Review: Wolverine #20

I’m not really sure how to respond to Wolverine #20. Indifference? Confusion? Eye-rolling cynicism? There’s nothing inherently wrong with the issue but there’s nothing to really get excited about, either. Granted, it’s the very first story in a new arc titled “And Then There Was War,” so it’s mostly set-up.  Writer Jason Aaron sets his pieces up in a very boring and lackluster way. I’m guessing his duties on The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine & The X-Men drains most of his shock and awe, which would explain why Wolverine #20 is so blah.

Picture it, Central Park, 2011. A balmy fall day where Wolverine is buying his new lady friend a hot dog. People move to and fro, the city is alive and all seems well.  Except things are not well. A sinister meeting is about to go down between the Kingpin-run Hand and the Yakuza. A special ops team is tracking this meeting in hopes of keeping the head of the Yakuza alive. Turns out somebody murdered the Silver Samurai and the Yakuza blame The Hand. Kingpin, in his usual mocking tone, denies the allegations as the tension rises. Suddenly, these two redneck brothers who shoot bones for bullets and have somehow acquired superpowers begin killing the Kingpin and Yakuza muscle.

About this time Wolverine enters the fray and starts clawing out skulls. The special ops team rushes in, gets everybody into a van and speeds off to make sure the head of the Yakuza gets on a private jet back to Japan. Turns out that Wolverine knows the head of this team and that somebody is trying to push Yakuza and The Hand into war. In mid-air, the head of the Yakuza is ripped from the plane and sent plummeting to his death by…  wait for it…  Sabretooth. Yep, Sabretooth is back and for no real reason. I guess being decapitated both in life and in Hell won’t keep a popular mutant down. I’m assuming that the Sabretooth reveal was supposed to be the emotional punch of the issue. However, the rest of Wolverine #20 is so dull that the return of Sabretooth does little more than make you roll your eyes and say “Of course”.

For me, the Sabretooth thing is annoying on two levels. First of all, I’ve never liked the character. I always felt he was a one-dimensional attempt to give Wolverine an enemy like him to face. Secondly, I pushed through the tedious and boring issues where Jeph Loeb stretched out the battle between Sabretooth and Wolverine to a point where evolution itself seemed to move faster.  Bringing back this character now feels like an easy way to hold readers’ interest in a series that’s been lacking for over ten issues. If this is all that Aaron has up his sleeve, then pass the book onto somebody else. Don’t give us yet another “war” where the Kingpin gets to say egotistically sinister things and pad the bill with the return of character that was better off dead. 

Bigger than the story, the art is the main problem with Wolverine #20. The work Renato Guedes does here sucks. The Kingpin looks like a giant deformed baby half the time, the other he looks like George “The Animal” Steele. Every single solitary face in every panel has some kind of dumb expression. It’s as if he can’t draw a face unless it’s doing something dumb. I also hate his line work. The drawings look sloppy and rushed. The art kept me thinking it was going slide off the page at any moment. For an issue that’s supposed to launch the biggest arc in Wolverine history, issue #20 doesn’t do much but remind us why this series needs some new blood.