With the Hickman era wrapping up with Inferno #4, X-Men fans are looking ahead to the Destiny of X slate of books and the promises they bring. To act as a bridge between the two arcs, Marvel is publishing two interweaving minis titled X Lives/X Deaths of Wolverine, shaped by X-Force mainstays Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara. In the inaugural X Lives of Wolverine #1, we get a glimpse into the time-spanning adventure to come, pitting Wolverine against past and present demons to save those he loves. It’s an outstanding first issue that opens a slew of possibilities and communicates that the concepts explored by creators under the X-banner over the last few years won’t be tossed aside as Hickman walks away from the line.
When the initial solicitations were released, I was slightly concerned that the framing of the series was too much like House of X/Powers of X. In Hickman’s absence, it seemed like Marvel was intent to simply generate some enthusiasm for the future of the X-line by aping the standout series that reinvigorated the X-Men a few years prior. Thankfully, I can confidently say that it’s clear X Lives of Wolverine #1 has a vision and personality of its own and is not an attempt to simply provoke nostalgia.
While the X-Men are present, this is clearly a book exploring Wolverine’s psyche and role in Krakoa. The core conflict, while visibly articulated, presents several mysterious and unanswered questions to be explored in future issues; it left me pondering the eventual direction Wolverine’s quest would take in the coming weeks, and excited to see all the possible turns the arc might take.
Best of all, this story has clearly been in the works for some time. Several narrative threads from Benjamin Percy’s X-Force run are present in this issue, but don’t overburden it with continuity as to be unapproachable to readers unfamiliar with the run. Like any good comic, you are rewarded for having experienced those earlier issues but not excluded having not read them. Percy’s work gave a keen superhero edge to some of the headier titles in the Hickman era, and this book does not disappoint in bringing ample action to its brisk 32 pages. The reader isn’t bogged down with overworked exposition; the action and character interactions provide the necessary narrative thrust.
Joshua Cassara is firing on all cylinders in this issue, complemented well by colorist Frank Martin. Cassara’s art always has a vaguely grotesque quality to it, flawlessly expressing the horrific monsters and fiends in X-Force. While we get plenty of those terrifying visuals in this issue (there is a moment near the end of the book that caused me to physically wince), it’s Cassara’s ability to create tension and emotional resonance in the fight scenes that truly speaks to his ability as a comic artist. The blocking and transition between moments is simply jaw-dropping, and the number of poster-worthy pages promises great things to come in this series.
X Lives of Wolverine #1 should comfort X-readers unsure of the future of the X-line while also bring in those who felt the X-books eschewed more traditional super-heroics in recent years. It’s an excellent first issue, promising an exciting Wolverine adventure that honors the character’s history while giving him fresh vitality for the X-Men era to come.
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