Acting as both the finale the second act of “Empire,” the opening story arc of “Daken: Dark Wolverine,” and as a prologue to “Collision,” the crossover with “X-23” that officially begins with that title’s seventh issue, “Daken” #7 is something of a mishmash issue. It tries to serve two masters by providing a satisfying conclusion to the story that’s been the title’s focus since its relaunch, and also providing an introduction to the upcoming crossover story. The emphasis is more on the former than the latter, but that doesn’t stop it from seeming mechanical and without any drive beyond the one to simply end things and move on.
Here, Daken sets himself up as the new power in Madripoor, replacing Tiger Tyger but keeping her on as the public figurehead while he controls things from behind the scenes. That actually mostly happened last issue. This issue is more about making that arrangement official and establishing the new status quo by forcing heads of crime families to fight one another to the death. Somehow, that’s accomplished in a manner that is decidedly less exciting than it sounds like it would be.
Instead of Daken’s decisions playing out in cool, badass scenes, what happens on the page comes off as cheesy and obtuse. Daken is already in the background of his own comic despite driving the action forward, his motivations a mystery much of the time. It doesn’t help that the crime families devolve into cliched melodrama during their fight to the death. Instead of simply playing with that idea and sticking with it, Daniel Way and Marjorie Liu throw in pointless soap opera-level melodrama that transforms the scene from a grotesque demonstration of Daken’s newfound power and control into bad comedy.
Agustin Padilla works in a similar style to the title’s regular artist, Giuseppe Camuncoli, with bold, block lines and a liberal use of hard, solid shadows. His art is much stiffer and more stilted, though, and lacks that distinctive stylistic madness that Camuncoli’s art has. Camuncoli’s characters stand out for their barely restrained expressions, a look that suits a comic like this with a lead that jumps back and forth between psychotic and apathetic. Matters aren’t helped by Frank D’Armata’s overwrought coloring style that looks to add texture and definition to an art style that resists that approach.
Concerned more with plot mechanics than character, “Daken: Dark Wolverine” #7 downplays the title’s strength: Daken’s character. Ever since “Wolverine” became “Dark Wolverine,” Daken’s mercurial personality has been the appeal of the title and pushing him to a background player in his own title takes away the best part of it. All that remains is empty posturing and bad melodrama.