For reasons I won't get into, I was skeptical of this novel at first, but I quickly became a fan. Why? The typical prose novel based on a superhero is simplistically YA in its prose style, tame in its content, and formulaic in approach. This one is none of the above. It is a stunning and disturbing modern horror story. It's also dead brilliant, and it is not for children (or anyone who has absolutely no knowledge of Wolverine beyond the Hollywood movies).
From the surreal first page of Wolverine: Weapon X, even the first sentence, you know you're not in your little brother's world of formulaic superheroes. Cerasini starts by giving us Logan's intense, fractured point-of-view, as he drifts in and out of consciousness at the start of the story. What we are reading are splinters of Logan's present, past, and the fractured wanderings of his mind trying to make sense of what's happening to him at the start of the drama.
No sentence or idea in this first chapter is thrown away. The language and disturbing rantings have been carefully wrought, laced with meaning and metaphor based on Logan's long history.
(The Earth's water cycle, for instance, is clearly a reference to Logan's own eternal warrior back story, which, yes indeed, has been explored in previous Wolverine graphic novels published by Marvel.)
This book, which was also published by Marvel Press in hardcover, is based on Marvel's own Barry Windsor-Smith graphic novel of the same name (Wolverine: Weapon X). This story is just one chapter in the very long history of the mutant named Logan, whose transformation into Wolverine was a century-long process.
Wolverine: Weapon X is an "origin story" in the sense that it informs us how Logan came to gain his adamantium skeleton. As you'll see by the end of this book, what Logan goes through solidifies more than his skeleton. Like Windsor-Smith's original graphic novel, Cerasini taps into the deadly dark anti-hero tradition (begun in comics by the greats - Alan Mooore and Frank Miller).
The story opens when Logan (a down and out, ex-Canadian special forces solider) is kidnapped and taken to a remote Canadian laboratory where technicians begin their experiments on him under the direction of a disturbingly driven genius (the professor).
The original graphic novel never explains why the professor had this done, or who the technicians were that would choose to participate in Logan's excruciating transformation. Cerasini fills in these blanks, painting each minor character with disturbing clarity and realism, showing us their back story and what brought them to a point in their lives when they would agree to serve the professors ends in this way. We also find out why this enigmatic (and utterly creepy) professor chose to transform Logan (the reason does not disappoint).
The plotline faithfully follows Windsor-Smith's graphic novel while exploring it in ingenious ways (thus constantly surprising and intriguing this reader). This is dark, fierce material, and Cerasini rises to the occasion, conveying not just explosive prose but a multi-dimensional backdrop of the characters involved in what amounts to Wolverine's crucifixion.
Logan does rise again, transformed, at the other end of this dark tunnel, emerging from this harrowing drama as the mutant with the adamantium claws. And when you turn the last page, the words "tortured past," will have a very specific meaning when you hear them applied to this particular comic book anti-hero.
My recommendations are as follows:
- If you want a traditional good guy gets bad guy superhero story, or if you are literally a child of 14 years or younger, move along. This book is not for you.
- If you are someone who is only familiar with Wolverine from the X-Men movies, you might want to first read Windsor-Smith's original Marvel graphic novel. Be warned: what you saw on the Hollywood screen is only one aspect of Wolverine/Logan.
- If you are a fan, you might want to keep in mind that Marvel Press published and--DUH--therefore vetted and approved all aspects and details of Logan's history in this fine novel.
-If you want to read a fantastically written, brutally haunting modern horror novel, then you won't be disappointed with Wolverine: Weapon X by Marc Cerasini. It's a fierce, disturbing, beautifully violent tale ingeniously told. True fans of Marvel's Wolverine (as opposed to Hollywood's) should not miss it.