When we last saw him, Wolverine had beaten the Devil and crawled up out of Hell back into his own body. It should’ve been a triumphant victory for everyone’s favorite Canadian berserker mutant, but it turns out that the demons that were inhabiting his body while his soul was in Hell are still there. Cyclops, Emma Frost, Magneto and Namor are also on hand to put him down, if necessary. Hoping to play the host of last resorts are his girlfriend Melita, Daimon Hellstorm, Ghost Riders Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, and Mystique (no, really...). Will their combined might be able to put down the hell-spawned fiends which inhabit their friend/comrade/lover’s body? Nope. It’s going to take much more than that, and even then some people are going to have to come back from beyond the grave to lend a hand.
That Jason Aaron can write a good “Wolverine” story isn’t in doubt, but as “Wolverine Goes to Hell” showed even he can be hamstrung by the details. Some of them were of his own doing, such as not explaining why we never saw Mephisto in Hell when everyone knows that he runs the Marvel Universe’s version of it. The big one, though, was in the competent but utterly atmosphere and style-free work of Renato Guedes. His version of Hell looked really pedestrian and non-threatening, no matter how the colorist tried to mix things up with non-standard palette choices. Here, Aaron is working with Daniel Acuna, and the results are much better.
Acuna has a style that I love to describe as “lush” and “retro,” in the sense that it looks like it came from a 60’s Playboy magazine (minus the nudity), and it’s certainly not a conventional choice for superhero art. However, I think that’s why I’ve liked it so much when I’ve seen it used in “Uncanny X-Men: Loveless,” “Siege: New Avengers,” and recently in “X-Men: Schism. Here, his work does seem a bit rushed at times with characters and backgrounds lacking in key details at certain points, but he still manages to capture the intensity of the fights to either stop Wolverine permanently in the real world, and in the battleground of his soul. Acuna also gets major points in my book just for setting the real world scenes in broad daylight, which makes all of the demon’s actions seem that much creepier.
There’s also a remarkable versatility in his ability to draw pretty much everything that Aaron asks of him. Details that could’ve been hopelessly melodramatic, such as his “graveyard of regrets” and the “wall” he’s built around his heart have a believable grandeur to them. Then you have the various “incarnations” of Wolverine that are unleashed to take on the demons (How many will YOU recognize?) and all the clever bits of comic relief sprinkled throughout the arc. Some are inventive “Easter Eggs,” others are just plain funny (“That’s definitely not what the Danger Room was meant for.”).
In short, this arc is firing on all cylinders and a welcome return to form for Aaron’s run on the character. The other issues collected here set up the next arc “Wolverine’s Revenge” as he tracks down the Red Right Hand for sending his soul to Hell. First on his list is Mystique, but it turns out that the Red Right Hand also wants her dead so that she won’t be tempted to talk about their plans. Enter master assassin Lord Deathstrike and the end result is a crazy blast of action through the rooftops and streets of San Francisco. Then artist Jefte Palo teams up with Aaron for a story of Wolverine tracking some cannibal hillbillies through the Canadian wilderness while a “Who’s Who” of the Marvel Universe shows up at the party Melita has planned for his birthday. It’s a fun continuity-light tale that hits all of the right notes even if the tune is a familiar one. Palo’s art is an acquired taste and works well when the setting is in the unfamiliar outdoors, but not quite as well when dealing with the familiar characters at the party.
No it’s not good enough to make me rush out and buy the next volume in hardcover, but it reinvigorates Aaron’s run and makes me look forward to Wolverine’s upcoming clash with the Red Right Hand.