Origin II #1 (Comics Review)

A few years ago Marvel put out a 4-issue limited series called Origin which detailed the earliest years of Wolverine’s life. Casting him as the son of a landowner somewhere in Canada, the young James Howlett suffered through many trials and tribulations that ultimately led to him forsaking society all together. Several plot threads of that comic were reused for the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, and the adaptation took away from a lot of the mystique that that comic had created, the deep sense of character and history.

And now we have Origin II, the sequel to that series that tells of the time between Origin and later, when the character joined the army and fought in the first World War. This Wolverine we see is completely different from any I’ve seen before and I have to say that I’m really intrigued. Usually Kieron Gillen’s writing doesn’t work for me, but this has proven to be a different case. And the art is quite good, despite the dominant white palette. Still, really good.

Origin II 01I’m quite fond of Origin. It wasn’t a superhero book by any means and as a character study it is a wonderful piece with some great art and great storytelling. Perhaps that’s some of my nostalgia and naivete of the time speaking here, but I’ll take that. Some stories stay with you for a long, long time and Origin definitely fulfills that. In that context, Origin II is something very different, whether we talk in terms of the art or the script. In both, there is a huge a tonal shift and its nice that both Gillen and Kubert, with Martin along for the ride, are carving out their own space in this meta-story. There is no slavish adherence to what’s come before, but there is most certainly a bold new look here.

Perhaps the premise of this issue can be summed up in one single sentence: Wolverine is actually Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, but this isn’t the same Mowgli as that classic story, but one with bone-claws on his hands in a story that is quite dark and grim. In this issue, Wolverine is Wolfish Man, a man who has lived with a wolf pack for so long that he is now a part of the pack and he is indeed more animal than man. Gillen gives some of the wolves a distinct personality and he helps them stand out, such as Red Streak and Gray Scar. Despite their short cameos, the wolf characters are as memorable as the characters from Kipling’s novel, but this is not a story for kids. There is animalistic violence and revenge here, with a lot of blood involved as well.

The first half of the story takes its time to build up and move in to the second half which is much more action-packed. What really works here is that Gillen’s scripting is very minimal here. Most of the work is handled by the artists since Gillen has opted for an issue where the narration is very thin in the panels and we get to see the story more than we are told the story.

Like I said, usually Gillen’s work doesn’t interest me all that much. I like his Young Avengers but its quite borderline for me. With this issue he has done something very different and I applaud him for it. Panel to panel, in the second half, the story picks up the pace and it has some great emotional beats, especially the silent panels in which the artists get to really shine.

Adam Kubert as the penciller and Frank Martin as the colourist are on top of their game here. The entire issue takes place in the snowy Canadian wilderness, far from any human habitation, and the artists capture the scenes very well. You really do get the feeling that the only characters here are Wolverine and his pack, plus the two antagonists of the story, not to mention the prey that the pack feeds on from time to time. There’s a distinct sense of loneliness in the story, which works hand-in-glove with the story of how James Howlett/Logan loses yet another family to forces outside his control and how he is changed by those experiences.

Plus, Wolverine’s fight against the White Bear is a thing of beauty. Wonderfully detailed, wonderfully drawn, wonderful everything.

For my money’s worth, Origin II is a great start. Its not the best it could have been, and some things felt underdeveloped, such as the Lone Wolf, but overall, this was a solid read.

Rating: 8.5/10

Posted on December 28, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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