by Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada & Paul Jenkins
(Art by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove)
Shockingly, this book reveals the origins of the iconic mutant Wolverine. Sometime in the 19th Century the young girl Rose begins working at the Howlett mansion as a companion to the sickly young boy James Howlett. They soon befriend the poor and rough-around-the-edges boy known only as Dog, but as the three of them grow older tensions begin to rise amongst themselves and amongst the adults around them. The tensions break in a shocking event which sees Rose and James fleeing into the Canadian wilderness.
The problem with going back to retroactively tell the backstory of a beloved character is that the character is beloved because of who they are when we, the fans, first meet them or of who they become after that point. Discovering the exact details that went into making them that character can often be entirely superfluous (which is why I have no intention of ever watching 'Solo: A Star Wars Story'). In fact, in the behind-the-scenes notes included in my edition of this book there's even mention of how many of Marvel's editors and writers thought, justifiably, that revealing Wolverine's history would undermine a character who is defined by his search for his lost past.
Aside from my issues with the priciples of this sort of prequel, my biggest problem with this book stems from already knowing who Wolverine is, thanks to having seen the dreadful 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' movie. There's several potential Wolverine candidates at the beginning and once you know which he is, much of that part of the book is robbed of its impact. In fact though, the aforementioned dreadful movie actually does this bit of backstory better by having Sabretooth be Wolverine's half-brother. I know a lot of fans hated that but, for me, it added an interesting new aspect to their later relationship, which is not something that really pays off in the way the family dynamic plays out here. Once the reveal of who's getting the claws happens, after that it's largely just ticking off other stuff that Wolverine is known for. So, we learn how he comes to be known as Logan, we learn where he picks up 'bub' from and we even get to see him reading a book about samurai. It's all a bit contrived really.
I didn't hate this book by any stretch and Andy Kubert's art is brilliant, but the whole thing left me wishing I'd spent the time reading a story of the fully-realised Wolverine that I know and love.
3 out of 5
World Without A Superman
(Art by Jon Bogdanove, Tom Grummett, Jackson Guice, Dan Jurgens, Walter Simonson, Brett Breeding, Doug Hazlewood, Dennis Janke, Denis Rodier and Trevor Scott)
The follow-up to 'The Death of Superman' (reviewed here) sees Metropolis in mourning for the death of its hero. His loved ones struggle with their loss, his allies try to pick up the slack left in his absence and his enemies begin to exploit the power vacuum. Things then become even more serious when Superman's body is stolen from its tomb for mysterious purposes.
It has to be said that this isn't a terribly exciting or dynamic graphic novel and is fairly thin on plot. However, I feel it should be applauded for actually taking the time to explore the aftermath of the titanic events of the previous book. These days comic book heroes die and return every other week, but the death (and return) of Superman broke new ground in the genre, so it's good to get an entire book exploring the in-universe effects.
There are several key characters who are used to reveal what the world without Superman looks like. The first is Lois Lane, unable to properly mourn her fiance due to his secret identity. Then we have Jonathan and Martha Kent, who are used to explore the tragedy of a parent outliving their child. There are numerous other characters who feature, but the two others that I found most interesting were Guardian and Lex Luthor Jr. (I don't think it's a spoiler to say that he's actually the original Luthor whose brain has been transplanted into a younger body). Guardian chooses to exceed the bounds of his role as security head for the Cadmus Project in an attempt to be the sort of hero who could live up to Superman's moral legacy. On the other end of the scale is Lex Luthor, who finds himself thwarted in his long-held desire for revenge against the Man of Steel and instead has to satisfy himself with seizing control of Superman's body.
This isn't a great book, but it is a nice reflection on the events of the preceding book and gives a suitable emotional break between that and the conclusion to the trilogy, 'The Return of Superman'.
3 out of 5