Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Wolverine: Get Mystique

Wolverine: Get Mystique collects a 2008 four-issue arc from Marvel’s Wolverine title, by the creative team of Jason Aaaron and Ron Garney. I believe it’s their first collaboration on the character, although certainly not their last. The following year, they launched Wolverine: Weapon X, a third (or fourth, if you count First Class) Wolverine ongoing monthly, which I can only assume is a really great Wolverine comic book—it’s one that I really, really enjoyed reading anyway, which isn’t my usual reaction to Wolverine comics.

The story arc apparently deals with the fallout of a plot point in a big X-cross-over story, although I only know this because there’s a scene of Cyclops and Wolverine talking about the need to get Mystique in retaliation for her betrayal that begins with a little editorial box noting “See X-Men #207, ‘Messiah Complex, Part 13’ —Editor.”

Not that that is at all important. The title quite clearly explains the premise of the story. It’s about Wolverine, out to get Mystique. Perhaps some more history with the characters and what’s going on at the moment of time the story was produced in enhances the experience, but it doesn’t really need enhancement.

Mystique screwed over the X-Men, and it falls on Wolverine, the X-person who kills bad guys, to find her, catch her and kill her. Since her super-power is the ability to change shape, she’s pretty good and running away, and since Wolverine’s superpowers include being able to sniff her out, to recover from any wound and to more or less forever, he’s pretty good at getting those who don’t want to be gotten, giving the story a pretty dramatic sense of inevitability—it’s less a matter of if, and more of a matter of when and how.

Inevitably should suck some of the drama out of a premise, but few writers working in super-comics today are as adept at Aaron when it comes to thinking up particularly creative, inspired mayhem, and he keeps the chase-fight-chase-fight formula of the story remarkably fresh throughout.

Crafty and apparently free of scruples, Mystique uses her shape-shifting powers not to trick Wolverine, but to trick others into fighting Wolverine for her. In one instance, she appears as a nun, surrounds herself with actual war orphans and leaves it to Wolverine to figure out how to stab a nun to death in front of her orphans and a U.S. army base full of armed witnesses.

More satisfyingly, Mystique—well, Aaron–managed to trick me as a reader on at least one occasion, and that is just one of several reversals in the story, which ultimately creates a pretty thrilling tension. Everything says it’s going to end this way, and it does, but did you expect this to happen? Or this?

And like that.

I’ve really grown quite fond of Ron Garney’s artwork over the years, and here he’s handling both pencils and inks. He boasts old-school comics story-telling chops, and just enough of an expressive, exaggerated style to give a sheen of melodrama and superheroics to his subject matter which is, here, mostly violence, people about to engage in violence, and people recovering from violence.

It’s worth noting that Wolverine’s is the only spandex costume in the piece—well, Cyclops wears one, but he’s only in the book for two pages—so Garney is working with very real-world settings and costumes, through a variety of time periods and locations. The book begins in 1921 Mexico, and follows two threads—Wolverine and Mystique’s first relationship traveling around 1920s America, and their current conflict, which takes them from Iran to Afghanistan to Iraq.

He does a fine job with all the shifts, and manages to pull off Aaron’s most over-the-top moments in a way that sells them without watering them down.

It’s a really fun, really exciting Wolverine story, and for all intents and purposes could be labeled Wolverine: Weapon X Vol. 0, for how well it compliments the Aaron/Garney work that followed it.


Question time! I've got two of 'em for the X-Men x-perts in the reading audience after reading this.

1.) As I mentioned, this story opens in 1921, which is apparently when Wolverine first met Mystique. So Wolverine's not the only mutant that's been alive for generations before Professor X founded the X-Men, I take it? How does that work exactly, and doesn't it kind of muck up the X-Men mythology a bit? I always thought that the X-gene/mutation/whatever was activated by humanity's experiments with atomic energy, and thus mutants were a product of the Cold War, and didn't really exist before that, with a few notable exceptions (Namor, if he's a "mutant" in the same way the X-folks are mutants, and Wolverine, after Origincame out anyway...of course, Apocalypse has been around a while too, huh?)

