Wolverine, as a book, is very easy to dismiss, and for good reason! This volume, however, is quietly chugging along, doing some of the same heavy lifting as X-Force in terms of how it handles questions of masculinity.
Adam Kubert (Artist, Cover Artist), Frank Martin (Color Artist, Cover Artist), Tom Muller (Design), Benjamin Percy (Writer), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer)
February 24, 2021
When I say that it’s easy to dismiss I’m not kidding; on the surface, both this book and X-Force look like another retread of the books that have become all too common in the X-Men franchise over the last couple of decades. Covert ops, soldiers being soldiers, morally gray tales, and an abundance of angst. Even I’m susceptible to it; witness my lukewarm reaction to last issue. I even specifically called out how relentlessly masculine it was! This issue is still that, but it delivers a twist.
The arc as a whole has been about Wolverine investigating Madripoor and, as a side note, rescuing fellow mutant Maverick. Maverick and Logan have shared history as soldiers in the Bucky Barnes vein; brainwashed, memory wiped, and reprogrammed soldiers, deployed for kill missions by black ops organizations. Consequently, when Maverick’s in trouble here in the now, Logan feels a bit of an obligation. That plays out here as the two mount an escape, but that’s just resolution for the prior issue—the real meat of the story here is what happens after.
At its heart, Wolverine #10 about moving on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that we’ll see another Wolverine/Madripoor story some time in the future, comics being the cyclical thing that they are, but here, Logan isn’t just confronted by a part of his past, he confronts it in turn. When he and Maverick are free, they make a plan to destroy some old artifacts and thus neutralize some of the interest in them, and then Logan offers Maverick a place on Krakoa. Maverick, for his part, refuses, offering a smattering of cynical responses and a disbelief in the dream.
It echoes some of the verbiage that’s gone around critical circles about this era of X-Men, referring to them as a “cult”—there’s even mention of drinking the Kool-Aid, a reference to the infamous Jonestown Massacre. It’s a derisive phrasing that’s seeped enough into our culture that many might not be aware of the incident it refers to, given those events were over forty years ago by this point, but that doesn’t undercut the branding issues that Krakoa is struggling with. Skeptics abound, and given that resurrection is specifically built into the societal premise, many have jumped to the conclusion that this isolated, island society is, in fact, a death cult.
This has been answered for readers of course; just because death is not permanent for mutants anymore, that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant to undergo! Still, there will always be skeptics and doubters, as there are in all things, and it’s here that Logan and Maverick have to part ways. It’s not that Maverick’s viewpoint isn’t understandable; he’s been used by too many government agencies to trust another one. That’s a strong viewpoint, and a reasonable one; to him, seeing Logan declare this kind of allegiance must seem utterly absurd. Logan says it best though:
It’s not just a new nation, it’s family to him. These aren’t just fellow mutants to him, they’re people he’s fought alongside and for, people who have been there for him and committed to him in a way that no government or military ever has. He believes in these people, and in the idea of Krakoa, not because of its professed ideals, but because of the people he trusts doing the work. That’s a difficult perspective to articulate to an outsider, and so of course his pitch fails; why, after all, would someone like Maverick trust these people? They have never been there for him the way that they have for Logan, they have never shared the struggle in the same way. This, too, is an issue that Krakoa will continue to grapple with; for every civilian mutant happy to have a safe home, there’s a mutant who has been isolated and exploited in ways that have destroyed their ability to trust.
Maverick romanticizes the idea of his life as a free agent; he makes the choices he wants, he works for who he wants, and he’s not bogged down by allegiance to any power. But the undercurrent of that is the traditional “tough guy” idea of masculinity; he presents himself as strong enough to survive on his own because the alternative, admitting that help would make it easier, might make him seem weaker, and a presentation of weakness is not something a man like this can tolerate. He’s another iteration of the work that writer Benjamin Percy has been doing across both X-Force and Wolverine; slowly, bit by bit, Percy is unraveling toxic concepts of masculinity as it arises in different forms, using characters like Maverick here, or Beast, or Colossus, or even Quentin Quire. Every time I run into one of these characters, every time I’m annoyed by them, I still manage to enjoy it, because of the understanding that the annoyance is intentional; a byproduct of the work being done. This work is a far cry from the podcast author I was once less than impressed with. I’m eager to see where things go.