Wolverine: Origins Volume 1 - Born In Blood Paperback – Apr 18 2007
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I love the idea of Wolverine paying for the crimes of a past that has only just recently been revealed to him. The idea of the tortured hero and failed samurai have been lost in recent years, especially in the X-Men titles. Even Astonishing X-Men and New Avengers, though admitedly fine reads, only portrays Mervel's arguably best character as little more that a hot-headed comic relief who is never actually involved in the story. In Origins, we see the same tortured soul envisioned by his best writers so long ago with the capacity to fit in the gruesome scenes of violence Marvel was censored from exploring in those days. (If you need any proof, just take a gander at his issue long slugfest with Captain America.) In short, the character needed the direction paved here by Daniel Way more than anything, and the only people that disagree with that are the ones who wish to stunt the growth of a character who has been largely ignored.
I've read Daniel Way's "Wolverine Origins" series in a pretty haphazard order, picking up volumes whenever I see them rather than reading them in order, so I'm actually finishing the series with the first book! So I know all about the revelations that follow, etc etc but "Born in Blood" is still a pretty damn good read.
We find out just how much of a bastard Logan's been in the past - and he's a pretty mean git at the best of times! - and some of the things he does in the `60s is really dark. And for those who enjoyed "Daredevil: Born Again", Nuke returns with some updates to fight Logan with and Way gives him a pretty nasty backstory on how he came to be the brainwashed killing machine he is.
Steve Dillon's art is fantastic as ever and there's a pretty decent superhero fight at the end which isn't just mutant powers zapping to and fro but has some interesting tactical moves between Wolverine and... well I won't spoil it. But Way's put some thought into it rather than just have the supes bash one another mindlessly.
As for the rest of the series, the best stuff happens in the first five books but the rest of the series isn't bad either and is worth reading if you're a Wolverine fan. "Born in Blood" is an excellent beginning and has plenty of blood and violence to stay true to the (black) soul of the character. Good stuff.
One of the more interesting elements to Wolverine had been the mystery surrounding him. Through out the years we learned that his memories had been altered, and fake memories had been implanted to turn him into a weapon for Weapon X. We learned that he was a secret agent, a failed samurai, had a lover by the name of Silver Fox who was murdered by Sabretooth, and there was even a possibility that Sabretooth may have been his father. Many individuals the likes of Omega Red, Maverick, and even Cyber would reveal themselves, thus opening up another can of worms in Wolverine's life, and there was a possibility that some of that stuff could have been fake. It was cool reading. Unfortunately, there came a time where this stuff needed to be addressed. Who is Wolverine exactly? Well thanks to the events that took place in House of M, Wolverine Origins was birthed in an attempt to clear things up. It doesn't exactly retcon anything in the character's life, instead it provides the necessary details and clarification finally telling us who he is. It's a very interesting take on the character, and in the long run, Daniel Way did deliver the goods despite some missteps. Wolverine: Born in Blood collects issues 1 - 5 and it follows up Wolverine: Origins and Endings.
I have to admit that the only reason I even cared to bother with this series is because of its core premise. Wolverine had been way too over-exposed by this point, and another title following his adventures was indeed eye rolling for me, and many others as well who even liked him. In any case, this book covers some things we already knew as well as some new stuff. It appears that Wolverine's days as a puppet for the government or various organizations are indeed very true. One of his missions played into the very brutal conditioning of a young boy named Frank Simpson who would go on to become the murderous Nuke. Wolverine sets out to find all of those responsible for turning him into such an evil beast. This leads him to invading the White House, and later into a battle with Captain America. The skill-adapting, killer robot named Shiva also makes an appearance to include the X-Men. Way had been accused of being quite gimmicky with this first batch of stories, but he does turn it into a fun read with quite a bit of action and intrigue. The suspense is at a high and it sets the foundation for deeper storytelling later on. I will address that progress in future write ups.
Way's writing and handling of the character does contain a level of cleverness. He knows the character well enough and you can see it as he explores Wolverine's past. He plays heavily on karma here. Although it can be argued Wolverine was not completely responsible for his actions; he was still forced to pay for his actions through the lost of loved ones and trials he was forced to endure. No sins seem to go unpunished in this cruel world, and it appears Wolverine knows that all too well. He can't fix the damage caused, he can only hurt the people who forced his hand. While some people have their peeves with the story, the one thing that always bothered me was the constant flux in Wolverine's fighting ability. On some occasions he would fight like a total amateur taking almost every blow from the least skilled fighters like Hulk, Juggernaut, and yes, even Spider-Man. Then he's off matching the extremely highly skilled Captain America and Iron Fist move for move. For those who have been paying attention to this over the years, this inconsistency can grow annoying because it's only for story's sake. This is again the case here, as he truly gives Cap a run for his money concerning skill. I don't care how many decades of experience Wolverine has, the character has overall been written as a very reckless fighter while Cap will never lose focus.
Steve Dillon's artwork does a great job delivering the action. Wolverine's fight with Captain America is by far their most brutal encounter. The conflict with Nuke is pretty good also and quite disturbing. The violence doesn't leave too much up to the imagination, and this is actually a good thing since it is a Wolverine book. The character designs are fine for the most part, with an appropriate amount of definition and even a small bit of sex appeal from Emma Frost. My only issue here are the facial designs. Dillon draws all of the males of the same sketch, the same with the females. Captain America and Wolverine look too much alike with the same violent looking eyes. There just really isn't much range here. At least there was some effort into the backgrounds something I always look forward to. There aren't many or perhaps any static backgrounds. You never forget Wolverine is fighting either in the woods or inside of buildings.
Born in Blood is a solid start ending on a big cliffhanger that will haunt Wolverine later. For the most part I think the guest stars were used well, artwork is passable, and there's just enough suspense that even floats over into the next volume. I highly recommend this to fans of the character and the X-Men. It's also a very good starting point; the previous book Origins & Endings really isn't necessary, but if you're that much of a fan, it's hard to say you'll be wasting anything then.
Pros: Action, suspense, good enough artwork
Cons: Small writing and artwork issues