Don’t let the “Manifest Destiny” tag throw you off. This isn’t part of some crossover event, and it has little or nothing to do with whatever else is going on in anything else labeled “Manifest” or “Destiny” this season (except maybe the idea that the characters have moved to San Francisco, and they are on various solo adventures). This thing should more accurately be called “Wolverine: Fists of Pointy Fury,” or “Wolverine: Kung-Fu Boogaloo.” Because what it is — and after three issues, it hasn’t changed its mind yet — is a Wolverine martial arts movie in panel-by-panel form, with echoes of 70s cinema and the comics of the Bronze Age.
And it’s written by Jason Aaron, who is the perfect guy to bring those kinds of influences to the page.
This comic is absolutely drenched in chopsocky allusions, from the “Dim Mak Fighting Academy” to the “Masters of the Flying Guillotine” to the sensei who chides far more than he teaches. Since Wolverine’s early days at the hands of Chris Claremont, he’s been a character who has fit well in exotic Asian worlds, but Aaron exchanges the romance of Feudal Japan for the gritty, seafood-and-ginger scented streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The plot is a conventional one, with Logan trying to right a wrong from years ago, and the mass of offended martial artists rising against him. What makes it work, what makes it so good, is Jason Aaron’s attention to detail. He is a master of the small moments, the tiny plot twists and the bits of dialogue that turn a merely good comic book into an excellent one. Take this exchange between Wolverine and the sensei for example:
“Some might even say I’m the best there is at what I do,” says Logan.
“And what might that be exactly,” replies the sensei. “Getting punched in the face? Having your skin burned off? Bleeding all over creation? You do seem very good at all of those.”
And, later in the issue, a fellow member of the X-Men pops up, to amusing (and, plot-wise, essential) effect.
The art is slightly distracting as Lenil Yu-clone Stephen Segovia is replaced by the more Tom Raney-esque Paco Diaz Luque. Segovia’s style suits this tale much better than Luque’s, and the shift in storytelling approaches is a bit annoying, but it doesn’t take away from Aaron’s razor-sharp dialogue or the escalation of violence as the miniseries builds toward its climax.
As a homage to comics and movies of the 1970s, “Wolverine: Manifest Destiny” is a lot of fun. As an X-Men spin-off miniseries, it’s excellent. And as another taste of Jason Aaron’s take on Wolverine, it’s not to be missed.