Archive for Jim Shooter

Wolverine TPB

Posted in Comics, Marvel, Wolverine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 19th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Four parts brilliant to two parts...not-so-brilliant.

Four parts brilliant to two parts...not-so-brilliant.

Author: Chris Claremont
Artist: Frank Miller
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Colorist: Glynis Wein & Lynn Varley
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Artist: Frank Miller

Uncanny X-Men 172-173

Artist: Paul Smith
Inker: Bob Wiacek

Much like the recent Wolverine film, I recommend the first two-thirds of this trade paperback for the ideal Wolverine experience.  That is to say that I recommend reading the Wolverine mini-series penned and penciled by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, and not so much the issues of The Uncanny X-Men that succeed it.  While the additional issues may add to the perceived value of this collection, the drastic shift in tone, plot and pacing diminish the impact of the core 4-part story.  This shift can be attributed to two factors: the absence of Frank Miller, and the presence of the X-Men.

I can only conclude Frank Miller’s heavy involvement in the scripting of Wolverine, as the disparity in Claremont’s writing is striking.  Wolvie’s visceral tale of revenge and honour is not an easy act to follow, but the appearance of the X-Men is crude and garish by comparison.  The super-team feel like a cameo in their own book; an unwanted intrusion into Logan’s story.  I would recommend tracking down the mini-series alone if the price is right.  If this trade paperback is all you can find, then I implore you to stay your curiosity and stop reading when Miller stops drawing.  Not because Miller’s art is that much greater (though it is) – I honestly believe the issues that follow spoil the overall story.  I don’t know if that speaks to Logan’s character as the quintessential lone wolf, but I’ve still seen him operate effectively in well-written X-teams, and unfortunately this is not one of them.  Perhaps Claremont’s ongoing X-Men work was running on a tighter schedule and he was simply phoning it in.  Perhaps sales were flagging in the main book, and Wolverine’s re-introduction really was forced into the story, rather than the other way around.

Rogue’s character is particularly grating, both in dialogue and concept.  Case in point: Rogue casually mentions (in her irritating Southern accent) that she is half-alien, hence her immunity to poisons, and so of course she is the best candidate to help Logan on his mission!  Logan accepts her explanation as a matter of course, and is all of a sudden willing to put all his misgivings about her aside and take her on board(!).  Claremont infers that Wolvie employs good ol’ logical reasoning to arrive at this decision (“Hmmm…half-alien, immune to poisons…I guess you have a point”)!  On the back of a classic Japanese revenge tale, you can probably appreciate that I found this *a little* hard to swallow.  Also present is a pointless cameo of The Phoenix, Scott Summers’ new girlfriend who COINCIDENTALLY LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE JEAN GREY AND COINCIDENTALLY SURVIVED THE VERY SAME PLANE CRASH THAT JEAN GREY DIED IN – but it’s not Jean Grey; it couldn’t possibly be Jean Grey! X-fans curious as to the hallowed origins of Storm’s mohawk will also be pleased to know that its contrivance is explained herein!  See what I mean?  Well, I suppose you won’t until I elaborate on the mini-series itself.

Wolverine is the story of Logan’s battle for the heart of his ex-lover, Mariko.  Three obstacles lie in his path:

  1. Mariko’s father is Shingen Yashida, crimelord extraordinnaire.  His return to Japan necessitates:
  2. Her political marriage to an abusive Yakuza.
    And;
  3. Mariko is Japanese, Wolverine is a Gaijin (basically the n-word for white people, meaning ‘outsider’ or ‘foreigner’).

This means Wolvie has to try extra-hard to prove his worth.  That Lord Shingen is trying to kill him with his elite ninja force doesn’t help any.  To further complicate matters, maverick assassin Yukio also falls for Logan, despite being contracted to kill him.  Yukio proves to be an interesting character, surprisingly free-spirited for someone in the business of taking lives.  Unfortunately, this eccentricity is overplayed in Uncanny X-Men.  (To spare you the torture, Yukio has the dubious honour of inspiring Storm’s mohawk.)

