Retro Comics: Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown #4

With its fourth issue, this 80s action-adventure romp comes to a dramatic close, ending this enjoyable flashback on an overall high note. After Logan’s apparent death at Alex’s hands, the spy/mercenary Quark uses her blooming romantic relationship with Alex to lead him to India and directly into the clutches of General Meltdown. In this issue we learn that this globe-trotting journey has been a complex rouse created by Meltdown and Doctor Neutron, meant to pit Alex against Meltdown so that the general can absorb Alex’s devastating radioactive blast. Logan, however, has other plans.

After being buried in a shallow grave, Logan comes back as Alex predicted thanks to his healing factor. From there he follows the staged clues left behind by Quark to arrive in India, at the power plant meant to serve as the stage of General Meltdown’s ascension into untold levels of power. Led by Quark, Alex believes that he’s rushing into the plant to avoid an impending meltdown, and is instead met by Meltdown. Dramatic monologues ensue as Alex squares off against the power-hungry mutant, as Quark (still masquerading as Scarlett) is wounded in the skirmish. Fueled by heartbreak and rage, Alex unleashes a massive blast on Meltdown, playing right into Meltdown’s hands.

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Just when all seems lost, Logan arrives to stop Meltdown, piercing him with a slew of control rods as to dampen and wither his powers. Still channeling excessive levels of power, Alex redirects the radioactive onslaught up and into space, sparing the plant and everyone inside. With Meltdown dead and Scarlett seemingly lost in the crossfire, Logan and Alex make their escape to Bombay, taking a moment to breathe as their adventure comes to an end. In the epilogue we see Neutron plan for the future, quickly overcoming this setback to move onto the next big scheme at the expense of the world’s superhero community.

Overall this was an enjoyable series, with plenty of twists and turns and amazing art to boot. In this closing issue Muth and Williams deliver a visually exciting story, with explosive action sequences in the Alex/Meltdown showdown and dramatic page design. The use of color was especially affective here, with lovely golds and earth tones against eerie blues and greens to explore the interior of the plant. This book is just unquestionably nice to read, providing a consistently engaging visual experience from start to finish. I wish I could say the same of Walter and Louise Simonsons’ scripting. While definitely fun, this issue in particular really suffers from the overuse of cliché dialogue and exchanges between Alex and Quark so sugary-sweet as to induce a diabetic episode. I have to give the Simonsons props for an entertaining plot for Muth and Williams to capitalize on, but the dialogue is often so bad that I had to laugh, and not in a good way. For all the soft spots, Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown is still a highly entertaining nostalgic trip to the comics of a bygone era.

Magen Cubed –  http://www.eonism.net

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