Depth of Field in Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends 1

By Drew Baumgartner

Hunt for Wolverine Dead Ends 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I remember someone once telling me that they mostly evaluate a comics artist based on the detail of their backgrounds. That always felt like an odd facet to fixate on (especially with so many others to factor in), but it’s hard to deny that richly detailed backgrounds are dazzling. It allows artists to flex not only their attention to detail, but their capacity for deep perspective, lending a sense of lived-in reality to their settings. But it’s also time consuming — even the most detail-prone artists will pick their moments, reserving sprawling cityscapes and the likes for big splash pages, and making choices that compress the depth of field elsewhere. Time is an understandable driver of level-of-detail, but it doesn’t always coincide with storytelling in a meaningful way. With The Hunt for Wolverine: Dead Ends 1, artist Ramon Rosanas finds a much more thematically resonant way to use his depth of field, lending Charles Soule’s villain reveal an unsettling otherworldliness. Continue reading

Individuality is Growth, and Regression Danger in X-23 1

By Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

It’s hard not to view Laura’s return to the name “X-23,” after wearing the mantle of “Wolverine,” as a demotion, even a regression for the character. X-23 1 does all it can to smooth over this transition — writer Mariko Tamaki’s pitch-perfect channeling of Laura and Gabby’s voices combined with the return of one-time All-New Wolverine artist Juann Cabal gives this issue a lot of forward momentum, making it feel like a continuation of the story Tom Taylor began rather than a radically new take — but never explicitly addresses the change of code-names or the reason behind it. Instead, Tamaki and Cabal tackle the ideas of identity, growth, and regression head-on through the examples of Laura, Gabby, and the Stepford Cuckoos. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was all leading towards an argument for “X-23” later in the storyline. Continue reading

Cypher Drives the Action in Hunt for Wolverine: Weapon Lost 3

By Drew Baumgartner

Hunt for Wolverine Weapon Lost 3

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

One of my favorite insights in film criticism is that a shot can only have one subject. The subject can be (and often is) an individual, but the fascinating thing about a two-shot or group shot is that the individuals can’t be the subjects of those shots, so instead, the subject is their relationship. That is, when two characters are occupying a single shot, the subject of the shot isn’t either one of them, but their relationship to one another, whether it’s familial, antagonistic, friendly, or romantic. And I think we might be able to say something similar about ensemble stories. Or, at least, that the subject of an ensemble story can’t be several individuals. The subject can be anything from a character to a relationship to a theme, but there can be only one. So what is the subject if Hunt for Wolverine: Weapon Lost? Is it Daredevil, our narrator (and most recognizable character)? Is it Frank McGee and Misty Knight’s budding romance? Is it the group dynamics of this makeshift team? With issue three, Charles Soule and Matteo Buffagni seem to have settled on an unexpected option as their subject: Cypher. Continue reading

Good vs. Evil in Astonishing X-Men 12

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

“Good vs Evil” implies that there are two sides — two warring factions — battling for the fate of the world. It’s a compelling image: a battlefield with good guys on one side and bad guys on the other. Good and evil are separate forces, and in our imaginations, represented by two different groups of people. While Charles Soule and Gerardo Sandoval’s Astonishing X-Men 12 still gives the reader avatars of light and darkness in the forms of X and The Night King, the armies fighting for each side are made up of all the same players. Old Man Logan is both a reformed ally-murderer and an irredeemable death machine; good and evil waging war within one mind. Continue reading

A Mid-Issue Shift Elevates Hunt for Wolverine: Weapon Lost 2

By Drew Baumgartner

Hunt for Wolverine Weapon Lost 2

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Listen, I know there were crime procedurals before Law & Order (and there have been plenty since), but that show was such a mainstay of my formative pop-culture years that I can’t help but think of it every time I encounter a new fictional criminal investigation. What’s remarkable to me about that show is how entertaining it could be in spite of having an entirely rote structure (it was so set in stone, in fact, that they decided to enshrine it in the very title of the series). That is, the drama was never in whether they caught the culprit (they always did), or whether they would be convicted (they were found guilty or pled out the vast majority of the time), but in how they did it — or more precisely who was doing it. Individual details of the case might be interesting, but only inasmuch as they prompted quips from Briscoe or righteous indignation from McCoy. The procedural is an excuse to watch detectives do what they do best, so giving those detectives big, distinct personalities makes or breaks the whole exercise. In this way, Charles Soule has truly stacked the deck in his favor, cramming four larger-than-life investigators into tight quarters and giving them a hard case to chew on. Continue reading

