Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Billy Tan, Steve Sanders, and Paco Diaz [Art]; Matt Miller, Sotocolors, Jim Charalampidis, and Rachelle Rosenberg [Color]
Azuma Goda, head of one of the many branches of Hand ninja (Seriously, the Kingpin and Norman Osborn both have their own small armies of these guys), has masterminded a plan to eliminate the Yakuza and sparked a gang war in the process. Goda is also behind the yet-to-be-explained resurrection of Wolverine’s arch-nemesis Sabretooth and has also enlisted the help of Mystique.
Kidnapping Shin, the new Silver Samurai and boyfriend of Wolverine’s adopted daughter Amiko, Goda lured Logan and his former ninja girlfriend Yukio to the cave of the Mind Ninja. Here, Logan was caught in hallucinations and forced to resort to his baser animal instincts, slaughtering the ninja and being tricked into a compromising situation by Mystique. Meanwhile, Goda was able to coerce the new Silver Samurai into working for the hand.
As issue #303 opens, Wolverine is taking out the remainder of Goda’s ninjas in some Tokyo back alley and Mystique is ensuring that Shin eliminates the remainder of the Yakuza bosses. Goda explains his endgame to Sabretooth, which involves faking his death to become “invisible” in the ninjutsu sense, because the deadliest villains are those you never see.
Unfortunately, Goda underestimates Sabretooth–a mistake that quickly spirals into the arc’s conclusion.
As the second-to-last issue in Jason Aaron’s nearly-flawless run on Wolverine, this story continues to pack in the ultra-violence and kung fu b-movie homages of the previous three issues while reestablishing Sabretooth as the greatest threat to Logan. Aaron also seems to be leaving a lot of leeway to his successor, Cullen Bunn–particularly as it pertains to Wolverine’s current girlfriend Melina Garner, who was introduced at the beginning of Aaron’s run.
The art in this issue is once again done by a large team of artists, but it remains mostly unnoticeable between chapters with the exception of the art in the opening pages having a somewhat more visceral, gritty feel than the rest of the issue.
Overall, “Back In Japan” is a fun ride. I feel like I need to give the entire story another read-through to get the full picture, as two to three weeks between issues can do a lot to impact your ability to appreciate a story of this scope, but this story succeeds just for managing to pack in a little something for every Wolverine fan.