As I stated before in my review of Rahne of Terra, there are a lot of graphic novels that came out in the 80s and 90s revolving around Wolverine. And I mean a lot a lot. So many that, in reading my way through X-Men, I eventually started setting them aside to be read at a later date. I did this for two reasons. The first was that, when paired with the Wolverine ongoing title, there was just plain too much Logan in my daily dose of X-Men. The second was that, well, I could. These titles had little-to-no effect on continuity whatsoever. They operated on the same login as the Wolverine Annuals of the time or even the Marvel Novels, and we saw yesterday with Drowned in Thunder exactly what I think of those.
What’s especially egregious about this fact is that “graphic novels” should be a place for a different sort of storytelling, not more of the same. Actually, because of their self-contained and simple storytelling methods, the Wolverine graphic novels tended to be more like the public perception of a comic book than the Wolverine ongoing series, which during this period featured some great serialized drama at the hands or Larry Hama.
Path of the Warlord finds Wolverine on a mission for Landu, Luckman, and Lake, an inter-dimensional law-firm that had been employing Wolverine sporadically for the past few years, but would soon move on to employ Deadpool instead once his ongoing series gets started up, because having a law-firm employ Wolverine was just a little bit too much like self-parody, and that doesn’t fit well with Wolverine. It fits quite well, on the other hand, with Deadpool.
The story goes like this: Years ago in Japan, Wolverine was on a mission given to him by Chang, the head of Landau, Luckman and Lake. During that mission he fought a warlord called Kimora. Kimora defeats Wolverine, but before he can kill him, is beheaded by an ally of Logan’s named Doctor Carling.
A few years after that incident, Logan is in Jasmine Falls learning how to be a samurai when he is again approached by Chang, who informs him that Kimora is alive and has taken Carling prisoner. Logan reluctantly agrees to go with him and learns that Kimora is in fact an inter-dimensional warlord.
Now, I think there is a pretty good place to stop and take stock of where we are, and why the Landau, Luckman and Lake law-firm and all the space-drama stuff doesn’t fit in a Wolverine title. Look at the cover of this novel and you’ll notice it is reminiscent of Lone Wolf and Cub, which was fairly popular at the time. The font and symbols on the cover all indicate an Eastern feel to them, indicating that this will be “that sort” of story. Even the art (by far the best part of the novel, thanks to John Paul Leon) has a gritty, Western-interpretation-of-martial-arts-norms feel to it. And yet here we have an inter-dimensional warlord as the villain. It’s just head-scratching. The last time I was this confused by something being called inter-dimensional, I was watching an Indiana Jones movie.
Using Carling’s technology, Chang and Logan head to Kimora’s dimension. There, they fight alongside Carling’s daughter Rose, who has the abilities of a shape-changer. She aids them against two shadow assassins. After killing one of them, the trio make their way toward Kimora’s palace.
Working together, Logan and his compatriots take out Kimora’s guards . Eventually the battle takes its toll and Logan begins to lose control. This comic took place during a period of time during which his adamantium had been taken from him, and the effect on his body left him even more susceptible to feral rages.
Once they confront him. Kimora kills Carling and Logan attacks him in a rage. Thanks to Rose, Logan is able to regain control, kicks Kimora into the dimensional rift, and destroys both.
Three days later, Chang offers Logan an opportunity to work with Rose under the employ of Landau, Luckman and Lake. Logan replies that he’ll think about it, and that it is “high time he starts changing the way he looks at the world.”
If this is a novel about changing perceptions, then I guess I can kind-of see the thought process behind disguising a sci-fi epic as a martial-arts adventure. In that sense, its not only Logan’s perceptions and pre-conceived notions that are challenged, but the reader’s as well. If that was the intent, and I’m sure now that it was, then that’s a lofty and respectable goal for Mackie to aspire to with this comic.
I only wish it had been utilized in a better plot.