Wolverine #306 gives me a little more hope that the new creative team of writer Cullen Bunn and artist Paul Pelletier might get our hero on the right track. I wasn’t a fan of their debut issue because it seemed a bit cliché. Those problems still exist but the caliber of execution on issue #306 is much higher. I also see that Bunn has decided to write a straight horror story for Logan (aka Wolverine), something not a lot of writers have attempted. Usually, Wolverine brings the gore and violence, so putting him into a horror story isn’t the first stop the mind comes to.
A mad doctor who once presided over Logan when he was locked in a mental institution is pursuing our hero. The doctor’s name and motives are unnecessary. He’s crazy; he has crazy eyes and wears an apron made of human skin. The doctor is holed up in an old house surrounded by redneck “family” members. The entirety of the villain angle could be seen as an homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre or just a bad rip off, that all depends on how generous you want to be with the book. Wolverine is tracking the doctor and his first step is where the Doc grew up.
It’s this scene, between Wolverine and the mad doctor’s father that brings me hope of the series. It’s a very dark and twisted scene. Guessing Wolverine would drop by dear old dad’s house, the mad doctor has left a greeting for him – the doc’s own father, completely lobotomized but kept alive and functioning through a set of gears and gizmos wired into his skull. He’s a human puppet that is fully conscious of his predicament as well as suffering from starvation and existing is his own waste. Once Wolverine gets the information he needs, the father begs Wolverine to kill him. A mercy killing that Wolverine is only so happy to snikt snikt for the poor man.
The rest of the issue falls victim to easy ideas and boredom. The big fight with the redneck family, the secret phrase that renders Wolverine a zombie, the final page where the doctor says he’s going to remind Wolverine who he is and that he’s going to become one of the doctor’s “family” members. It’s all very seventies horror tacky. However, that one scene with Wolverine and the father is so well done and so effective in its creepiness that I have opened my mind’s eye to possibilities of what Cullen Bunn could accomplish.
Paul Pelletier’s art is great when the violence is high. This guy fucking loves blood and guts. He’s right at home in the horror world and when he unleashes the action the work is killer (pun FULLY intended). The few scenes in the Jean Grey School just lay flat on the page and do nothing. They largely feel like Pelletier phoned them in because there wasn’t enough blood and action to excite him. With Wolverine #306, I’m cautiously optimistic that the greatest mutant hero ever could truly become great again.
(3 Story, 4 Art)