It’s been literal months since Marvel released Wolverine #2, which probably doesn’t help make the final issue in Percy’s questionable “War on Drugs” story any easier to understand.
Benjamin Percy (writer), Adam Kubert (artist), Frank Martin (color artist), Cory Petit (letter), Tom Mueller (design)
July 22nd, 2020
In case you haven’t stayed up to date on the anti-drugs screed, Wolvie is wrapped up in a mutant narcotics scandal with a mysterious (maybe) Omega mutant making drugs out of the flowers from Krakoa. It’s been just as badly managed as you’d imagine and I was shocked to discover when I finished this issue that it was a three story arc which will apparently have little to no bearing on events going forward. Also warning for some annoying Quentin Quire action.
Easily the best thing about Wolverine #3 is Kubert’s art which finally feels exciting, whole, and vibrant. Martin does a brilliant job, as usual, adding depth and tone to the issue which spans island cocktails to Russian compounds. Sadly the story never lives up to Kubert and Martin’s work, and this writer had to read the book more than once to truly comprehend what was occuring. This arc has been dragged down by the desperation to once again cut Wolverine open and see him bleed on the page. In that way Percy had to find a new method to traumatize Logan with his own violence, so he set up a tropey tale of drug smugglers and corrupt cops that feels far closer to a ’00s Image book–and not in a good way–than an X-Men story.
The temptation to tell a dark Wolverine story is obvious. Those are the lauded stories, the ones that get remembered. But even Old Man Logan had a T-Rex. This Wolverine arc has struggled to find the fantastical in the mundane crime story that Percy chose to tell here, and though the art in Wolverine #3 is spectacular, the narrative and emotional payoff is not. I’m still not sure what the purpose of any of this was other than to show Logan once again killing his friends, which obviously didn’t stick because… no stakes. Plus, we get a very annoying Quentin Quire moment as the original alt-right kid is dating a Cuckoo. It’s all very meaningless and rather creepy, until it’s revealed that the Cuckoos actually just want Wolverine to hook them up with Cable… sure. But aside from all that, Kubert and Martin do get to have a lot of fun crafting a colorful, action-packed world that belied the standard crime story at its core.
Kubert returning to Wolverine is the kind of event that Marvel fans dream of, it’s an artist and hero match made in Krakoan-heaven, and this third issue is filled with the kind of moments you really want from a Kubert/Wolvie story. There’s dynamic action, somber thoughtful sequences, and even a big X-Men team-up splash that features Storm, Bishop, Bobby, weird new look Pyro, and Wolverine in Magneto’s helmet. It should be the kind of page turn that causes your breath to catch in the back of your throat but despite just how cool Kubert and Martin make them look the reality is that this issue doesn’t have the stakes that it would like you to think it has.
In fact, this three issue arc has been pretty hard to follow despite the simple narrative at its core: drugs are bad, even mutant ones. But even that noir-y trope is tangled up in a bunch of mutant mishaps that make what seems like it should have been a simple story overly complex. There are subplots buried under b-stories and extra characters hiding behind secondary leads. Basically, this third issue didn’t make things any clearer, but it did hold one silver lining aside from Kubert and Martin’s stellar work… the arc is ending (rather abruptly, as I assumed from the multiple layers and loose ends that this was an ongoing story) and is being replaced by the second story from the first oversized issue that originally grabbed my attention: weird vampire Wolverine.
Vampires and the X-Men have a complicated and controversial history, and with the huge X of Swords event coming up it looks like we might finally learn the secret behind Wolverine’s Muramasa blade, which happens to be red… like blood… which vampires drink. Anyway, out of the two stories featured in Wolverine #1, the vampire backup was easily my favorite so I will be very happy to see it continued over the next few issues.