Review: Wolverine reference books
It’s fascinating to see the same material presented in competing books, approached in entirely different ways. DK Publishing, the successful home to the various character-specific Ultimate Guides, offers up Wolverine: Inside the World of the Living Weapon (200 pages, $24.99) while Pocket Books, which has been home to the Marvel novels, gives us The Wolverine Files (160 pages, $40). The former is written by DK mainstay Matthew K. Manning while Mike W. Barr, not a writer normally associated with guide books or Wolverine, handles the second book.
Both detail the character’s background, his friends, his foes, his greatest capers, and a look at his deeply fractured psyche and tortured soul.
However, Manning’s book gives readers a far more detailed accounting of the backgrounds of the characters and storylines. Taking a chronological approach, he offers up overview of specific eras followed by key issue spotlights plus long looks at the key people in his life, both the good and the evil. Interspersed are also short bits regarding how the stories fit in with the overall publishing program at Marvel along with some insight into the creators and their efforts. As a result, this is a far richer, and cheaper, reading experience.
DK, known for its hyperkinetic layouts, tones things done here and makes each spread easier to read, with nice call outs, and judicious graphic selections showing the great range of art styles employed through the years.
If this book is to be faulted, it’s in not providing enough information regarding the behind-the-scenes work that led to these stories and events. For example, why did Bill Jemas decide that 2001 was the time to finally provide Logan with an origin? Also, Wolverine’s unusual friendships with Jubilee and Kitty Pryde are given short-shrift and both deserved more space.
Barr’s approach is the more creative, with files, reports, letters and memos from the people in Wolverine’s life summing up the man’s background and career. Written from the point of view of Nick Fury, Natasha Romanov, Jasper Sitwell and others, it has varied voices which make for a different reading experience.
The book is more cleanly designed, resembling a S.H.I.E.L.D. case file with tabs along the edge to replicate the look of a report. There are margin notes from Fury and sections are redacted to give it that “declassified look”. The profiles of people and places read not too different from a Marvel Handbook page and the art skews to the works from the last decade and could have benefited from material culled from earlier points in his publishing career.
While a more varied read, it’s also not as complete a dossier and for $40, it should offer a lot more, especially with the competitive book.
If both books are beyond your wallet, Marvel competes with their licensees with [[[Wolverine: Weapon X Files]]], a 64-page comic book for a mere $4.99. Head writer Jeff Christiansen and his ten colleagues have the advantage of the files being the most up-to-date given the shorter schedule for a comic versus a book. The Handbook pages follow the traditional format and scream for a redesign and the pick-up art is hit or miss.
Want more Wolverine after seeing the movie this weekend? You have plenty of options.