The Ninjabot

Not-So-Great Expectations: Savage Wolverine

Posted on April 27, 2013 at 5:00 am by Tyler Waterman

No one judges a book by its cover more than a fan of comics. We make snap decisions every week as to what we think will be worth our time and money, and while we may often be right, our preconceived notions can also keep us from reading great books. To help out my fellow readers, every week I’ll pick a title I would normally pass on and give it its due. I’ll report back whether it’s a diamond in the rough or just, well, rough. This is Not-So-Great Expectations.

Just as he is amongst other heroes, Wolverine is often a hot-button topic around comic fans. For some, he’s the best at what he does, and what he does is awesome. Others can’t stand his one-liners or loner attitude. But whether their feelings for Wolverine are love, hate, or indifference, comic fans all tend to agree on one thing:

Wolverine is in way too many books.

It's not often I agree with Deadpool, but he's got a point.

It’s not often I agree with Deadpool, but he’s got a point.

Avengers. Uncanny Avengers. A+X. Wolverine and the X-Men. Astonishing X-Men. X-Men Legacy. Uncanny X-Men. Age of Ultron. Superior Spider-Man. These are all just the books that Wolverine has appeared in within just the past month or so that I recall off the top of my head… and that wasn’t even including the three monthly solo books he currently has. The oversaturation of the character, while a completely valid and legitimate business move, makes many fans far less interested in seeing him than they were before. It also makes it difficult to tell original and compelling stories featuring the character, a struggle that’s usually most evident in his solo titles.

All of this is why I never expected Savage Wolverine, written and illustrated by Frank Cho, to be one of Marvel NOW’s most pleasant surprises.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying something like “this is the definitive depiction of Wolverine” or “this is a bold new direction for the character.” This is definitely a Wolverine book, bub, and all that that implies. But what makes Savage Wolverine fun to read is that Cho, unlike many others, doesn’t seem uncomfortable or restricted at all by being tied to this character. What’s more, he achieves this in two different ways at the same time, one that’s a requirement and another that’s just brilliant.

The first is a pretty obvious necessity, but not one that’s often meet: Cho delivers a solid Wolverine experience. In this book, Wolverine finds himself mysteriously trapped on a forbidden island in the middle of the Savage Land, a setting all but custom tailored for him. In trying to find out both why he’s there and how to leave, he finds himself battling dinosaurs, angry natives, and more dinosaurs, each fight worse than the last. Again, rather than trying to break the mold, Cho seizes these opportunities to create a perfect example. Wolverine is all claws and anger, lopping of heads and tearing apart velociraptors, reminding you again why little-kid-you wanted Wolverine claws so badly. What’s more impressive, Cho avoids the pitfall of using Wolverine’s healing factor as a crutch. Too many times and in too many comics we see Wolverine all but torn to shreds in nearly every fight he’s in. In Savage Wolverine, Cho certainly makes sure it’s put to the test. but without forgetting that the character is a seasoned warrior with a century of experience under his belt; in other words, he shouldn’t get hit by every attack that comes his way, just because he can heal from it. Wolverine is at his best as a survivor, not a meat-shield, and should only need to bounce back from crippling injury after fighting something really nasty.

savwolheal

Like here, after fighting three nine-foot gorillas. Yes, gorillas.

The brilliant and far less obvious way that Cho makes Savage Wolverine stand out from the other two dozen books Wolverine appears in during any given month is by surrounding him with the exact opposite type of characters. This isn’t a story about Wolverine battling his way through the Savage Land with Captain America, Spider-Man or even the X-Men. The other two main protagonists in this comic are Shanna the She-Devil and Amadeus Cho, a sentence that I never could have fathomed typing before. While Wolverine is used like a marketing sledgehammer, these are names only the most die-hard of Marvel fans are likely to recognize, and that contrast is what elevates this book from “another tale of snikt-ing” to “a damn good read.” Their obscurity gives Cho plenty of room to make these characters his own, which keeps the entire book feeling fresh and prevents you from feeling like you’re reading a classic Wolverine tale, despite the Wolverine-centric parts being just that. Even better, these characters and their interactions are downright hilarious at times, and every one of their quiet moments are consistently as much fun to read as the examples below.

savwolfunny

Click the image to bring the lols.

Is Savage Wolverine going to forever alter your perception of Wolverine? Absolutely not. This book is without question a Wolverine title, and if you just can’t stand those, I’m afraid this book isn’t likely to change your mind. But if you’re a fan of the character or perhaps haven’t read many of the solo Wolvie titles, Savage Wolverine is very likely to be one of your absolute favorites. Frank Cho discovered the key to making Wolverine as interesting as he’s ever been; share his overly-large spotlight with characters that have none at all. By pairing what is easily Marvel’s most overexposed hero with those that barely see the light of day, Cho has ensured this title will continue to remain fresh, and I hope that strategy continues past the first story arc. So far, if you’re a fan of the C-list characters of the Marvel Universe, you owe it to yourself to check out this book.

And despite the unfamiliar faces, I feel very confident that Wolverine fans will find themselves right at home.

savwolmean

Tyler is the Managing Editor of Comics for Geek Legacy and likes Cyclops waaaaay too much to ever see eye-to-eye with Wolverine. You can follow him on twitter @BatmanIncVP.

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