Having learned he is dying of a terminal illness, the titular character in “Daken: Dark Wolverine” #23 has decided to cause as much trouble and frustration for the superhero sect as he can before the end. The plan itself is amorphous and murky and the book itself, for better or worse, follows suit. Rob Williams has crafted a story and a character full of desperation as time slips away (both for Daken and the comic series itself) but it’s listless and unfocused. The result is the last moments of a character that we, as readers, are uncertain how to feel towards. While we want to pity anyone who has been handed a death sentence, the series makes it clear that Daken’s own actions brought this illness upon him. As we hope that he finds some semblance of peace in this last issue, his time is spent wreaking havoc and decimating innumerable buildings. Ultimately, we cannot empathize with Daken and the result is a final issue that ends not with a bang, but a whimper.
The team of artists who worked on “Daken: Dark Wolverine” #23 deserve praise, as they handle a maddening flurry of action and a large supporting cast adroitly. In the scenes where Daken is overdosing on Heat, his power-amping drug of choice, the art takes on a chaotic flair that gives the reader insight into what the drug is doing to Daken’s mind. These pages are lovely to take in as Rosenberg & Rossmo’s colors immediately overtake the book, changing the tone and tension in one grand gesture. The panels without the benefit of the drug storyline are clunky at times, as motion is lost in favor of artfully posed characters. However, this does manage to visually separate Daken from the cadre of superheroes surrounding him. I was left with the feeling that the team of artists did their best with what they were given, as Williams’ script gives the cataclysmic destruction of a major city block all of a single panel to resonate.
Having built to this conclusion over the past few issues, “Daken: Dark Wolverine” #23 still feels rushed. Even the narration given in Williams’ script feels unfinished and unpolished, meandering without a focus. To give Williams the benefit of the doubt, it seems the intention of the narration is to showcase a character without any of the generic trappings of “lessons-learned” or death-bed repentance. While an admirable goal, the issue lacks the gravitas necessary to stir the emotion of the reader.
The inability to invest in the story of “Daken: Dark Wolverine” #23 isn’t limited to the emotions of the main character; in true superhero fashion, we are assured that every life being risked by these last destructive, villainous acts are expedited to safety, off-panel. The result is a comic where buildings are destroyed with no real risk or consequence, as the city in the Marvel Universe will be fully rebuilt without a trace of these events by the time we put the comic down. Instead of an emotional outburst or dramatic tension, “Daken: Dark Wolverine” #23 has as much impact as watching a pouting toddler smash his tinker toys. The hope as I approached this issue was even if we could not identify with Daken, we would find the emotional impact of the scenario on his father — yet Logan remains stalwart throughout. Sadly, this is symbolic of the Daken character itself: the Marvel Universe will be unchanged in the wake of this title, leaving no trace of Daken to be found.