Wolverine: Origin
Medium: comic
Year: 2001
Writer: Bill Jemas, Paul Jenkins, Joe Quesada
Artist: Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove
Keywords: superhero
Series: << Wolverine >>
Format: 6 issues
Website category: Comics
Review date: 28 October 2021
It's remarkable. I hadn't been expecting this from Wolverine's origin story. Superheroes: none. Supervillains: none. It's set in Mark Twain country, with 19th century children and a story of ordinary people (unless you count Logan's bone claws). Rose is a twelve-year-old orphan who's coming to work on the Howlett estate. Impressively, she can read and write. Not all her contemporaries can. She's been hired to be a companion to James, a sickly heir with lots of allergies, but fairly soon she's also befriended a rough boy called Logan. In issue #1, they're thoroughly nice kids.
Unfortunately, James's grandfather and Logan's father are... well, let's be polite and call them creatures of their era. Things have started going wrong in issue #2 and they'll only be getting worse.
To be honest, I preferred the story's first half. The family drama and the suffering children are memorably done, with some startling points like Logan's father's approval of James's monstrous, bullying grandfather. "I hate 'em... all of the bastards! 'Specially 'Soft John'. Thinks he's too good fer someone like me, but he ain't! At least the old man knows his place... he knows 'ow t' treat a servant, so 'e does. Soft John don't even know 'ow to treat 'is wife..."
The second half shows a boy becoming Wolverine, which is okay. I liked it. Loved it, no. Liked it, sure. It's more predictable than the first half, since we can see where things are going. (It also has plot points that require some fan knowledge, i.e. the fact that Wolverine's healing ability can "heal" bad memories by putting up a mental block against them. In other words, his mutant power gives him amnesia.)
There are some clever touches in here, e.g. Logan's name. There's misdirection. There's lovely computer-painted art. Ultimately, though, it's an emotionally powerful tragedy of nice people, mean old bastards and the process of the former becoming the latter. I love the tone and the historical setting. It's utterly unlike anything else I've ever read with Wolverine's name on it. It feels more literary and, frankly, more intelligent. I found this book a delightful (but dark) surprise.