Artist: John Romita Jr.
I've been trying to get through as many of my graphic novels, and comics series as I can, reviewing them along the way, whilst also reading the Marvel events that fall in between. I also plan on reading the series at the same time, reading each story that falls in line (e.g. a Spider-Man story followed by an Avengers, followed by something else, then back to Spider-Man). I've finally come to start re-reading my Wolverine collection, with this being my fourth review from it.
When Wolverine travels to Japan to try and save the life of a friends son, it turns out to be a trap to lure Wolverine out, as HYDRA, who are now working with The Hand, and the mutant group known as Light Dawn of the White Light, lead by Gorgon, killing him, and resurrecting him as their brainwashed assassin to fight S.H.I.E.L.D. and a list of other superheroes.
This was an amazing book, and probably one of the best Wolverine stories to feature Wolverine getting brainwashed, and Mark Millar did a tremendous job. Now with Millar being my favourite writer it's sometimes hard to not be biased, and I try to be as fair with his stories as possible, as things like Kick-Ass, ans The Ultimates was amazing, yet other works like Supercrooks, and his run on Fantastic Four although good, weren't brilliant, but this has to be up their with his best work, and although it's not as good as the Ultimates, or Kick-Ass, or even Millar's other Wolverine story, Old Man Logan, it's not far off. Now as I was saying this was probably the best brainwashing Wolverine story I've read, which I was happy about, as although there have been ton's of stories to feature Wolverine getting brainwashed, most of them are mediocre, whereas this was unique, interesting, and entertaining. Also with the story being spread over 12 issues it would be easy for it to start getting a bit dull, and boring, and at some point start to drag, whereas the way Millar has wrote this story that isn't the case, as he's kept it interesting by splitting it into two halves, but in a very unique way were it feels like two stories, but also one. I say this as most long stories are broken into acts, whether just the two, or more, in an attempt to make the overall story flow smoother, not always working, whereas Milliar's managed to accomplish this. Besides the divide, the overall pacing of the story was brilliant anyway, with it being exciting, and dramatic, knowing when to add action, and when to slow the pace down a bit, to allow room for development. I also loved how Millar made this an emotional struggle, having Wolverine fighting to control his actions, whilst still making it exciting, and action packed. I also loved how Millar handled all the other character's in this story, as although this remained a Wolverine story, the side character's were still amazing, being used perfectly.
Like usual I'm not 100% sure on what I thought of John Romita Jr.'s art, as there were parts that looked like his best art ever, and other parts that looked plain terrible. I've recently been seeing Romita Jr.'s art in The Amazing Spider-Man by JMS Ultimate Collection, considering his work on that some of the best he's ever produced, and that left a lot to live up to in this story. Now when I started reading this I thought that I'd went from seeing Romita Jr.'s best art, to his worst, as it looked plain horrible, and messy, but as I progressed through the book I began to change my mind, as it became truly amazing. I think it started when Wolverine changed into his yellow spandex, as Romita Jr. really excels in drawing masked hero's. Even with this his art still wasn't without it's faults, as like usual there's something that puts a blemish on his art, and it came in the form of the X-Men, and Elisbeth Von Strucker, as although certain X-Men like Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, and Storm looked alright, others like Cyclops, and Beast looked a bit weird, and the wrinkly Elisbeth looked down right weird (although his later art on the character looked more realistic). The way Romita Jr. handled the action in this story was also brilliant, and alone with the dramatic way he laid his art out, it was probably the best part about his art, as although the facial injuries sometime looked weird, and unrealistic, the fights themselves were epic, and overall Romita Jr. did a decent job on the art for this story.
This story centred mainly on Wolverine being brainwashed, and used to work for HYDRA in attacking certain superhero's. As I said I felt that this was probably one of the best brainwashing story to involve Wolverine, but besides that the fact that Wolverine was working with HYDRA was interesting in itself. Added to that the fact that HYDRA's working with the Hand, and the Light Dawn of the White Light, this story just screams to be epic, and it didn't let me down. The way HYDRA use Wolverine as if he's both their best weapon, but at the same time expendable was brilliant, and it really showed the mentality of HYDRA, as although they have this powerful weapon in Wolverine, they're not that bothered if they lose him, even if they're trying to avoid that at the same time.
