Wolverine: Origin by Paul Jenkins
(2006-04-05) There are a few great mysteries that exist within the comic book industry. One of the most compelling revolves around the origins of the X-Men’s Logan/Wolverine; particularly where he came from and how old he is. Paul Jenkins takes on this task in Wolverine: Origin, attempting to peg Logan to one single beginning that will answer the age-old questions. Except solving a mystery is never as easy as it appears, especially when that mystery is a huge part of a character’s appeal.
Logan’s appeal has always been his don’t-give-a-shit attitude, like many of the iconic rebellious characters of the screen and page, Logan simply doesn’t play by other people’s rules. This is an enigmatic attribute that the mystery around his origins heightens, so to give a definitive solution to such a valuable asset seems like a foolish move on the part of anyone attempting it. So it proves with Wolverine: Origin. There is nothing overtly wrong with the comic, it has some great artwork that uses rustic colours to create a strong sense of the rural world Logan supposedly grew up in and the story is an interesting blend of class and familial struggle more recognisable to Bronte readers than comic book fans, but it just doesn’t ring true. Perhaps, given the weight of work already surrounding Logan, the expectation is too high on finally offering a solution, but whatever the reason Wolverine: Origin is a very low key, uneventful title that seems to meander along without ever feeling like it believes this is how Logan came to be. Fans’ perception of characters is all important and there has always been a perception that we don’t really want to know where other people think Logan came from, as fun an exercise as it can be suggesting ideas, once it hits print it loses something. What Wolverine: Origin loses is originality. Now that seems like a pretty obvious statement to make, when several aspects of his life have been exposed over the course of decades of X-Men and Wolverine comics. However, with a tagline of ‘Welcome to the greatest story never told’ it is fair to expect some bang for your buck, a few shocks and surprises along the way, and ultimately something you can nod your head to while reading, which says ’Yeah this is Logan’. For all its effort, Wolverine: Origin never achieves that.
Instead, for the first two comics, we are lead down an obvious false trail about who Logan was, or should I say who is Logan, before the familiar tough up bringing scenario kicks in. The storyline really seems to lack a source of imagination, the first two comics are overly done exposition that sets the scene for the one ‘surprise’ in the title that is unfortunately rather obvious, and the narrative seems happy to meander along without really getting anywhere. Amazingly there are no standout moments in Wolverine: Origin, even when unsheathing his claws for the first time, and indeed some of the later set-pieces seem to have been ripped right out of the first X-Men movie, whether this is an attempt by Marvel to streamline and unify the character of Logan I don’t know but it is disappointing. There is a predictable nature to the plot that lends to the subdued atmosphere, as a reader I was constantly waiting for the story to kick off but it never happened. More disappointing is the time frame that Wolverine: Origin works within. Given the long and dramatic history that the years have laid out for Logan fans, it is fair to expect some overall perspective on the events leading up to Logan meeting James Hudson, founder of Alpha Flight, however this story never goes beyond his, dull, formative years. The scope is severely limited, both by the pace of the story and the willingness of the creators to push any boundaries on the project. This is evident when you see that the plot was created by a committee; Jenkins, Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada, and that two of the three are Marvel bigwigs (Jemas is Marvel President and Quesada is Editor-in-Chief). Never a good sign and clear evidence that to me this is a ‘company’ title, meaning they know it will sell truck-loads and want to leave room for future follow-ups. Hopefully they won’t bother.
In conclusion Wolverine: Origin is a disappointing piece. Its relation to one of the most recognisable characters in the Marvel universe is tentative at best, showing little sign of the Logan personality to come and although beautifully drawn and coloured (through digital painting technology) lacks any form of spark in the storyline to do the visuals and the subject justice. If it was an ‘un-super’ origin Marvel were going for, they sadly succeeded, a greatly missed opportunity.
Owen Jones © 2006