Review by Frank Plowright
With The Rookie, Wolverine First Class started shakily, but To Russia, With Love is more enjoyable, although that title combined with the obvious Canadian cover imagery is an odd choice. It’s a continuity implant set in Wolverine’s early days with the X-Men, shortly after Kitty Pryde arrived as the youngest trainee at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and this time Fred Van Lente attains the right balance between fun and credibility over three different stories. Once again, the pattern is two single chapters backed up with a two-parter, and a reprint, this time an altogether more welcome Chris Claremont and John Byrne collaboration.
Several themes run through To Russia, With Love, Kitty Pryde’s infatuation with Colossus, the attempts of nations to develop their own super beings, and Wolverine’s grumpy exterior belying a more caring heart. It’s with this aspect that Van Lente has most improved, as Wolverine is provided with greater background explaining the way he is, with a trip to Canada featuring one of his early outings with Alpha Flight and tying in nicely with his recruitment for the X-Men. The longest story features the Soviet Super Soldiers, and, eventually, an interesting new creation, while Van Lente hasn’t forgotten the character he introduced in The Rookie. There’s even a way for Magneto and his original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to put in an appearance.
Clayton Henry and Steven Cummings provide the sample art, both of them slightly preferable to Salva Espin’s wide-eyed cast and strange looking Wolverine, but no-one’s bad here. They all tell the story well and supply appealing characters, but none of the can match the sheer dynamism of John Byrne’s older material. He co-plots Wolverine and Nightcrawler heading up to Canada to make their peace with Alpha Flight, and it’s still a decent thriller, if one where the dialogue and thought balloons contain a vast amount of words by today’s standards. It’s also a resolution to the reprint content of The Rookie. Next up is Wolverine by Night.