If nothing else, I think this has the best title of anything I’ve read this year. Think about it, “Wolverine Goes To Hell.” There’s a beautiful simplicity to it that tells you exactly what you’re going to get inside. Now I can understand that you might be concerned that this might be a bait-and-switch on Marvel’s part, but let me assure you -- Logan does wind down below with some bad, bad men, a few familiar faces, and lots of nasty demons. It might not be the Hell that readers of the Marvel Universe are familiar with, but this is ultimately another good contribution to writer Jason Aaron’s run of Wolverine stories.
How did the most popular and violent of X-men wind in Hell? Well, it turns out that some very determined and very angry people have been planning this for quite some time and it’s only the first step in their plan. As Wolverine’s soul is being tortured to the point of insanity in the pit, his body has been possessed by demons bent on wiping out those closest to him. Naturally, this eventually involves the X-Men on Utopia. With everyone else fighting for their lives, it’s left to an eclectic crew made up of Wolverine’s non-superpowered girlfriend Melita, Daimon “Son of Satan” Hellstorm, Ghost Riders Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, and... Mystique, serving her own agenda as always.
Aaron’s Wolverine stories are usually a joy to read because he understands the need to not only pit the character against a threat that’s larger than life, but to tie that threat back to the character himself. Seeing his shared history with Mystique unfold as he chases her through Afghanistan in “Get Mystique,” making up for a past mistake while taking on mystical martial arts masters in “Manifest Destiny,” and facing off against mercenaries empowered with his abilities in “The Adamantium Men.” It’s never about the character just fighting thugs or a superhero he’s never met before, there’s always a deeper and more personal meaning to the conflicts when Aaron is writing them. He also understands that the character does. not. give. up. Ever. Sure, sometimes it just means lasting longer than the other guy, but there’s always an element of cleverness involved in overcoming the antagonist when Aaron does it.
With “Wolverine Goes To Hell,” the writer takes the title concept and uses it to not just put the character into a situation that’s over-the-top by his standards, but to also give him a chance to interact with certain characters that we haven’t seen in quite some time. I doubt it would surprise anyone to learn that Sabretooth is down there, but his current circumstances aren’t what you’d expect. We also see some other familiar faces from the character’s past, and while I’m wondering what “that one member of Alpha Flight” did to wind up down there, his encounter with one of the characters from his “Origin” is handled extremely well.
The problem is that anyone who has been reading Marvel comics for some time knows that Hell is a very real place there. It also has its own “devil” in Mephisto who is strangely absent from this story. I realize that it’s kind of ludicrous to say that this disturbs my suspension of disbelief in a story like this, but there are still rules to be followed in this fictional universe and I just read a “Thor” story where Mephisto was still in charge down there. I can only assume that Aaron went with a generic “devil” for iconic purposes, as it would become “Wolverine vs. Mephisto” otherwise, but it still grates. You’ve also got the fact that the people who are going to get the most out of this story -- the hardcore fans who know all of the members of the character’s supporting cast featured here -- are likely the ones going to be most irked by it.
Then there’s the art for the main story, supplied by Renato Guedes. While the man is clearly a talented artist with a clean, detailed style and the know-how to tell a story, his art here lacks any of the atmosphere or ambiance required for a story set in Hell. Guedes’ Hell doesn’t really look all that threatening and it undercuts the dramatic effect of the story Aaron is telling. I know I’m laying most of the blame on the artist here, but part of me also wonders how much better the story would have looked if colorist Matthew Wilson had gone with a palette that didn’t make this environment seem so bright and well-lit. To put things in perspective, take a look at the Jae Lee covers for this collection. THAT’S the kind of atmosphere the art here should have had.
The collection also features the back-up stories from the issues collected here which serve to re-introduce certain members of Wolverine’s supporting cast, show how some wound up in Hell, and flesh out the Red Right Hand some more. It’s the latter group that’s of the most interest here as Aaron clearly has plans for them, though the next volume’s title “Wolverine vs. the X-Men” indicates a different focus. That’s not quite the same killer concept that this volume had, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless. Though this volume is entertaining and certainly better than Aaron’s last Wolverine story “Tomorrow Dies Today,” you’re ultimately left with the feeling that it could’ve been even better.