With Wolverine now working for HYDRA, all be it involuntary, this meant that S.H.I.E.L.D. would be trying to take Wolverine down before he did any damage, and what person for S.H.I.E.L.D. to hire than Elektra. I said that having HYDRA working with the Hand, and the Light Dawn of the White Light screams to be epic, but then Millar goes and adds Elektra, making this story even better. It just seems that Millar has decided to add as many big, violent characters, and put them in a really violent situation, and although a lot of the time when this is attempted it fails, that isn't the case when Millar works on a story. Elektra just kicked butt in this story, and to have her track down Wolverine, and fight him was brilliant, and Millar did this perfectly, and although I already knew that Millar was brilliant at action, this just goes to remind me.
Now Elektra wasn't the only additional character besides the villains in this story, as there were also the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Captain America, and other Avengers. The best out of these additions was probably between the Fantastic Four, and Daredevil, as although these were two of Wolverine's targets, the interaction between Wolverine, and them was also brilliant. I know Millar can write Fantastic Four well, even if his run on the series wasn't his best piece of work, and to see him unite this with Wolverine was brilliant, as the chemistry between the character was perfect, and this proves that Millar really knows how to write superhero's brilliantly, as well as writing amazing violent stories. I also loved how this added a little bot of suspense, and fun as well, especially with the Fantastic Four, as with Wolverine going on a violent rampage, it's not the easiest thing to find time to add in some humour, even if with generally funny character's, but Millar's managed to yet again amaze me, by making this story even more versatile and dynamic.
As I said earlier, this story saw the return of Wolverine in the blue, and yellow spandex, and that made me happy. Now I loved seeing Wolverine with the whole rebel look, and it really suited Greg Rucka's grittier, crime stories, but with a story that sees Wolverine taking out certain superhero's he needs to be in spandex (which isn't worse than leather Cyclops (X-Men film fans will get that)). I also loved how the character's that surrounded Wolverine in this story would mention this, with a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent saying that he stuck out like a sore thumb in it, which although in a serious context was still a bit humorous.
WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD!
I try not to add spoilers if possible, but there was one point in this story that I couldn't not mention, and that involves revealing a huge spoiler, so let this be a warning (skipping to the next paragraph should be safe). Wolverine is eventually captured by S.H.I.E.L.D., and deprogrammed back to being a good killer (is there such a thing?). Now working for S.H.I.E.L.D., Wolverine seeks his revenge. Now this was what I meant when I said that Millar managed to split this story into two, and continue to make it interesting, as by showing both sides of the field, it made the pacing so much better. The fact that Wolverine worked for both HYDRA, and S.H.I.E.L.D. in this story also interested me, as it was kind of like an advantage in a sports match that was swapped half way through the game. I also loved how we get the usual angry Wolverine, that's embarrassed as well as raged about being used against his friends.
The final issue in this story was set during 1942, with Wolverine in a concentration camp in Poland. This was a brilliant issue, and although it doesn't quite top the actual Enemy of the State story, it was still awesome, and the way that Wolverine never said a word really made this story much more eerie, almost like a ghost story. The art from Kaare Andrews on this issue was also perfect, and having Wolverine silhouette like, with only his white vest sticking out really helped to add to the eerie tone of the story. I have to say that although I enjoyed the story on the first read through, it wasn't until I read an article at the back of the second volume written by Millar, talking about a discussion he had with comic book legend Will Eisner, and how he managed to change this story from what he considered would be slightly ill taste from a certain point of view, and changed it into this masterpiece, which really interested me, and added a lot of perspective.
This was a truly epic story, and a must have for Wolverine fans. Although the whole brainwash thing has been done to death on Wolverine, this has to be the exception, as it's one of the best out of them, and full of action, suspense, and drama, as well as being very gripping, and entertaining. The back-up story was also amazing, and overall Millar has shown why he's my favourite writer, and I'd highly recommend this story.
The next Wolverine book I'll be reviewing will be House of M: World of M Featuring Wolverine.