Review: Savage Wolverine #1

Well, my hopes for a Cullen Bunn “Wolverine” ongoing are dashed, but hey, who doesn’t like a curvy, pose-filled Wolverine book? And also dinosaurs?

Written and Illustrated by Frank Cho

Wolverine awakes to find himself transported to the Savage Land and labeled public enemy number one! With no memory of how he got there, and Shanna the She-Devil his only ally, Logan must unravel the mystery that slumbers at the heart of the Savage Land before it finds a way to kill him first. This January, Wolverine is all brawls, babes, and brachiosaurs, and you’ll never see the end — or the future of the Marvel Universe — NOW!

A new Wolverine book is always a curious thing. Wolverine is one of those characters that is so widespread throughout the Marvel Universe that, really, it’s probably safe to assume that the world revolves around him to a small degree. Everybody seems to want a shot at writing Logan, and because of this the character has become intensely overburdened with continuity to the extent that there doesn’t really seem that there’s much left to do with him beyond just have him show up alongside others, maybe even as a deus ex machine.

To that end, trying to do something really new with Logan is an uphill battle. Jason Aaron’s terrific run, for example, started off very much in a more stereotypical place: Wolverine was just a lone ronin who happened to get involved with some other weird thing to come out of his past, and it just so happened to evolve into one of the most compelling character arcs we’ve seen him ever have, leading to his role leading a school of mutant children. Alongside this, though, every other person who has really tried to do something with Logan has just done something around Logan; the story may end up great in the end (see: Wolverine leading a band of secret mutant assassins in “Uncanny X-Force” by Rick Remender), but its still just a variant of a story we’d already seen (see: Wolverine leading a band of secret mutant assassins in “Uncanny X-Force” by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost).

So that’s where we come in with Frank Cho’s “Savage Wolverine.” Cho’s goal here is to put Logan in a completely new place (well, new-ish), scale things down in terms of cast and scope and try and pick apart a particular angle that makes Wolverine great. For this book, this involves putting Wolverine stranded in the Savage Land with an old friend, a new mystery and a whole lot of action, all of which are admittedly elements that have been used on Wolverine in the past. He’s certainly no stranger to Shanna, the Savage Land or weird island mysteries, but the repetitive nature of his life doesn’t matter if the story is good.

Unfortunately, right off the bat the book suffers from fairly tedious and generally dull writing. Cho isn’t a stranger to both writing and illustrating, but after viewing his work when given the right author, especially in the world of superheroes, its clear what writers know how to bring out the best in him. In this case, that writer isn’t Frank Cho. The plot seems relatively solid, if not somewhat limited in scope, and Cho leaves enough up in the air to create a reason as to why a series like this should exist, but at no point does the book ever really wow; most of the dialogue and monologue is average or leans a bit too hard on trying to be moody, and none of the character interactions read in a particular human way. There’s too much needless exposition, and Cho first and foremost should know the relevance of Show Not Tell in a comic book.

Where the writing falters, though, the art is what can sell the book. The thing is, the art is both the books highest point and its lowest point. Cho is certainly a talented artist, and there are quite a few examples in the book to show this off. Wolverine’s short battle with a dinosaur shows off Cho’s talent for detail, and his battle with some natives allow Cho to mix it up in terms of introducing violence to the comic, which is perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the book. It’s clear that Cho is making a point of trying to do atypical panel structure within the book, allowing in a lot of gutters where the words can lie, leaving room for the art to remain relatively unscathed in post-production. It’s a neat trick and certainly allows for him to pull out the stops in some of the books more involved sequences, in which he seems to take a page from Frank Quitely’s “We3″ micro-panel structure, albeit to a far less intense degree.

On the other hand, for as good as Cho can be and has proven to be in other comics, nothing about this issue is particularly standout. At a certain point the layouts become formulaic, and at no point is Cho really pushed. While the book has been maligned by critics, Cho’s work on “Ultimate Comics New Ultimates” proved just how intense a sequence he can illustrate, putting together gorgeous and highly detailed battle sequences for the fate of New York against the might of Asgard. Here, with the lush landscape of the Savage Land at his beck and call, Cho doesn’t do anything that isn’t essentially run of the mill — and not even Savage Land “Look, Here Are Some Trees” run of the mill. With the same narrative panel structure on a good chunk of the issue and nothing about the book really explaining what makes a Frank Cho illustrated comic a Frank Cho illustrated comic

That and, well, it’s gratuitous in all the places you think it’s going to be gratuitous. Not to seem a prude, but we all know at this point that there is a particular type of lady that Cho is going to draw, and yes, Shanna – in her leopard print bikini – is pretty much the perfect fit for what he typically does. This leads to an odd read, because at time this aspect of her is very much the background noise to the story and you just have to kind of come to terms that this is a comic where a woman working with SHIELD for eight months would never change out of a leopard print bikini. Then there are times where the book is very clearly posed to show off just exactly where her curves are, and you can’t help but raise an eyebrow at how forced the sexual element here is. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker for some, I’d imagine, but it’s certainly a bit much. Terry Moore he is not.

All that said, that doesn’t mean the book isn’t in some ways fun, mind you. In terms of offering up a place for new readers to discover comics and why they inherently matter, “Savage Wolverine” seems like it’ll appeal to a very limited audience. If you like a wordy Wolverine, deadly dinosaurs, pseudo science and a buxom babe, this book is literally right up your alley in terms of content; however, compared to any other Marvel NOW! book on the stands this week, there’s no reason to grab this unless you have a particular love for Cho or #1s.

Final Verdict: 5.0 – Pass

About The AuthorMatthew MeylikhovOnce upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."

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