Original Sin: Wolverine #312 Reviewon August 26, 2012 at 8:11 pm
When I was but a young lad, growing up in 1980′s America, things were different. We woke up, put on our parachute pants and our high-top Reeboks, strapped on our Walkmen to listen to the Big Band sounds of Dokken and Triumph, and walked to school uphill through the snow (okay, it was flake cocaine). We didn’t have your damn iPhones or your methamphetamine extracts or your Carly Rae Jepsen (although we did have Madonna; we could have done something about that for you kids before it was too late, and we are collectively very, very sorry)… and we sure as hell didn’t have a Wolverine with an origin story. Not like you little bastards today, who know Wolverine’s name is really James Howlett, and that he grew up in the 19th Century, and what his Weapon X helmet looked like; by God, when we read about Wolverine, we knew his name was Logan, that he was from Canada, and that’s all!
Yup, all we had was a Wolverine with a mysterious past, which kept things simple, exciting, and most importantly: difficult to fuck up with stupid shit. And having read Wolverine #312, I can say with some authority that we had it better.
This issue continues the return to the book by the creative team of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Simone Bianchi, who wrote the Evolution arc on Wolverine in 2007 which killed Sabretooth once and forever and for all time until Jason Aaron wanted him for Wolverine #300. As Amanda pointed out in her review of Wolverine #310, we’re back dealing with Romulus, the archnemesis for Wolverine created by Loeb for the Evolution story and who was so beloved by fans and creators alike he went all but unused by anyone in the past five years. There is also a hot redhead named Remus, because hey – if you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating a villain that no one cares about, you might as well double down.
So Wolverine and Remus fight in a flying helicopter in a sequence that was utterly thrilling the first time I played it in X-Men Origins: Wolverine on the XBox 360, then have a long conversation that not only blows up, but outright mocks, the concept of wolf-based mutants that was one of the key revelations in Evolution, before bringing Cloak and Dagger into the story only to immediately abandon them, leading to a fight with Sabretooth because hey – sure, why not? All leading to yet another Major Revelation That Will Change Wolverine Forever Or At Least Until Loeb Finishes This Story And All The Other Writers Generally Ignore It.
If it sounds like I’m making light of the issue, it’s because I kind of am. In a lot of ways, this issue is a hot mess, attempting to mask heavy exposition with forced action sequences – sure, Wolverine fights Remus in a helicopter, but the point of the sequence, violence or no, is only there so the two characters can discuss who Remus is and exactly how much of Evolution turns out to be bullshit. We’ve got a beautiful Bianchi double-page spread… that illustrates what amounts to a panel worth of dialogue recounting plot points from the earlier story. We jump from location to location, encounter to encounter, in what amounts to a pacing and plotting mishmash. It’s like trying to listen to someone tell you about their day while they try to repeatedly punch you in the groin; it’s just distracting and unnecessary.
And then there’s the Great Revelation that closes out the book, which is so loaded with problems it almost boggles the mind. First of all, it comes mere pages after Remus makes scoffing light of the “Homo Lupus” revelation that occurred in Evolution. For Loeb to torpedo that story point and then give another, more over-the-top revelation reminded me of when my brother, at seven years old, first told me that he didn’t steal my Maskatron action figure… and when I then found it in his toy box, he then told me aliens must have taken it. Throw on top of that that Leob’s story point utterly contradicts events shown in Barry Windsor Smith’s Weapon X – the first story that attempted to tell at least part of Wolverine’s origins – and instead of a stunning new point of Wolverine’s origin, you wind up with something that doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s unbelievable, because we’ve seen a lot of evidence to the contrary in other stories… and because Loeb has just proven himself as untrustworthy in this story because he just called backsies on his last similar big story point. It’s like losing Three Card Monte to a dude, and then giving him your Visa number because he says he’s a Nigerian prince; if you believe him, you’re a dope… but if the grifter expects you to believe it, he’s a dope.
This comic has a bunch of problems, but Bianchi’s art isn’t one. It’s highly detailed, stylized and painted; every panel might as well be a pin-up. His figures are aggressively stylized – Remus’s hair is stacked so high it would make many of my female Aqua-Netted high school classmates weep with envy – but they give the book an interesting look that you won’t easily find elsewhere. It’s hard to address Bianchi’s pacing and storytelling in a story that jumps all over the place, but it’s looks cool, which is about the best you can ask for in a comic that’s otherwise, well, pretty fucked up.
This comic book is a mess, but it’s not all Jeph Loeb’s fault. The man seems to feel duty-bound to add his mark to Wolverine’s origin story, which is a story that we never really fucking needed. In the 70s and the 80s, Wolverine was the Marvel Comics equivalent of Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name… and that was okay. By creating a concrete origin for Wolverine, we created a canvas upon which some creators will feel the need to make their own mark. Sometimes, as in the case of Barry Windsor Smith, you get a classic story. In others, you get creators who clearly (at least to me) feel the need to screech, “Everything you ever thought was wrong!” Loeb seems to be one of those creators… and instead of blowing my mind, all he’s done is make me miss my childhood, when it would have been impossible for Loeb to tell me what I thought was wrong… because there wasn’t anything there for me to be wrong about.
In short: Jeph Loeb has written a story that has made me miss when there was no story. That’s about as bad as you can get. Skip this.