Review by Frank Plowright
Throughout the latter portion of his run chronicling Wolverine, Jason Aaron very deliberately switched the tone and genre with every successive story arc. This is readily apparent on the previous collection, but also showcased here with three very different tales, previously issued as Wolverine’s Revenge, Goodbye Chinatown and Back in Japan. These are respectively a dark and gritty thriller delving into Wolverine’s past, comedy heavy on the kung-fu and spiritual references, and Japanese style action movie.
In the opener Wolverine tracks down the Red Right Hand, an organisation that’s been attempting to have him killed. The clever aspect is that the present day period spans not much more than minutes in real time, but the flashbacks occupy a century. Both make good use of Wolverine’s healing factor bestowing relative immortality. The individuals comprising the Red Right Hand have legitimate reasons for seeking Wolverine’s death, and much of the narrative focus is on the circumstances leading to these. Aaron’s eventual revelation is a shocker and a coda with Wolverine reflecting on what’s happened is excellent.
Aaron really enjoys himself with the follow-up, which starts with Wolverine being reminded of his sworn role to protect San Francisco’s Chinatown. It then escalates as Aaron throws in one ludicrous situation after another. The use of Fat Cobra, last seen in Iron Fist, and his voracious appetite for all things, is hilarious and Wolverine is well cast in the role of frustrated straight man as all around him descends into chaos.
Because Aaron is aping the fantastic style of Japanese action movies in the final sequence major suspension of disbelief is required, and it jars considerably with the narrative expectations of Western storytelling, particularly with the conclusion. Aaron’s homage is faithful, but was it wise?
This is also the section requiring the most artists, but that’s not as distancing as it might be as they concentrate on specific characters, and there’s a consistency within that. Only the really tightly controlled pages of Stephen Sanders don’t really work, their precision lacking the grit associated with a Wolverine story. Paco Diaz, Ron Garney, Adam Kubert and Billy Tan draw the remainder, with Steve Dillon handling the bulk of the finale, featuring Sabretooth’s birthday party. It’s a disappointingly mundane conclusion to a fine run for Aaron.
The two artists most featured are Garney and Renato Guedes, whose pages are never showy or spectacular, but the storytelling skills are evident. Both have the right edge of darkness about their work, with Garney having the greater imagination when it comes to layouts. Goran Sudžuka illustrates Wolverine’s contemplative sequence, and he’s very good indeed, able to switch his mood when required, yet loose and gritty.
It’s surely not debated that of all writers who’ve spent an extended time with Wolverine, Aaron is the best, his standards very rarely dropping, and that being the case this Omnibus is a no-brainer for anyone with the money and a yen for a good Wolverine story.