Sunday, October 10, 2004

Wolverine #20

writer: Mark Millar
artist: John Romita, Jr.
published by Marvel Knights

There's a fantastic Akira Kurosawa film (in fact, my favorite Kurosawa film) called High and Low. It's about a kidnapping plot in Japan where the kidnappers mistakenly kidnap the child of a rich man's driver instead of the rich man's child. It's a great police procedural with some of the most stunning cinematography of an auteur's career.
Mark Millar borrows a bit from High and Low at the beginning of this ish. Just a bit. A chaffeur's son is kidnapped and the rich man refuses to pay the ransom for his employee. The first two pages play out like cinematic storyboards for a remake. Good stuff.
Then Wolverine shows up. And things kick into high gear. Turns out, this ain't Kurosawa no more. This is a knock down, drag-out, ass-kickin' zombie ninja story. We're treated to some wonderfully horrific gore that would be such a no-no if the ninjas weren't already dead and spewing green blood instead of the traditional red (Millar's apparently up on his ancient Sam Raimi as well). That continues for another eight pages and then Millar switches gears again. The fact that none of this feels remotely wrong is testimony to Millar's storytelling skill.
Now it's a story about Wolverine's old partner in crime, Kitty Pryde, looking for her now-missing bud. We're sorta back into Kurosawa territory as the parents of the missing kid mourn their apparently dead son. Two pages and on we go to the next genre.
SHIELD is investigating a series of cult-like slayings, the latest of which has happened in Minneapolis. Nick Fury and Elektra suspect it has something to do with the Hand (the wonderful undead ninja clan from Frank Miller's Daredevil who've since bedevilled the X-Men and particularly Wolvie himself. There's hints of a plot by Hydra and the Hand to take out 16 key figures in the superhuman community...and Wolverine tops the list.
They find Logan in South America (beat to hell, missing an eye and burnt to a crisp...that mutant healing factor is damn handy occasionally) and Elektra arrives on the SHIELD ship they're treating him on (yeah, a SHIP...not a helicarrier or some levitating fortress...someone must be cutting SHIELD's budget). Wolvie wakes up, starts killing people and all fucking hell breaks loose.
The fact that we're treated to all of this in a mere 24 pages is a treat. It goes against the supposed nu-Marvel idea of nothing happening for six or seven issues. Since this is part one of a story arc, you'd think Millar'd be able to pace things leisurely. Nuh uh. Not gonna happen. Get your runnin' shoes on and try to keep up. He writes a damn fine Logan. He writes a damn fine Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. And he writes a damn great Elektra. Why this boy isn't allowed to play with the toys more often, I got no idea.
Add to that the fanfuckingtastic art by Romita (with inks by Klaus Janson, who's a damn good artist himself) and I've already signed up for the entire six issue run. The final shot of Wolverine is damn near pinup worthy. I may yet go back to the comic shop and pick up another copy so I can rip that last page out.

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