This double-sized milestone issue features the start of a new storyline which involves Wolverine once more returning to Japan. (Is this a tie-in to the upcoming, Japan-based ‘The Wolverine’ motion picture? Perhaps!) If you know anything about Wolverine, you know he has a long and storied past with the country, having once been engaged to Mariko Yashida and having an adopted daughter there, Amiko. Wolverine is returning after the death of Mariko’s cousin, Keniuchio Harada, The Silver Samurai and head of The Clan Yashida. A war is about to erupt between the two ruling criminal factions in the country, the ninjas of The Hand and the gangsters of The Yakuza.
Things kick off with a bang, when Logan realizes everyone on board his plane is a ninja assassin out to kill him. Their plan… uh, doesn’t work out so well for them. Once back on the ground, Logan visits the remains of The Clan Yashida’s compound, which has been completely destroyed. He stands before The Silver Samurai’s grave site and encounters his old pal/lover Yukio, once an assassin and thief on her own right, she is now wheelchair bound. “We buried him where he fell,” she explains. She reveals to Logan, The Clan Yashida’s treasure trove, which is an act truly meant to flesh out the Yakuza assassins that have been spying on them. These assassins fare no better than the ones on the plane. Even in her wheelchair, Yukio has lost none of her fighting ability and she and Logan make short work of their attackers.
Meanwhile, we learn that Amiko is now a teenager and she and her boyfriend Shin have become thieves. Shin uses various high tech gadgets to get them inside of a lab (owned by the Yakuza, incidentally), where he steals a gadget he needs to improve his armor, but the building is guarded by hard light hologram, four-armed ninjas and they grab Amiko.
Wolverine cuts a bloody swathe through the Japanese underworld, seeking the illegitimate son of The Silver Samurai, the only clear heir to the leadership of The Clan Yashida. The Yakuza attempt to bribe Sabretooth into leaving Japan, but one-half of the newest, deadliest power couple in the Marvel Universe manages to outsmart them.
Next we are introduced to Azuma Goda, director of the Tokyo branch of The Hand, who is disgusted with the state of their criminal organization. He actually addresses the cliche of The Hand in the Marvel Universe. “We can either have a dozen men in robes and masks jump through the window with swords and throwing stars or we can have two dozen men in robes and masks jump through the window with swords and throwing stars,” he laments, “We have become a joke. A sad cliche.” In a disturbing sequence, he activates a sleeper agent to gain access to a temple where the Yakuza leaders are meeting.
Wolverine is also on his way to the temple and manages to take out all obstacles in his way… until Sabretooth shows up and the two brawl just like in the good ol’ days. It’s an all out slug fest as Wolverine fights Sabretooth and The Hand fight The Yakuza. Goda reveals that he has Amiko, but that he isn’t using her as bait to lure Wolverine, but… someone else.
This issue is pretty much everything you could want out of a Wolverine comic book, Logan as the ultimate badass, the return of Sabretooth (which will be explained in an upcoming miniseries), ninjas, appearances by longtime guest stars like Yukio and Amiko, and just for good measure, a brief cameo by Kitty Pryde and another long-time X-villain. Jason Aaron has been distinguishing himself as one of Marvel’s top writers in recent years and he certainly doesn’t fail to impress here. I liked that he acknowledged the cliched depiction of The Hand and ninjas in general and is taking them in a new direction. The entire issue is excellently staged, paced, dialogued. It delivers! It’s a great set up to a new storyline!
I understand, however, that Wolverine is one of the most divisive characters in comics. He’s definitely a love-him or hate-him kind of guy. And I get both sides of the argument. He is the ultimate badass, so I can see how he can be appealing because of that. But I can see the point of view that he’s too badass. He is super intelligent, tough, unstoppable. He can’t be surprised. No one gets the drop on him. He’s too efficient. All valid points. If you’re a Wolverine hater, you’ll probably hate this issue for the exact same reasons that a fan would love it. Logan just breezes through slaughtering ninjas and gangsters with abandon, without breaking a sweat or even losing a beat in a conversation. So… I mean if you like Wolverine, this issue is a “Buy.” If not, it’s a “Burn.”
Since this is a landmark, extra long issue, the art is handled by numerous artists. Overall, despite some vast difference in style, it still works. Adam Kubert and Ron Garney’s are the most typical of the art on this title, a little gritty and rough. Steve Sanders’ style was much cleaner, however one of his sequences was the one involving Amiko and Shin’s break in, which was the one “high tech” part of the story, so a smoother style actually works. He also illustrated Chapter Six, Goda’s introduction and since Goda is such a “slick” character, this style also worked there.
This issue also included a preview of what’s coming up in this storyline, a preview of the ‘Wolverine: Sabretooth Reborn’ miniseries, a gallery of every cover in this book’s history and some sketches and notes. These extras, plus a double-length story make for a pretty sweet value for $4.99! As I said, whether you like Wolverine or not will completely color your perception of this story, but I was impressed so…
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Adam Kubert & Paul Mounts, Ron Garney & Jason Keith and Steve Sanders & Sotocolors
Cover by Adam Kubert