Wolverine #71

Story by
Art by
Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines
Colors by
Paul Mounts, Morry Hollowell
Letters by
Cory Petit
Cover by
Marvel Comics

Make no mistake, this "Old Man Logan" arc isn't Wolverine's "Dark Knight Returns" -- it's more like future Wolverine's version of Loeb and McGuinness's Red Hulk comics, tinged with an abiding sadness. But it's still explosive fun, and its imagery is the essence of its quality.

At a time when too many mainstream superhero comics are trapped in mundane melodrama and the rote unraveling of perfunctory plot details, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's "Wolverine" gives us double page spreads of giant-size superhero skeletons, spread out across the landscape, and a Venom-imbued T-Rex chasing after the Spidey Mobile.

I've read, what, tens of thousands of comic book stories in my life, I have never seen either of those images before. That alone makes this comic worth reading. It's not exactly fresh -- it's grumpy old Wolverine in a post-apocalyptic future without any use for heroes -- but what makes this comic rise above its "Road Warrior"-wannabe precursors is that both Millar and McNiven understand that imagery is everything in a comic like this. When Hank Pym's fallen carcass, in a half tattered Giant-Man costume, lies across the road for miles, and the camera pulls back to see the scope of this tragedy, well, it says more about the forgotten legacy of the Marvel heroes than any caption or dialogue ever could.

Superhero comics thrive on vividly-drawn images, and "Wolverine" #71 has them right where they're needed. And that's the thing: Millar has become a master of pacing this sort of comic book series, with the terse dialogue scenes punctuated by just the right visuals. And of course it helps that McNiven is one of the best superhero artists around, providing, with Dexter Vines's superior inks, a textured look that's both clear and sordid. Things are bad for Logan and blind-as-a-bat Clint Barton, and McNiven shows it, but it's not just the giant symbiote-laden Tyrannosaurus Rex that's an interesting artistic choice, it's also the smaller details, like the solemn and haggard face of Black Bolt, or the fully-garbed Emma Frost (who looks almost chaste in her high-necked ensemble).

Sure, some of the details in "Old Man Logan" may not make perfect sense (like Hawkeye's seemingly superhuman ability to see while blind, and the inconsistency between where Pym fell according to the map and where he fell according to the story itself), but like the new "Hulk" series, this is a comic about something more grand than petty logic. This is about a cross-country race to deliver 99 vials of super-soldier formula to the underground network of heroes, no matter what the cost.

And as we find out at the end of "Wolverine" #71, the cost is more than Clint Barton was probably willing to pay.

Revel in this comic's imagery, embrace its absurdities, and enjoy.

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