Return of Wolverine #1
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten and Laura Martin
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10
For a character who was built upon a sense of mystery, there’s few characters with such an elaborate backstory as Wolverine. He’s been a soldier, a spy, a ninja, a lab experiment, and a whole lot more besides - but one might argue that the more Logan has learned about himself, the less interesting he’s become. It’s that tightrope that Charles Soule and Steve McNiven navigate with mixed results in Return of Wolverine, a book that works hard to reintroduce the multifaceted X-Man but just as often falls prey to internal clunkiness.
To be fair, Soule and McNiven start us off nicely, with a cold open that gives us the same level of confusion that the newly resurrected Wolverine must be feeling right now — literally waking up covered in blood with the corpses of armed men all around him, this is as intense and fitting a baptism for the character as there might ever be. For a character who has seen so much and had so many additions to his backstory — and like I said before, I’d argue they hurt the character more than helped him — Soule works hard to bring back that spirit of mystery and intrigue while still paying homage to what came before.
That said, while the idea is a solid one, the actual execution can’t help but feel strange, with convenient ghosts directing the bewildered Logan from Point A to Point B, a too-cute throwbacks essentially force-feeding us Wolverine trivia, regardless of whether it fits the story or not. In certain ways, the impulse is understandable — for the big return of an absent character like Logan, it makes sense to remind readers of what matters, to distill the character back to his core. But this script tips the scales too heavily in terms of drilling Wolverine’s minutiae into readers (down to the reason he wears yellow spandex), with the actual action and plot behind his return feeling like boilerplate.
While they’ve done terrific work in a slew of other Marvel books, Return of Wolverine also feels like a misstep from Steve McNiven and Jay Leisten. On the one hand, you can sense how hard they’re channeling Barry Windsor-Smith, particularly in the way they’re rendering Logan’s face, which is a tapestry of lines, blood and lengthy hair. But at the same time, Leisten’s inks feel unusually flat as the storyline progresses — even the opening pages and the closing pages feel noticeably different, which makes things like Wolverine’s unique hairstyle look overwhelming and even goofy. But this issue also grapples with design issues, from the nondescript masked gunmen who Logan is chasing, to the elephant in the room: the new Wolverine costume, which loses all the iconic flourishes that screamed “animalistic,” instead leaning into something almost mime-like with its black jumpsuit, gloves and red buttons. While we only see this new outfit for a few pages, a splash page showcasing this underwhelming costume doesn’t end the issue on the strongest of notes.
For many, the Return of Wolverine will be a must-buy just based on its inherent hook, and having an A-lister like McNiven on the project certainly doesn’t hurt — it should be stated that even an off day for McNiven is many other artists’ dream goal. But I’d also argue that’s the flaws for this book in general — it operates on the assumption that readers will think revisiting Wolverine’s storied history is automatically interesting, rather than taking any concrete risks to earn that engagement. You can’t fault Soule for attempting a holistic take on an X-Man with this many different angles, but he winds up getting stranded in a limbo between homage and total recap — for a book that should be heralding a brand new era for the Ol’ Canucklehead, Return of Wolverine is a book that looks backwards, often to its own detriment.