Review by Frank Plowright
It took over 25 years from his first appearance before Wolverine’s full origin was revealed. Back in 2000 it was a real event, still considered by many to be a five star classic, and thirteen years later there was a sequel. Perhaps surprisingly, Marvel waited until 2017 before combining them in this oversized hardcover format. Does it still thrill?
Before Bill Jemas, Paul Jenkins, Joe Quesada and Adam Kubert revealed the full story, numerous hints had been dropped as to Wolverine’s past, most playfully by primary X-Men writer Chris Claremont on the basis that it was policy for Wolverine’s origin not to be disclosed. Stories had been published showing him in the past, such as a teaming with Captain America during World War II, so he was known to have lived a long life due to his healing factor. Jemas, Jenkins and Quesada conceived the plot, leaving Jenkins to the script, and their first surprise is beginning Origin in the 1880s, and then again confounding expectation by continuing in what’s closer in tone to gothic horror than superhero action, with Wolverine the only anomaly in a period drama. It still reads well over the opening chapters, and contains a tragic event in keeping with Wolverine’s later passions, along with nicely concealed misdirection. However, it’s only really the opening half of the story offering anything different, while the second half has the tragedy, but too much else doesn’t rise above the familiar.
The real surprise about that opening story is how the art has dated. Richard Isanove’s digital painted colour over Andy Kubert’s pencils still has a three dimensional look, but there are many places where it does those pencils no favours. Kubert adapts well to the period setting, but a lot of faces are pinched or strangely shaped.
A sequel to an extremely well received story was inevitable, and Marvel showed restraint by waiting until 2013 to commission it. Keiron Gillen wisely chooses not to imitate the first book, continuing the story from 1907 with an adult Wolverine living in the wild. Kubert reprises his artistic role, but this time in his standard style, the pages at the best early on when he’s drawing the Canadian wilderness and a feral Wolverine.
Gillen’s approach is to take familiar aspects of Wolverine in the present and utilise them in the past. There is some novelty to this, but it’s not sustained, and for some strange reason he also chooses to repeat a trick from the first story. It might have become slightly dated, but the opening story maintains an originality, whereas the sequel is okay, but no more.
Both stories are still available in paperback as Origin and Origin II, and many readers who fondly rememberg them the first time will welcome the larger format hardcover presentation, but these are stories that have dated.