There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of inter-company crossover stories. One belabors the point of “two universes colliding!” by giving an involved reason for why Characters X and Y are suddenly sharing the same space. (Kurt Busiek had a good riff on this in JLA / Avengers, when the teams didn’t recognize the geography of each other’s worlds.) The other kind just takes it as a given that these characters live in the same space and have never been seen together as a matter of convenience. Witchblade / Wolverine is a crossover in the latter mold, but manages to take that one step further.
Before we explore the actual content of Witchblade / Wolverine, we should ask ourselves: what is our expectation, as far as how these crossovers affect characters? Should they come away changed — perhaps even in their normal canon? Should the stories just be written off as what-ifs? And what happens when they seem to try and have it both ways, like this one? Witchblade / Wolverine suggests many more adventures to be had between the two characters, but after seven years, they have not been forthcoming. Witchblade has presumably failed to mention it (I don’t follow that book); Wolverine almost certainly has consigned it to the non-canon dustbin of comic book history.
The plot: Wolverine and Witchblade have gotten married in Las Vegas after, apparently, a memory wipe. They overcome their memory wipes (Logan no doubt practicing for House of M in two years’ time) and encounter some villains I’ve never heard of, who apparently brainwashed them into getting married to make them feel bad about having perfect happiness and then losing it. I think. Also, one of the bad guys has a Witchblade too. Anyway, Witchblade (the good one) and Wolverine beat the shit out of everyone and run off together with a million bucks. The end, courtesy of Chris Claremont (!) and Eric Basaluda (which goes some ways toward explaining why Witchblade chose to get married in an outfit that’s sleazy even by Vegas standards).
I wish I could say that there’s more to this comic than the above, but there isn’t. The rest of the reading experience is just a battery of questions, like “So, wait, what?” and “So the bad guys’ plan was to brainwash them into getting married, really?” and “Who are these people?” What’s worse is that this comic does not exactly compel the reader — or me, anyway — to find this stuff out. It’s a bit like sitting on the bus and having a drunk stumble next to you, despite there being plenty of other seats, and start telling you a story that starts nowhere near a point and ends even further from it, before just sort of… ending.
What does Witchblade / Wolverine teach us about either character, then? How does this narrative of love gained and lost further our understanding of Logan the berserk ronin with a heart of gold, or Sarah Pezzini the tough cop with a mystical legacy of blah blah blah? It doesn’t. Not even remotely. Last week I talked about comics that are routine product, filling shelf space solely because if those comics didn’t, something else would. This is like that concept’s backwoods cousin: stories that don’t even pretend they have a point. It’d be a stretch to say that Witchblade / Wolverine revels in its pointlessness, but it’s as if Claremont simply shrugged his shoulders and said “You know what, whatever, let’s just get this thing over with.”
I know people who take perverse glee in reading bad comics, watching bad movies, and otherwise engaging in a sort of smug cultural elitism through junk culture intake. I generally don’t subscribe to this aesthetic, although I admit to a love of winking, lurid trash — a category that encompasses more comic books than any self-respecting comics fan probably cares to admit. I don’t think either of us could gain anything from Witchblade / Wolverine. It’s too thin to support any kind of appreciation, other than maybe Basaluda fans’. There’s not enough story, not enough character, not even enough crowd-pleasing cheap plays. There’s just Wolverine marrying Witchblade for some reason.