Friday, July 2, 2010

Review: Wolverine: Not Dead Yet

Review Wolverine Not Dead Yet Warren Ellis Leinil Francis Yu Cover Marvel Premiere Classic Hardcover hc trade paperback tpb comic bookWriter: Warren Ellis
Artist: Leinil Yu
Collects: Wolverine #119-122 (1997-98)
Published: Marvel, 2009; $19.99 (HC), $14.99 (TPB)

I have read more Wolverine comics than any other person alive.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – there are a ton of Wolverine stories, even a ton of Wolverine collected editions, that I haven’t read, but still, I feel like I must have read at least a few dozen of them over the years. It’s kind of weird, actually…Wolverine isn’t my favorite character in comics (see: the title of this blog), but he’s one of my favorite characters to read about, if that makes any sense. There are so many different facets to his personality, so many different roles he’s able to assume, and of course there’s that mysterious, mostly untold past of his. It all makes for a wide variety of story possibilities, some of which are really interesting while others are utterly forgettable.

Unfortunately, Wolverine: Not Dead Yet falls more into that second camp. Even though, as I’ve just said, there are tons of possibilities for Wolverine stories, there are certain angles that writers tend to take with the character over and over again, and if you’ve seen a story from that angle once, you’ve basically seen them all. It’s that sort of “been there, done that” feeling that leaves me a bit cold towards this particular collection, although it’s not without its merits.

The main draw of Not Dead Yet is that it features artwork by Leinil Yu, who has gone on to become a comic book superstar over the twelve years since this material was first published. His work here is strong, and I actually like it better than his current style. I think that has mostly to do with the fact that until recently, Yu did not ink his own work – here, he’s assisted by not one but two inkers, Edgar Tadeo and Gerry Alanguilan.

Even at this early point in his career, Yu’s work is sleek, yet detailed. It’s the little touches that make him stand out to me, from the dense texture of the hair on Wolverine’s arms to the slow, visceral way blood drips from the character’s claws (which are made of bone in this collection – Wolverine would get his adamantium skeleton back about a year after this story). This was a style that Yu would perfect a few years later in Superman: Birthright, and it’s interesting to see it in its infancy here.

As much as I like the art, though, I simply can’t bestow the same praise on Warren Ellis’s story. There really isn’t that much to say about it, to be honest: it follows Logan as he hunts down a man from his past who’s seemingly come back for revenge, which is pretty much as formulaic as you can get when it comes to stories about this character. The main plot is intercut with flashbacks to conversations Logan had with the man in Hong Kong ten years earlier, which are much more interesting than anything going on in the present. Ellis tries to create a sense of mystery as to whether the man is still alive or if it’s really someone else who’s after Wolverine, but a few badly executed twists too many in the final act bring that subplot to a pretty dissatisfying conclusion.

The story is only four issues long, with the last twenty or so pages of the collection consisting of a Leinil Yu cover gallery (he was a fairly regular cover artist on Wolverine both before and after Not Dead Yet). The art is pretty good, and it’s certainly better than Marvel including script pages, but it’s obviously just padding to boost the book’s cover price. I also found myself a bit annoyed by the book’s introduction, which was written by Ellis in 1998 for the first paperback edition of this collection. Couldn’t Marvel have commissioned something a little more recent from either Ellis or Yu?

The relative slimness of this book and the formulaic nature of its story combine to make Wolverine: Not Dead Yet a pretty tough sell, in my opinion. If you’re a Leinil Yu enthusiast interested in taking a closer look at his early work, I guess this isn’t the worst thing you can buy; as I’ve already mentioned, though, Superman: Birthright is a far superior choice in that vein. And as for Wolverine, there are countless other collections better than this one – many of which actually dare to do interesting and novel things with the character.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


  1. Interesting review Marc. The artwork sounds very nice but the story, as you mentioned is so easy to pull off with Wolvie that it's been seen SO many times. As a recent Wolvie reader I gotta ask, how'd he lose his adamantium claws and such?

  2. First of all, I loved your introduction. It was written with so much conviction.

    I'm glad you reviewed this, because I had these issues back in 8th grade, and I thought Yu was the man. It always surprised me that people seemingly hadn't heard of him until Secret Invasion, because I remembered him being so good on these issues.

    As far as the writing, I honestly didn't remember the storyline, other than Wolvie was hunting someone. Apparently it was forgettable.

    So Marc, what are some your favorie Wolvie stories?

  3. Thanks for the comments guys, and I'm glad you enjoyed the review!

    JT, Wolverine had his adamantium skeleton ripped out of his body by Magneto in X-Men #25 in the early 1990s. That issue has been collected in the X-Men: Fatal Attractions TPB (now out of print) and, more recently, in the X-Men: Prelude to Onslaught TPB. For the next few years after that issue, the character was portrayed with bone claws and a significantly meaner disposition than ever before, all in an attempt to make the character more "edgy."

