Honestly, Paul Cornell's take on Wolverine has left me with very mixed opinions. On one hand, I'm all for seeing a break from Wolverine being "the best there is" and treated like an unstoppable killing machine. Despite many thinking he tends to just drool, scream and flail with his adamantium claws, I've always considered James Howlett a brave and wise character. He's lived for so long, come to respect and observe so many different cultures, and has endured countless hardships. There's more to this X-Man than meets the eye and unfortunately, that's something which is often missed when he's included as a cameo or thrown into a team book. However, Cornell's attempt at humanizing Wolverine seems to disregard the fact the mutant has been vulnerable countless times before and often acted admirably. So, when we saw Wolverine hesitate while using a razor, I couldn't help but feel like that was going too far to express the point that Wolverine now realizes he can die. Thankfully, there isn't anything like this in Cornell's finale and when Logan does have a moment's pause, it's understandable and he attempts to overcome. It doesn't make him seem weak or fearful and shows off what he's willing to risk and it even does an alright job displaying his morals. Even though I have many problems with the chapter, it still like a satisfactory end.
Yes, there is a big fight between Sabretooth and Wolverine and yes, there's several pages dedicated to it. It may not bring anything refreshing to the dynamic, but artist (and inker) Pete Woods and colorist David Curiel make it a fairly gripping encounter. You can't help but love a double page spread of these two lunging at one another and the frenetic melee is then spread across several panels on a single page; that really allows us to appreciate the speed and savagery that's going down in the brawl. The more impactful and game changing hits are then dedicated to larger panels and that allows them to feel like they have more force behind them. And, even if you haven't been a fan of this run, the handling of the buildup right before the fight is a solid moment for Wolverine and the art team makes sure he looks badass in the moment. When all is said and done, the developments with Sabretooth and his plan feel quickly glossed over, but it's a conversation in the end which ends the arc on a more positive and engrossing note.
When you think of big conflicts between Wolverine and Sabretooth, several memorable moments begin to pop up. There's that time Wolverine lashed out against Creed in the X-Mansion, their fight that went tumbling over a cliff, the time Logan stabbed Creed and raised the villain over his head, so on and so on. The encounter usually focuses heavily on the dynamic between these two in a compelling and brutal way. Despite all of the hype behind this tale, the big finale between these two felt very by the numbers. Dialogue about who both of them are on the inside is presented here, but it doesn't shed any new or engaging light on the characters and kind of comes off feeling like repeat territory for pre-existing fans. And while the big fight is amusing, I can't help but feel somewhat disappointed by the simplicity of the outcome and believe the encounter actually downplayed both characters. Wolverine knows Creed is physically superior and arrogant, so that's why he often relies on his skill and eventually unleashing his own rage to overcome. Here, it's a slugfest (with rage sprinkled in) even though Wolverine is without his healing factor and the verdict downplays the loser's durability by a fair amount. I couldn't help but think "Logan's smarter than this" while reading the brawl.
The way the overall narrative wrapped up felt all too familiar and safe, too. Everything is swiftly handled and it loosely teases Wolverine's future. It's not bad but it comes off as forgettable. Additionally, cutting away from Wolverine to chime in on what's going on outside of the shield didn't really add any weight to the bigger picture. The only memorable or entertaining part from that was the quick bit with an alternate Thor. Everything else left me waiting until we could get a look back at the important part of the story. Unfortunately, neither of the back-up stories focus all that much on Wolverine or expanding the latest narrative, either (but it does seem like the final bit of dialogue is the writer's way of expressing why he approached this take on Wolverine).
Totally minor gripe and it has no impact on the score: if a person with a Deadpool hat gets the opportunity to talk with Wolverine, you'd think they'd act a little more like a fan about it, you know? I get he's startled by what's going on, but if he's a fan of Deadpool and such, part of him should be like "IT'S WOLVERINE!" I know it's likely just a little easter egg, but this could have added a little bit of levity to the situation.
WOLVERINE #12 is an okay issue. It doesn't bring any new material to the dynamic between Wolverine and Sabretooth and, as you can see above, I have a lot of gripes with it, but it still delivers an alright insight into James Howlett, an amusing course of events, and the visual ride isn't bad. It's a bummer the back-up stories don't add any significant substance to the events in this conclusion and it'll by no means go down as one of the best Wolverine/Sabretooth stories, but I think relatively new readers will appreciate the character beats and find themselves interested enough to see what comes next. Here's hoping DEATH OF WOLVERINE is more compelling!