The contestants are:
By Michael Comeau
Published by Koyama Press
Wolverine Inner Fury
Written by D.G. Chichester
Art by Bill Sienkiewicz
Published by Marvel Comics
While this is such an easy call that it's almost embarrassing, let's go to the tape and do this like professionals: first up, we'll talk about the plot. We're going to be spoiling stuff, but since one of these comics was printed twenty years ago and the other was printed in such small numbers (and most of those are in Canada) that it basically doesn't exist, it really doesn't matter. Does it?
Alberta is your basic modern nightmare, with the citizens either gun-wielding or lecherous, with faces that often melt right off the bone. Enter The Wolverine: after witnessing the brutal, senseless death of his friend Mertle The Deer, Logan decides to get murderous revenge on the local polluters. When Canadian Mounties step in to protect their corporate overlords, they get slaughtered at the hands of Logan's claws as well. At this point, Stephen Harper--the current prime minister of Canada--shows up, dressed like the Pope. For reference, this is the wikipedia picture of Stephen Harper, alongside a picture of the way Comeau depicts him in the comic.
It's not a bad likeness! Anyway, Wolverine has to face off against a Harper directed kill squad called the Crucivixens (a bunch of sword n' whip wielding 40-something women who ride around naked on the back of flying crosses, crosses which are complete with crucified sinners), a battle which he loses, in some small part due to the fact that the Crucivixens are assisted by a small crop of Terror Cherubs. Wolverine is then nailed to a giant X and forced to listen to Harper's evil plots, which are a mix of anti-Earth Reaganite surfeit mixed with classic early 80's Satanism. At his wits end, Logan calls upon Jean Grey, the Phoenix herself, for assistance.
The help Jean provides comes in the form of a fiery holocaust that wipes all life off of the face of North America...except for Wolverine, who recovers in the wastelands of Canada just in time to see the Return of Savior X, who happens to be a bipedal English speaking deer cradling a baby deer.
And that's the plot of Hellberta.
Wolverine Inner Fury's Plot
A scientist that looks like Jabberjaw runs away with some new nanomachines, and Wolverine is tricked into tracking him down. At the end of the comic, Wolverine rescues Jabberjaw and kills the guy who tricked him.
And that's the plot of Wolverine Inner Fury.
Off the basis of plot, this is an easy call. One of these comics manages to leverage 15 pages worth of plot out of every second panel, and the other one makes Twitter look like Frank Herbert's Dune. You could hit a five year old in the eye with a hammer and still end up with a more interesting Wolverine plot than Inner Fury, just by copying down whatever sounds he starts making.
To be fair: I knew well in advance that this comic was probably going to be unbearably stupid on the reading front. The only thing that had any capacity to be interesting here is Bill Sienkiewicz's art. So let's take a look at that.
This is one of my favorite pages of Inner Fury, and in a neat twist, it's also the page that's closest to any of Comeau's. It's not a page intent on delivering a lot of information--basically, Wolverine's gotten himself infected with nanomachines, and this page is just telling you that, and in actuality it's telling you that for the second time. (One of the many ways in which Sienkiewicz attempts to churn something interesting out of this dire script is to fuck around with his layouts every time he's stuck repeating a piece of information.)
Here's Sienkiewicz pulling a scriddidy-skratch with Wolverine's lower torso, which he's either doing because he's awesome or because he was running up against his deadline. No matter the reason, it looks fucking great. It doesn't do anything for the story, no, but then again: there isn't much of a story to begin with.
At the end of the comic, everything turns into a gigantic cartoon, but not one of those cartoons that little kids and 40-something men watch. More like one of those cartoons that schizophrenics and drug abusers watch by themselves in the middle of the night, on the insides of their eyelids. Look n' see:
Fucking weird, right? I like the idea of chopping off Wolverine's hands. They should do that more often.
All this cool shit aside, the truth is that Sienkiewicz was completely alone out there. When he's left to his own devices, he does some amazing stuff, like a plot delivery page where the bad guy is depicted on stage, vomiting the actual story out of his mouth while Wolverine gets sloppy drunk. But for the most part, Bill is only able to come alive within the gaps, making the rest of the comic--the "story"--an even more miserable (and somewhat embarrassing) experience, because you keep getting these blips of the trip you could be taking, which looks way better than the one you're on.
In summation: There's no question here which of these comics wins this round. At one or two pages, Hellberta would have been a quirky and insubstantial piece of kitsch. But the way it's presented here, you've got a fervently sustained piece of dark imagination; a deeply funny look at an artist mixing violent political indignation and super-hero affection. It's committed, wonderful work.
Current Score: 1 for the Warehouse, 1 for the BGCF