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Fans of the X Men comic book series are more often than not drawn to the 'edgier' characters in the group. The core original team comprises a small, relatively simply group of mutants for whom there is a lot of affection, but as time goes on, it has been the introduction of new, broodier and generally more violent characters that has seen the series go from strength to strength.
The character Wolverine was first seen in the Incredible Hulk in 1974 before joining the Uncanny X Men in 1975. Since then, Wolverine has unquestionably become the most popular X Men, inheriting his own title in 1985 and eventually becoming the first X Man to feature in his own movie. There has always been an air of mystery about Wolverine, or Logan as he is more commonly known, and as the last thirty years have gone on, readers have gradually learnt more and more. Known for his fearsome retracting claws, Wolverine isn't averse to a bit of killing and it's this unpredictable killer instinct that makes him such an interesting character. There's also the matter that he's extremely difficult to kill, as his body possesses a super-human healing capacity that enables him to recover from just about anything. At the current time, Wolverine has been embraced into mainstream Marvel continuity rather more than at any other time in his history. He's a member of the New Avengers and the X Men and crops up as a dominant character in pretty much every story arc taking place across the Marvel Universe.
Raven Darkholme, otherwise known as Mystique has always been placed firmly in the bad guy's camp. Mystique first appeared in the Ms Marvel series in the late 1970s, but became a regular feature in the Uncanny X Men when she joined Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Mystique is a ruthless shape-shifter, who employs her ability to take on another's form. She was re-imagined for the X Men movie series in a rather more reptilian form but her comic book appearance is subtler and rather more sinister, if truth be told. The appeal with Mystique comes from her cloudy past.
Mexico, 1921. Logan (otherwise known as Wolverine) finds himself facing a firing squad alongside Raven Darkholme for crimes he does not believe they committed. Escaping death, they travel together to Kansas City, where Darkholme tells Wolverine that she has friends that will help them.
Muir Island: Present Day. Cyclops, now the leader of the X Men, summons Wolverine. Following the devastating events of the Messiah Complex, Cyclops wants revenge. Raven Darkholme, otherwise known as the mutant Mystique, has betrayed her fellow mutants. Beside himself with grief and fury, Cyclops instructs Wolverine to track down his old adversary and eliminate her.
How are the events of 1921 connected with the present day? Only time and one very angry, very hairy mutant will tell...
A team-up between writer Jason Aaron and artist Ron Garney, Get Mystique was originally published in the pages of Wolverine's ongoing monthly series (issues 62 through 65). Ron Garney is a successful and popular artist, who has worked on a number of Marvel titles since the 1990s, including The Amazing Spiderman, Hulk and Ghost Rider. Garney's style is vivid and explosive; he captures facial expressions particularly well and combines detail with simplicity with resoundingly good results.
Jason Aaron is a relative newcomer to the comic book world and has worked mainly with Marvel Comics, with some limited titles for DC/Vertigo. Aaron concentrates on the darker characters of the Marvel Universe, including Ghost Rider, Black Panther and The Punisher. To date, he has written five contained story arcs for the Wolverine series. This is almost certainly his most popular to date.
Get Mystique is one of those stories that works just as well in isolation as it does within the ongoing continuity of the Wolverine/X Men universe. This makes it a great starting point for newcomers or long-term Wolverine fans alike and it's a great story. Intriguing, exciting and shocking in equal doses, it romps its way through various periods in time, drawing together two of Marvels strongest characters in a surprisingly violent combination.
Aaron clearly wants to explore 'what it's like' to be Wolverine here and amply demonstrates the pros and cons of life as our favourite mutant. Aaron seems to believe that Wolverine has a very clear sense of morality, pitching this in contrast to Mystique who is painted very much as the villain of the piece. Despite the fact, for example, that Wolverine could tear most of his opponents into strips, Aaron wants us to see this man very much as the hero and, as such, the narrative goes to some lengths to explain why this is the case. Some might find this a little too 'wholesome' but it doesn't sanitise the tale or dumb down the character. Aaron simply wants a distinct tale of good versus evil, and needs to paint out exactly who is good and who is evil.
