The first thing you should know about Wolverine #1 is that it costs $7.99. That actually ends up being quite good value for a comic that includes 70 pages of story. Actually, it’s not really one story, it’s two and, sadly, neither feel particularly worth the cover price. HOWEVER there is a big reveal here that is so ridiculous and fun it will likely go down in comic book history. So who knows, maybe you should pick up one of the 22 covers for this issue because there is a world where it will end up doing numbers on Scalpers Net Dot Com because everyone will want a copy of the issue where the secrets of Wolverine’s vampiric but also vampirism-curing blood was revealed.
Story One: “If You Really Want to Tangle With Someone”
Adam Kubert (artist), Frank Martin (colorist), Tom Mueller (design), Benjamin Percy (writer), Cory Petit (letterer)
Story Two: “Catacombs”
Victor Bogdanovic (artist), Tom Mueller (design), Benjamin Percy (writer), Cory Petit (letterer), Matt Wilson (colorist)
February 19, 2020
When Hickman crafted the vast new landscape of the X-Men and introduced the technology to bring mutants back to life via Goldballs’ eggs, the Five, Mister Sinister, and Cerebro, I suppose we should have known it wouldn’t be too long until Wolverine went on a murderous rampage. That’s how Wolverine #1 begins as the titular hero wanders around the snowy wilds of Alaska where the bodies of his fellow X-Men lay apparently eviscerated by his own Adamantium claws. Kubert crafts something appropriately horrifying in these opening pages with plenty of mutilated bodies, torn muscles, and sinew. He then offers up some drastically unnecessary dead Marvel Girl cleavage too, which was where I started to get the feeling this comic really wasn’t for me.
To me, Wolverine has never been a killing machine. He’s a tormented and lost dad who just can’t help taking in strays, looking after kids, and sometimes getting cranky. His vulnerability, kindness, and attempts to keep those he loves safe is always at the heart of what makes him a great character and X-Man. But in Wolverine #1 his story becomes about the fact that it looks like he killed all of his friends which is a little bit on the nose and has been done before. Speaking to that, Wolverine #1 does something that feels relatively cheap, showing Wolvie as happy in Krakoa. He plays with kids, he still loves Jean, he’s drinking with Kate Pryde and talking about how Krakoa is his home, which is all only there to show just how horrible it is that he’s probably going to kill everyone as the in media res opening lays out in brutal detail. It’s all very “Master Skywalker, there’s too many of them, what are we going to do?”
To give Wolverine #1 its due, though, it does include one of my absolute fave bad ’80s movie sequel tropes: there’s a new street drug and it’s making people act crazy! But bad news for Wolvie and Kate Pryde’s Hellfire Club as it looks like it comes from one of the Krakoan flowers and the police are calling it… POLLEN! Kubert does his best to make the police procedural aspects of this book as dreary as possible, but honestly it’s a jarring juxtaposition from the first murder pages to the nice Krakoa moment to the boring police procedural. That sums up the biggest issue with this issue: it doesn’t gel. At no point does the first story feel like one story, and once the second story begins it feels even less like a single issue or a single story.
There’s a lack of balance here that makes it hard to ever truly get into the story. One of Kubert’s best pages showcases his talent for the strange and beautiful as Sage and Wolverine talk over a massive map of Krakoa, but you can’t actually enjoy the splash as the page is so overwritten that the edges are filled with many, many, many, many, speech bubbles. It’s hard to take much of Wolverine #1’s first story seriously as it’s filled with so many cliches; the hardboiled cop with a soft heart who SHOCK HORROR is actually hunting down the flowers of Krakoa to save his sick daughter. Also the biggest issue here is who wants to see the X-Men taking on a war on drugs? There are so many issues and potential problems with that story in itself–we get a couple of “cartel” mentions here–but the fact that the drugs are from Krakoa give the X-Men a reason to get involved.
