REVIEW: Wolverine #15 Is Violence As Art

Remember when I said I couldn’t wait for this issue of Wolverine? Haha.

Wolverine #15

Adam Kubert (Artist), Frank Martin (Color Artist), Tom Muller (Design), Benjamin Percy (Writer), VC’s Cory Petit (Letterer)
Marvel Comics
August 25, 2021

Look, I haven’t really been coy about my opinion that of the two X-books Percy is writing, Wolverine is the weaker. It’s either too closely tied to X-Force, and when it’s not then it’s just rehashing old Logan stomping grounds. If Bloodscream and Cyber showed up at this point, I would be profoundly unsurprised. That said, this arc had an interesting start last issue, as it led our hero to the doorstep of the Arakkii pirate Sevyr Blackmore. After a jet ski duel, the two came to a sort of terms, and that’s where we pick up this issue, as Blackmore explains his hand in raising Solem, who eventually turned on him. From there, Blackmore tells the story of his most recent encounter with his prodigal son, and then he and Logan have another fight, because of course they do. If this sounds reductive, it’s meant to; the details here aren’t particularly important, save that they get Logan (and us) from Blackmore and on to Solem himself.

What’s important here is actually how the story is told, and that’s where I’m coming into a real appreciation for Percy as a writer. For all that this arc started as a mystery in an empty tanker, this issue is pure pulp storytelling, with a bloody tale of deep-seated animosities and revenge. Last issue’s action set the mood for Blackmore’s domain as a classic pirate island with a twist—think Tortuga by way of Mad Max or Waterworld, all scrap metal, spikes, and large horned skulls. This one gives us Solem’s recruitment by Blackmore as a cold open, but is no less shy with its imagery; we’re shown a young Solem kneeling over what is presumably his mother (sigh) in the shallows off of some shore. It’s dark, it’s pouring down rain, and Blackmore is looming over him. When the story jumps from that to the present day, even the conversational scenes with Logan and Blackmore are tense, lurid. There’s a clear stylistic intent here, and it carries the book, as the entire creative team seems to finally feel like they’re having fun.

I specify the entire team, too, because as much as Percy is having fun with his mishmash of pulp standbys, so too is Kubert, breaking out the old horizontal splash page as Logan is made to fight cybernetically augmented pirate fishmen (love that I just got to write those words). I’m also certain that the scene of Solem in the rain is as much Kubert’s ideas as it is Percy’s scripting; he’s an experienced, capable, and talented artist, and his visual storytelling has had years of honing. There’s another panel where Blackmore crashes into something, and the panel itself is the sound effect. It’s a true understanding of what it is that comics can do in a way that no other storytelling medium can match. In fact, while I generally try not to include entire pages in my review, I’ll break that rule this time:

The panel composition here strings out the rising tension of the scene literally, as in each progressive panel, Blackmore takes up a bit more space, all the while threatening Logan. The way the eye is drawn on that rising arc culminates in that panel of Logan sheathing is claws against an empty white background. Kubert is the kind of artist who spends time on spatial awareness and includes detailed, lush backgrounds, so when he deviates from that here, it’s a significant artistic choice. It forcibly removes Logan from the visceral setting he’s spent this story in, even as it shows him surrendering. He’s been outmaneuvered, bested. That alone would’ve been great work, but the lower half of the page finds its own way to sing, as it snaps Logan back into the environment, while giving Blackmore the room to get a little showy. That final panel is a delight—from the pointed blade to Blackmore’s command, it evokes all the sensibilities of a classic underworld revenge flick. Truly great stuff.

Nola Pfau

Nola Pfau

Nola is a bad influence. She can be found on twitter at @nolapfau, where she's usually making bad (really, absolutely terrible) jokes and occasionally sharing adorable pictures of her dog.

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