Comic Picks By The Glick

Wolverine by Paul Cornell vol. 1: Hunting Season

September 11, 2013

Paul Cornell has a quirky sensibility that has served him well in books like “Captain Britain & MI-13,” “Superman:  The Black Ring,” and “Demon Knights.”  He’s demonstrated a great familiarity with the requirements of the superhero genre, but likes to infuse his takes with fun bits of weirdness and wit that enliven the overall experience.  That should make him an ideal candidate for a character like Wolverine who, given the number of comics he appears in, is never wanting for a new twist to his circumstances.  Cornell doesn’t quite succeed here as “Hunting Season” is a generally fun story and also one that doesn’t really offer us anything we haven’t seen elsewhere with the character.

Things do get off to a fast start with the opening image being a full page shot of the title character, smoldering with parts of his flesh seared off of his adamantium bones assuring a kid off-panel that it’s okay -- he’s a superhero after all.  Everyone favorite Canucklehead wound up in this situation after the kid’s father started blasting away random people in a toy store with a strange kind of gun.  Dad doesn’t seem like he’s that interested in stopping so Wolverine has to put him down.  Once the cops show up and the mutant tries to explain himself, the kid takes the gun and runs off acting just like his dad.  Convinced that there’s something more to this situation, Wolverine takes off to hunt the kid through the city and find out what’s actually going on.

That there’s a mind-control element to this story will be fairly obvious from the opening pages, and in a refreshing change of pace, Wolverine and everyone else pick up on that fairly quickly.  There’s a welcome sense of self-awareness to the stories in this volume that keep them interesting even though they kind of feel like Cornell is checking off a list of things to include here.  I’ve already talked about how the character regenerates from a horrific assault, but you’ve also got him faced with a foe he can’t take out normally in the kid, an unconventional use of his powers, being faced with a threat (drowning) that his healing factor won’t be able to overcome, and guest appearances/team-ups with other Marvel Universe characters.

To Cornell’s credit, even as he’s checking off these boxes the man is still including enough little details to keep things interesting.  Like Wolverine picking up some protein curd from a homeless guy to cleanse his palate, his irritability at how the security guard in the robo-suit immediately believes the controlled policeman when he sees him, and also “S.H.I.E.L.D. Team Namor.”  Also, the guest stars in this volume consist of Nick Fury Jr., who works well enough in this role, and the Watcher.  Yes, THE Watcher, whose presence is virtually mandated in every major Marvel event, but actually feels a bit refreshing here because this is about the last place and hero you’d expect to see him associating with.  The writer also sets up a support crew for Wolverine consisting of an oddsmaker who specializes in superhero battles, a doctor who catalogues superhero powers, the head of Damage Control, a comic book writer, and one of the last of the Frankenstein clan, now working as a regular doctor.  They’re clearly a vehicle for Cornell to explore the esoteric parts of this superhero universe that he so loves, and since his efforts there have always been great fun I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with them.

The main story features art from Alan Davis, and the man shows that he can draw a fast-paced superhero action story like no other.  For all of its familiarity, Cornell’s script is a fast-paced affair that has the character ploughing through the narrative at full speed and Davis obliges him here.  He’s always been great at conveying action on the printed page and there are a number of memorable scenes here from the opening shot, to the character getting plowed into by a police car, to his efforts in bringing a plane down by himself.  Davis only does the first four issues, though, as Mirco Pierfederici handles the last two as the action shifts to a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier.  While Davis got the shaft when he was paired up against David Aja and Javier Pulido in the first volume of “Hawkeye,” the same thing happens to Pierfederici here.  His work here feels conventional by comparison and it’s just not as exciting as the work that precedes it even if he does get to draw some more “exotic” things towards the end of the story.

“Hunting Season” is one of those collections that probably would’ve read a whole lot better if I hadn’t read so many other good Wolverine stories over the years.  The bar has been set high enough where work with the character that is simply “good” won’t really get me excited.  So if you’re a fan of Wolverine with more discriminating tastes, this is one that you can live without… though you may want to come back for the next volume.  That’s because the end of this volume sets up a change that dramatically affects the character’s status quo.  The nature of it is so extreme that it’s likely to only be a temporary measure, but it does offer the potential for Cornell to distinguish his run in a way that this collection didn’t quite manage.

Jason Glick

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