Comic Review: Savage Wolverine #1

public domain blog atomic critic comic review savage wolverine frank cho marvel

A few months ago, I was following a discussion in the comments section of a blog centered around the eternal — and ultimately foolish — debate over which was more ‘important’ to a comic, the writer or the artist.

One response fairly blew my circuits.  I don’t recall the exact phrasing, but it was along the lines of “who buys a comic just because a certain artist drew it? ”

I was too incredulous to even offer a response to that.  I’m going to assume this was a younger gentleman or lady who fostered a particular obsession with a certain character, and as such, felt who actually created the comics featuring said character was irrelevant . . . or has entered into comics in an era where, unfortunately, artists are often treated as interchangeable hired guns that aren’t given the chance to establish a long run with a certain character or title.

John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four in the early 80s was the first time I’d picked up on the fact that those names in the credit boxes at the front of the book had some significance, and it didn’t take long, even at that tender young age, to put it together:  I really, really like these pictures, which were created by a certain person.  Therefore, I will probably enjoy other comics that were drawn by this same person.  I may not be familiar with the characters, but at least the art will be a constant.

Honestly, I can’t fathom how you can be a fan of comics and not have at least a short list of favorite artists that you follow from project to project, publisher to publisher.  Kids these days . . .

I was surprised, as well as pleased, to see Frank Cho listed as the one-man creative band on Savage Wolverine, handling writing and full art chores.  I’ll be totally honest: this book could’ve been Savage Man-Thing or Savage Dazzler and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

dazzler

I’m here for Frank Cho.  Wolverine’s a definite bonus, but I’ve been dying to get some Cho illustrated comics — I’m still waiting on my copy of the delayed 50 Girls 50 TPB from Image, as well as the equally-delayed Guns and Dinos illustrated prose style mini-series, also from Image — for a while.

My first exposure to Frank’s work was years ago, when someone slipped me a collected volume of Frank’s University² strip (which went on to become Liberty Meadows) while I was working with a comics publishing start-up, and I was a fan by about page 3 of the book.  It’s one of those rare strips that you can actually describe to someone over the phone, reading the dialogue, and you’re both going to be literally wiping tears away and subject to recurring laughing fits.

libertymeadows

After coming back from comics from a couple-year hiatus, I was fascinated to find that Frank was doing work for Marvel.  Not that I didn’t think he couldn’t pull it off, it was just jarring to see him on, say, an Avengers comic after associating him so long with University² / Liberty Meadows.

Then I wondered why in the hell someone didn’t have him on a regular series — as far as I’m concerned, his superhero work is as awe-inspiring as his comic strips . . . and let’s deal with the curvy elephant in the room, head-on: his depiction of the female form is just about second-to-none.

choshanna

The very existence of Savage Wolverine may aggravate jaded fan sensibilities: do we really need ANOTHER Wolverine title, particularly one with a very specific and somewhat unusual set-up, taking place mostly in the lost prehistoric world of the Savage Land?

Maybe, maybe not — your mileage may vary — but after reading Savage Wolverine #1 and in particular the letters page backmatter, there’s an interesting hook to the project.  It’s intended to be an old-school pulp homage to tales of jungle mystery, so it’s just as much about representing a certain genre and style of material as it is being a Wolverine comic.

SavWol1cvr

Logan just happens to be the perfect fit for a protagonist to throw into a lost land of dinosaurs and prehistoric tribes.  It’s particularly interesting, too, given his current status as headmaster of the Jean Grey School over in the other X-titles: in order to affect a leadership role, poor Jimmy has to show a lot of restraint and overcome his reputation as small, hairy ball of Adamatium-reinforced rage.

Here, in the Savage Land, far from prying eyes, Wolverine can fall off the civilized wagon and be . . . well, Wolverine.

logandino

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been enjoying the overall arc of Logan’s maturation into the noble-but-with-very-rough-edges samurai warrior that Chris Claremont always teased over his legendary run on the X-Men, and I’m loving the evolution of the one member of the team that would have Professor X pulling his hair out, if he had any, from loose cannon to leader that rallies the troops, but as someone who grew up with the character’s “best there is at what I do, and what I do isn’t very nice” badassery, there’s a pleasant nostalgia in seeing Logan cut loose.

Savage Wolverine #1 is almost pure set-up, and straightforward at that: a SHIELD cartography team, working alongside Savage Land native, Shanna the She-Devil, comes across a foreboding island that Shanna warns them has been a designated a ‘forbidden zone’ by tribal elders, with good reason: it looks nothing more like a Mount Rushmore-style immortalization of C’thulu.  (Hey, you got your Burroughs in my Lovecraft!)

savagemountain

Promptly ignoring the advice of those crazy loincloth-wearing elders, the SHIELD agents swoop in for a closer look, their flying whatzamajig loses power, and crashes into the jungle.

