Review: Wolverine Annual #1



Writer: Gregg Hurwitz

Artist: Marcel Frusin

Letters: Todd Klein

Company: Marvel

Confession up front: I simply love when any medium of pop culture decides to focus on a background character, even if for just a little while. Joss Whedon did this recently in Buffy Season Eight, and my favorite Shakespeare movie of all time is Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead. (And not just because it stars my favorite actor of all time, Tim Roth.) And there can be no more ubiquitous background character than the anonymous thug of comic book fame: what’s their story? And why are there so freaking many of them? (The Kingpin alone must have — what, seven or eight hundred of them? They can’t all come from Blackwater.)

Considering the fact that I’ve probably read somewhere in the realm of 10,000 comic books, it amazes me that I’ve never seen an issue devoted entirely to the viewpoint and life story of one of these hired muscle types. And using the flexibility and expanded length of an annual to do so was a small stroke of genius on the part of writer Gregg Hurwitz (who, in his other life, is a best-selling mystery/thriller novelist). So, welcome to the story of J. Patrick Smitty, thug-for-hire.

Having grown up Catholic, I especially enjoyed the inclusion of the sacrament of Confession as tying into the character’s motivations. They really do an excellent job of quickly establishing Smitty’s background quickly, without pulling out too many cliches (the alcoholic father/druggie mother bit felt a bit too easy, but seriously – you don’t get a lot of NYC criminals that grew up in Nassau County.)

Maybe I’m getting old, but I find myself using the word “disorienting” way too often in describing artwork. And this issue is unfortunately no exception: having some way of telling the characters apart would have been nice. But, the action is easily followable, and the use of shadows and camera angles is especially effective (which is pretty much a necessity with an action hero like Logan).

You won’t get a lot of Wolverine in this issue: but that’s one of the reasons I am definitely encouraging you to pick it up.

Rating: 7 out of 10