Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: Daken - Dark Wolverine #16, Pride Comes... Part 1

Writing a character like Daken must be tough. His essential aspect is control, and as a writer you've got to be fighting with yourself not to control him. He could never work in bondage—he'd clearly die sooner, and Daken doesn't die easily.

That's why I had a hard time making up my mind about Rob Williams's Big Break arc. He's found a way to chain Daken, and it's been ugly. But it's starting to pay off, big time, in what's clearly the strongest issue Williams has written since taking over the title and what's setting out to be a very powerful new arc. It's proof not only that he understands this character through and through, but that he's capable of taking advantage of Daken's unique role in the Marvel U to tell stories we've never seen before. That's something modern cape comics are always in desperate need of. And with the return of Matteo Buffagni, whose pencils first defined the characters we got to know in Big Break, it's delivered in the dark and clear style that perfectly suits this super hero-crime-noir epic.

When Daken first encountered Heat, a new and supremely addictive drug, I was afraid that it was just there to be a drug. This book has always included plenty of sex, and I worried that the story would coast from drugs into rock 'n' roll. Instead Heat has proven to be a means of placing Daken in the most compromising position we've ever seen him in, all while crafting a tight and engrossing murder mystery that's legitimately kept one step ahead of me every issue.

The thing that's so compelling about Heat is that it's somehow able to dampen Daken's healing factor. Contrary to what you'd expect, that's exactly why he finds it so irresistible—that same healing factor has never let Daken enjoy drugs before, and he's actually found fighting without it to be a thrill in itself.

Issue sixteen opens just as Daken is on the cusp of realizing how great a price he's paid for the drug, but instead of devolving into a super hero D.A.R.E. ad the plot has quickly progressed towards a climactic revenge showdown and the resolution of the "claws killer" mystery. Daken, stricken with a diminished healing factor as he struggles through withdrawal and now targeted for extermination by the military, attempts to track down his newly revealed nemesis before he completely loses his criminal empire; our hard-boiled FBI agent, Donna Kiel, meets up with Moon Knight—but he knows that something isn't right. There's an undercurrent through it all that promises things are nearing a boiling point, reinforced by a tightly executed cliffhanger ending.

Up until this point, we've never seen Daken as anything but indomitable. His overwhelming charisma and his natural pheromones mean he's always in a position of control, and that control is what he lives for. Now, for the first time, Daken is facing an enemy who has manipulated and deceived him the way he's done to so many others.

Rage is often used by comic book writers as a cheap way to generate drama: a loved one was murdered, and the hero's hell bent on getting justice. But Daken's is a rage much more familiar. It's the rage of hubris turned to humiliation, and here it's absolutely palpable.

By T.K. Tunstal with No comments


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