There Will Be Blood: Huston on “X-Force Special: Ain’t No Dog”

Wolverine used to be fond of telling his foes, “I’m the best there is at what I do,” and what he did wasn't pretty. In Marvel Comics' June one-shot "X-Force Special: Ain't No Dog," writer Charlie Huston and artist Jefte Palo live up to the spirit of that statement with a tale that shows Wolverine at his most grim, brutal, and frighteningly beautiful best.

For "Ain't No Dog," Huston took a classic approach to the character of Wolverine. "Like every other semi-maladjusted teenager he was my favorite X-Men character,” the writer told CBR News. “The [1982] Chris Claremont and Frank Miller 'Wolverine' miniseries blew me away, but when the X-titles started to proliferate, it was too much work and money and other things like girls were starting to grab my attention. So I don't really know what fills the character at this point. That's why the Wolverine I've written in ['Ain’t No Dog’] is really just the kind of the stripped down, bare bones bad ass. The bloodlust comes though and you get to see some of his wryness and his dark sense of humor."

"Ain't No Dog" sees Cyclops sending Wolverine on a very specific mission. "You get the ostensible mission details but the plot twist has to do with why he's there," Huston said. Wolverine's targets are members of the anti-mutant terrorist group The Purifiers. "This is a pretty straight forward story. It's Wolverine versus a huge bunch of guys without guns. When you’ve got Wolverine versus hundreds of guys with clubs, chains, swords and Molotov Cocktails, you know he’s going to get fucked up and you know he’s going to win.”

The seeds for "Ain't No Dog" were planted when Huston came up with some visual images he could eventually spin-off into a Wolverine story. Explained the writer, "I hadn't really thought about pursuing it seriously but then at some point when I was still working on 'Moon Knight,' [editor] Axel Alonso showed me some sample pages drawn by Jefte Palo. These were sample pages from an old 'Moon Knight' script that Axel had given him to try him out and I really loved them. They were in black and white and very reminiscent of this cross point between Frank Miller's 'Sin City' work and classic Bill Sienkiewicz, which is the kind of stuff I really dig.

"So I knew they wanted to try Jefte out on something but I didn’t know the mechanics of how this stuff works," Huston continued. "At some point I said to Axel I've got an idea for what will probably be a short Wolverine story. If I write it can we try Jefte out on it? He said, 'Sure. What's the pitch?' I said it's not even a pitch. It will take a day, if that, to script this thing. I'll give it to you and if you guys want to buy it you can.”

The story Huston came up with was a 12-14-page tale that could be inserted just about anywhere in Wolverine continuity. "Axel liked it. They just had to figure out when they were going to run it. He had to see when they might have room for a double issue," Huston said. "I told him, 'I just assumed you wouldn't want to try Jefte out on a full issue. If you want a full 22-page script I can expand it.’"

Huston's original story had no context for who the villains were or where they came from, so the writer pitched Alonso a variety of set ups for the story. "I thought it could be a 'Marvel Zombies' story or since two of my all time favorite X-Men issues are #141-142, I thought we could do it as a 'Days of Future's Past' story," Huston explained. "So we kicked some of those ideas around for awhile and at this point 'Messiah CompleX' was being planned. Axel told me now there was room for the Wolverine story because X-Force was going to be reconfigured as the black ops division of the X-Universe. He asked if I could script the story within that context and I said sure. I just tweaked it so that it's a very specific mission Wolverine is sent on but still kept it open so the story can be slotted anywhere without tying into anything else."

“Moon Knight” fans might remember Jefte Palo’s work on the recent “Moon Knight Annual” #1, written by Duane Swierczynski. “Jefte’s work is really flat and very stark. The way he uses contrast to define space and the characters really reminds me of the feel of Miller’s 'Sin City,’” Huston said. “And this is not a knock on the guy who colored the annual because I know there’s an editorial stance at Marvel in favor of three dimensional coloring effects. They like to give things a lot of depth with the color and that’s what they did with Jefte’s work on that issue. So it kind of masked what he does best. It was better than perfectly good art but if you see the black and white pages it’s really great art.

“So something that I really emphasized with Axel, and he’s completely on board with it, is if we couldn’t do this issue in black and white, the color approach needed to be really flattened out and the palette needed to be really washed out… so Jefte’s pencils and inks really get pushed to the front.”

With his work on “Moon Knight,” Huston proved he was quite adept at scripting four-color tales of violence and mayhem. And “Ain’t No Dog” features more than a healthy amount of visceral action, but the writer designed in such a way that plays to his artist’s strengths. “David Finch and Mico Suayan, the artists I worked with on 'Moon Knight’ were both hyper detailed, hyper realists and that’s not Jefte’s wheelhouse at all,” Huston said. “[Palo’s] the complete opposite side of the spectrum in terms of style. So the stuff I scripted was a little more broad. I gave him stuff like, 'Wolverine erupting from a volcano of dead bodies’ and let him go to town with the images.

“In terms of old school comic book storytelling it’s probably my strongest script because it really is all about the visuals telling the story and very little about the text,” Huston remarked. “Everything else I’ve done is very text heavy. This one the pictures get to tell the story and I’m very happy with that.”

“X-Force Special: Ain’t No Dog” is in stores June 11, and also features a Warpath back-up story by writer Jason Aaron and artist Werther Dell’edera.

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