Trades for 12-16: Snikting all day

Have you seen this? Comics' own stuffed bull, Bully, has done a semi-regular segment on "How many X-Men books are out this week?" The number is probably not as bad as it was in the 90s (not having read any comics from that time, I assume it was a general cesspool of pouches and muscles), but it's still pretty bad. Seven x-titles in one week? Talk about excessive. It's astonishing that the market can support such a large number. It's uncanny. It's giant-size.

Speaking of Canadians, we've got two Wolverine books on the chopping block today. Neither of them are very substantial, but they are things that I read, and things that I would rather talk about than twiddle my thumbs.

Wolverine: Old Man Logan
by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

The Civil War team takes on a dystopian Marvel Universe in this nine-issue collection, starring an aged Wolverine. Millar does a great job creating a Wild West world that still adopts Marvel traits, such as Venom-possessed T-Rexes and Moloids that collapse entire cities. He nails Wolverine as a Clint Eastwood cowboy type, and he gives him a new status quo as a hermit who tells people to call him "Logan" and hasn't popped his claws in fifty years. When he doesn't have enough to feed his family and pay rent to his landlords, the Hulk clan, he has to go an an adventure with a blind, grey-haired Hawkeye to get the money.

Each issue reads pretty well, with a set obstacle for the Logan/Hawkeye duo and an exciting cliffhanger. It must have been a delight to read this serially. The problem is, each issue reads more like a newspaper serial than a comic -- without enough details to really merit the 22 pages. The creative team took nine issues to tell the story, and they could've done a lot more with it than they did. Millar created a whole world successfully, but, I finished the thing in one sitting in 40 minutes. That can't possibly be worth the retail price of $29.99. For a paperback.

That said, it's a quality read with brilliant art from the art team. Morry Hollowell colors McNiven so beautifully. But the bottom line is, every other form of entertainment is cheaper than this, and comics really need to do better.

I did not get these from the library, as I usually do, or with the next comic book. I did a swap with a friend of mine. And, that last page in the story is so Lone Wolf and Cub.

Wolverine: Noir
by Stuart Moore and C.P. Smith

It's really a strength in these comic book characters that we can adapt them to different genres. Batman gets adapted to gothic horror. Wolverine gets adapted to steampunk wild west. In this one Wolverine becomes a hard-boiled detective in the noir setting of The Bowery. As in, "I don't know much about Hell. But I know a lot about the Bowery."

Man, that line kills me. I'm a sucker for good hard-boiled narration like that, and Noir has plenty of it. Unfortunately, that seems to be its only strength. A lot of the prose refers to Wolverine as an "animal," as in he has to avoid his "baser instincts" and such. There's really little evidence that Wolverine has this struggle, save for one flashback in the fourth issue. In the rest of the story, it's this annoying non-factor that the writer tries to build up as a significant theme, and fails. Throughout the whole thing, I had a hard time sympathizing with Wolverine and, by the end of it, I was ambivalent, as opposed to struck by his tragedy, as the writer would intend. Chalk it up to long-time-comic-book-reader-ism.

The worst culprit in this collection isn't the writing. It's the drawing. There's a lot of shortcuts that the team takes, and it really shows.

Why would the building be more detailed than Wolverine's figure, right in front of us? It looks like he was drawn on with a marker. The finishing team did a terrible job on this one. The art overall is a shame, because you have these tight panels that show someone's face, and it works. It really works. You can see the hairs on Wolverine's face and his expression. And then you have visual disasters like above.

And by the way, this thing costs $14.99. That's how much Marvel is asking for this, a digest-sized, 4-issue story. I'm pretty aghast at these current Marvel paperback prices (paperback!). When I started buying comics in 2008, it used to be that hardcovers collecting at least 12 issues were $29.99, with a few extras, like an introduction and some sketch art. Floppies were $2.25. Now they'll make anything hardcover: even four-issue storylines, and charge $24.99, or they'll make the paperbacks collecting 9 issues $29.99. Floppies are as low as $2.99, and many are $3.99. What happened comics?

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