Essential Wolverine Volume 5A comic review article by: Hartley Holmberg
This volume collects Wolverine #91-110, Wolverine Annual 1996, and Uncanny X-Men #332--which covers the mid-portion of the not-so-epic feral-bone-claw era of “the ol’ Canuckle head.” (As a proud Canadian I need to express how much that phrase makes my insides hurt.)
These issues are almost entirely flat out awful, with the majority of the stories being a regurgitation of Wolverine proving to himself and everybody in the story that he’s not just a rabid animal. If you read the previous volume of Essential Wolverine then all of this may already sound familiar to you.
On the positive side there’s tons of great art, on the negative side is the near complete lack of coherent or intelligent story telling. Throughout most of the volume I felt that the book was being aimed at an extremely juvenile audience.
The simple ridiculousness of Wolverine being able to cut through metals with his edgeless rounded bone claws is an almost impossibly difficult pill to swallow--but even if you can get past that then there is still Larry Hama’s need to have Wolverine outshine characters that should be far more impressive than the bumbling side-kicks they’re presented as here.
As thrilled as I was to see Cannonball, Caliban, Storm, Guardian, Vindicator, Gen X, and the X-Men, none of them actually do anything or serve any apparent purpose other than to make Wolverine appear more competent (with the exception of the story from Uncanny X-Men # 332 as the X-Men are perfectly competent in their own comic, of course).
These comics just feel dialed in by Larry Hama. Perhaps the best example is from issue #96, guest-starring Cannonball, Caliban and Storm. A bear shows up at one point in that story, and it easily swats aside a charging Cannonball. Caliban runs forward to save his colleague, and Cannonball (on the ground like a cheerleader in a gore film) says, “Run, Cal--save yourself.”
(Steven Colbert would love this!)
Cannonball can fly through a tank and shrug off a howitzer shell, but that’s no protection against the uber power of a grizzly!
I hope I’ve made it clear that despite the otherwise fantastic writing skills of Larry Hama, this stuff is so amazingly bad it’s actually entertaining in an odd way--but, then again, I found the Halle Berry Catwoman film to be one of the best inadvertent comedies I’ve ever seen.
If you’re looking for anything more than extremely mindless fun, then this could be your cup of tea. However, if you have a brain in your head and find you’re not good at turning it, then off avoid Essential Wolverine Volume Five.