Let’s face it, there’s been some great work at the House of Ideas this year. Squirrel Girl delighted us, Infinity Countdown: Adam Warlock wowed us, Captain America has been the bee’s knees, but one issue from this week stands alone as the cream of the crop! Is it Wolverine’s fateful return? Find out this week in The Marvel Rundown!
Hunt for Wolverine #1
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by David Marquez and Paolo Siqueria
Additional art by Rachelle Rosenberg, Walden Wong, and Ruth Redmond
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Alexander Jones: Marvel is doing the unthinkable: publishing a huge resurrection for one of the most popular X-Men heroes of all time! Okay, maybe Wolverine was never going to stay dead for long but here we are at The Hunt for Wolverine #1–AJ and Joe, is Hunt for Wolverine #1 your Marvel issue of the year?
AJ Frost: Hey everyone! So, my thoughts going into the issue were a bit more on the skeptical side and the first pages really heightened my cynicism. What’s the point in another arc where a beloved character is presumed dead? We all know how it is going to end. Anyway, it was only after getting through the first bump in the story and into the real heart of the issue where my attitude lightened up. Once the X-Men get to do their thing, the story became a thrilling ride.
Joe Grunenwald: I was also skeptical going into the issue, especially since we’ve seen Wolverine bopping around the Marvel U for the past few months – he even had an infinity stone for a few minutes! But I got over it pretty quickly once the action between the X-Men and the Reavers started, and from there it was just fun.
Frost: Once we get past the melodramatic, existential grumblings of the Reavers, the issue really begins to open up. Alex, what did you think?
Jones: I’m going to enter the fray with some cynical thoughts as well; no bones about it, this is an editorially-driven story that has to put people in the right places and accomplish extremely specific character beats. Getting any sort of coherent narrative of the issue at all was going to prove incredibly challenging, yet I found the issue had a focus about it proving author Charles Soule is very good at working within the harsh confines of Marvel.
Grunenwald: I definitely agree they were largely putting characters where they need to be for the ensuing miniseries. Splitting the issue up between a complete adventure in the first half and then a story moving pieces around was a really smart move.
Frost: Oy, we’re all so cynical! I’m with ya, Joe. Once Soule moves beyond the mandated exposition, the story really opens up and becomes a lot more engaging. This isn’t simply a fetch-quest narrative, but a new exploration into the relationship between the X-Men and the greater Marvel universe.
Jones: This story felt cold and calculated to me. However, David Marquez turned in excellent pencils and Soule’s dialogue between the Reavers was well-written and intriguing. Really it is the second story I have a problem with because the logic behind the work becomes distorted. You would think, why would Marvel need to make the issue this complicated to begin with? Why do these other stories need to be set up in such a manner? The rigid constraints definitely hurt the script in the issue and I want to make sure we get the point across before even talking about the quality of the work which was turned in.
Frost: These types of stories are inherently calculated–that’s an interesting point you bring up, Alexander. Marvel is definitely struggling to find a happy medium between appealing to casual readers and hardcore fans alike. With a character like Wolverine, people approach him from so many angles and it is challenging to know which audience to write for, particularly for a story which doesn’t revolve him doing much in the plot. He’s a mutant McGuffin here, but also a way to explore the interactions between X-Men and their neuroses with their need to partner with other heroes in the Marvel mythos.
Grunenwald: If I may put my continuity hat on for a moment, I had trouble placing this issue. As I said before, Logan’s been running around doing stuff in the Marvel U for a little while now. But when we see him in this issue, he appears to be trapped somewhere? And the final scene with Jean and the leftover adamantium shell is straight out of the Marvel Legacy one-shot. So does this take place before the last few months of stories? I know I should just go along for the ride but the timeline didn’t add up to me.
Jones: Fantastic observation Joe. There’s definitely a few characters in the Marvel Universe he’s interacted with since Marvel Legacy #1 and something vague and strange about his return. I hope this is a case where the lead-up to the story is going to reveal something interesting we did not know before which will deepen the mystery. I kind of hope Wolverine is in some alternate reality which would explain why he is having such a hard time finding the cast. Also, those Wolverine moments in here evoked a “holy shit” level of awesomeness.
Grunenwald: Yeah, those were really striking. The ferocity on display was intense, and then his silence afterward made it even more so.
Frost: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, now! I sense there is some mild disagreement here about the story. Do you guys think any difficulties with the story should be placed on Soule, or more generally on Marvel trying to shoehorn this story to get back on track?
Jones: The blame should be shared but I still think Soule had a pretty good handle on the personality of the Reavers and the scripting was pretty strong despite the mandated dictation of the story. It wasn’t until the follow-up tale with the forced status quo twist and lead-up to other series I felt this issue turned into an advertisement for something else. Do either of you disagree?
Grunenwald: I don’t disagree. I wonder if the overall hunt for Wolverine storyline was originally just going to be X-Men-centric – that’s how it seems from the ending of the first story – and then the decision was made to expand it out to the larger Marvel U. I like Daredevil, but what is he doing here?
Frost: On the other hand, I actually quite enjoyed all the interaction between the disparate Marvel characters/franchises/future screenplays.
Grunenwald: I didn’t not enjoy it. Like I said, I like Daredevil, but it feels like he has no business being a part of this. Also, let’s get Iron Man in there, the kids love Iron Man.
Jones: I was about to share something to the same effect of Joe’s last statement. If this was an actual story where Marvel gave Soule scripting more freedom in an event mini-series similar to Wolverine’s death, I think this would have been a good comic. I don’t blame the weird story beats on him at all. Also, I could see why you might like X-Men characters interacting with Avengers heroes and street-level Marvel characters but sometimes it just feels forced to me.
Grunenwald: What did you think of the art?