Also there’s a cult. Wolverine #1 feels like it should have been an anthology comic, maybe curated by Benjamin Percy but with obvious differential lines between the many things he wants to cover. It’s an ambitious idea but the whiplash you get from one disparate story to the next is palpable and left this reader feeling disconnected from the story the issue is trying to tell. The end of this first tale seems to hint that Wolverine got fucked up on Pollen and killed all his friends… so I guess… don’t do drugs, kids. The biggest takeaway here is that it seems like we’re supposed to assume that A) Wolverine is being tricked, which seems lazy or B) it doesn’t matter that he massacred his friends because they can just be reborn in Goldballs’ eggs… which really sums up itself. Either way, for a massive murder spree featuring multiple main mutants this story feels empty and like it will potentially head into dangerous war on drugs territory going forward.
Anyway! Onto the next one, from here Wolverine #1 takes a massive turn heading back to Krakoa (When?? No one knows. Is it before he kills everyone? Is it afterwards? Which of these stories will be continued in #2? It’s all very unclear). Jim Lee continues to be disrespected by Marvel here as Omega Red makes an appearance on the mutant stronghold. Turns out amnesty isn’t for muscled kind-of-vampires or at least not if Logan has his way. Of course Magneto has different ideas, putting Omega Red into a lair and telling Wolverine that it’s his job to find out what the villainous mutant has been up to which leads to one of the stranger nostalgia trips that this issue goes on. Remember when Jubilee was made a vampire? Hope you enjoyed that beloved storyline because things are about to get really, really weird.
But before we get into that I have to wonder out loud about how much time Cory Petit had to letter this particular story. Petit is exceedingly talented and one of the most consistent letterers in comics, but in “Catacombs” the overstuffed nature of the script is combined with a lettering style that seems rushed, making it often hard to decipher the reading order of the captions stacked on top of one another. This isn’t a critique of Petit who does a great job lettering the first story, often impressing with how the pages are still readable in the face of some intense exposition. I just wonder what happened between that and “Catacombs,” which feels rushed at best and incomprehensible at worst. Work conditions in comics are notoriously bad and I hope that whatever happened this story’s letters aren’t a symptom of a dangerously short deadline.
Back to that BIG TWIST that arguably could have been a more interesting topic for the entirety of Wolverine #1 rather than a secondary story in an oversized issue. That’s highlighted by how much fun Victor Bogdanovic is having with these pages with art that flows and shifts between different locations and an ever more outrageous storyline. We get a little bit of a European vacation here as Wolverine heads over to Paris to check out Omega Red’s story, and low and behold he was telling the truth… he hadn’t killed a bunch of innocent folks but instead a bunch of vampires. We get introduced to a sexy vampire killer too here; she has an X-Men-esque costume but instead of an X there’s a big crucifix… it’s still skin tight though, obvz.
What seems to be revealed here, although it–like much of this issue–isn’t entirely clear, is that Dracula is leading the Vampire Nation and wants to go to war with Charles Xavier and his Mutant Nation. So far, so fun and silly and actually maybe something we’d want to read. But there’s a bigger twist as we see Dracula walking around in daylight apparently because he drank Logan’s blood. It would make even less sense if we didn’t get a Hickman-style text dump below that gives some very in-depth science about everyone’s favorite Canuck. As the text dump tells us, “You could say that their [Wolverine and Vampires] blood belongs to the same group, but a different type. One positive, the other negative.” So basically Wolverine is bloodkin with Vampires but because his blood doesn’t deteriorate when UV light touches it he can actually make SUPER VAMPIRES!!! *metal music plays loudly*
So is Wolverine a vampire? Is he a vampire curer? Has he made Dracula a super vampire? You’ll have to wait to find out as it’s unclear when this story will be continued, which is a shame because it’s actually far more fun than the whole “Did Wolverine kill everyone again? Also there’s a mutant war on drugs now” story that opens this issue. Another vital note here is we get one panel featuring a character of color talking in the entire issue, as Cecilia Reyes pops up. The fact that this is 70 page monster also happens to be an X-Men book which features almost solely white characters is just one more reason that Wolverine #1 didn’t hit the mark for me.