Review: Wolverine #5.1 – Does a Series Not Even Six Issues In Need a Catch-Up?

Wolverine #5.1
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jefte Palo and Nathan Fairbairn

“Was this even necessary?”

I wrestled with that question every time I turned the page. Here we go with another “.1” issue, Marvel’s attempt at giving new readers an easy jumping on point. This time Marvel hopes to recap Wolverine and entice you into his next year of adventures. Last week’s Iron Man #500.1 was a good little piece of storytelling, and I’m honestly disappointed to say Wolverine falls short of that benchmark.

As far as recaps go, everything is given up on the first page.That’s not a bad thing, in fact, for a character as seasoned as Wolverine, it’s commendable. Secret government experiment, X-Man, Avenger, Daken, X-23. That about catches anyone up. What’s puzzling is why a series five issues in needs a catch-up issue, this may as well just be issue #6.

The story flips between Logan on the hunt for a missing trucker and Logan’s friends throwing him a birthday party. I liked that touch. Wolverine and bad things happening on his birthday is classic Wolverine.

“Um, so who invited Deadpool?”

The birthday party has some warm moments. Logan’s girlfriend Melita has invited everyone her man knows, and so there’s cameos of the various Avengers, Jubilee, and even Beast and Ice Man. For the most part these appearances are just set up for glib jokes, like Deadpool performing karaoke, Colossus commenting on cheese dip, Beast dissing X-Men’s current status quo, and a group of Logan’s many female friends assessing the new lady in his life. Some of it’s forced, but it’s nice to see the gang relaxing. The best part is Melita giving a speech to the party goers, reminding them and us that while Logan “likes to play the part of the cold-hearted loner”, clearly he has many friends and family looking out for him.

“Heh, look at that. Tooth bullets.”

Meanwhile, Logan is on the hunt for a missing trucker, who was taken by cannibals. Yes, the Canadian hills have eyes. We’re introduced to the Buzzard Brothers, two backwoods yokels with a knack for eating people and turning their bones into weapons. Like pistols. Bone pistols. That fire teeth. Writer Jason Aaron works in a fantastic moment, however, so it’s not as bad as it sounds. There is a distinctly Wolverine moment that becomes the soul of what this new title is about.

The end of the story supports that moment with another revelation, this one more boldly underlining the “new beginning” angle of the title. There’s a little epilogue tying this into the main series, revealing the Hand recruiting the Buzzard Brothers.

So Jason Aaron’s script starts off oddly, and doesn’t work as a jumping on point (and why does a series 5 issues in need a jumping on point? Perhaps that was Aaron’s point…), but then the end brings it all home. The Hand and bone whittling cannibals, if that doesn’t pique your interest, you probably don’t care about Wolverine anyway. It’s a solid story, with some Wolverine love, and I’m not prepared to pin the failings of the issue on Mr. Aaron.

Because Jefte Palo’s art does not work for the story. The art is not bad (I heard it described as ugly), and I’m prepared to defend that. There’s excellent panel layout, detail, and character design. Things look horrific and claustrophobic in the cannibal cabin.

It just doesn’t work for the other half of story. Especially with the stark, bright, spandex filled scenes of the birthday party, which seem to demand a more practiced Super-Hero look from the script. Actually, I’ll take it back – the art works for the cannibal and woods scenes. It’s mainly the party that just looks off. Alright, and Spider-Man looks bad. As does Spider-Woman. And Jessica Jones. But they don’t appear more than once, and again, I feel it’s more a style thing. It feels like someone asked 90’s Chris Bachalo to draw a Marvel Age Power Pack story.

Side note: “The cover looks awesome!” you might tell me. Yes. Yes it does. But that’s Paolo Rivera’s signature, not Palo. Get me?

Nathan Fairbairn’s colors are pretty sick, though. Like Palo, excellent work on the cannibal and hunt action scenes. His methods work well with Palo’s sketchy, loose style. I’ll be honest, I was just about to say “except for the party, which feels phoned in”, but I just re-evaluated those scenes, and now that I have a better feel for Palo, I think the colors wouldn’t work any other way.

Corey Petit brings the lettering, and that excites me. I’m a lettering fanboy, and Petit is one of my favorites. Perfect layouts, perfect flow, excellent sound effect fonts (Love the Aaaaargh!s).

So in the end, as a newcomer to this title myself, I don’t think it’s going to take my attentions away from X-23, but I am intrigued. And Marvel wants us to be intrigued. I’d have to say it succeeded. I went in prepared for the worst and came out with something I wouldn’t mind giving a trial on my pull list.

But it still feels like it should have just been the next issue, without the “.1”. I hope the next ones are a little more like Iron Man, because this one wasn’t quite as new reader friendly. And if you’re already following Wolverine, well, pick this up just so you can see where some key ideas for the run began.

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