Over the last few months, we’ve seen the heroes (and villains) of the Marvel Universe on the Hunt for Wolverine, ever since it was revealed that his dead body had up and disappeared from not only the super secret hiding place that the X-Men stored it but the unbreakable Adamantium tomb it was encased in. Now those stories have been told (across four separate four-issue miniseries, all under the Hunt For Wolverine banner), it’s time to piece together all the clues in this, the closing one-shot Hunt For Wolverine: Dead Ends.
Despite the seemingly pessimistic title that would imply a fruitless search, there’s actually a lot to be revealed here. As a standalone issue, Dead Ends falters, but this was always meant to be read as the final act of a larger mystery, and as such, the detective gathers the suspects together in one room to go over the case, before blowing it wide open. Okay so that analogy doesn’t exactly work, because the detective, in this case, is Kitty Pryde, and the “suspects” are actually Tony Stark and Matt Murdock, two allies that have been off in their own corners of the world trying to find old Lucky Jim Howlett, but the central concept is here.
Kitty brings Iron Man and Daredevil to the Mansion, and together they review the evidence found in the various Hunt For Wolverine miniseries. If you read all of those series and wondered what tied all of these adventures together, then writer Charles Soule is here to lay it all out for you. While the resolution to the mystery doesn’t entirely result in the finding of Wolverine (as you’d think it would), the clues gathered by the four teams help uncover something far greater: a mysterious organization that may be behind not only Wolverine’s disappearance but a whole lot more.
We get about halfway through the issue before any real action hits, but that’s only because Dead Ends has got a lot of ground to cover. Soule manages to skirt the line between investigative discovery and unnecessary exposition well, going over the salient parts of the Hunt For Wolverine saga without making you feel as though you wasted money on those previous books when you could have just picked this issue up instead. Rather, Dead Ends adds a sense of weight to those stories, a relevance that might not necessarily have been felt when reading those books at the time.
Don’t go into Dead Ends expecting a major “it’s all connected” revelation, though. Yes, it’s all tied together -- but only because it was one organization carrying it all out. Sure, that reveal ties everything up in a neat bow, but not in a way that gives us the whole puzzle picture. Rather than the Hunt For Wolverine being a grand mystery with many moving parts working in tandem to bring you closer to a rewardingly complex solution, it’s just four separate slices of the same pie, sort of like lifting the hood of a car and finding not one intricately functioning engine but four dogs running in the same direction. You still get where you’re going, but the vehicle isn’t as smart as you thought it might be.
There are some cool moments in Dead Ends, not least of which is seeing the X-Men, Daredevil and Iron Man work so well together to prevent the destruction of the X-Mansion. They all have a part to play and do it excellently, proving that Soule can write the hell out of a team-up book when the need arises. Then, as we enter the endgame, Dead Ends comes into its own and reveals just enough about the shadowy organization behind it all to make the whole Hunt For Wolverine saga feel worth the journey. There's menace, malice and a looming threat to this villain that’s really well established by Soule, thanks to the somewhat showy way that they reveal themselves.
Ramon Rosanas does a solid job on the art. The first half of the book is a lot of talking heads, but Rosanas manages to keep the flow interesting and engaging in a way that must be tricky for extended scenes like this. Equally, in the more action-packed back half, the dynamism is strong and the pacing ratchets up the action in a way that really emphasizes Rosanas’ choreography well. There’s a pretty great callback to Kitty’s fate at the end of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men run that’s given the artistic gravitas it deserves, before the book settles in for a tense final scene that’s handled in simple shots, Rosanas choosing to pull back and let the script do the talking.
Hunt For Wolverine: Dead Ends #1 has the tricky job of providing closure for the middle act of a trilogy (with Death of Wolverine coming before, and Return of Wolverine coming after) while also establishing the stakes moving into the finale. In broad strokes, it succeeds admirably, and while you probably don’t need to have read any previous chapters of the Hunt For Wolverine saga, if you did, this provides a relatively satisfying capstone to those miniseries. Despite not being as deep or even particularly smart a mystery as one may have liked, Dead Ends gives reasons for everything that’s come before, and more importantly establishes a genuine threat for the X-Men moving forward.