“Wolverine Annual” #1 is the last installment of a trio of connected ClanDestine team-up stories by Alan Davis, the first two being “Fantastic Four” Annual #33 and “Daredevil” Annual #1.
All three of these Annuals are ClanDestine family stories in both tone and focus. “Wolverine Annual” #1 may please ClanDestine or Alan Davis fans, but it’s not a story about Logan. Another powerful solo Marvel character could easily have been switched in, and the structure of the story would have remained intact. “Wolverine” fans can safely skip it.
For ClanDestine fans, “Wolverine Annual” #1 continues to provide insight into the back story of the central family tragedy of flicide/prolicide — how exactly Vincent became evil and why Adam had to “kill” him. The dialogue between the characters falls along typical lines in a comforting fashion, with distinctive ClanDestine family dynamics. The twins are still excitable and innocent, Walter is irascible yet protective, Jasmine/Kay is manipulative and vampy, Samantha is arty and imaginative, Newton is geeky, Dominic/Hex is sensitive and rebellious. The problem is, except for their superpowers, each Destine remains well within the lines of very predictable archetypes. “Wolverine Annual” #1 is pure action and almost zero character development.
Alan Davis’ style hasn’t changed much, either, and while nostalgia feels nice, it’s definitely true that Davis’ art and even his dialogue and word choices are obviously dated, so much so that I feel like I’m back in the ’80s or early ’90s the entire time I’m reading “Wolverine Annual” #1. That said, retro pleasures are still pleasures, and Davis’ dynamic panel compositions, asymmetric panel shapes and off-kilter camera angles still create a sense of rapid movement. Mark Farmer preserves Davis’ style well with his clean inking style. Colorist Javier Rodriguez’s palette is weirdly garish in the fight scenes, but his colors for Dominic and Doctor Strange’s costumes are eye-catching and harmonious.
There is a lovely splash page mid-issue of Wolverine falling into a surreal bubble world that Vincent Destine has created within a museum. The camera angle and composition are excellent, down to the choice of two panel dividers to cut across the page. Despite being a bizarre space, every object within it inhabits the tilted topsy-turvy interior with well-placed depth and volume. Details like the patterns on the ceiling and a realistic-looking sea turtle and whale make the page exceptional.
It’s nice to see Clan Destine again, but in the end, “Wolverine Annual” #1 is totally forgettable. Wolverine gets used a shield and guinea pig (not exactly new roles for him), and Clan Destine gets put back on the shelf in roughly the same shape, if somewhat unsettled or upset by their battle. When Doctor Strange says, “None of us are who we were yesterday,” his words are sincere yet strike an ironic note, because this large cast of characters is static. While the stakes were seemingly high and the players were many, everyone walks away and no one truly evolves. For a long 38-page story and $4.99 cover price, “Wolverine Annual” #1 should have done more.