Saturday, March 17, 2012

GN Review -- Wolverine & Black Cat: Claws / Joe Linsner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Beware, weekend redneck game hunters with more money than brains: if Kraven the Hunter offers to set you up with the opportunity to hunt Wolverine and Black Cat on a deserted island, chances are that something is not on the level.  You're very likely caught in a snare by the insane villain Arcade in some permutation of his Murderworld assassination parks.  If by some miracle you manage to survive that encounter, please don't expect a refund of your money, a ride back to civilization, or even the means to call for help.  You've clearly given up your rights to those thing by buying into this endeavor in the first place.

At least, that's the level of contempt I feel for the creation that has been given the title Wolverine & The Black Cat: Claws.

I won't say this was a difficult read, and I won't say it wasn't fun in a very few places, but this installment of lore between these two Marvel characters left an overall bad taste in my mouth.  So many poorly handled plot elements and visual decisions combined to give me an overall distasteful impression of a story that featured two heroes I actually really like.  I'd say it takes a lot to do that, but really, if you're willing to take any weakly plotted story, slap the poorly rendered skins and labels of a property on it, and call it riveting, creative, must-read material, then Linsner, Palmiotti and Gray really passed with flying colors and made it look effortless.

After a brief establishment of who these two are by interactions with their teammates or occasional allies, they are quickly captured and spirited away to an island, where they are hunted by the aforementioned mouth breathers from earlier.  Despite the many various booby traps and enhanced weapons of their assassins, the due of course prove too much for the amateurs hunting them, and once the fake Kraven is taken out of the picture, Wolverine quickly deduces who the real culprit is: Arcade, an amusement park-themed madman who's menaced the X-Men and other heroes on multiple occasions.

Before Wolverine and Black Cat mount a serious counterattack against him, they spend a good deal of time bickering and insulting one another as they try to escape, giving Arcade plenty of time to take his paramour, the White Rabbit, and flee with little risk.  They eventually catch up to them, capture them, and after regaling them with the story of how they got off Arcade's island, leave them in the Savage Land as payback for what he did to them.  Wolverine and Black Cat then go out on a date at a fancy restaurant, while Arcade pays for the fact that he called White Rabbit stupid as he slowly roasts over a spit, courtesy of the natives.

I think my biggest problem with this story--and there are many of those--is how Felicia and Logan are portrayed.  Simply put, Felicia's nowhere near as friendly as she normally is.  Don't get me wrong, she'll never win any awards for welcoming committee, but her witty banter has always had a limit on the cutting remarks.  She's always been fun, flirty, and a bit of a tease.  Here, the fun is basically taken out of her, she uses far too many mean-spirited insults, and her flirting comes off as far too superior.

Logan, on the other hand, is written like a teenage boy who hasn't yet learned how to properly communicate with others.  He's much worse at handling Black Cat's jibes than his age and experience would normally suggest (as well as how he normally handles similar situations), and instead of riposte any of her subtle gotcha flirtations, he simply grumps and stomps off like a petulant boy.  It's hard for me to escape the fact that Wolverine, much like Spider-Man--the two men who mainly interact with her--are simply juvenile, drooling morons who are clumsily and hopelessly obsessed with hitting on Felicia, and she's all too aware and high-handed about it.

I suppose all the zingers and insults between Logan and Felicia were the writers' attempt at romantically witty banter.  The truth is, it got really old, really fast.

Don't get me started on Kraven.  Or how easily Wolverine and Black Cat got taken.  Or what point White Rabbit served in the narrative.  Or why there had to be a flashback so Logan and Felicia could tell them how they escaped.  Just suffice it to say that there's plenty more about this story that I could have picked apart.

I'm not too impressed by the artwork, either.  Wolverine is drawn too thick, he has no nose, and basically looks like a hunchback.  Felicia's costume--where the hell did that come from?  The mask and cat ears in particular offend me, as she's never been particularly obsessed with looking like a cat to this extent.  I can understand wanting to take a more practical approach to her costume, but to simply slip it all in with no buildup or explanation really toys with the classic look of the heroine, which I found a bit insulting.

Overall, I can't really claim to have enjoyed this piece.  It had all the characters I liked--even Arcade and White Rabbit could have been intriguing--but it all felt to trite, too contrived, and simply lacking in interesting story elements.  While there's an occasional chuckle to be gleaned from the dialog, neither the overall story nor the art satisfy me.  Not recommended.

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