Jones: David Marquez is so talented and I have literally seen him draw comics in 3D (shoutout to Joyners in 3D)! Civil War II and The Defenders didn’t allow for him to take on something different, pushing him forward as creator. Here he is experimenting with the medium with the beautiful action sequences with Wolverine and he got the chance to play up his dark side with the sequences involving the Reavers as well. I was happy to see the artist communicating more sides of his style to people who already love his work.
Frost: I would only add there’s a nice balance between quieter character moments and these huge splashes of action. It’s one thing to have a huge action sequence, those are a dime a dozen in this medium. It’s something more substantial when a single drop of blood tells you all you need to know about a character and his (or her) abilities.
Grunenwald: I don’t have a bad word to say about Marquez’s work here–on the other hand, I found the art on the second story by Paulo Siqueira to be really bland.
Jones: After taking another look at it, I think it is a clear step down in quality. Tony looks extremely generic here and the facial expressions and stilted faces are odd and extremely stiff. I don’t get the illusion of movement with his work which I like in comics. There’s an off sense of photo referencing as well. However, this art isn’t horrific or even bad, just sort of lifeless as you had suggested Joe. I did really like the page where the X-Men ladies are assembled together and the final page was chilling.
Grunenwald: Exactly, and admittedly Siquiera doesn’t have a ton to work with here. It is a few pages of characters standing around looking concerned. But it kind of just sits there.
Frost: To be honest, I really didn’t notice too much of a difference, more like a stylistic change-up.
Grunenwald: Also Tony’s lab looks like a closet. There’s no sense of space in the room. There’s so much which could’ve been done to make it more visually interesting.
Frost: Ok, you all convinced me! It was more stark visual differentiation.
Jones: This could have been much, much worse than what it was. If you are a big X-Men fan or seriously in invested in Marvel continuity, feel free to pick this up. Otherwise, this is a BROWSE for me. The only other thing I’ll say is that I see pretty strong potential here not being capitalized on and I can’t help but feel disappointed when looking at this as a whole.
Frost: This is a pretty good issue. I’m interested to see how this arc plays out, despite everything. But if you haven’t been following the Marvel as of late, it might be one that’s a tad more difficult to get into. I’m thinking this is a BROWSE.
Grunenwald: I enjoyed the first story well enough, I wouldn’t pass entirely on the issue even if the second half was pretty weak. X-Fans are going to want to pick it up, but otherwise, it’s a BROWSE for me as well.
Final Verdict: Alexander, AJ, and Joe are in an agreement for a BROWSE verdict on Hunt for Wolverine #1–keep reading to see the Marvel issue of the year (so far)!
The Mighty Thor #706
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Russell Dauterman
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
The Mighty Thor #705 was a devastating, no-holds-barred entry into ‘Death of the Mighty Thor’ storyline. The narrative held such a tense, immediate weight and featured a crippling bout of depression which is largely resolved in The Mighty Thor #706, even if not every loose end of the comic is covered. Watching one woman’s journey through the perils of cancer while bearing the responsibility of the God of Thunder has given the current Thor ongoing series the highest stakes of any title in the ongoing Marvel Universe. Writer Jason Aaron has assumed this responsibility and is now tasked with restoring the Odinson to bear the name of Thor. The herculean task of not making the title feel like a regression and a way for Jane to fall into the less important or mortal version who she is meant to be is an impossible task suited only to one of Marvel’s very best writers. Aaron opens the issue picking up right where the former chapter left off and evoking each moment towards a pulse-pounding conclusion leaving me startled until the mid-point of the story. Thankfully, the script quickly settles into a nice groove and does an admirable job responsibly showing readers how the different pieces of the Thor mythology are going to be set into place going forward as far as the Odinson goes.
Artist Russell Dauterman is given incredible material from the script and delivers on the promise of the weighty, emotional moments present in the story. Dauterman also hides a few surprises and is able to show off aspects his pencils don’t always get the time to shine in his big sendoff for The Mighty Thor. Dauterman particularly gets to show off some beautiful landscapes and continues to interpret the beautiful juxtaposition between the mortals of Earth and the people of Asgard. Every single panel of the comic is beautiful, between the thunder of Thor, the otherworldly presence of Valhalla and the stunning final notes of Foster’s interaction with Thor. Dauterman seems to be perfectly in tune with Aaron’s scripting as he depicts a few heartwrenching moments with a focused outlook and panel composition.
With a disease as deadly as cancer taking so many people away from us at an early age, Aaron’s meditation and exploration of the illness through Jane is a profound reinterpretation of one of the Marvel’s key heroes. With so many replacement and Legacy identities of the Universe now returning to the original owner, there does seem to be a strong reason for Aaron to change course and switch the identity back to the Odinson. Knowing the immediate adventures of the hero will still be delegated to him is another sigh of relief. With such an incredible legacy of the character up to this point, Aaron seems to be in direct competition with himself. It may be impossible to follow up this run or even keep the stakes of the overall ongoing this high in the immediate future.
As bleak as ‘The Death of the Mighty Thor’ has been, Aaron and Dautmeran closed out their time with Jane Foster as Thor with a sense of resolution. No other Marvel comic on the stands comes close to having such powerful emotional notes littered throughout the course of a single issue. Aaron and Dauterman both show they have an incredible handle on story structure and nature of Thor in issue #706. Big Two comics should all aspire to reach such a profound level of greatness the past couple years of Thor has delighted the medium of comics with, if you haven’t read the story, I encourage you to go back to the beginning of Aaron’s initial run on the character and start fresh.
Final Verdict: The powerful script and wonderful artwork lead The Mighty Thor #706 to the gates of Valhalla and into Marvel’s ISSUE OF THE YEAR (so far).
Join us next week for Avengers #1 and the beginning of Marvel’s Fresh Start and face-front true believer!