Review by Ian Keogh
When superhero publishers kill a character they’re commonly absent for a year or so while the focus shifts to their friends and allies, one of whom is often a replacement, before brief hints that the character might not be so dead after all (Superman, Captain America). The alternative is the Green Arrow scenario where a few years later someone decides killing the original article was a bad idea and just pulls them back. Marvel were a little more inventive when it came to Wolverine, having him lose his healing abilities, having him die, and then replacing him with his older counterpart from an alternate universe. This enabled them to stretch out the scenario for five years. There were hints he was back in 2018’s Hunt for Wolverine, but that ultimately proved to be a holding scenario. Maybe this time the original article will return as the title promises.
Charles Soule already conned you once, so if you’re the type who’ll feel conned again to discover Return of Wolverine is just another chapter rather than an end in itself, be warned, that’s exactly what it is. If you’re prepared to go with the flow…
There’s a clever start to Return of Wolverine. This time we see Wolverine right away, and just how we like him, and within ten pages Charles Soule has made us all forget about Hunt for Wolverine‘s con job and hooked us in. He’s had a fair bit of help with that from the spectacular art on the opening chapter. As can be seen from the sample spread, Steve McNiven is very much channelling Barry Windsor-Smith, and doing a great job in his name. He’s followed by Declan Shalvey for the middle three chapters, approaching matters far more traditionally, but still providing solid superhero art, before McNiven returns for the conclusion.
It doesn’t take long to catch on that Soule is using allegory. Wolverine is reconstructing himself piece by piece, gradually releasing more of his original personality as he’s rushed along on a mission that gives him little time to think or analyse. Wolverine always previously trusted his instincts, but readers will begin to wonder how they’re playing him so false as he’s led on a trail during which he meets some familiar faces and the X-Men come looking for him. Neither is really adequately explained, but Soule does play fair by revealing why it is that Wolverine was briefly glimpsed in Hunt for Wolverine without acknowledging or contacting his friends. It’s a nice idea, and extrapolated well over a large scale, if insanely, but then aren’t villains always a little nutty?
The positives are that this time the focus is almost entirely on Wolverine, and that this is a decent enough superhero story with McNiven’s art spectacular. The negative is that the ending just leads us into Wolverine: Infinity Watch. Will there ever be a real ending?