This week, the next phase of Marvel’s X-line begins with the kickoff of the alternating X Lives of Wolverine and X Deaths of Wolverine miniseries. Does the debut issue pack as much punch as House of X #1 did back in 2019?

We’ve got a review of X Lives of Wolverine #1, plus your regular Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel titles, all ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!

X Lives of Wolverine #1

X Lives of Wolverine #1

Writer: Benjamin Percy
Artist: Joshua Cassara
Color Artist: Frank Martin
Letterer and Production: VC’s Cory Petit
Design: Tom Muller
Cover Artists: Adam Kubert & Frank Martin
Reviewed by Cy Beltran

I’ll just come out and say it: I’ve never been the biggest fan of Wolverine. I know this might be a hotter take, but the lil guy is too overused for my taste. It feels like some writers tend to throw him into stories just because they need to have somebody violent show up and they don’t get to the core of the character as he’s meant to be: a compelling, vulnerable man who does what he does in search of peace. 

Benjamin Percy and Joshua Cassara do a great job of capturing the best parts of that latter characterisation in this first issue of X Lives of Wolverine. The series spins right out of the events of Inferno and is the kick-off to the ‘Destiny of X,’ what has been dubbed the Second Krakoan Age by Marvel. And while this is being marketed as a follow up to Inferno, this issue relies much more on the work Percy has been doing in Wolverine and X-Force

Now, I have been up and down on both series since they launched, but one thing that’s been consistent between the books is how strong Percy’s command over Logan’s voice is. Whether he’s teaming up with X-Force on a stealth mission to Terra Verde or drinking with Jeff Bannister, Percy writes Wolverine with really clear motivations and a deep desire to do good for the people around him. He’s less “angry man with knives in his hands” and more “wise man who aims his knives right where they need to go.” Yeah, it’s a clunky sentence, but this Logan feels more well-rounded than the one I feel like we’ve been bombarded with over the years. 

I mean, just look at how pretty this is.

By nature of being the first piece in a ten-part weekly saga, there is a lot of scene setting throughout this issue. We jump from scene to scene with little context as to why we’re doing so, and though it’s a smart tactic to get the reader questioning what’s happening, it was slightly jarring at first to jump around between Wolverine’s reflections, Omega Red’s scheming, and the main scene. I will say, it did improve as the story went on, and I think that it’s an important feature of the book, not a bug. Data pages definitely helped with the pacing here and bring the reader up to speed on some of the events of Percy’s other books that they might have missed. 

Cassara and Frank Martin are shooting 100% from the line with the art here. Cassara makes every character impressively expressive and there’s a real sense of a lived in world with the amount of detail he squeezes into every panel. It’s gritty and rough at the edges, perfectly suited to the world of Wolverine. Martin amplifies this with his careful use of color on every page. The separation between what I assume to be the present-day and flashbacks (more on those later) is excellently demarcated with these softer, warmer tones for the past and the more vivid, sharp palette of the present. 

The action in this issue is superb. It may seem like I don’t like action based off of everything I’ve said so far, but the fights Cassara renders are exceptionally well done. There’s a strong throughline in everything on the page and you can feel the pain in each blow. In one particular panel, Omega Red slams Egg to the ground, and the combination of Cassara’s art and Cory Petit’s sound effects make the panel pop with a wince-inducing effect.

I can feel how painful that is.

I won’t say exactly what’s happening here, but as far as I can tell, we’re in for a trip through the lives of both Wolverine and Charles Xavier. Omega Red is out for revenge for what he’s been through in X-Force, and though I can’t say I blame him, what he’s up to could tear apart one of the foundational pillars of Krakoa. I don’t think that I’m totally hooked on the plot yet, but I’m intrigued enough by where this is going and the terrific characterizations to stick around and see what’s next. I’m sure next week’s X Deaths of Wolverine will add even more layers to the mystery of this series, but hopefully it gives a little more context for what this is all about.

Final Verdict: Buy.

Rapid Rundown!

  • Ben Reilly: Spider-Man #1
    • I was part of the fandom that bought into Ben Reilly being the original Peter Parker. It was a truly amazing twist that had me, until it got more convoluted, and it would be years before I could trust a Spider-title again. Some twenty years later and Ben is back in the spider costume standing in for Peter in the main book, which gives writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist David Baldeón a chance to go back to the original Clone Saga and add some more to the Ben Reilly legacy. It’s a solid book with a creepy serial killer and some great Spidery aspects to it, and they kind of are the same person. If you are a “new” reader and have heard the horror stories of the Clone Saga, this book does a nice job of visiting that era, but so far hasn’t bogged the reader down with the history of the Clones. If you’re a fan of the current Spider-Man run, this is a nice ancillary story. —GC3
  • Defenders #5
    • Al EwingJavier Rodríguez‘s revamp of Marvel’s classic superhero team comes to its multiverse and cosmos-spanning conclusion with a finale that’s as exciting and utterly gorgeous as the four issues that preceded it. Ewing writes the interactions between the Defenders members, characters who couldn’t possibly be more different, with a consistent wink towards the ludicrousness of their having been thrust together, which gives the whole series a nice amount of levity given the massive scale of the story. But the real star throughout has been Rodríguez, and this issue is no exception as the artist visualizes a battle between literal concepts that is epic in scope, inventively rendered, and a joy to behold. The reveal of the Masked Raider’s identity wasn’t exactly a shock, but it still played out in an unexpected way, and the final-page tease that this team will return has me itching for the summer to get here. —JG
  • Devil’s Reign: X-Men #1
    • The Devil’s Reign event has, I think, been pretty stellar as far as the main issues have been concerned. This is my first dip into outside of the immediate story of the event and this was solid fun. It rode a pretty good line between catering to the big Marvel event while also acting as another chapter of the X-Men story, and I think it does especially well in the latter. This story frankly doesn’t have the narrative heft and stakes of the main event, mostly because Kingpin comes across as pretty chipper and eager in this issue rather than the more morose and serious figure in the event. Which, to be clear, isn’t a problem at all. I appreciate a breezier take on any particular story, and I’m excited to see this play out. It’s always a treat to read another collaboration between Phil Noto and Gerry Duggan, who I think do wonderful work together and have such a playful feel to their stories. —HW
  • She-Hulk #1
    • Rainbow Rowell, Roge Antonio, and Rico Renzi‘s She-Hulk#1 was a bit of a mixed bag for me. While I enjoyed the scenes that examined Jen’s relationship with Mary MacPherran (A.K.A. Titania) and with Janet Van Dyne, I was hoping that Jen’s legal career would play a more central role in the narrative. Nevertheless, between Jen’s relationship with other women and a sartorial-centered subplot, there was plenty for me to enjoy in this inaugural issue. Admittedly, the last-page reveal did leave me feeling a bit indifferent, but so long as the aforementioned friendship- and clothing-based plots remain the focus of the series rather than the man who appears at the end of the issue, I’ll keep reading along… Although I do have to concede that I like my She-Hulk best when she’s exerting her considerable strength on the fourth wall, a character trait that is sadly absent from all but a few of this issue’s variant covers. —AJK

Next week, Steve Orlando makes his Marauders debut, and X Deaths of Wolverine begins!