- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mr. Zad’s Wolverine comic critique

Wolverine: Inside the World of the Living Weapon (Coffee-table hardcover, DK Publishing, $24.99) - Marvel’s most dangerous Homo Superior gets a 200-page profile with a blood-red cover. Color illustrations culled from his avalanche of comic-book appearances adorn every page of this oversized (9.25 inches by 6.25 inches) resource, which also is full of information covering his 19th-century origins to his most current problems with the Skrull’s Secret Invasion.

What’s the story? Since his first guest appearance in Incredible Hulk No. 181, an illustrious stable of Marvel Comics creators has spent 35 years chronicling the adventures and exposing the secrets of James Howlett, aka Logan, aka Wolverine. This book covers his history, with more than 90 topics about the man, from his partners, friends, lovers and enemies to a primer on adamantium and Wolverine’s ultimate demise. It also includes a timeline and index.

Writing strength: Author Matthew Manning is no stranger to investigating the background of superheroes with work on DK’s “Hulk: The Incredible Guide” and “Marvel Heroes: Greatest Battles.”

I appreciated that Mr. Manning broke out some key comic-book issues, listing the creators, offering a fantastic plot synopsis and looking at the industry and publisher during the release of the issue. The addition of trivia lists - such as five of Wolverine’s most unbelievable battles, 10 things Wolverine has survived and Wolverine’s wit and wisdom - make for some fascinating reading for the average fan.

Artists’ style: Legendary artists including John Byrne, Barry Windsor Smith, Frank Miller, Dave Cockrum, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane and Andy Kubert all contributed to the stunning illustrations in this book, but they often go uncredited. An index of the illustrators is nowhere to be found. It seems silly not to let readers know about the men who brought and continue to bring this pop-culture star to life.

Pop-art moments: I loved the two-page spread offering 160 comic-book covers featuring, of course, Wolverine. Other stunning moments include a Kaare Andrews illustration of Wolverine at the Sobibor concentration camp and David Finch’s gorgeous work on the Messiah Complex with a battle viewed sideways.

Read it or leave it? With Friday’s theatrical release of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” bound to pique interest in the harried hero, this book is a must-have.

To the point

A quick review of comic books for the Wolverine fan:

Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Nos. 66 to 71 ($2.99 each, Marvel Publishing) - This detour from the monthly series offers an eight-issue (through No. 73) story penned by writer Mark Millar that takes readers 50 years into Wolverine’s unfortunate future.

A tragedy revolving around the world being run by villains turned the ferocious mutant into Old Man Logan, a pacifist living in Southern California with a wife and child. The former hero needs cash to pay off the Hulk gang and decides to help a still-blind and very grizzled Hawkeye deliver a package to the other side of the country - driving the Spider Mobile no less. Add a Venom-infused Tyrannosaurus rex, the new Spider-Girl and Wolverine’s fascination with train tracks and the tale will mesmerize older readers.

I can’t gush enough about Steve McNiven’s beautifully bloody brutal art style - it’s sandpaper on the eyes, but unforgettable.

Weapon X: First Class, Nos. 1 through 3 ($2.99 each, Marvel Publishing) - Prepping younger readers for some of the action in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” writer Marc Sumerak retells Logan’s involvement with the Weapon X project by unearthing his memories with an assist from Professor X. The too-simple recap gets no help from Mark Robinson’s unattractive art style.

All is not lost, however, as a 10-page backup story in each issue does justice to Sabretooth, Deadpool and Gambit. Each tale, written by Mr. Sumerak, features some great artwork from Tim Steeley and ventures into unchartered waters for each character’s early years.

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