This arc isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’s not bad.
Grandpa Howlett is in a bind. Hunted by the public due to the manipulations of mayor Fisk and still reeling from his encounter with Bullseye, our hero knows that the assassin is going after Fisk’s thumb drive — and that means he’s going after Sarah. What follows is the typical race against time and bad guy showdown stuff we’ve come to expect from street-level hero books — but that shouldn’t suggest it’s bad. Issue #38 is a actually pretty good, even if it may be a little by the numbers for some tastes.
There a few interesting narrative turns in this issue that do stand out a little bit — not always for the best mind you, but interesting turns all the same. For one, there’s the characterization of Sarah. I know she’s a recovering alcoholic going through some hard times, and I honestly can’t say how I would react to having a world famous assassin who never misses a target threatening me, but her offer to give Bullseye the thumb drive so he could “take over the city” seems like kind of a shitty thing. Sure, Fisk is bad, but at least he operates in the open. He has to have public support to prop up his power at this point, so you can use that to your benefit. Bullseye, on the other hand, is a psychopath who kills both for money and fun. I know which way I’d lean. Again, I’m sure if I were scared for my life (especially after emptying a full magazine on him and missing), I’d say whatever I could to get out of trouble, but it seems odd to root for someone so willing to make a deal with the devil to save their own skin. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s actually quite a human scripting decision. It’s just an odd nuance for a superhero book.
Another humanizing narrative choice, albeit one I think is less successfully pulled off, is the content of the thumb drive that Kingpin has sent his best killer after. The macguffin for this caper ends up being a collection of photos and videos of the Kingpin’s late wife Vanessa. For one, if his Achilles heel at this point are these images of Fisk and his wife in happier times, why are they relegated to one easily swipeable thumb drive specially encrypted to only play on Fisk’s laptop? Does he not have any backups? I don’t think Wilson Fisk is the one creating those complicated encryptions, so other people know how much he loved his wife. Why is he treating it like a secret that needs to be hidden? I get why the Kingpin would have someone who steals from him murdered, and I understand that it would be pretty incriminating if that guy had a thumb drive full of pictures of the mayor on his person when the cops found his body, but like…just destroy the drive? Or shit, why not use some of your political clout and influence to just make that all go away? Is it necessary to get your most famous international gun for hire, an assassin who (a) can’t be cheap and (b) wears a costume that makes him easily identifiable to the general public involved in its retrieval? Furthermore, do we really need these humanizing efforts applied toward Fisk? I know his most celebrated portrayal is Vincent D’Onofrio’s complex and flawed take from the Netflix Daredevil series, but using his love for his dead wife like this feels silly and unearned.
While I’m on a negative slant, I should also talk about the artwork from Dalibor Talajic. For the most part, Talajic tells a decent visual story, but his ill defined and often wonky character design and poor motion framing in the car chase action scene do sink the book just a bit. The motion issues are the bigger problem, as sequences like Sarah firing on Bullseye and Logan’s trouncing of the assassin in a fist fight are really ill defined and reflect a lack of conceptual motion. This issue is the most blatant during the car chase/accident that precedes that fight, as none of the motions make sense. Bullseye drives through several cars and at least two motorcycles without and impediment to his forward momentum, then rear ends the car Wolverine is in hard enough to send Logan through his back windshield into Bullseye’s. He hits the windshield twice somehow, landing with an elbow to Bullseye’s face once the glass shatters, yet despite burying his fender into the other car moments ago, Bullseye’s car is still moving forward enough to ram a nearby post? Furthermore, despite both men being thrown several feet from the car, the assassin picks a large shard of glass out of the air and chucks it backward at Wolverine in a way that makes no sense. It’s kind of distracting.
Art issues aside, this was an overall decent outing for the OML team. The storyline, familiar as it was, was well put together, there are human elements to the characters that we don’t always get and the artwork worked for the most part. Yes there were problems with the motion physics of the central action sequence, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the book. I look forward to seeing where the next arc will take the book.