Elsewhere, an unconscious Wolverine wakes to find himself in the Savage Land, with no recollection of how he got there, but once he spots a trussed SHIELD agent being carted along by a band of Neanderthal warriors, he knows what he needs to do.  Logan quickly crosses paths with Shanna, they trade notes and Wolverine discovers that whatever Elder Goddish being the natives have carved a tribute to on the mountainside, there’s something weird going on: the island exudes a dampening field that quells all modern technology.

whereami

Worse, the water surrounding the island is home to vicious barbarian mermen who were able to keep even Shanna and a team of seasoned SHIELD agents from wading across to freedom.

With no way to call for X-backup or send a distress signal to the Avengers, SHIELD or anyone else, Logan and Shanna are going to have to fight their way out, which means going deeper into the forbidden zone in the hopes that they can find whatever is causing the dampening field and blow it up, but good . . . no small feat given that every living thing on the island, like a pack of Sauron-like pterodactyl-men who beset the duo at the issue’s close, is trying to kill-and-or-devour them.

It could be hokey or done in a far more tongue-in-cheek style, but Cho gives it just the right amount of gravitas without making it overwrought, and I’m impressed by his writing chops.  Frank uses the almost ubiquitous first-person narration that comes with the character as almost standard to good effect, and throws in a few interesting tidbits — like how Wolverine initially mistakes Shanna, sneaking up on him from behind because she hasn’t yet recognized him, as a male assailant.

No, there’s nothing wrong with Logan’s senses: think about it for a second.  Jungle queens probably don’t smell like they just walked out of a Pangaean Bath & Body Works.

wolviespeared

Frank’s art is amazing, particularly his confident, clean figurework and anatomy, and he uses unusual page layouts to great effect: they look great and still have solid storytelling qualities.  It’s almost odd, in this day and age of decompression, to see a comic that often has more than five or six panels per page.  Jason Keith pitches in with some very nice, vibrant, almost primary colors that really accentuate Cho’s work.  This is one of the best-executed packages I’ve seen in recent months solely on artistic merit.

Great writing, fantastic artwork: if you’re pooh-poohing Savage Wolverine over feeling that the titular character is overexposed, you’re missing out.  While it is too early to really pass judgement, I think it could be a breath of fresh — if humid — jungle air, a Wolverine comic that is intentionally isolated from the hubbub of overall continuity, both X-related and Marvel as a whole, and stands on its own two prehistoric feet.

— mal

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Thanks for stopping by Public Domain, bub!  We’re the best we are at what we do.

Which is generally be real @#$%ing weird and not sleep a whole lot.

public domain blog comic reviews atomic critic michael allan leonard savage wolverine marvel

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4 Comments

  1. “who buys a comic just because a certain artist drew it? “ i guess that dude wasn’t buying comics in the 90’s. I am also enjoying savage wolverine despite my trepidation over his over exposure, but in the end when you have him tattooed to a part of your body your sort of obligated to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    • Wolverine tat? Now that’s fandom.

      Logan’s actually surpassed Batman as my all-time favorite comics character recently — I spent some time away from comics and I was very pleased to see what they’d done with him, which was to put the whole struggle with the animal aside in favor of letting him mature and grow a little, try to redeem himself for some of his past sins. . . a rarity with a legacy sort of character.

      I’m glad Savage exists because the relaunched main title isn’t too my liking — I adore Alan Davis’ art but not a fan of the writer to the point where I’m just avoiding it for now. Maybe if I can pick it up in trade or for cheap at a con sometime I’ll give it a look, or if someone else takes on writing duties. Savage, Wolverine and the X-Men, and Bendis’ X-titles are enough snikt for a month for me.

  2. Lol, I had to laugh at your opening. I buy comics sometimes contrary to the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” As an aspiring comic artist, I look to buy specifically for the art and then pray that the writing will match or surpass it. Current fave of mine is Fraction and Aja on Hawkeye. My buddy Matt put me on to that.

    • It’s kinda sad that with the way things are, we rarely get a good run from a consistent creative team — there’s nothing like a good chunk of issues by a writer and artist that really work well together, gel as a unit and are a perfect fit for the characters they’re working with. I don’t really blame a lot of modern readers for having that mentality where the character is the most important element, because the art assignments are so interchangable they may not know any different.

      I’ll have to check out Hawkeye, heard many good things about that, and nabbed #1 as part of the Marvel comiXology promotion. Thanks for commenting!


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