Monday, March 12, 2012

Daken: Dark Wolverine #21

Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Frank Martin

Daken: Dark Wolverine #21 (February 8, 2012)
Writer: Rob Williams
Penciller: Matteo Buffagni, Andrea Mutti, Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Guru-eFX, Rachelle Rosenberg, Riley Rossmo
Letterer: Cory Petit

I’ve been avoiding reading Daken: Dark Wolverine for very vague and ridiculous reasons:
  • I had no idea who he was
  • I don’t much like Wolverine
I know these are completely nonsensical reasons for not picking up a single issue of a unfamiliar character so finally, I took a chance on Daken: Dark Wolverine #21 (right after a quick trip to Wikipedia to see just who this guy is).

Daken (who has worse daddy issues than Loki) has set his sights on destroying his father, Wolverine, after being informed by Reed Richards that the Heat drug he’s been taking has nullified his healing factor. Daken obviously figures that he has nothing to lose now, especially after being betrayed multiple times over, so he might as well go out with a bang, literally.

The first portion of the issue follows Daken as he slithers around New York, waxing poetically on the tense and frankly imbalanced relationship between super heroes and the adoring public. Daken, like many villains, steps precariously close to breaking the fourth wall in that he expresses an almost meta-understanding of his role as a bad guy in contrast to all the good super heroes in the world. Furthermore, he’s frankly disgusted by this black-and-white narrative, especially since he so hates one of the most popular good guys, Wolverine. This is apparent in a subtly creepy scene in which Daken looks over a collection of plush super heroes at a toy store and picks up a Wolverine, only to be told by a child that he’s “one of the best good guys.” Daken’s quiet agreement is unsettling.

Meanwhile, Daken’s apathy to his upcoming death unnerves Reed Richards, who offers to analyze Wolverine’s blood to find a cure, and Johnny Storm, who apparently considered Daken a friend. We then conclude the issue with Daken slipping his father a heat pill in an attempt to make him lose his healing factor, as well, and just in time for Daken’s bombing of New York City.

Overall, I enjoyed this issue. Granted, I have never read any Daken before this and therefore, don’t have a great deal invested into this issue. Perhaps if I were a longtime fan, my feelings would be different but right now, I’m curious to see where this is going. Sadly, the last panel featured one of the silliest ending lines I’ve read in a long time and definitely one of the weakest arguments made by a villain ever. Daken wants to blow up New York simply “because super heroes are stupid.” Oh, Daken, let what you just said sink in for a moment and you’ll realize how juvenile you sounded.

Beyond this cringe-worthy moment, Daken is an interesting character though not exactly anything new. He’s a charming sociopath that you can’t help but be intrigued with, like most popular villains. What differentiates Daken is his relationship to Wolverine and his hinted at bisexuality, which is, if Wikipedia and fandom are to be believed, more like a nudge nudge in-joke than reality.

A bisexual character in a mainstream comic book series would be awesome and if Daken is, then cool. My main concern lies in the fact that the bad guy is sexually ambiguous, building upon a tradition of scary, creepy queer characters (Norman Bates, Jame Gumb/Buffalo Bill, and Carmilla are popular examples). Indeed, Daken perfectly fits the Depraved Bisexual trope, which is not the best step forward for queer visibility.

Furthermore, Daken could very well not be bisexual at all but merely using his sexuality as a means to get information or assistance in his dastardly plans. If this is the case, then other issues are being raised, such as the fear of having an openly bisexual male character in a mainstream comic book. Of course, it would be interesting to have a male character use his sexuality in this manner, as this is a traditionally female device (Huntress, for example, used to be portrayed in this way quite often). This isn’t empowering but it definitely blurs gender roles, which I’m always for.

Anyway, Daken’s bisexuality notwithstanding, Daken: Dark Wolverine #21 was a fun read. I was lukewarm about the art, however. The characters looked sort of slapdash and squashy to me, as if the pencillers really just wanted to throw wrinkles into everything. The coloring was nicely done, however: very bright and clean, which juxtaposed Daken’s grim outlook on life.

Apparently, Daken: Dark Wolverine has been cancelled, too, which is unfortunate. Does anyone have any Daken suggestions? I want to see how other writers have portrayed this character. 

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