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Wolverine: Logan Hardcover – September 3, 2008
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Bonus Material: Scripts & sketch gallery
Wolverine and an American with similar healing powers are POWs in World War II Japan. They escape and run into a beautiful Japanese girl. The American wants to kill her, but Wolverine stops him and so begins a grudge that the GI would hold against Wolverine for the next 60 years. Their feud might have ended in 1945, except it was interrupted by the atomic blast at Hiroshima which happens to fall practically on top of the fighting mutants. The graphic novel sets up the double entendre that Wolverine becomes a man both through the passionate night with Atsuko and through the nuclear flames of war.
Pros & Cons:
The dichotomy drawn between Wolverine and the truly feral US GI works well because in this contrast we are shown the merciful and rational side of wolverine (who is famous for his rage). Moreover we are given an original Wolverine story with a powerful choice to be made at the end. Vaughn and Risso also leave Wolverine's decision about whether to keep the memory and the pain or to forget artfully ambiguous.
For a book with such a nuanced Wolverine, I was a bit disappointed by the "bad guy." The nemesis is a totally warped, racist, gung ho American GI (who also has a healing factor). While I get it that the Japanese tortured and experimented on him and thus makes him crazy, the GI character never gets beyond a two dimensional comic book villain. I can't say exactly how the villain could have been done better, but against a wonderfully complex Wolverine it seems as though the story would have worked just as well if not better without the enemy GI.
I believe this is one of the better Wolverine history episodes ever written. There are plenty of pre-x-men wolverine tales, but few of them render a whole person. Even a reader new to Wolverine mythology will find much to enjoy.
I felt a little disappointed that the cover doesn't really give a true picture of the vibe of the book. Yes, there is an old saying about book covers, but in the world of comics, for me at least, the cover art is an important component, and from this absolutely killer image by Eduardo Risso and Dean White, I envisioned a story with a little more of an "Apocalypse Now" or "Deer Hunter" feel (although I knew it was about Japan and not Viet Nam). There is a backup Wolverine story in another book, "Enemy of the State," that has more of that aspect, but that one takes place in a Nazi concentration camp. Anyway, this story trades in the POW story line for more of a romance tale, and it's not much of a SPOILER, if you know about Wolverine, but the romance is doomed to tragedy.
In addition to the Japanese army, we have some other complications that are pretty interesting. One is an American soldier who sincerely believes in duty and patriotism, but takes it to the point that he forgets how to be merciful. He is an interesting foil because Logan gets to play the peacemaker role for a while (When you have Wolverine telling you to take it easy, you know you've gone a little too far.), but also because this soldier is a mutant with a healing power similar to Logan's. I found this a little far-fetched, but author Brian Vaughan does throw in a little "That must be why their eggheads locked us away together," although again, this is a Japanese prison camp and not a Weapon X facility, so it still seems like a bit of a stretch, but that's OK. It's kind of literature, but it's still comics, so I can suspend disbelief.
The other complication in the story has to do with the setting. This is not just any old run-of-the-mill Japanese prison camp at any old time during WWII. This is Hiroshima, and Logan will experience an extremely important historical event there. By the way, I am writing this review on August 4, which just happens to be about the time of year that the story takes place, give or take a few days. If these references don't give you enough of a clue, check your history books. Anyway, this historical event will push the healing factors of both mutants to their very limits, and it's pretty cool to see how that plays out. I do feel, however, that writers of Wolverine stories sometimes take this healing factor thing a little too far. I feel that there are injuries that can be healed, from which Logan should be able to recover at an accelerated speed that saves his life, and then there are immediately fatal wounds, that would kill him. It seems that since the character was first introduced, he has gone from being extremely durable to nigh indestructible. Again, we suspend disbelief to go along with the story.
How about that artwork? It is stunningly beautiful when Risso and Dean aim to capture that sense of Japanese serenity, and fierce as hell when they are showing us violence and destruction. This book has a fair share of each, and each page looks great.
So there is some cool stuff going on here, and although it wasn't quite what I was hoping for, it's got that feel of a book that I will probably come to appreciate more and more as I re-read it again and again. If you're a Wolverine fan, it's a worthy addition to your collection.
Kindle app: on my Surface tablet the kindle app doesn't allow you to zoom in on the comic itself, You can on individual panels but I wanted to ZOOM in to actually read some of the finer print. Its a small complaint but it needs to be fixed.