Weapon X #19 - Review: A Song of Snow and Fur
Weapon X #19
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Artist: Yildray Cinar
Colorist: Frank D'Armata
You'll have to forgive me. Usually in the course of writing these reviews, I at least fact check myself a little if my memory on a given thing is shaky; or if there are some artists or a character background detail that I just don't know at all. Unfortunately, given the wonder that is Verizon FIOS, my internet connection is down (over the weekend of E3, no less), and so I'll be winging it tonight. It'll be a small technical miracle if I even get this posted, and as of right now I have no certain idea of how I am going to publish it. Again, if the review is missing images to whet your appetite, I point you in the direction of Verizon FIOS to vent your angst.
In Weapon X #19, a series that I have not been on, we are given a collection ofWolverine's past rogues intermixed with other cast-off X-Men needing a place to be collected. And so Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Domino, Warpath (one of my favorite X-Men, his brother killed all too quickly, and a guy who seems not to hang around that long in any running series, I don't even care how they brought him back), and led by Old Man Logan. Now let me exorcise some of my X-Men baggage before I get into this review to frame the perspective.
I started off as an Avenger guy. But, as a minority, the X-Men story of racial plight in the mid-80s appealed to me. I quickly acclimated to their orderliness. I understood the OG X-Men, and their scattering to the likes of the Avengers, and then even the Defenders, after the death of Jean Grey. And I witnessed their revival in X-Factor. And a revival of roaming 2nd Gen X-Men in the original Excalibur. I understood that the New Mutants were the farm-league for future X-Men recruits. Then I guess either during the exit of Chris Claremont, or afterwards, that sense of order was torn asunder by time-travel hi-jinx and all sorts of BS in an effort to either regain relevance or maybe to capitalize on money-grab schemes; I dunno. All I know is that I elected to be out, and have never really regained my interest in the mutant regime.
So in a lot of ways, I REALLY LOVE this slotting of X-Men teams as X-Men Red, Blue, and Gold. And even while Weapon X might seem like a way to just have yet another farm-team as a holding place for X-Men and former Brotherhood cast members whom Marvel doesn't have anything to do, but are too important to kill off, I appreciate the move. And it is giving two of my favorite creators an opportunity to play with mutants. In this specific issue, Old Man Logan, who may be preparing to make his exit as the Marvel X-Men desk is coiling everyone up for the impending return of the actual Wolverine, having passed leadership of Weapon X off to Sabretooth while he suffers from a failing healing factor, tries to prepare Warpath to either follow 'Tooth or take him out. Sabretooth leads the rest of the team on a mission in Siberia where he tries to sway Omega Red from another assassination and have him join Weapon X.
Greg Pak's run on Action Comics during the New 52 was the only Superman run that caused me to care about the character and be interested. I gained instant respect for Pak during that tenure, and continue to be impressed with his writing. Van Lente I know mostly from Valiant Comics, including his work on Archer & Armstrong. He and Pak have a history of collaborative works, so their pairing on an X-Men title is not entirely out of sorts. Let me say that there is some divisive stuff in this issue, and you're going to have to decide which side of several fences you fall on. I think the most jarring thing is the way in which Sabretooth is written. I know ST as a dyed-in-the-wool killer. A stone-cold murderer. He'd just as soon stalk and kill a calf in broad daylight in front of a bunch of school kids as shake your hand. But he is written VERY much like the friendlier shade of Wolverine in this issue. Even saying "Ol' Bub" at one point, although this was a bit as a gag. But the point is, you have to want to hope that 'Tooth has actually turned a corner, or else believe that this is Deathstroke leading the Suicide Squad to ruin. But if you don't choose, you might wrap yourself too much around the axle of saying that Sabretooth would never say this or that. It's a bit Gerry Duggan-ish in his portrayal of Deadpool. But I personally liked it. It had me wanting to believe that Sabretooth had finally decided to be a part of mutant-kind. Once you are over that, you can sit back and enjoy a particularly interesting comic. It feels a lot like the last year of Detective Comics in a way, as I feel like a lot of the group dynamic is similar to that of the Bat-family with Clayface and Spoiler in their midsts. All of this is meant in praise and not to say that this is a knock-off. It's the closest thing I've seen in Marvel to a Suicide Squad, but with deeper emotional underpinnings because of the history between the mutants and their continuing march against oppression. Here we have one mutant seeking redemption, risking himself and his team to offer the same to another. In this, we may just be getting the best and most humane treatment of Sabretooth ever; a run that will stand out as an historical thread that will be difficult to equal by writers that follow.
I've got to hand it to the art team. This feels like perhaps some of Cinar's best work. There are a few ho-hum pages throughout the book, but a lot of it is quite spectacular. And D'Armata's shadow work really makes a story that is predominantly told in the snow erally stand out from other current art teams. There are literally some portraits of Sabretooth and a full-page panel that I would love to have as a posters or commissions. Some of the stills and portrait work on other character,, like I said, is just ok. But, man, there is a horizontal 15 PANEL PAGE of Sabretooth in the fight that is just incredible. Touches of shadow-lighting and wonderful fight choreography that remains consistent and doesn't break position-logic, Cinar handles a team of really fluid and agile characters with aplomb. There are some panels that almost seem like Cinar is playing with a couple of different art styles, as there are some that look positively Silver Age-ish, while most seem Modern-style. I understand the artist's need to play in published works, but it can sometimes feel like there is some inconsistency, perhaps driven by deadline, that I could have done without.
SCORE: 8.0 / 10
Overall this is a very solid issue. One that is making me add it to my recurring monthly pull-list. I'll be reading this until Pak and Van Lente give me reasons not to. There are a great set of character interactions going on here, along with a healthy stench of distrust, and a redemption seeking anti-hero to root for. I am really looking forward to the inevitable conflict between Sabretooth and Warpath, to see who is on the up-and-up and who gets their come uppance. I love me some Warpath but I am kind of rooting for Sabretooth. And what happens when Woverine is resurrected into a world where his age-old enemy is leading an X-Men squad? There's a very healthy amount of intrigue mounted up here for Pak and Van Lente to play with and if Cinar and D'Armats continue the well above average work on art, including their moderately avante stab at panel layout, then I'm onboard for the long-haul.