Normally I’d review these separately, but since they’re two chapters of the same event, written and drawn by the same creative team, and releasing the same week, here you go with both Wolverine and X-Force!
Wolverine #6 and X-Force #13
Victor Bogdanovic (Art), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letters, X-Force), Tom Muller (Design), Benjamin Percy (Writing), VC’s Cory Petit (Letters, Wolverine), Matt Wilson (Colors)
October 7, 2020
While Percy has done excellent work in keeping the focus of the books apart up until this point, the fairly linear nature of the X of Swords crossover means that these two issues, dropping the same day function as a double-chapter almost; the two part tale of Wolverine seeking out the swordsman Muramasa in order to get, well…a sword, of some sort. You see, he used to own a blade called the Muramasa Sword, so named for its creator. This blade was forged with a piece of Wolverine’s soul, and it had the ability to both stop anyone of his bloodline from using their healing factors, as well as the ability to cut through adamantium. The thing is, that blade was destroyed. Daken melted it down and bonded it to his claws when he was still mad at his dad, there was a whole revenge plot…look, they’re over it now.
As a side note, I’ve never liked that people both real and fictional refer to the blade itself as Muramasa; the intent as I always read it was it was “The Muramasa blade” as in “The blade Muramasa forged,” not “the blade named Muramasa”. I suppose that it could be both, but it would make more sense to call it the Wolverine blade or the Howlett blade, wouldn’t it? I mean sure, Muramasa made it, but he made it with a piece of James “Weapon X” “Logan” “Wolverine” Howlett’s soul. Anyway, I digress. Muramasa—the man—is in Hell.
A bit of a quick journey occurs in which Wolverine and his Arakko-based opponent, Solem, travel there, test each other’s abilities a bit (Solem gets to see Wolverine heal, Wolverine finds out Solem’s skin is adamantium-laced, Cyber-style), and then go to fight some Hand ninja and get them some swords. Since the original blade was destroyed, plot contrivances make for a pair of new blades, these infused with Muramasa’s own soul, which I feel makes them much more worthy of the name Muramasa. After some fighting and some negotiation, the pair each walk away with one of those two blades, and I’m sure the fact that they had to fight the Hand to get them will not come up later down the road at all.
If I’m relaying the necessary bits of story in a somewhat perfunctory manner, that’s because both issues feel perfunctory; in contrast to the slow burn of X-Force over the last year, these two issues feel like they have somewhere to be and no time to waste. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a tricky balance to maintain; the plot involving the acquisition of the swords feels most like it’s ticking boxes, but the issue is stronger in the interactions between Wolverine and his would-be opponent. Solem is interesting, mostly because he’s not at all how I thought he might be. Preview cover art depicted him looking sinister with a grin and long, clawed fingers; it reminded me of nothing so much as 90s villain Bloodscream, himself a sword-wielding antagonist of Wolverine. Instead, Solem is pleasant, jocular, flirty even; he’s clearly a trickster sort, in the vein of Loki. It’s a fun, unexpected twist for the event, and that’s due to good work by Percy across both issues. It’s a simple, straightforward narrative that’s easy to follow.
While I don’t prefer Bogdanovic to either of the book’s regular artists, he at least can do solid action. he’s good with body language; Logan has long held a reputation as a semi-feral creature, and Bogdanovic captures that, in the way he moves, the way his body language reacts to things around him. I do wish the team had been brave enough to let Logan fight the Hand naked after all of his clothes having burnt off in the lava pit, because it would just be funnier, but that’s neither here nor there.
Wilson’s colors are a significant departure from both series regulars Guru-eFX and Dean White, but Wilson has the reputation in the industry that he does for a reason, and this issue isn’t shy about showing off why. The warm tones he fills Hell with, the unsettling skin tones of demons and undead ninja; it all has a sort of visceral immediacy that draws your eye in as a reader; that’s something I greatly enjoyed. The pits of lava feel like they’re hot when you look at them (making the no-clothes option an even more practical one, who wants to sweat in black bodysuits?).
Overall? X-Force #13 is a strange balancing act. It circles around the main thrust of the crossover’s plot, while still trying to maintain a coherency with both Wolverine—the man’s—personal canon and the necessary beats of getting him ready for the event itself. It also does the work of providing depth of character for one of the other major combatants, whom we still know very little about. I can’t wait to see where things go next!