Retro Comics: Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown #2

Picking up after Alex’s kidnapping at the hands of General Meltdown and Doctor Neutron, Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown continues in its second issue. A Cold War era action-adventure story with aspirations of being a 80s buddy cop movie, this four-part miniseries from Walter and Louise Simonson and artist team Jon J. Muth and Kent Williams offers plenty of charm. A fun romp that further folds noir aesthetics into its dramatic world of spies and exotic locales, this chapter is still a treat for readers looking for some quality X-Men nostalgia.

Logan is out for blood in a small Mexican town, tearing through the local criminal underbelly to find Alex after discovering the decoy piñata in his grave. Meanwhile, waking up from his violent run-in with Scarlett McKenzie, the younger Summers brother is being held in a bogus hospital by General Meltdown and his cohorts, where he is told Logan is dead. Scarlett, the woman in black we met in the last issue, is actually the spy and mercenary Quark. Through emotional manipulation and subliminal messaging, Quark pretends to be a nurse charged with Alex’s care, positioning herself as an asset amid the lying doctors and rogue CIA agents that appear to undermine Alex’s belief that Logan is still alive. With Quark leading Alex in line with Meltdown and Neutron’s plans, Logan follows the crumbs of evidence to close in on their trail.

Explosions, intrigue and brawls abound in this second issue, which abandons some of the lightheartedness of the opening chapter to evoke a more suspenseful, noir-esque tone. Quark slinking around in the classic white nurse’s uniform, with her red hair and lipstick, looks every bit the 1940/50s femme fatale, a nice counterpart to Alex’s faux James Dean. She’s a cool and in-control villain, a steady grounding force amid the stereotypically Russian drama of Meltdown and Neutron, and appeals to Alex’s heroic impulses to play him. Alex, of course, as eager to love her as he is to save the day, falls into her trap. It’s a cliché, but it works.

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While Alex’s story is all intrigue, Logan’s is all action. At this point in his canon Logan is still very much the rogue most of us remember from the 80s and 90s, a tough guy who’s never afraid to get his hands dirty. After reading Logan’s gentler, more contemplative storylines over the last few years, especially in the wake of the numerous schisms within the X-family, it’s fun to return to Wolverine’s roots as a fierce and formidable anti-hero. This section of the arc follows Logan as he interrogates people for information and tracks the clues to find Alex in Quark’s clutches, bringing him into several violent encounters as well as an explosion that burns his clothes and much of his skin off. Williams, who illustrated Logan’s scenes, does a stellar job with these brutal sequences, depicting violence through bursts of motion and the fluid strength of line.

To their credit, the Simonsons offer a solid script with great pacing and action, relying on genre clichés in fun and enjoyable ways. While in the first issue I was a little put-off by some of the very dated storytelling, it’s really grown on me. That said, some of the dialogue can get really hackneyed, which makes it a bit irksome to get through, but the visual payoff of Muth and William’s fluid collaboration is worth it. The watercolor panels make the most of the inherent violence of the story, with rich fields of bold color, gauzy contrasting whites, and visceral splatters that enhance the fluidity of the action. Logan’s animalistic fury in the back-end of the book is just lovely, as is Alex’s use of his powers to escape with Quark. There’s just something about beautiful violence that can sell an action story, and this book has plenty of that.

If nothing else, this series is just fun. The strength of Muth and William’s artwork carries the Simonsons’ script, full of enjoyable twists and turns. A great flashback for fans looking for some 80s Marvel nostalgia.

Magen Cubed –  http://www.eonism.net

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