Credits: Ben Percy writes; Federico Vicentini draws; Frank D’Armata colors; Cory Petit letters; issue #25 backup story art by Greg Land, Juan Ferreyra and others; covers by Adam Kubert and Frank Martin Jr.
As ever, this little Ben Percy Wolverine arc shows us Logan’s continuing obsession with suffering. Not pain, as he would have us believe—because that, like pleasure and the sensation of hot and cold and so on, is transitory. And sure, that’s an easy thing to say when you don’t deal with it chronically, but we all know that is not and never has been the case with Wolverine*. The acute pains of violence fade very quickly for him. It’s the fixation on the wound, the role of the aggrieved sufferer, for which Logan has a passion that is literally undying.
(*The rare exceptions are very hard to recall out of his many thousands of tales in circulation.)
These A.X.E.: Judgment Day tie-ins do not impact the main event in the least. Percy makes the occasion excuse enough to 1) work out Wolverine’s attempt to justify his continued existence in the face of all those for whose deaths he’s responsible, either directly or indirectly, and 2) contrast Solem’s hedonist way of life with Logan’s ultimately heroic stoicism. (In fact, many of those “dead” we see have already been resurrected on Krakoa).
What will hinder Logan is his intense but by now intensely monotonous self-loathing. If he can stay true, however, to his nobler callings, knowing that he’s needed to spare the world further senseless deaths (which, I know, seems like some wild logic), he’ll pass (of course, he ultimately does).
That Logan is allotted two issues and thousands of miles of travel to justify himself before the Progenitor isn’t meant to be noteworthy. That’s just how Percy wanted to tell his story, dammit!
You’ll also find plenty of Percy/Wolvie philosophizing along the way; very deep stuff depending on your age, I guess.
Of course, the point here, as in the event itself, is that whoever’s being judged is in fact working to justify their own existence to themselves; they pass by being true to their sense of self, even if they’re otherwise “villainous.”
Thus, the Hellbride, fresh from Hell seeking revenge against Wolverine and Solem, will be judged on how she follows through with her vengeance. Yet the twist for her is that: Why should she care? Her home is perdition, and she’d be happy to see the world join her and her father. So, the Progenitor is happy enough to allow her to antagonize Logan as he and his unlikely partner make for the North Pole to slay a god; clearly, this doesn’t even come close to playing into the main event—but the cussed Canuck had to try.
Rising star Federico Vicentini’s art is gorgeous as ever. His linework is crisp and almost entrancingly dynamic. There’s an occasional sketchiness, but for me that just adds to the sense of frenetic action. It never looks confusing or befuddled to this eye at least.
In return for helping him, Solem has Logan’s pledge to help him kill the vengeful Hellbride and the Beast, who of course want Logan dead too; actually, the Beast’s interest here is remote, given his dismissiveness toward his daughter, who’s really taken on the revenger role. Jilted, aggrieved and raised in captivity, she’s far more interesting than her pops has ever been—and she essentially stages a coup against her father. So, kudos there, Mr. Percy!
The Beast here is the infernal demon worshiped by the Hand. His daughter is among his most loyal of servants, and this Hellbride was recently jilted at the Hell altar with Solem’s murder of her mortal (ninja) fiancé and Logan and Solem made off with two Muramasa blades (forged in Hell by demonic blacksmith Muramasa; relevant backstory: 1988’s Wolverine #1-3; 2006’s Wolverine #40; 2020’s Wolverine #6 and X-Force #13–the Hellbride’s only previous appearance), these last from “X of Swords.” Percy seems to flub in issue #24 when referring to the blacksmith as Logan’s “teacher;” they just made a deal over a sword.
Satisfyingly enough, everyone’s intentions go sideways: The Hellbride is felled by a blizzard before finding her quarry, Logan insists killing her in this state would be dishonorable and Solem, despite his irritation here, acquiesces, reluctantly conceding Logan’s point but with a hint at surprising sincerity (of course, he’ll eventually turn out to have a heart too, don’t you doubt it! Mr. Percy is a big softie, eh).
Yet we still get lots of Logan viewing himself and life in the worst possible way, of course. We’ve had years of this now from Mr. Percy, decades more from Wolvie.
Seeing that his infernal pawn seeks her own Satanic glory (how Paradise Lost!), the Progenitor had already prepared its own hoary, sword-wielding avatar of the frozen wastes, siccing it now on Logan and Solem, but the demoness suddenly joins the fray, furious that she might be cheated of her vengeance. Yet the trio actually make a killer team, and she’s impressed with Solem’s showing—who returns with her to Hell, possibly, indeed most likely, for some experimental hedonism (or at least the old college try on the part of this heterodox Arakkii poet-warrior; odd that his stabs at inspired verse find Mr. Percy at his most clichéd, but he seems to hoard the best bits for the cussed Canuck).
Yet Logan does see a change in the Hellbride that surely no one else would have without his narration:
“Punishment’s in her blood. And if you understand doing wrong…”
Once more—Percy briefly picks up a dangling plot thread, gives it a small twist and lays it aside to move on … to “The Beast Agenda”! Oh, you know what’s gonna happen there, right? Nope. Fool me once…
Is it odd that Cap didn’t pass while Logan does here? Not really. Wolverine’s identity isn’t bound up with that of the United States, and he’s always and ever focused on the basic duties of protecting mutants and other loved ones, basically following bushido in the process, every day.
Except when it’s time for a “Bar Brawl!”
The 25th-issue celebration backup celebrates Logan’s eternal flight from his own woundedness, his inability to move on and heal. And we said enough on this last time!
(He reflects, “Time can get slippery for me,” which for him and those who never learn to heal from the past is the same as saying: time is a flat circle. Indeed, Logan does not believe that real change is possible.)
Note that Flamingeaux makes her comics debut here; previously, she appeared in Percy’s podcast drama Wolverine: The Lost Trail.