Monday, August 6, 2012

WOLVERINE #144 - November 1999

First Cut!
Credits: Erik Larsen & Eric Stephenson (writers), Mike Miller (penciler), Vince Russell (inker), Marie Javins & Joe Rosas (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Wolverine dons his costume for the first time to go on a trial mission for Department H. He’s suddenly kidnapped during the test by the Leader, who’s also abducted Hercules and Karkas. Leader explains his plan to use them against the Hulk, not counting on Wolverine to sneak out of his bonds. Wolverine, Hercules, and Karkas defeat the Leader, and after Wolverine eventually returns to Canada, he’s eager to accept his first official mission -- stopping the Hulk. In the present day, Dum Dum Dugan sends Wolverine on yet another mission against the Hulk.

Continuity Notes:
· The Leader’s appearance in this flashback is set shortly after Marvel Feature #11.
· Unlike the Guts and Glory one-shot, this story understands that Wolverine’s first mission in costume was his battle against the Hulk and Wendigo, detailed in Incredible Hulk #180-181. The story has to label that fight his first “official” mission in order for these events to fit, however.
· Wolverine comments that Alpha Flight was behaving oddly during his previous encounter with them, and that he might need to investigate in the future. This was likely a line thrown in to give Larsen/Stephenson some room for a few retcons following complaints about the previous arc.

Review: I think this issue comes the closest to capturing the Bronze Age feel Larsen tried to bring to Wolverine during his brief stint. It’s fun to read, not only because the story pits Wolverine against an unlikely opponent with even more unlikely allies, but also because the character’s voice feels more natural, and the art isn’t cluttered or rushed. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t consider Mike Miller a welcome replacement for Leinil Francis Yu, but it’s obvious he understands how to choreograph complicated fight scenes in a way Yu can’t grasp. He also isn’t inconsistently lavishing great detail on a few characters while leaving sketchy stick figures in the background; every page of the comic is well-constructed and all of the figures look appropriately fleshed out. Is there a point to doing a prequel to Wolverine’s first fight with the Hulk? Not really, unless you count a mini-crossover with Hulk #8 enough justification for another Wolverine flashback story, but it is honestly entertaining.

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