The story shifts between different locations and times, notably between Iran, Mexico and Kansas City, the former in the present day, the latter two locations in the past. This gives the story bulk and stamina - this is not a simple tale of 'catch 'em and kill 'em'. It is clearly Aaron's intention to reveal more about the pasts of the two lead characters, for which, amongst regular readers, there is virtually an insatiable demand. It's never confusing though, purely because this is essentially a very simple story at its heart. Indeed, the shifting locations make this feel more rounded and add depth to what could have been a very superficial story - this took up four issues of the ongoing series, after all.
It's pretty crazy stuff, full of explosive and astounding action. Barely one page seems to go by without Wolverine cutting loose once more, which is exactly how the character should be realised. Aaron makes particularly use of Wolverine's healing capacity, incorporating it into our hero's plans, as opposed to using it as a get out of jail free card. Needing to get into a US military base in Iraq, Wolverine decides to enlist the help of local rebels, who effectively blow him up as a suicide bomber, resulting in his 'body' being transported into the base, albeit rather charred and fleshy. It's hilarious stuff; only a character like Wolverine would even dream of such a plan, and it's superb story telling from start to finish. Mystique is equally at her best, full of cunning and malevolence and quite happy to do whatever she needs to do to escape.
Garney's artwork here is astounding. He seems to bring every action scene violently to life, both through the scale and drama of his drawing to the little details of shrapnel and flying bullets. He's equally at home in period Kansas or modern-day Iraq. The style is relatively old school here, lacking the clean lines and futuristic imaging of some of his contemporaries and it seems to fit the storyline perfectly. Highlights include a rather emaciated Wolverine ripping out of his body bag and the climax of chapter three depicting a demonic-looking Mystique steadying herself for a serious fight.
Garney does both the characters complete justice here. He manages to avoid making either of them resemble porn stars (a common error in the more recent X Men stories) but leaves them both oozing with sexuality and charisma. The cover art alone (featuring a seductive-looking Mystique draped around Wolverine's muscular frame) tells you this, but it's everywhere throughout the book. Garney doesn't over-exaggerate or dwell unnecessarily on these things. There's something casual about the fact that the two leads look bitingly cool, as though the artist just happened to draw them that way.
Garney's realisation of Mystique is particularly effective here and demonstrates why the film version was nowhere near as good as she could have been. Garney uses Mystique's inhuman yellow eyes to great effect here, notably in one or two images where the rest of her face is cloaked in darkness.
It's a reasonably violent tale and one that would merit some caution with younger viewers. There's no swearing or nudity but some of the fight scenes are reasonably bloody and brutal. The mainstream Wolverine story arcs tend not to be the darkest of the bunch and actually that makes them worth recommending. Some writers and artists take Wolverine to a place that's just a bit "too" dark and there's enough humour here to keep this on the right side of bleak. It's an entirely relevant story line within the overall X Men continuity too. This is exactly the sort of thing that Wolverine does best on his own - there really is no need to bring in any of his counterparts. The simmering sexuality between Logan and Raven just about tops it off too. Is he going to kill her or sleep with her?
Get Mystique is one of the strongest Wolverine titles that I've read for years. Garney's artwork is spot on and completely brings the story to life. This works well on two levels. As a simple, one-off story, it's exciting and unpredictable; the very definition of a comic book page-turner where you just can't wait to see what's going to happen next. Beyond that superficial side of things, however, there are more interesting aspects here. Aaron's use of Wolverine's healing factor makes for some great plot developments here and the relationship between Wolverine and Mystique maintains the pace from start to finish. Arguably, the conclusion is a little too assured, but that doesn't detract from what is a great story, with superb artwork and enough surprises to keep any reader satisfied.
What's even better is that this graphic novel is now perilously cheap. Take a look on the likes of www.amazon.co.uk and you should be able to find this for around a fiver - a bargain in every sense of the word.