Collecting three classic fan-favourite Wolverine novels together for the first time in a brand-new omnibus edition.
WEAPON X by Marc Cerasini. Before joining the X-Men, Wolverine was simply a directionless loner mutant named Logan. This is the cruel origin of Logan’s transformation into Wolverine, as seen through the eyes of his tormentors. Their goal is to create the ultimate weapon, an indestructible man. As Logan manages to free himself from his captors, a brutal wave of violence affects all those involved.
ROAD OF BONES by David Alan Mack. Wolverine is tapped by a government agency to investigate rumors of a miracle cure developed by a sinister underworld organization, and used to gain leverage and control over desperate African nations. Wolverine must thwart the criminals’ schemes and recover the panacea for benign use. But hope may turn to ashes as Logan learns that nothing is quite as it seems.
LIFEBLOOD by Matthew Hughes. Wolverine’s memories of fighting in the Canadian army during World War II begin to resurface. Digging deeper, he discovers he was a prisoner of war, at the will of a ruthless Nazi scientist determined to unlock the secrets of Logan’s mutant healing powers. What Logan doesn’t know is that the scientist is still at large, and he’ll stop at nothing to finish what he started sixty years earlier…
Originally published between 2005-2007, these three Wolverine novels offer an eclectic view of the mysterious mutant and represent the dynamic ways that the character has been presented over the years from secret agent, superhero, noble warrior, science experiment and monster. Each novel takes place in a different part of Logan’s life, demonstrating how his lengthy lifespan has seen him undergo numerous identities and codenames. Collected together by Titan Books in an omnibus format, all three novels explore the different facets as the man known to the world as Wolverine.
The first novel in the omnibus is “Weapon X”, a novelisation of the iconic Barry Windsor-Smith storyline that first ran in Marvel Comics Presents #72-84 during 1991 and finally revealed the truth behind Wolverine’s origin. Author Marc Cerasini elaborates upon Windsor-Smith’s grim tale of human experimentation by focusing more on the trio of scientists responsible for Logan’s situation, as well as introducing a recurring flashback adventure that ties into the current-day events. Despite these additional elements, Cerasini keeps Windsor-Smith’s script as the foundation of his tale, often quoting lines from the comic script verbatim and providing added context to some of the line readings. I actually re-read my copy of the “Weapon X” graphic novel alongside this novel and it was an interesting comparison to see where Cerasini delved deeper into the backgrounds of the experiment.
Much like Windsor-Smith’s original masterpiece, the novelisation of “Weapon X” is extremely gory and Cerasini does a great job at recreating the body horror and eerie atmosphere inherent to Windsor-Smith’s artwork. Reading the two works together was a fantastic experience and the novelisation certainly enhances the original, offering a “director’s cut” version of the story that fills in some of the plot threads hinted at in the original comic. By following the main plot of “Weapon X” so rigidly, Cerasini has little room to deviate from the established plot but the introduction of a unseen flashback gives the author room to create a unique tale that showcases the fragile balance of man and beast that exists within Logan. I really enjoyed this new framing story just as much as the adapted elements and would thoroughly recommend this to readers as a way to re-experience “Weapon X” with fresh eyes.
Written by David Alan Mack, the second novel “Road of Bones” features a more recent tale from Wolverine’s past that takes place after the “Planet X” and “House of M” storylines occurring in the comics. A departure from the grim body horror of “Weapon X”, Mack’s novel injects a James Bond element to Wolverine as he embarks on a quest to prevent the Hand and the Yakuza from introducing a deadly new drug to the populous. With action taking place in Toyko, Brazil, Russia and Africa, it is truly a globe-trotting affair that mixes espionage, martial arts and superheroics together in one eclectic package. Despite the shiny glossiness of this adventure, there is still plenty of gore and action as Wolverine once again puts his healing factor to the test, enduring some gruesome injuries and miraculous recoveries as he fends off countless ninjas and mercenaries.
While the action is both fast and furious, Mack uses his story to highlight the plight of villagers in Africa beset by famine, illnesses and war-hungry gangs. The chapters that focus on Nishan and her attempts to get aid for her dying children are particularly harrowing and add a real sense of real-world gravitas to the larger-than-life action. One scene in the final chapters which sees Nishan and Logan meet face-to-face is extremely tough to read and raises a real morality question mark over whether Wolverine was in the right or not. The ambiguity of the hero and the villain in this story is quite striking, subverting the typical black and white motives of superhero comics and delivering a rather raw denouement to the adventure. Mack does a great job bringing Wolverine to life, chomping cigars and being “the best at what he does” and it is great to see some cameo appearances from some X-Men characters too.
The final novel in the collection, “Lifeblood” shares much in common with “Weapon X” in that it involves a split-focus between the past and present as an amnesiac Logan attempts to find out his true identity by revisiting clues relating to his stay at a concentration camp during World War II. While the previous two books felt rooted in the comics’ continuity, this novel contradicted some past adventures, most notably Uncanny X-Men #268, which had Logan come into contact with Baron Von Strucker in World War II ahead of their meeting here. I’m not normally a slave to continuity and can accept that this novel exists in a different universe to the comics, but I did take issue with the depiction of Wolverine’s powers in the concentration camp where he is effectively depicted as immortal. The extent of Wolverine’s healing powers have fluctuated from writer to writer, but I’ve always seen him as able to heal from mortal injuries and not ones that would cause instant death, such as a gunshot to the brain.
Despite these inconsistencies with how I visualise Wolverine’s powers, Matthew Hughes crafts a compelling mystery as Logan retraces his footsteps to discover more about himself. The scenes in the concentration camp are the most engaging elements of the novel, adding a sense of horror as we experience events from the German guards’ perspectives as this strange little man continues to come back from the dead. I found myself gripped by the central mystery involving Wolverine’s amnesia and was furiously disappointed when the novel failed to reveal who was behind it. Given the sudden ending, it seems that the answer was planned for a sequel that never materialised, thus making it an extremely frustrating loose end. The novel itself doesn’t really give any clues to help make an educated guess, and since the book isn’t tied to any comics continuity, it’s hard to link it to a storyline from there. As a result, I found this the weakest story in the collection, which is a shame as it was written extremely well. It just felt slightly rushed towards the end and lacked any closure for the reader, although Wolverine seemed to reset back to his factory settings.
This omnibus collection is yet another example of the sensational value provided by Titan Books’ novel reprint project as it brings back out-of-print novels from the Marvel Universe in affordable formats. The juxtaposition of different stories and authors makes the collection stand out from the previous collections in the same range, such as X-Men: Mutant Empire and X-Men/Avengers: Gamma Quest, giving readers a broader view of the character and how he is interpreted by different writers. Marc Cerasini’s adaptation of Weapon X is the strongest novel of the three, but each book in this collection offers a different take on the character which is refreshing and engaging. Wolverine effortlessly makes the leap from comic panel to prose with a versatility that transcends typical superheroics and allows writers to explore a range of genres with this enigmatic and well-travelled protagonist.