And this, my friends, is a story about second chances. You see, I was distinctly unimpressed with the first few issues of Dan Way's Wolverine: Origins book back when it first appeared, and I was also distinctly unimpressed - and maybe slightly more than that - with Kaare Andrews' Spider-Man: Reign when it came out. But I saw the Andrews-illustrated and Way-written WOLVERINE: ORIGINS ANNUAL #1 on the shelves this week, and thought the following:
"Hmm. Well, it's an annual, so at least it'll be done in one. And maybe having to write something that tightly will make Way rein in his excesses. And Kaare's art was the one redeeming factor of Reign. Why not?"
So let's cut to the chase: It's Awful.
The goodness of the book is, again, Kaare Andrews' art. He's evolved into a fun cartoonist, with influences from Frank Miller, Eduardo Risso and Kyle Baker amongst many others, but his pot pourri works really well, especially on the flashback scenes here; his femme fatale in particular seems very much of the era she should belong to. The coloring, by Shannon Blanchard, helps with the look of the book, from the subdued palette (with the exception of the femme fatale's bright red lipstick, which is a nice touch) to the artificial aging of the flashback pages, it's intelligent coloring that helps the linework without being in any danger of overpowering it. Visually, the book's a triumph.
It's a shame, then, that the story is such a mess. It actually starts well, with the promise of a noir tale from Wolverine's past, and dialogue that plays with the original Chris Claremont Madripoor stories ("You look well... 'Patch.' You've even somehow gotten your eye back."), but the last half of the book just falls apart - the plot fragments to the point of incomprehensibility, with the last reveal not being a reveal at all, but a shout-out to something that isn't explained in the slightest but (I'm guessing, because as I said, it's not explained in the slightest) seems to tie in with the regular book, and characters spouting meaninglessly vague dialogue in place of explaining their motivations or actions. There are sudden jumps in time that read as if Way was initially writing a much longer book and just took whole pages out to make it fit into the allotted space (although his narration bridging these jumps is amusing), leaving the final story as this strange, unfulfilling and frustrating thing. It could've been so much better, had it kept focus and tried to offer an ending...
Overall, the annual reaffirms my bad feeling about the Wolverine: Origins title (that it's unnecessarily complicating Wolverine's backstory - and really, think about that for a second - and substituting vague, sprawling, paranoid hints about a grand plan for an actual story) while reminded me that Kaare Andrews can, indeed, draw his little heart out.
So much for second chances.