"Vendetta, Epilogue: Knocking on Heaven's Door"
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artists: Humberto Ramos (p), Carlos Cuevas (i), Edgar Delgardo (colours)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
With the "Vendetta" Civil War tie-in arc over and done with, Marc Guggenheim takes his final issue to revisit certain sections of his story from a different perspective, exploring the psychological effect that Wolverine's healing factor produces when forced to revive the hero from a state of near-death. Although much has been made of Guggenheim's ramping up of Logan's powers (in one memorable example, Wolverine regenerated from a skeleton in a very short space of time), the writer doesn't simply use this issue to address fanboys' complaints with a faux-scientific explanation, instead adopting the more interesting perspective of Logan's mind and showing us the demons that he has to fight every time he "dies."
The issue reproduces certain moments from "Vendetta" as they were originally written, before delving inside Wolverine's head to see what his mind is experiencing as his body is healing itself. As representations of the afterlife go, it's nothing particularly original or groundbreaking (a dark place with a light at the end of it? I doubt that that idea required a lot of deep thought), but artist Humberto Ramos keeps things interesting with his artwork, which adopts a slightly different, more ethereal style here. The painted-style colouring of Edgar Delgardo over Ramos' pencils is reminiscent of the approach taken by Richard Isanove in Origin and 1602, and that's high praise as far as I'm concerned. Ramos depicts Wolverine in many different stages of his life (his Weapon X days; his early roots as the son of a nobleman; and in his classic X-Men duds), often using montage rather than linear storytelling to create a shifting, spiritual mood. It's a fitting technique for an issue which isn't so much about telling a story as it is about capturing a feeling of Wolverine's tortured, cyclical return to a supernatural place - and it's an atmosphere which suits the character well, if you can stomach Ramos' exaggerated approach to anatomy, which is admittedly a little more restrained than usual here.
Wolverine encounters more than one familiar face in this place, and whilst I can't claim to fully understand everything that transpires (indeed, it seems that Guggenheim is sowing some seeds of mystery for a future arc, especially with the final page), it's interesting to see the writer integrate Jean Grey into proceedings: Hey, if anyone's had as much experience with death and rebirth as Wolverine, it's her. However, the tale doesn't really go anywhere, eventually reducing Wolverine's struggle to a literal fight with an old enemy and leaving as many questions on the table as it does answers.
This is an interesting, low-key cap for a run which has been all about action and spectacle. Just as Mark Millar did with his stint on the book, Guggenheim has left us with a final issue which is more thoughtful and open to interpretation than the rest of his output, and it'll be interesting to see whether he builds on this particular issue when he returns to the book after the next creative team has taken their shot at the character. Don't buy this issue expecting a breakdown of exactly how and why Wolverine survived the wringer that Guggenheim put him through during "Vendetta," and don't expect the loose ends of that arc to be tied up; this is very much an issue about the psychological toll that regeneration takes on Logan, and whilst it's an interesting take on Wolvie's tortured soul, it's not particularly fresh or innovative and doesn't say a lot that's new about the character.
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