REVIEW: Wolverine #300

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Even though I dislike all the renumbering Marvel does, I’m a sucker for their manufactured milestone issues. While I’m not a huge fan of the title character, last Wednesday’s Wolverine #300 was another fun read from another aggregated landmark. Jason Aaron and a team of artists bring a big story that includes the return of a major Wolverine villain, a new path for another, and a new Silver Samurai along with most of Logan’s Japan-based supporting cast. Aaron has said this will be his last arc on Wolverine (though he’ll still write the character in the pages of Wolverine and the X-Men) and he’s clearly planning to go big before going home.

Spoilers for Wolverine #300 will follow.

Jason Aaron’s run on Wolverine has been split across multiple volumes of the series and is often lauded as one of the best. It’s clear from this issue why. With Logan’s long and complicated history, the premise of a war between the Yakuza and the Hand drawing his friends and family into harm’s way is very straightforward and Aaron uses that same approach in dealing with the relationships among the characters as well as the various forces at work in the issue. The story here is the first of a new arc as Marvel returns to the original numbering for Wolverine’s solo adventures (at least for now) and it’s a strong start all around.

Back in Japan part one is divided into seven chapters, artistically split across three teams, with a backup story promoting Jeph Loeb and Simone Bianchi’s Sabretooth Returns coming “soon” in 2012. Sabretooth also makes an appearance in the main story without a lot of explanation as to how he’s returned from the dead, but we do learn that he’s in league with Mystique. They’re even touted as the Marvel Universe’s “hottest and deadliest new couple” in the preview for issue #301. The opening pages drawn by Adam Kubert chronicling Logan’s flight to Japan are almost worth the price of admission alone (although a $4.99 cover price is still steep) and Ron Garney and Steve Sanders’ pages look great as well. Sanders’ work stands apart from the others stylistically, but it works as the scene shifts along with the art teams throughout the book.

There’s a nice nod to Logan’s new Jean Grey School in the opening panels that firmly sets the book in larger Wolverine continuity and that is something I always appreciated in the original volume of his solo series that this book claims to be the 300th installment of. The cover gallery, which has become a standard feature of these renumbered century-mark issues, is a little different from some of the others as wrap-around covers as well as a number of variants were included along with the regular covers for their respective issues. In some cases even second printing variants even appear, and it’s a shame they aren’t arranged together as the Old Man Logan covers link to create a larger image. The inclusion of these extra images (which actually add up to 380 covers) certainly led me question how exactly things add up to 300, so let’s do the math:

Wolverine vol 2 (1988) #1 – #189
Wolverine vol 3 (2003) #1 – #74 (the Dark Wolverine issues aren’t included)
Wolverine: Weapon X (2009) #1 – #16
Wolverine vol 4 (2010) #1 – #20

189 + 74 + 16 + 20 = 299

So by those numbers this is indeed the 300th issue of Wolverine’s ongoing adventures. The original 4-issue miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller is not included which is not surprising, but Wolverine #-1 (vol 2) was excluded here even though the “Flashback month” issues have been included when adding up volumes of other series to reach a milestone (Incredible Hulk #600 comes to mind). It’s also worth mentioning that the cover to the absurd Wolverine #900 (vol. 3) and the equally absurd issue #1000 (vol. 4) were left out of the gallery. My initial calculations were off as I had mistakenly included #900 and #1000 in my count, but they clearly come after #300… even though they were published many issues earlier… It’s also interesting that only the Jim Chueng variant for issue #300 was pictured, and the wild Geof Darrow wrap-around image was not.

The only way I think I might have enjoyed this issue more is if it were a complete story as some of the other over-sized landmark issues have been (Amazing Spider-Man #600 is a great example). I also wasn’t crazy about the revelation of Mystique’s involvement coming in the preview for next month, even though it flows very nicely out of the main story. Wolverine does a lot of what he’s the best at here and while that (along with his actions in Uncanny X-Force) makes it increasingly difficult for me to accept his role as headmaster at the school, this is what a Wolverine story should be. Jason Aaron may have me drawn me in for another arc of Wolverine that I’m excited about for the first time since 2008’s “Get Mystique.”

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