rivalry between Logan and Sabretooth to new heights. It's here where we're introduced to Silver Fox, Logan's lost love who is shown being brutally murdered by Victor on Logan's birthday (something that was later retconned.) Not only are Sabretooth's actions horrific, he seems fond of reminding Wolverine of what he did every... single... year. Evil bastard. It's an incredible closer for Claremont, which - unfortunately for Peter David - is impossible to follow. The remaining six issues in this set kinda fall flat.

On the art side, this is among John Buscema's best work. His contorted faces suit Wolverine well as menacing and - in some cases - off his nut. His pencils are supported by a lot of dark inks, which gives the experience a very film-noir feel, and helps instances where there are some bright colours stand out.

The end result is a Wolverine experience unlike any that had come before it. Sure, "Madripoor Nights" doesn't do as much to redefine Logan as other Claremont stories have done, but it takes the character on a fun ride despite the series' dark overall look. There are more essential Wolverine arcs out there, but - hey: it's Claremont writing Wolverine. You really can't go wrong.

Rating: 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment