Origin II #1 (Wolverine)

Marvel Comics

 

by Kieron Gillen, Adam Kubert, Frank Martin

Reader Appeal/Publisher Rating: Parental Advisory (Mature themes and graphic imagery)

Genre: Superhero/Adventure

 

 

Origin II #1 has a lot going for it.

 

First, it's a high-end, art production, with a plastic-overlay cover and three additional variant-cover editions as well. Second, at 48 pages, it's an oversized book that lends weight and importance (and a $4.99 price tag) to the comic. Third, and perhaps best of all, it's another peek into the "lost years" of our favorite X-man, the Wolverine. Pretty cool.

 

So why did I feel so blah after reading it?

 

Maybe, after LOVING the first Origin series, my expectations were too high. After all (with the exception of The Empire Strikes Back) a sequel is never as good as the first one, right? Or maybe I just need more time to get into this new story. Or (and I think this is really the reason) maybe I'm just too cynical and instead of reading a story I kept getting distracted by flash-marketing and hard-sell tactics that filled the pages of this comic. Maybe it’s all three of those reasons.

 

At any rate, here's how story begins with Origin II #1:

 

Our man Logan (the Wolverine) has banished himself into the wilderness of Canada, bonding with a wolf pack, becoming part of the family. Think a more brutal, ferocious Mowgli from The Jungle Book and you'll get the picture. It's a bloody, but tranquil life, even complete with new wolf pups who apparently adore their Uncle Wolverine. Aah, bliss.

 

Then along comes a white bear, a Polar Bear lost and far from home. Wolverine tracks the bear for awhile, then lets it go on its way. Little does he know that the bear is also tracking him, and while he's gone, the bear finds his wolf family cave. Logan returns to find his cub-brothers and sisters slaughtered. A battle ensues that leaves both bear and man bleeding and apparently dead. On page 34 Wolverine, as is his custom, miraculously resurrects, now alone and wounded. On page 35 we are told (because apparently we've never read comics before) this new story is "To Be Continued..."

 

Ah, I know what you're thinking now, dear reader. Isn't this an oversized, 48-page, prestige comic? Well, yes indeed it is. So, how could the story end on page 35? What's the deal with the remaining 13 pages? Well, it's all unnecessary marketing filler—a teaser for Origins II #2, sketches from the comic we just read, a two-page ad for the variant covers, more ads for digital comics, a tiny excerpt of the script accompanied by more sketches from the comic we just read, an ad for a Wolverine book, an excerpt from the first Origins series, a soda ad, and, well, you get the idea.

 

I think if Origins II #1 had not been such an obvious marketing vehicle for Marvel Comics, I might have liked it quite a bit more. Kieron Gillen's writing style is overwrought and sometimes stilted—but he's a pro at knowing when to let Adam Kubert's illustrations do the talking. The most powerful scenes here are when narration and dialogue are absent for pages and each frame carries its own weight in telling the story. This is particularly true for the beginning and ending segments of the comic. Some would attribute that nonverbal storytelling skill to the artist, and of course, the artist give life to that kind of story. Still, it's the writer who sets that agenda and pacing and vision, who knows what should happen and where. When that writer understand the rhythms of reading an illustrated book it makes a significant difference. So kudos to Gillen for his work in that regard.

 

Kubert's art shows a functionally professional talent that is strong and generally captivating. Colorist Frank Martin also works well with Kubert's pieces, creating a palette of wintry harshness that deftly lifts the penciled-and-inked lines off the pages. The biggest problem with the visuals here is that they too are sometimes overwrought. Perhaps that's just an artistic mirror of Gillen's writing style, but it too distracts from the reading. For instance, huge pools of dripping blood are way overused as visual cues, sometimes filling entire panels, several on a page. Yes, we get it. Wolverine lives in a violent world, a savage man himself. But painting everything red over and over again is a lazy way to tell us that. Additionally, Logan's appearance himself is oddly distracting and occasionally annoying. First there's his "Native-American Mowgli" fashion sense. (Seriously? Mowgli?) Plus there's his finely-groomed facial hair, complete with a stylish day's growth of beard...even though we are led to believe he's spent months and possibly years in this wolf pack. Tell me a man lives alone in the wilderness, and I expect him to look like a man who lives alone in the wilderness. Apparently he brought along a supply of razors for his face—and his clean-shaven chest. Still, those are petty things, and honestly, Adam Kubert is a fine artist. Give him a a stronger, more visionary writer like Neil Gaiman or Matt Fraction and I feel he'd be more than up to the task.

 

At any rate, I wanted to love Origin II #1, but when all was said and done, I came away less than enthusiastic for this series. Here's hoping the next issues pick up the slack and turn out to be another home-run for Logan.

 

Parents should be aware that Marvel Comics has rated this book with a "Parental Advisory" tag, a higher warning than the typical "T+" teen rating. This means it contains "mature themes and graphic imagery." Origin II earns that rating purely because of graphic violence and occasional fright images. A poster-style spread of the Polar Bear standing in a sea of wolf-blood and carcasses is a perfect example, but there is plenty more gore in here too, so consider yourself warned. Like Marvel, I'd recommend parents read this book first before deciding whether or not it is appropriate for kids.

 

--MN

 

Note: All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

 

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