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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Just as the classic Batman title Legends of the Dark Knight presented out-of-continuity tales of the caped crusader by a variety of creative teams, Savage Wolverine offers the same opportunities with the clawed Canadian. There are obvious advantages in short, self-contained stories by leading writer-artist combinations, but at the same time it precludes long-term character development and may often be a hit-and-miss affair.
The two stories collected here are diametrically opposite in terms of narrative and presentation, but succeed or fail on the strengths of the talent’s understanding of the Wolverine character and how best to use him in a fresh and interesting way.
Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira take point with their three-parter, which also lends this collection its title, a story which was originally destined for the team-up title Avenging Spider-Man before Madureira’s snail-like output forced its delay and eventual rewriting.
The Peter Parker version of Spider-Man appears in little more than a cameo role at the start and end of the story, which shows how out-of-date this story actually is considering Otto Octavius has been in control of the webslinger’s body for well over a year.
The thrust of the story involves a battle for control of the ninja group the Hand between rebel Ziro and crime boss the Kingpin, aka Wilson Fisk. Logan is recruited to help by the ruthless Elektra, who believes Ziro intends to resurrect her one-time murderer Bullseye in order to assassinate Fisk.
Thrown into this mix are the mysterious Arbiters, whose mission appears to be judging who is worthy of controlling the Hand, but also call into question Wolvie’s own code of honour and whether he can still be considered a good man after so many years of violence.
There are plenty of violent battles between Wolverine, Elektra and the forces of the Hand, and to an extent there’s a message at the heart of Wells’ narrative about the idea of honour, but it seems a more interesting angle would have been the contrast between the savage Logan and a more restrained Spidey, something obviously lost as a result of the necessary rewrite.
And although the artwork is passable if you like exaggerated body-types and oceans of blood, there’s no obvious reason why it took Madureira such an inexorably long time to complete.
Far superior is the unnamed arc written and illustrated by Jock, which manages to tick all the boxes in terms of action, drama, characterisation and atmosphere, even if there are some gaping plot holes along the way.
We open in spectacular fashion with Wolverine blazing to the ground after falling from the underside of a spaceship, pursued by a young boy called Kouen who apparently represents the last survivors of Earth. These refugees believe Logan is some sort of missing link whose powers they tried to duplicate, only to create an instability which apparently can only be rectified by using a mysterious serum…
To be honest, the story doesn’t make a lot of sense upon extensive examination, but that also applied to the first story in this collection and unlike Wells and Madureira’s effort this is actually a much more enjoyable and successful arc.
The emphasis here is on the relationship between Logan and Kouen, and in that respect it works. Additionally, Jock crafts a disorientating and atmospheric slice of science fiction which owes much to the genre’s many other post-apocalyptic contributions, at the same time providing an original take on the character of Wolverine in the role of last man standing after the end of civilisation.
Whether this is the last we have seen of this far future incarnation of Logan remains to be seen, but I would certainly welcome Jock’s return to the concepts he has established here, if only to flesh out his dystopian vision.