When Wolverine first moved to San Francisco with the rest of the X-Men, the “Manifest Destiny” mini-series placed him at the head of a Chinatown crime syndicate in the city. Although ostensibly a springboard for future stories, life inevitably got in the way, and now a few years later Aaron is using the first post-Regenesis story arc to tie that storyline up as Wolverine comes back to Westchester.
Told in a non-linear fashion, the start of the issue gives away the ending before you even start reading the climactic fight. Of course, finding out how Wolverine arrives back on Graymalkin Lane with a dragon (and some friends) in tow is all part of the fun.
Fun being the operative word, of course, as Aaron is clearly indulging his crazier leanings, to hugely entertaining effect. Where else would you find an intelligent gorilla, a sarcastic ninja, and a mutant with claws on his fists fighting dragons while the leader of a crime syndicate spends much of the issue enjoying a massage? Okay, maybe in “Savage Dragon,” but even so, it’s a tone that really works for a lead character like Wolverine, whose continually escalating levels of toughness and machismo have left him completely unlike any real individual. Much fun can be had from throwing him into situations no-one else would live through.
Fans of more sedate moments also have something to enjoy here, particularly Aaron’s nods to the wider Marvel universe. The problem of how to transplant Melita Garner from San Francisco to New York without making the character seem like she’s pining for Wolverine is resolved simply and brilliantly, setting up a raft of potential story openings. The use of Gorilla Man and Fat Cobra also gives the cast some ties to help us care about their appearances — they’re not just generic Wolverine allies.
Garney’s art is perfect for this type of story, marrying the fantastical and the mundane, displaying brilliantly effective pace during the action scenes, and the ability to execute some perfect comedic timing when required.
In a wider context, this storyline injects some much-needed levity into Aaron’s run. Although consistently excellent, there’s been a tendency towards some rather serious material — Wolverine in hell, Wolverine possessed by a demon, Wolverine killing his offspring — so it’s nice to conclude an arc that has the ability to smile in the face of apparent horrors, rather than take them seriously. All things considered, a nice end to the “San Francisco” years, and if the pay-off isn’t particularly strong thematically, well, at least it works geographically.