The Best of Wolverine (Vol. 1)

ISBN: 0-7851-1370-3

Every kid has their favorite super hero growing up. For many, this was typically the classic, “clean cut” guys like Superman, Spider-Man, or Batman. Growing up in the 90’s, the anti-hero trend was in full swing with guys like Venom and The Punisher being featured in their own solo series. At the center of this was my personal favorite super-person of them all: Logan, aka “Wolverine.”

The morally black-and-white, do-gooder archetype of the silver age never really appealed to me much as a child. I don’t know if it was due to the popularity of the early 90’s animated X-Men, but Wolverine always seemed like a badass to me, especially at the impressionable age of five or so. Marvel was always good at writing deep characters who were internally conflicted (much more so than DC,  sans Batman, in my opinion), Wolverine being chief amongst them.  The character of Logan deals with the classic struggle of man versus his most primal, base urges and instincts; the struggle of man against his inner beast.

Waxing philosophical aside, Wolverine is the ultimate rebel. He is the embodiment of every person’s desire to not take shit and stand up to the authority figures of their lives – and have the chops to get away with it. His character is one that doesn’t take orders for orders sake, be it from the Boy Scout-like Scott Summers or the stalwart Captain America, but who is one of the utmost team players. Unlike so many others comic book characters, Wolverine is within reach – the “people’s super hero,” if you will. He is a dark, gritty character not above killing when he needs to, yet possessing his own code of honor. He is the character who, in combat, no matter what the odds, you always thought just be might have a chance where everyone else around him would fall.

And let’s be honest – the fact that he is nearly unstoppable with an accelerated healing factor and six, 12″-long dagger-like claws doesn’t hurt his taking names quotient, either…

That being said, as a child, I actually read very few comic books, and was introduced to the X-Men, and subsequently, Wolverine, through the aforementioned animated TV show, which stayed relatively close to its printed counterpart. As a die-hard fan of the character, I felt I owed it to myself to read the classic stories that defined the character. Opting for the less cumbersome volume one of three rather than the complete mammoth compilation, I was immediately draw in by the iconic artwork by Frank Miller adorning the hardcover volume.  Unlike many of the softcover collected volumes from Marvel, this compilation is entirely in color.

After a two-page introduction by the man best known for fleshing Wolverine out into a solo character, Chris Claremont, we are treated to a great cross section of Wolverine tales.  I feel the bases are fairly well covered here, starting with Wolvie’s first appearance in Incredible Hulk #181 (with whiskers and lacking the large “ears” on his cowl). Following this is the first four issues of the Wolverine solos series, setting up Logan’s penchant for Japan and the orient, his various love affairs, and his code of honor. A crossover story with Captain America is included which, while interesting, is little more than a novelty.  Uncanny X-Men #205, which shows us the origin of Lady Deathstrike and their long struggle, is a wise inclusion as well. Finally, the entire Weapon X mini-series is chronicled;  a key plot element in the development of the character, and one that could not be omitted.

The stories collected here are, largely, Wolverine in his prime.  His first appearance in Incredible Hulk is nice for historic purposes, but it’s fairly obvious in hindsight how they never intended the character to become as three-dimensional as he is today. It’s interesting to see how they initially portrayed him as a naive youngster,  but even on the onset, the seeds of his origin are laid with allusions to him belonging to a Canadian government program and the fact that his claws were forged of the nigh-unbreakable adamantium (despite originally being planned to be part of his gloves). With the exception of this and the Captain America crossover, all of the stories included are ones that defined him as the premiere anti-hero during the 80’s and early 90’s, complete with the classic brown-and-tan attire just as closely tied to the nostalgia as the stories themselves.

I was initially surprised at how graphic the stories were, especially considering the time period. On the animated show, the character how to be tamed down, largely relegated to using his trademark melee assets on obstacles and robotic constructs. The comics here pull no punches, with gritty violence, adult tone and language, and real-world themes. Scenes of everything from decapitated bears, to impaled guards are illustrated in full, showing that Logan was not your Sunday morning super hero – one for a more mature age of storytelling. The agony he is subjected to in the Weapon X story arc for the purpose of  being transformed into a killing machine contrasted with his inner mental struggle to overcome his berserker rage is timeless literature that transcends the printed pages of comics. (As a side note, it’s interesting to see how they initially intended to have his claws be implanted as part of the Weapon X procedure, rather than the retconned truth of him always having had bone claws.)

In summary, I couldn’t recommend this collection more for anyone looking to find out what made this character the best there is at what he does. Here’s hoping volume two is as good.

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~ by Dux on January 12, 2010.

One Response to “The Best of Wolverine (Vol. 1)”

  1. I have listed this on eBay (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290391929045) in favor of the Wolverine Omnibus as I simply cannot wait for all three volumes to come out. 🙂 I’m not asking a lot – only a few dollars above MSRP to cover eBay fees.

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