I just finished reading this book and enjoyed it quite a bit. Here's my review (warning, contains spoilers, do not read past the second paragraph if you have not read the trade and do not want to be spoiled.
Basic premise is simple, supervillians lead by The Red Skull havee managed to wipe most superheroes off the face of Earth. Those that remain are in hiding, having given up their superhero lifestyle. Among them is Wolverine, now going strictly by Logan., now 50 years after the fall of superheroes. Logan has settled down on a farm in Sacramento where he toils to make enough money to pay rent to California’s rulers; the clan of Hulks. Situations being tough, Logan is propositioned by an old friend to go ona trek across the country in promise of a big cash reward.
This book is rather violent. Actually it’s really violent. It’s violent in the way that reminds me of Avatar Press’ horror line, every punch produced enough blood to fill a couple of people. It’s a little excessive and doesn’t really add anything to the story, other than making it obvious that anything can happen in this book. All bets are off; this is an alternate history after all. Which is actually kind of cool because it means we get to see things like the Daredevil and the Punisher being ripped apart by dinosaurs.
Violence is not the entire point of this book, luckily. The story is actually pretty interesting. From the beginning we know that Logan is no longer the furious superhero he was as Wolverine. In fact he claims to not have raised his claws in 50 years. Clint Barton (Hawkeye) is the man who propositions Wolverine to go on a trip with him to Washington D.C. (now called something else, I can’t remember the name). Hawkeye tries on several ocassions to get Logan to return to his old self, or at least explain why he changed his ways.
Eventually it is revealed that Wolverine started the fall of the superheroes when he killed the entire X-Men team. Mysterio tricked him into thinking he was fighting off supervillians when in reality he was slaughtering his own teammates. The pychological toll this placed on Logan is the reason who he disappeared into the country side. Soon it was too late, with Earth’s greatest superhero team out of commissoin the supervillians were easily able to take out the rest of the superheroes and divide the nation into blocks.
Hawkeye was rather intersting in this book. His motives didn’t become clear until the second to last issue. At first it was assumed by Logan that Hawkeye was moving drugs from the west coast to the east coast. Apparently the changed times meant it was normal for ex-superheroes to do some shady things. Obviously Logan didn’t have much of a problem as he was a willing participant. Later we find out Hawekeye’s true motivations; he believes to be transferring super serum to a resistant group in Washington, but the operation turns out to be a sting put on by S.H.I.E.L.D. (working for Red Skull). Hawkeye is killed on sight, and presumably so is Logan (apparently the baddies don’t know why they’ve killed, otherwhise they would know that his mutant power is recovery). Logan recovers from his wounds, saves the day and kills Red Skull.
He then returns to Sacramento (by way of Iron Man’s suit) to find his family dead, having been slaughtered by the inbred Hulk clan. Cue the return of Wolverine, who proceeds to slaughter then entire Hulk clan, including Bruce Banner (now an old man as well). The trade ends with Logan riding off on a horse, planning to resurrect his superhero career against all odds.
I was happy with the story enough that I’d love to see a sequel some day, but I still feel a little underwhelmed. While the story is entertaining, it seems that the ancillary characters (everyone except Hawkeye and Logan) were they merely to serve as splatter targets. There was also a little too much name dropping going on; it seems that half of the Marvel universe is represented here! Mostly only long enough to show, either implicitly or explicitly, that they have met their demise. For a future story I’d love to see them delve deeper into some of these characters. What’s the deal with Emma Frost (they don’t explain this other than she’s survived some how by forming an alliance)? What are her plans? How did she get in this situation? What are the conditions in the rest of the world (It’s implied by the Red Skull that they have no desire to conquer the rest of the world; does this mean that it’s not overrun with supervillians?)?
Lastly there’s some pacing issues with the book. Although it spans 8 issues, it seems to rush through things at times. Hawkeye and Logan are trapped below the surface of the earth and under attack by some type of mole-like monsters, and just a few panes later they are riding on land, continuing their journey. This sort of thing happens a few times in the trade. Despite the ocassional pacing issues, I went through the book in little time; it took more a couple of hours at most. Once I got through the 4th issue I knew I wasn’t going to put it down until I had finished.
I’d definitely recommend this trade for anyone who’s looking for a Wolverine book written in the last 10 years that doesn’t suck (this is one of the very few). Or anyone who’s interested in post-apocalypse type of stories, this very much has a Mad Max / The Road type of feel to it. Or even if you just want to read a Marvel title that mixes things up a bit and lets the normal rules of engagement fly out of the window. 7.5/10.