Marvel’s MAX line of comics has had its fair share of hits and misses over the years. When things work out the way they are supposed to and the imprint is used to its full potential (specifically Garth Ennis’ runs on Punisher MAX and Fury MAX), we are graced with the hard-hitting, gritty, dark worlds that the MAX banner promises. Usually set in a more realistic world, the MAX titles tend to be incredibly violent, full of coarse language, and let us see what might happen if these characters lived in a real world, with real problems. Not to mention that it is just plain awesome to see someone like the Punisher destroy entire rooms full of thugs and gangsters in full gun-blazing, gore-filled glory.
Wolverine MAX #1, written by Jason Starr with art by Roland Boschi and Connor Willumsen, is the latest addition to Marvel’s line of adult-only comic books, and it seems to be on the path to great things. Crippled with amnesia — and literally crippled from a shark attack that promptly removed his legs — Logan is discovered floating in the ocean by a crew of Japanese sailors after apparently being in a plane crash. Once he is brought back to the city, Logan escapes from the hospital and embarks on a mission to find out who he is, why he has metal claws popping out of his knuckles, and where he came from.
Jason Starr still has to affirm that he is the right choice for this series, but he is off to a decidedly good start with this issue. Although the amnesia aspect is a trope that has been done to absolute death, there’s plenty to love. The way Starr uses the flashback sequences is especially gratifying, as we see that even the most hardcore of Wolverine fans may not be know where this story is going. One scene in particular brings a classic villain into the mix that isn’t anything like what we’ve seen before from the character, and it is exciting to know that Starr may go a different route with some of the more familiar rogues and heroes that inhabit the Marvel Universe. Starr is also decidedly good at writing crime fiction, so it will be pretty interesting to see how he incorporates the crime aspects into the story. Logan/Wolverine has always had a connection to the underworld through his nefarious dealings in the past, so surely Starr will incorporate this into the tale. Another great aspect of this first issue is, surprisingly, the lack of over-the-top violence. Any time a writer/artist has used the MAX banner as a showcase for extreme violence and harsh language first it comes off as a sad attempt to draw in readers on shock-value alone. There will surely be violence throughout the series, and Wolverine has always been a violent character, but there’s a difference between servicing the story and just being gratuitous. Starr keeps the gory stuff relegated to the scenes where it is necessary, so it doesn’t come off as just trying to be nasty for the sake of it. The final pages set up plenty of possibilities for upcoming tales of Wolverine’s plight, so if Starr can keep the quality at this level it should be a fun ride for fans of the character.
The biggest problem with the first issue of the series is the art. Roland Boschi handles all of the present-day scenes, and it isn’t the best work out there. Not that it isn’t good, there are just some things that could be tightened up in forthcoming issues. Boschi could very well be a great choice for this continuity, but some of his scenes are just a little too sloppy. Connor Willumsen handles all of the flashback scenes, and anyone that has seen his work before knows the style that he uses. The best way to describe it is very loose, as most of the scenes he draws look somewhat like sketches a child would do, but for the most part it works. There’s something about the way it flows that gives it what looks like actual motion, and it is a pretty cool way of separating the present from the past. Seeing as how this is only the first issue there’s plenty of room for improvement in the coming months on all fronts, so there’s a good chance that it will become more and more clean as the story progresses.
The MAX imprint has given us some really great stuff over the years, but there’s also been several disappointing projects that just couldn’t find the right combination of adult oriented material and comic book fun. Wolverine MAX could use a few tweaks here and there, but it is for the most part a great start to a hopefully entertaining series. If there’s one thing that most comic fans could go without it is another Wolverine book on the stands, so let’s hope that this one continues to impress and improve with time.