Saturday, April 26, 2003

Wolverine #41 Review

I will totally cop to it – when Marvel signed C.P. Smith away from Wildstorm to do their New Invaders book, I totally didn’t understand the decision. I didn’t, like, hate his Stormwatch work or anything, I just didn’t see anything in there that would make an editor want to snatch him away from another company and give him a brand new comic launch. He seemed like an okay artist, but that was about it. Well, I was totally wrong – as C.P. Smith has now become an amazing artist, and seeing his art for thirty-five pages in this week’s Wolverine #41 was an amazing treat.

The closest artistic comparison I can think to Smith’s work would be John Paul Leon, who is, as you all know, an amazing artist in his own right. The comparison is in the way both artists use shadows. A good deal of their work is expressed in shadow, and using the darkness to distinguish characters – a lot of silhouettes and characters masked in black shadows. However, I think Smith is even more pronounced in his use of the technique than Leon. In fact, while all his characters evoke a John Paul Leon feel to them, his use of shadows probably more accurately resembles the work of the Eduardo Risso class of artists. A light-blue pack of cigarettes jumps out at the reader when placed in the hands and mouth of a silhouetted human being.

Back when he was doing New Invaders, this new style of Smith was slowly appearing, but I did not like it as much then, because I think he had a bit of a problem with using his style cohesively with the story – things would not make as much sense as the writer intended. In this issue, there is no such problem, as the work, while amazing to look at, also quite clearly expresses writer Stuart Moore’s story. There were two extremely breathtaking scenes that I wish to highlight. The first occurred when Wolverine is forced to the high grasses, as Smith’s lush grass work, broken up by the disharmony of tanks and jeeps, with a lone man sneaking through – it just works so effectively. The second is so clearly awesome, it even made its way to the cover of the issue – as, during one scene, the attackers (I don’t know why, exactly, rather than use guns) bombard Wolverine with arrows from a long distance. What an amazing shot of the arrows flying through the sky and barraging Wolverine. Such a brutally evocative image.

The story by Moore is interesting enough. Wolverine comes to a small African country called Zwartheid that was ruled by the United Nations as last in quality of life in the world. Black Panther wanted to intervene, but knew that he could not, due to an oath every Wakandan king has taken NOT to intervene in its neighbor’s affairs (convenient, eh?), so he went to the Avengers, and found Wolverine to volunteer. The king of Zwartheid has been driven out, and the only hope lies in his daughter, who may return to the country some day to bring peace back to Zwartheid. Wolverine’s mission is to spirit her out of the country – it’s a difficult one.

Some of the most interesting visuals in the comic come from seeing Wolverine wearing a bundled up child strapped to his chest. What I especially enjoyed was seeing how Moore was able to, while making Wolverine seem quite capable, never made him TOO capable. That’s always something that annoys me in Wolverine stories, when the writers make him TOO capable. Wolverine’s journey brings him face to face with many dangers, be it natural or man-made.

I would recommend this story, even if Moore’s story was not that good, just to see the tour de force performance by C. P. Smith. Luckily, Moore’s story IS good, so I can recommend this comic without reservation.

Read the Review


Anonymous Dizzy said...

"Zwartheid" (Blackhood)? Isn't that an odd name for a country. Then again we do have a country called Nigeria, which comes down to the same thing.

4/26/2006 05:59:00 AM  
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