An all-female neo-noir attempt that showcases both the best and worst of X-books.
At its best, Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor from writer Jim Zub and artists Thony Silas and Leonard Kirk (with a prequel issue by Charles Soule) is a stunning examination of the intricacies of the X-Men’s world, and what happens in the vacuum of someone like Logan’s disappearance. At its worst, it’s a self-serving, lopsided, and meandering extrapolation of side characters and dead ends to diminishing returns. Sounds like an X-Men book after all, eh?
What’s it about? Marvel’s preview reads:
Where’s Wolverine? Who better to answer that question than some of his closest friends — Kitty Pryde, Storm, Rogue, Jubilee, Psylocke and Domino! Following a sighting of Logan’s former alter ego Patch, they head to the streets of Madripoor, the infamous island of ill repute. What they find is a twisted cabal of crime! Can even this powerful crew survive when the whole city is hunting them?
There’s no denying that there’s a compelling, noir-mystery thread somewhere in there. Certainly, one readers would be eager to see followed up on after Soule’s fantastic, intriguing Hunt for Wolverine introduction. Unfortunately, while things start off by leaning into those elements — stacking the stakes against our great central cast with an equally capable femme fatale team, and a Magneto-focused mystery to boot — they quickly lose the plot.
Zub’s writing is great in micro, especially when it’s actively dissecting the mythology or tropes of the X-Men’s myriad stories (Domino: “You @#$% X-Men and your @#$% secrets…” or “I’m a ’90s girl, too!”), and I enjoyed a great deal of the dialogue here when it was contained to quips or asides but it falters in pacing major beats. This is no more apparent than when the book goes from being about Logan, and each women’s relationship with him — mythical and real all the same — to focusing squarely on Sapphire Styx, a minor, seemingly inconsequential villain who isn’t developed enough, even over this series’ runtime, to get the attention she does.
As the minor plots pile up, the initially compelling anchor of each X-woman’s narration about her relationship with Logan becomes less and less, and the service to tying everything together — ham-fistedly — becomes more. It’s a protracted trend in diminishing returns that focuses in on the worst parts of the book with each issue in succession when there are so many other great ideas and developments that could’ve been followed up on instead to much greater effect. The finale, which bears huge implications for Psylocke’s future, fares slightly better and I especially liked the take on Magneto who is written with some sharp insight into his character as well as how others see him (a good parallel to the discussion of Logan’s), but so much good will is lost getting there that its hard to muster the energy to fully celebrate the results.
Silas’ artistic effort is similarly lopsided. At its best, it’s a fashionable, fleet-footed and sleek affair that leans into the late-night Las Vegas mystique Madripoor revels in. However, it also too frequently turns an overly strong male gaze to its central characters, and renders physiques in abstract, inhuman ways that makes scenes flighty, confusing and messy. A scene of Jubilee, Domino, and Kitty hitting the streets on a late-night beat in sleek suits looks great (especially with the neo-noir street light effect the coloring hits with) — it’s a real shame that it’s preceded by an entirely pointless bra and panties scene that offers nothing. I’m not out here promoting puritanical values or anything, just that the art match the depth and values of the female characters presented, and that focus is sorely lacking — a strange, off-putting decision.
In the end then, while Mystery in Madripoor finds some success in examining the feelings of these characters in the absence of Logan, as well as in lampooning some of the bigger X-men tropes, far too much of it is spent on inconsequential dead ends and male gaze to equate out to a real win (for anyone but Psylocke, that is).