Our (anti-?)hero’s position as an Westerner coming to grips with the Japanese ideology is well-placed from a writing perspective.  It would have been foolishness for Chris Claremont to claim mastery over a foreign culture.  As Claremont’s understanding increases, so too does Logan begin to embrace Japanese concepts of honour and duty.  Having read the very Japanese Ronin and Sin City, I can’t help but wonder whether this could have benefited from even more involvement from Frank Miller.  His artwork is cleaner and more academic than the style he’s become renowned for, but remains distinct and dynamic, especially during action scenes.

Without a doubt, Wolverine’s solo debut is a defining moment for the character.  Even his famous line “I’m the best at what I do” is coined here, but never overused; and the phrase feels fresher for knowing.  This is recommended reading for any comic reader.  Ignore the extras and you’ll be just fine.

Legion of Superheroes #40

Posted in Comics, Legion of Superheroes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 17th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

Legion of Superheroes #40, ‘Enemy Rising Part 1: Headlong into Darkness’
Author: Jim Shooter
Artist: Francis Manapul
Inker: Livesay
Colorist: JD Smith
Letterer: Steve Wands

The Legion of Superheroes really embodies everything that DC has been trying to achieve with their re-instated multiversal approach. Legion is packed with vibrant characters and fantastical adventures across the 31st Century cosmos. This issue opens with the latter, but majors in the former, and with Legion veteran Jim Shooter at the helm, that’s not a bad thing. There’s a wealth of characters in the Legion of Superheroes, and I use that word very deliberately. While it’s near-impossible to remember every character’s name and abilities (though names like ‘Shadow Lass’ and ‘Lightning Lad’ do help), Shooter deftly handles each character pitch-perfectly and switches between them with ease and purpose. You may forget the names again when you put the book down, but you won’t soon forget the personalities that crackle and smolder through each line of dialogue. Shooter’s familiarity with his cast is apparent; they are his personal playground. Not in a self-indulgent way, like Brad Meltzer’s love-letter to the Justice League; more like an artisan who knows his tools.

The Legion of Superheroes were never really on my radar until Geoff Johns re-introduced them, first in the ‘Lightning Saga’, then in his work on Action Comics. Now, between this and Action, the Legion are far and away one of DC’s most fertile properties. And if it’s one thing I’ve learned from Action, it’s that a good Legion tale benefits from crisp, clean artwork, and artist Francis Manapul has this in spades. Whether he’s depicting physical or emotional action, Manapul has the details spot-on.

As I hinted earlier, the story begins with the takedown of a rampaging alien on Talok VIII. This scene had me hooked within the first few pages – Shadow Lass provided the action, while Brainiac 5 brought the humour (surprisingly) – and strapped me in for the ride to come. The contrast between the interplanetary scope of the story and the close-knit relationships between these teenage superheroes is interesting to say the least. This issue focuses mainly on Lightning Lad’s struggles as a leader. It really is quite masterful, the way the writer reins in the story to create an engaging teen-superhero-space-soap-opera. Even though this issue is a little light on action, it’s certainly not light on humour, charm, or drama, and I can’t help but feel that it’s building towards something far bigger. For now, Shooter is quite happy to mine the depths of his rich cast, so that we can familiarise ourselves as he has. The great thing is that all of the character sketches really serve the story, and don’t feel contrived in the least. Shooter’s approach means that we actually will care when the time finally comes to throw the Legion in harm’s way.

A great deal of the humour in Legion comes from Shooter’s extrapolation of a litigation-mad society. If you think it’s ridiculous now, wait until you see what Lightning Lad and Princess Projectra have to deal with 100 years later. The rest of the humour is sourced in the team’s domestic arguments – Brainiac’s freaking out about an impending alien invasion while the rest of the team bickers about the ethics of mind control. Enter Lightning Lad, the star of this particular tale, who swoops in and takes control, then chills to a cup of coffee.

The multiverse was made for stories like these. The Legion really has come a long way in recent times. The goofy camp of yesteryear is all but gone, but the humorous and endearing team dynamic remains. I can’t help but think that a story like this would not have been possible in the 90s or even the gritty-and-grounded 80s. If you enjoyed Johns’ run on Action Comics, then I highly recommend you pick up Jim Shooter’s entire run.