2.) In the scene where Cyclops asks Wolverine to go after Mystique, the former tells the latter, "You understand, I'm not asking you to bring her in, right? Not breathing, at least." Isn't that pretty unusual for Cyclops? It was always my understanding—and I could be totally wrong about this—that what set Wolvie apart from the rest of the X-Men was that he was willing to kill his opponents, something the rest of the gang frowned upon and tried to reign in/put a stop to. Cyclops essentially putting a hit out on a villain is sort of a big departure for the character, isn't it?


hdefined said...

At the same time as this arc, Marvel launched X-Force, a covert squad put together by Cyclops to go kill more people. This was also around the time when characters lik Iron Man and Reed Richards were justifying using their scientific prowess to build intergallactic prisons to lock up their friends.

How this is supposed to make the characters more interesting, I have no idea.

Justin said...

1- Yes, the x-men mythology was originally based around cold war fears, but since the cold war the books have drifted away from it. Most recent stories viewed mutants as simply what natural selection/evolutionary processes would do in a comic book world.

Although I stopped following the x-books when mutants as a sub-species were dying off, so I dunno.

You identified the main super-old mutants - Wolverine, Mystique, and Apocalypse - and if there are any others, they only exist to be supporting characters in W, M, and A's flashback stories.

In Claremont's original run, he wrote one issue that had Wolverine in WWII. Since then, a lot of the writers assigned to tell another Wolverine story without making any significant character development or contradicting the 5 or 6 other concurrent Wolverine stories go back to that well. It allowed them to tell stories that felt significant without really changing much about the current character/cash cow.

These flashback stories ultimately lead to the Origin miniseries you mentioned, (because people really wanted to know what Wolverine was like when he was twelve?) and allowed Mystique and Wolverine to have known each other in the 1920s if it helps the current storyarc.

Mory said...

This story spun out of Messiah Complex, in which Cyclops decided that the mutants' situation was desperate enough to necessitate killing people. So Aaron was just playing with the new status quo a bit.

Kid Kyoto said...

On your first question I remember Claremont getting the same question eons ago and his answer was that mutants are the next stage of human development but that atomic raditation speeds things up.

From what I gather mutants are anyone with the X gene, whihc differentiates them from other superhumans.

Jacob T. Levy said...

You know, for all those years before Morrison, Xavier had the worst secret identity ever. Not only did he name his team of in-house superheroes after his initial, he named the freaking genetic signature of the subspecies after his initial.

John Foley said...

I would advise against reading Warren Ellis' run on X-Men if I were you. Cyclops actually talks about how much he wants to kill people, on more than one occasion. I'm pretty sure Ellis is just recycling old plotlines for Planetery that he never got to use. This crap sure doesn't read like any kind of X-Men I've ever seen.

SallyP said...

While Wolverine has always been willing to kill people, Cyclops has only recently become a lot...crabbier.

Matt D said...

The idea with Cyclops right now is that mutantkind's back is against the wall post M-Day and he is doing whatever he has to in order to ensure the survival of the species. Which means more tough decisions. It's been handled fairly responsibly and with real consequences, though I'm sure others will disagree with me.

I imagine pretty much every writer at Marvel wants to write Scott right now, just like Osborn in the last year and Stark before him.

John Foley said...

I don't have too big a problem with Cyclops occasionally going for the kill. I prefer that attitude over the usual "we never kill anything or anyone under any circumstances EVER" philosophy that most heroes operate under. I just don't like the way he's been characterized. It's like he doesn't even care about killing anymore. Even when it's necessary he shouldn't be reveling in it.

Filipe Freitas said...

About Cyclops thinking it's "okay" to kill, remember the character was very affected by the "possession" he suffered from Apocalypse just before Grant Morrison's run. After that, he was shown a bit colder and more rational, and those changes made him distance himself from Jean and get closer to Emma, who was also a "darker" person.
So it's not entirely out of character that he became a bit more pragmatic after Messiah Complex.