This issue of “Dark Wolverine” concludes the current arc, in which Osborn attempts to make Daken look like a hero by engineering situations where he can come out on top, ideally in a very public way. To that end, Daken spends this issue fighting Emmy Doolin, an obscure Wolverine character from the early 90s that only people who’ve read far too much Wolverine are likely to remember.
Between them, Way and Liu have done a reasonably good job of turning Daken into a well-rounded character, distinct from his father, and making him a workable protagonist. In a way, it seems that the aim is to recapture some of the ambiguity that Wolverine used to display in his early days, straddling the line between Hero and Villain very closely. Unfortunately, that works much better when the ambiguous character is part of an ensemble; as the lead in his own series, Daken’s actions are needlessly difficult to divine. Is he genuinely heroic, or just acting heroic in public? It might help if we saw Daken going through this conflict in his own mind, but he is rendered impenetrable whenever a key moment arrives, such as his rescue of the child here.
The art by Stephen Segovia and Paco Diaz Luque is appropriately dark and twisted, though the muted color palette makes it a bit of a muddy read, at times. Although the art is often quite expressive, there are times when the more subtle moments fail to come across. The muted reactions of (the real) Wolverine, watching events unfold on the TV, are completely impenetrable from the visuals alone, but that’s all we’re given. Perhaps it’s more of the ambiguity being deliberately authored in from the script, but too often “Dark Wolverine” holds back far too much from the reader to be a truly enjoyable read, and instead comes across as an exercise in brow-furrowing.
Indeed, it’s hard to say whether it’s a problem with the art or writing, but the one thing about the issue that can be truly said to fail is the ending. A lot of discussion already centers on whether it’s supposed to be ambiguous — whether Emmy killed herself or not — but if people can’t figure out if it’s intentionally ambiguous or not, then the storytelling hasn’t done its job somewhere. Beyond that, there’s nothing huge to complain about, but it’s a weak conclusion to a weak arc in a book that has a weak premise to begin with. I don’t know where this series is going or what it’s supposed to be doing, and as a reader, I can’t help but feel that Dark Wolverine needs some direction — fast.