The nature of Big Two superhero comics is that they’re always changing. Creative teams get shifted around, characters die, get resurrected, then die again, and whole universes’ worth of continuities get rebooted. What never goes out of style, though? A cover that actually tells you what’s inside. I’m happy to report that Wolverine #9 is in fact wacky enough that we get to see one of our titular hero’s decapitated hands put up for sale at an auction house, claws and all. How do we reach that point, though?
The issue begins with three pages of flashbacks, each composed in grid form with sixteen evenly sized panels each. It’s geometrically pleasing, and the contents even more so. Artist Adam Kubert skillfully utilizes the old trick of rendering one larger image across the grid, with just a few scattered panels shifting focus. On the first page we specifically get a shot of a building burning in the distance beyond the underbrush in the foreground, with the cutaway panels zooming in on Wolverine and his cohorts from Team X. Their presence, surprise surprise, is to blame for the carnage erupting in the background.
The storytelling going on here is just great. We immediately get a sense of the environment the issue opens up in, as well as where the protagonists are physically located within it and what their relationship is to all that smoke and flame. The second page pulls the same trick in reverse, with the larger overarching image zooming in on Sabretooth’s face while the diagonal panels disrupting it zoom out to show us other details of the villain’s latest misdeeds: his sharp claws, a victim trying to scoot away to no avail, etc. This focus on Creed’s face, from the detailing of his furrowed brow to the stretch of rough skin around his bared teeth, is appropriately disgusting and conveys the horror of his actions while also sparing the reader from having to see any of the gorier, more unsettling details of the scene.
Colorist Frank Martin also plays a vital role in these opening pages’ success with his effective use of a limited color palette. All the overarching images are rendered in rusty red with bits of flaming orange, while the disruption panels stand out through their use of hard, dark greens. Beyond simply popping in the literal visual sense, these color choices also enable the cutaways to thematically play against the violence they’re contrasted from. Take, for instance, Wolverine and co. in green shadows looking out at Sabretooth’s grim handiwork in the red and orange.
Suffice to say given that I wrote three paragraphs about as many pages, the issue gets off to a good start. But where do we go once the flashback ends and the story shifts to the present day? Take a look:
Patch! Patch is here! It’s a disguise design that makes Clark Kent look subtle, and one that’s always just plain fun to see.
Logan Patch shows up to a classically seedy auction featuring all manner of metahuman-related items and body parts, one of which being the cover’s promised detached Wolverine hand. That’s not the biggest surprise for our beloved bub, however, as the present and past collide, one thing leads to another, and we get some affecting flashbacks developing Logan’s bond with one of his ex-teammates. Given that I don’t want to spoil too much, I won’t specify which one.
Writer Benjamin Percy does a good job here providing readers with a great sense of the characters’ relationship in just a few scenes, tied together with the repetition of a single phrase. This emotional drama is heightened by a return to the opening pages’ grid format, with overarching images of the two characters in question. The color palette of these pages shifts to lighter greens and yellows however, conveying a sense of vulnerability in the midst of the dangerous and rust-tinged present day events we soon return to. Percy also does a solid job with Logan’s inner monologue, which includes some nice musings on his conception of history.
My main source of complaint in this issue is probably the double page spread of
Logan Patch entering the auction room. Kubert uses a wide-shot perspective enabling the reader to get a sense for how packed the room is, and while this certainly conveys hustle and bustle, we don’t actually learn much. There aren’t any particularly charming details, and as far as bang for your buck goes, these two pages don’t deliver much more information than one panel of the crowd could have. The writing in the captions across the spread is interesting, but it could have been more effectively paired with zoomed in shots of various people and objects in the room to build suspense and tension rather than just one fairly generic shot.
Other miscellaneous observations before I wrap up: VC’s Cory Petit delivers clean, perfect lettering as always. The Krakoa gunk communication device is also fun, as are some of the choices in metahuman memorabilia up for auction.
All in all, Wolverine #9 is a fun comic with both impressive technical details and a willingness to just be silly. Grids, silly disguises, and emotional flashbacks involving ’90s characters I never thought I’d care about? All present and accounted for.
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