One of our household’s favorite movies, The Prestige, starts and ends by explaining the steps of a magic trick.
First, comes “The Pledge,” where we are shown something ordinary. Then, comes “The Turn,” when the magician takes the ordinary and makes it do something extraordinary. The best magic comes with a third step – “The Prestige” – where you bring back the ordinary, if you can.
Comic books are a lot like magic tricks, in that way. Every new series or story arc is a Pledge based on the creators and characters you can see when its announced. What happens within its issues is The Turn. And, whether or not the story returns its many pieces to where they can be used again in the future is The Prestige.
(Some fans love a good Prestige, while others see it as a cheat – but that’s a conversation for another time.)
As comic book magic goes, the Weapon X didn’t engender much excitement in readers when it was announced a few months back. Greg Pak isn’t a high-selling author on his own, penciller Greg Land is tolerated (at best) by most fans, and the title looked and sounded like another take on X-Force with its cast of Old Man Logan, Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Domino, and Warpath.
Is this book more than meets the eye?
Pak has never been a creator to give us a weak Turn. This is the man behind Planet Hulk and who used Dazzler to explore a whole multiverse of X-Men in X-Treme X-Men.
Greg Land is one of the most reliable monthly artists in Marvel’s stable, always on a standout book that are rarely destined for poor sales.
And, the cast is a mysterious mix – all hunter/killers, but without an obvious through-line between them all.
There’s going to be a major Turn here. I’m sure of it.
Weapon X (2017) #1 (digital)
Written by Greg Pak with pencils by Greg Land, inks by Jay Leisten, color art by Frank D’Armata, and letters from VC’s Joe Caramanga.
CK Says: Consider it.
Weapon X #1 is a solid opener to an intriguing new mutant mystery that feels less like a superhero comic and more like a bloody game of cat and mouse.
The mice in the game are Old Man Logan – an alternate future Wolverine stuck in our present – and his longtime foe and former fellow soldier, Sabretooth. Sabretooth had been on and off the straight and narrow recently, but this issue finds him holed up in the woods hundreds of miles from civilization.
That’s not too different from Logan’s location at the start of the issue, but the story doesn’t linger on the why of their chosen isolation. Instead, author Greg Pak quickly shifts the focus to on the cats in this game of chase.
They’re an upgraded version of the traditional half-human Reavers from the late-80s portions of Claremont’s run -regular people that are undetectable to the enhanced senses of our pair of clawed mutants, but beneath their skin these pursuers are killer robots prickling with blades.
Their sudden appearance is clearly tied to a very angry Lady Deathstrike, held in captivity in a lab that’s very interested in our other cast members.
(As for how she got there, it was teased in X-Men Prime).
Why is Deathstrike held captive? Why is a secret program out to capture Wolverine and Sabretooth? And, what do two very different mutants – Domino and Warpath – have anything to do with it?
As a first issue, Weapon X #1 does a terrific job of asking a lot of questions while still presenting some action and moving at a brisk pace. It felt substantial and and kept me rapidly turning pages on my first read. On re-read, it’s in a bit of a rush and has a few throw-away pages of decompression that could have been more substantial in order to set up its cliffhanger.
It seems as though Weapon X will be a (fourth) vehicle for Old Man Logan which uses him almost exactly like present day Wolverine. That’s deeply annoying, since the lack of Wolverine was meant to be – you know – a lack of Wolverine. Pak finds some moments to differentiate the Old Man based on his long time in the ruins of humanity. He’s eager to think the best of people he encounters, but he knows from experience he must anticipate the worst.
That’s plenty of character exploration of Logan for me. If I wanted to delve any further into Old Man Logan’s psyche I’d be reading his solo book by Jeff Lemire. Smart writers know that putting Wolverine on a team gets issues bought, but that the heart (and bulk of the material) tends to come from other characters.
Pak’s at a bit of risk in that none of his other characters are especially popular on their own aside from Sabretooth … but they make for a great action movie cast, which is what this book feels like thanks to the work of art team Land, Leisten, and D’Armata.
Penciller Greg Land gets a bum rap from a lot of fans who object to his frequent copy-and-paste figures and identifiable tracings from other sources. However, that opinion is now rooted in the Land art of over half a decade ago.
Since then, plotters have found ways to get the best out of Land and we’ve discovered that he’s an able penciler whose cinematic eye for framing doesn’t disappear when he stops tracing figures.
Land’s progression continues here, so much so that I did a brief double-take – thinking maybe he was with a finisher or a different inker than his typical associate Jay Leisten. That’s not the case. Sure, there’s some familiar facial expressions here, but Land does a lot of drawing in this issue, and it looks great.
This issue ends with palpable excitement about what’s to come, because this book is predicated on a central mystery. Pak has a long track record of being the kind of author who delivers on this sort of set-up. Combined with Land’s widescreen sense of composition, I’m looking forward to delving deeper into the mystery of why Weapon X is on the hunt again.
Weapon X #1 will be collected in Weapon X Vol. 1: Weapons of Mutant Destruction Prelude. Want to know what Old Man Logan has been up to so far? Head to the Wolverine guide to see where he has appeared. And, be sure to read my reviews of X-Men Gold #1 and X-Men Blue #1!