Compassion is the Greatest Weapon of All in X-Men Red 5

by Spencer Irwin

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk.

A few weeks ago in X-Men Red Annual 1, Jean Grey met a bigoted anti-mutant protester and showed him kindness and compassion, relating to the turmoil and abuse he dealt with in his home life and continuing to worry about him long after their meeting had come to an end. Compassion continues to be Jean’s weapon of choice in Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men Red 5, and it’s a weapon she’s more than capable of deploying against an entire army. Continue reading

Waging Peace in X-Men Red Annual 1

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

“I was the Phoenix. I burned so brightly. Then I was dead. And everything was dark.”

Jean Grey, X-Men Red (2018) Annual #1

Writer Tom Taylor starts this issue with the narration above, quickly summarizing the tragic arc of Jean Grey. It was a violent life, and the bullet points of her story are mostly bummers. Over Scott Summer’s grave, Jean promises that this time is going to be different, and this annual is all about what that might look like. Taylor and artist Pascal Alixe offer an issue full of love, understanding, and difficult conversations. Jean’s still here to win, but it’s not war she’s waging. It’s peace.

Continue reading

Shifting the Narrative in Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor 1

by Drew Baumgartner

Hunt for Wolverine Mystery in Mardipoor 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The Bechdel Test

Drew: This particular Dykes to Watch Our For premiered in 1985, and its premise is still ringing in the ears of writers and readers everywhere. Now known as “The Bechdel Test,” these criteria insist on something beyond simple representation (though it’s remarkable how many films fail to satisfy even that first requirement), aiming for a dialogue that features no males (even as subjects of conversation). And that last bit is a huge stumbling block for narratives to this day. Plenty will feature two women and even manage to put them in a scene together, but the conversation will still revolve around the male characters. It’s the kind of problem you might expect to plague any all-female tie-in to the “Hunt for Wolverine” event to suffer from — Logan is necessarily absent, but that fact is likely to be the subject of discussion — but Jim Zub and Thony Silas manage to shift the focus in Mystery in Madripoor 1, pulling the story in totally unexpected directions. Continue reading

X-Men Red 4 Battles Real-World Threats

by Drew Baumgartner

X-Men Red 4

This article containers SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk.

Comics have always reflected our real-world fears — from inner-city crime or nuclear panic — by heightening them to exaggerated extremes. Except, I’d argue, when it comes to the X-Men’s persecution. Sure, the X-Men’s superpowers would qualify as an “exaggerated extreme” of the types of differences that normally mark a minority class, but it’s straight-up not possible for writers to come up with more exaggerated ways societies persecute their minorities. From apartheid to lynchings to genocides, there’s nothing the X-Men have faced that real-world minorities haven’t already suffered, grounding even their most fanciful stories in sober reality. It’s a fact that Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar have leaned into from the start of X-Men Red, lending the series a “ripped from the headlines” approach that is truly unique in superhero comics. Continue reading

All-New Wolverine 35: Discussion

by Spencer Irwin and Taylor Anderson

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spencer: I think I may have missed the mark a bit when discussing last month’s installment of All-New Wolverine. I claimed that “Old Woman Laura” was a story about redeeming Bellona and defeating Doctor Doom, the last tyrant left in a world that’s otherwise an utopia, but Tom Taylor and Ramon Rosanas have proven me wrong in All-New Wolverine 35, the series’ finale. Those are a part of this adventure, to be sure, but only a small part. What this story is about — what it’s always been about — is giving Laura Kinney the happy ending she deserves.  Continue reading