The latest Wolverine film is based on a trade, written by Chris Claremont, drawn by Frank Miller, and simply titled Wolverine. I recently read and thought it would make a good update. Here goes.
Claremont has this to say about the creative process for the book:
Frank Miller thought Wolverine was an incredibly dull character and didn't want to have anything to do with him. He has absolutely no interest in drawing a story about a berserk psycho killer. The two of us got stuck in traffic on the way to Los Angeles after a San Diego Comic Con... Since we had nothing else to do, we started talking about Wolverine, about who he is and why he is. The conversation ranged over samurai pictures and manga and all of the things that we were enjoying at the time. During the course of the conversation, we basically started building the story. This is one of those rare occasions where a story evolved out of the character, rather than the plot.
This was the first Wolverine story to add depth to his character and make him more than a loud brawler. I haven’t seen the film myself, but friends who have report that the book is very different. Logan travels to Japan to meet Mariko, the woman he loves more than anything else. Due to family obligations Mariko has married another man, leaving Logan heartbroken and betrayed. Enter Yukio who presents herself as a friend but has a hidden agenda. As Logan tries to untangle the multiple and complicated relationships around him (by fighting, naturally) we see more of his character and the man he really is.
The book is about duty and responsibility – to your lover, to your family, to yourself, to your history, and to your country. I have no idea how accurate it is to actual Samurai culture or Japanese notions of honour and obligation: because I’ve seen and read a lot of this sort of thing over the years I cannot tell if Wolverine reads authentically or if is a Western idea of how Japanese philosophy should work.
Chris Claremont is most famous for his long running stint on the X-Men. I usually find his language ebullient and over the top – everything seems to be bigger, more fantastic, larger than life. However this book feels more subdued. There is depth and import to the book, and style, but it doesn’t have that over the top dazzle and high drama I associate with Claremont. This is a good thing.
Frank Miller’s art is not particularly to my taste. Others have praised it but it doesn’t do it for me. I don’t think he’s particularly talented at sequential art. His panels often look like frozen moments in time, with no link between them. As Scott McCloud would say, there is nothing in the gutters. As individual snapshots of a scene it’s OK, but there’s not a whole lot of life there. His faces and poses are competent, but not something I value. To a modern eye the colours suffer – they seem garish and blocky. Part of this is due to the limited printing techniques they had back in the 1980s, but partly I can’t shake the feeling that this is somehow rushed.
This is a scan of the original page I found online.
If you’re a Wolverine fan who enjoys the films it’s worth picking this up. Expect more than you got from the film.