    Kello, I've always been a big fan of Yu as well (I almost wrote "Yu too," but I was afraid of incurring Bono's wrath). He was doing such good work on the X-titles in the late '90s and early 2000s that I was fairly confident he was a household name at the time. Cut to a few years later when he landed a job on New Avengers, and I was really surprised more people weren't familiar with him (especially when his previous work was far better, in my opinion).

    My favorite Wolverine storyline ever is Frank Tieri's run on the character in the early 2000s. I talked about it pretty in-depth in the comments section for my review of Deadpool Classic Vol. 1, so feel free to take a look back at that.

    I'm a fan of pretty much everything in the Best of Wolverine hardcover collection, which has all the classics: the Claremont/Miller miniseries, the stuff by Barry Windsor-Smith, etc. There are also some really obscure ones that I love, like Sam Kieth's Wolverine/Hulk miniseries from about ten years ago. It's a fact that I'll read almost anything starring the character, although as I think I showed in this review, that doesn't necessarily mean I think it's all wonderful.

  4. Ah, the need to make characters "edgy", and now their all the exact same way they were before. Also, you knowing what trades it's in always surprises me, because you have a hell of a memory.

    So now I gotta ask, how'd he get the adamantium back? And was he willing or did they just throw him in a tank and do it again for some reason?

  5. Wolverine got a brand-new adamantium skeleton courtesy of Apocalypse, in exchange for temporarily becoming one of Apocalypse's Four Horsemen. That whole story begins in the trade X-Men: The Shattering and plays itself out over the course of X-Men vs. Apocalypse, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. I've never read those trades but I'm actually planning to do so fairly soon, mostly out of curiosity since those were the stories that came out right before I started buying X-Men comics regularly. I'll post reviews whenever that happens!

  6. Sweet dude, really looking forward to that because it sounds interesting. So do you already know what you're reviewing next week or is it one of those, whatever I read I'll review type deals? I'd assume it's the former considering how in-depth your reviews are.

  7. I'm not sure what I'll do next week yet. I'm in the midst of reading a few different books, and I also have a handful of reviews already started for some other things I've read recently.

    It almost definitely won't be a superhero book though, since I've reviewed so many of those recently. I was just looking back over some of my old posts, and I realized I haven't done a non-superhero book since April -- and even then it was technically still a Marvel comic! So I think you can probably expect something a little more "out there" next week.

  8. Ah, sounds sweet. Yeah I didn't even notice until you said it but yeah, you have been a little heavy on the hero side. Either way, looking forward to ya next review dude.

  9. haha yeah, I know what you mean - it's easy to get hooked into the superhero thing. It just goes on forever.

    I've got a lot of really critically acclaimed non super hero books that I should read, but I've had trouble getting to them.

  10. It definitely is easy to get hooked on superheroes. It's kind of funny actually, because until I started this blog I really wasn't reading too many superhero comics at all anymore, and when I did it was almost exclusively archival material. So it's been fun to start reading and writing about more recent superhero comics again, just because I hadn't really been engaged with those kinds of comics in a while...although now I feel like I've had my fill, at least for a few weeks while I recharge my superhero batteries.

  11. Nice review, and I had no idea Yu did Marvel work that long ago.

    I also had a question, should your sentence talking about Yu inking read that until recently, he DID ink his own work instead of did not? Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but I take your sentence to mean that he would let others ink his work until recently, when I think it's the other way around.

    I remember hating the fact that he used to ink his own work and recently (around the time of Secret Invasion) he had Mark Morales ink that series which I thought made his artwork "pop" a lot more. I've always disliked when Yu would ink his own stuff because he gave it a "sketchy" type of look.

    Anyway, keep up the great work!

  12. Hey John, thanks for stopping by! Your reading of that sentence is correct, but I should have been more specific. Until New Avengers, Leinil Yu's work was inked by others (mostly Gerry Alanguilan and Mark Morales). After he started on that title, he inked himself for a few years -- that's the work of his that I don't particulary care for.

    When I mentioned his "current style" I really should have said his "New Avengers style," because since that series, like you said, he's actually gone back to letting others ink his pencilwork. There are still some elements of his inking-himself phase, though, and although Secret Invasion was an improvement over New Avengers I still wasn't a huge fan.

    Anyhow, thanks for pointing that out and I apologize for any confusion I may have caused!

  13. No biggie. I honestly never heard of Yu until the New Avengers run so I don't really have any perspective on his stuff before hand. So really, all I've known is him inking his own work until recently. :-P

    I think Yu's artwork is great, but his story telling skills don't match up with the quality of it.