Wednesday, 21 March 2012

'Wolverine: Enemy of the State' Review

Recently I've been trying my hardest to embrace the X-Men a bit more. They have always intrigued me but I've always held off for some reason. Sure, I liked the movies and I used to watch the cartoon on Saturday mornings as well. The majority of the characters are excellent but there's always been something I can't quite put my finger on to explain why I don't really like the X-Men as much as I probably should.

But I've tried to rectify that as of late. I bought and consumed Joss Whedon and John Cassasday's first volume of Astonishing X-Men in one sitting, such was the excellent quality of that book. Let's consider that as dipping my toe into the water: it was a start. However, the one guy from the X-Men that's always appealed to me most has probably been that little Canadian killing machine, Wolverine. I quickly looked up some reviews of his best stories focused squarely on him and a few jumped out at me as potential starting points. Frank Miller and Chris Claremont's tale of Logan in Japan definitely piqued my interest, as did a few others like Origin and Weapon X. But two titles in particular jumped out at me, both written by fellow Brit Mark Millar: Wolverine: Enemy of the State and Wolverine: Old Man Logan. So why did I go for Enemy of the State? It was the easier of the two to buy at the time, plus it was cheaper and I could get it right there and then instead of waiting for it in the post. In hindsight, Enemy of the State is probably not the best Wolverine book to read if you're just starting out with the character. But that wasn't a problem for me because despite having never read any of his books before, I already knew pretty much all there is to know about Logan. So even though Enemy of the State was my first Wolverine solo adventure, I didn't feel lost at any stage because his history has been talked about and discussed a lot in other books and especially the X-Men movies.

Before reading Enemy of the State, I already knew that this was going to be a book that didn't involve much character development. Thanks to reading some reviews before hand, I knew that Enemy of the State was going to be an action packed ride through the Marvel universe, where Logan faces off against friend and foe alike. Why is Wolverine trying to kill his friends you ask? Well I don't want to spoil too much of the story for you but lets just say that Logan gets a few of his wires crossed in that brain of his, thanks to some intervention from Hydra and the Hand. Thankfully, Millar's story delivers the goods because this involves one brutal, blood splattering fight after another. A word of warning to the squeamish: Wolverine gets violent in Enemy of the State, and he gets violent a lot. When Logan unleashes those claws of his there are consequences, involving the amputation of many enemy limbs. To make these fights that little bit more interesting, Millar gets Wolverine to face off against the best the Marvel Universe has, ranging from Elektra and Daredevil to the Fantastic Four. Even Captain America gets involved. At times Enemy of the State feels like a movie and I expect Millar probably had that in mind when he penned the original script. If you love action in your comics then look no further because Wolverine is at his brutal best here. I'll admit it's quite a spectacle.

Are there any cons to having so much action and so little plot? Well yes, there is. The fight scenes are expertly crafted by one of my favourite artists and Marvel legend John Romita Jr but even his expansive artwork can't make up for the distinct lack of story. I think it's finally dawned on me that I need a little bit more from my comics than non-stop action. I certainly understand the appeal and action-orientated comics definitely have a huge following, but nowadays I prefer a smart story over pages and pages of fight scenes and explosions. An example of this can be seen in DC's Justice League, which is full of beautiful Jim Lee splash pages but unfortunately lacks the dynamic plot to accompany them. This isn't really a knock on the writer because I really enjoy Mark Millar's work, and Enemy of the State is an entertaining comic book, no doubt about it. But in hindsight I probably shouldn't have opted for the one Wolverine book the majority of reviewers called "action-packed". However, I knew this going in to Enemy of the State, so what exactly did I expect? Now I realise and appreciate that a book focused solely on the fighting rather than the plot probably isn't going to sway me to call that book 'great', and that it'll more than likely settle for being simply 'good'. Wolverine: Enemy of the State is the latter. It would still make a good Wolverine film though...

Are there any more problems? Unfortunately, and it breaks my heart to admit it, but Romita Jr's pencils on Enemy of the State are not his best. I don't think it's entirely his fault though, because I think legendary inker Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts on colours need to share some of the blame. The problem is, and it happens quite often with such action-orientated books, with all that chaos happening on the page some of the details get lost amongst the blood, fire and explosions. Romita Jr's pencils suffer as a result; it feels like there's no space sometimes and some of his work gets very messy when Wolverine is thrashing around with multiple bad guys (especially when he's fighting ninjas). Now add to that Janson's distinctive thick lines and Mounts's dark colours, and the overall look of the book suffers. There is still some great work in here and Romita Jr excels when he's given splash pages. But overall Enemy of the State doesn't reach the levels of Romita Jr I am used to, and doesn't compare with his brilliant work on Daredevil: The Man Without Fear and J. Michael Straczynski's Amazing Spider-Man run.

Despite my negativity this is still a fun book and well worth checking out. Wolverine fans will love it but I think, for me, there are other books out there featuring the crazy Canuck that will suit me better. I'm sure this isn't the last I've seen of Logan...

Amongst The Panels rating: 3/5

Thanks for reading.

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