(This review reveals major plot points for Inferno and X Lives #1 & 2.)
Since Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, and R.B. Silva unleashed House Of X in 2019, the X-Men books have flourished under the new creative direction. Most of the titles that have spawned from House have been successful, and Wolverine—from Benjamin Percy, Adam Kubert, and Viktor Bogdanovic—is one of the highlights of the current line. Marvel’s original clawed mutant hasn’t been this consistently fun in some time, and with X Lives Of Wolverine and X Deaths Of Wolverine, Percy opts to take Logan on a solo thrill ride before the new “Destiny’’ phase of X-books return with their own stories to tell.
Percy’s greatest strength is how he’s been able to lend Logan a distinct voice over the past three years. In Lives, the character is painted as a weary detective that keeps doing the work because it’s all he knows. Logan’s monologues as he hops through time to save Charles Xavier won’t tell you anything new about him, but it’s fun enough to watch him suddenly leap into the body of his past self in the middle of a warzone, or a fight with a polar bear, before continuing the actual plot.
Having worked with Percy so long on X-Force, artist Joshua Cassara knows how to stage a succession of Wolverine fights extremely well; each scrap the character gets in feels kinetically distinct from the others around it. It helps that villain Omega Red is a fun threat for Logan to go up against, now that the evil mutant can hop into the body of anyone he wants. Cheesy as it is for him to body-snatch Logan’s wife Itsu after some lovemaking in Japan, Omega Red adds some unpredictability to everything, and is sold as a credible threat for the story.
Despite the title, companion piece X Deaths Of Wolverine is currently more of an epilogue to the recent Inferno miniseries, with Moira MacTaggert now on the run, having been exiled from Krakoa after losing her reincarnation power. The debut issue is effectively one long chase scene, as Moira tries to get both a cure for her rapidly growing cancer and evade Mystique and the government agents who want to use her against Krakoa. Federico Vicentini brings a different, frantic energy to Deaths as it indulges in the tropes of a woman on the run. Unpredictability plays a much different role here compared to X Lives; it feels like things can and will go very wrong for Moira at any moment.
Of the two, X Deaths is the better at present, but both halves of the mini-event are very strong. It gives some nice nostalgia in X Lives’ time travel gimmick, while Deaths keeps the momentum of the Krakoan age going. Like the mysterious new Wolverine tracking Moira in the present day, X Lives/X Deaths feels familiar, while also being strangely new—and excitingly different to what came before.