This marks the concluding volume in the “Wolverine Goes to Hell” storyline started two volumes ago. If Marvel eventually decides to collect this in one volume, I can only suggest that they call it “Wolverine: Hell & Back.” Or even the more descriptive, “Wolverine Goes To Hell, Comes Back With A Demon In His Body, Then Goes On To Kill A Bunch Of Dudes.” Kidding aside, it’s become clear that Jason Aaron would really have to work in order to write an unreadable or even truly bad story involving the character. Though he’s swinging for the fences with this arc, the conclusion isn’t as satisfying as it should be.
It all comes down to a matter of pacing as the story doesn’t feel like it was given enough time to build up a proper momentum. You’ve got Wolverine going to Hell and fighting his way out in the first part, reclaiming himself in the second, and wrapping things up in the third with an epilogue to put things right with the world. While the stories themselves read well enough, the actual sequence of events goes by way too quickly for the reader to become properly involved or to feel that things are truly important.
So this isn’t the be-all, end-all of Wolverine stories, but it still manages to read pretty well overall. This volume, specifically, ultimately succeeds by pulling off two things that really shouldn’t work, but do. The first is that while this is yet another Marvel story where... things don’t go too well for our main character, this one actually works. Instead of Doctor Octopus making Tony Stark his bitch, or Bucky Barnes failing on multiple occasions to stop the bad guys, the Red Right Hand’s method of seeking vengeance against Wolverine is actually really clever in the way that it uses the character’s own worst impulses against him. The end result is truly horrible in a way that you can’t help but admire. Of course, Aaron doesn’t have The Red Right Hand getting off scott-free as these people get just what they deserve as well.
The other thing that works occurs at the end of the two-issue epilogue where Wolverine deals with the fallout from this arc by retreating from civilization and falling in with the wolves of the north. It’s when he’s at his lowest point here that he finds out what kind of person he’s truly is and the way in which it’s handled should’ve come off as unforgivably sentimental. But... after all that hardship, all that pain... reading those testimonials, and seeing that long panel with everyone in it towards the end actually did warm my heart without turning my stomach. So while this isn’t the definitive story for the character, or even the best one Aaron has written featuring him, it’s still one worth reading if you’re a fan.
(Oh, and for anyone who’s interested, art is from Renato Guedes in the main story and Goran Sudzuka in the epilogue. Guedes’ style benefits greatly from not being tasked with drawing anything supernatural, and the real-world carnage is appropriately brutal. Sudzuka, best known for providing better-than-you’d expect fill-in art in on “Y: The Last Man,” uses the skills from that series to give the story the beaten, then broken, then redeemed Wolverine that the story demands. That’s it. ‘Night all.)