This is what I hoped Wolverine: Origins might have been like. It wasn't. But this is what they call a very good comic.
Logan is Brian K. Vaughan and Eduardo Risso's love letter to Wolverine, and it begins with a snow-covered landscape, a few ominously-treaded footprints, and a narration which begins "When you rip a guy's heart out, the blood inside stinks of hot iron and dead blossoms." That's how to begin a story about Wolverine, folks, and the issue maintains that razor-sharp attitude throughout.
Before I move on, I just want to emphasize why that opening page is so effective. (And if you're an aspiring writer, you could learn a few things about how to write comics by this single, full-page image and juxtaposed captions.) First of all, the image establishes a serene sense of quiet--with a fog-covered temple in the distance, behind the snow-covered trees. (And I know that I should have a scanned image of page 1 here for you to look at, but I don't, so use your imagination.) The contrast between that image and the vividly described sensory image in the caption (with the "stink of hot iron" and all that), demonstrates what comics can do best. They can combine words and images to new effect, in a way that the words alone or the image alone do not achieve. Read the caption away from the illustration on the page, and you do not picture tranquility. Look at the image without the caption and you do picture tranquility, except for the footprints. And the footprints are the key to the entire effect. The footprints are not vague impressions in the snow. They are deep and sharply defined, with visible boot-sole impressions. Someone is heading toward that fog-covered temple. Something with the treads of a soldier.
The entire comic book is symbolized by that opening image, and I love to see such a thing in a comic that I didn't necessarily expect much from. I've enjoyed much of what Vaughan has done before, and Risso is wonderful, of course (and it's astounding to think of the amazingly consistent, and brilliant, work he's done on 100 Bullets, without hardly any fanfare--when that series is done and he moves on to something else, I guarantee he will be recognized as a superstar within the industry--not just by other professionals), but, really? Logan? You know what we don't need? Yet another story revealing a hitherto unreported episode from Wolverine's past. Every Wolverine story over the past few years has been about some hitherto unreported episode from Wolverine's past. Wolverine and Wolverine: Origins has read like one bad episode of Lost after another, except without the promise of a merciful end in sight.
So, yeah, I certainly wasn't expecting to find something surprising in Logan #1. But I did, because good creators can remind us that's it's all about the execution. And when you have a good premise--with Wolverine in WWII Japan, before the bombs fall; a good writer, in Vaughan who plays on Wolverine's fetishes but also justifies them; and a stellar artist, in Risso, who makes every panel throb with sinister menace and yet manages to evoke grace and beauty with apparent ease, well, it just works in a way that so many Wolverine stories have not.
This is a story about loss and tragedy, or at least it will be, if the first issue is any indication, and I think you should check it out. You will like it.