Author: Antony Johnston
Artist: Wilson Tortosa
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: April 2009
Synopsis: “Logan is a teenage rebel with a real good reason for having a real bad attitude. Ever since being left in a nearby forest–with no memory of who he was or how he got there–Logan (or Wolverine, as his classmates sometimes call him) has been stuck in a martial arts school in the icy wilds of Canada. No wonder he’s bored, restless, yearning. There’s a whole world out there, and Logan can almost taste it. But he’s chained to a past he can’t remember and can’t escape. Now it just may destroy his future.”
DelRey’s Wolverine takes the iconic Marvel character and aims to fit him into a manga-shaped mold. The story doesn’t trend new ground in either world of subject or style, but the familiar set-up just might pull off a winning combination along with Wilson Totora’s work, which finds a fairly solid style-compromise that both manga and comic fans can appreciate. It’s not the same Wolverine fans are used to, but many of the well-known features are intact, they’re just compressed into the body of a pretty- boy adolescent instead of the hairy 50+ man we’re used to. Big stretch, I know, and yet Wolverine still manages to work on some of its intended levels.
Discovered in the woods with no memory and an inherit ability to fight, Logan has spent his teenage years training in the hidden-away-from-society school known as Quiet Earth. He’s garnered a reputation for his temper and fierce fighting ability, and also for his uncanny ability to heal from his injuries unlike anyone else. Though his life there is good, it’s also stifling and Logan wants nothing more than to explore the outside world and find greater challenges. Cue his reluctant Master, a vengeful student from the past and the Master’s busty, er I mean spirited, daughter, Tammy.
I won’t spoil what happens, but I will go so far as to say that most readers can probably see what’s coming a mile away. Logan gets his chance to leave the hidden away village and thus a predictable form of chaos ensues that reads like a million stories before it. Though I’m not painting an especially enthusiastic picture, rehashed stories like this are generally rehashed for a reason. You have lots of opportunities for fight scenes, emotional upheaval and a dash of who-done-its, and this first volume sets in place a few different characters whose relevance will presumably play larger roles in books to come. The source of Logan’s abilities is also a piece of information withheld for future volumes but those with any inkling of knowledge for the character already knows the answer to ‘mystery’ (providing that isn’t changed).
The art style in Wolverine grew on me over the length of the book. It was never especially displeasing at first but felt like it was trying too hard to render the story’s characters in an immediately recognizable manga-based style. Tamara in particular has a design that never really clicked with me, though thankfully by the end of the book, the artist feels like they’d better grasped their own style and everyone looks rendered more comfortably. I don’t have any real complaints about the depiction choose of Logan, though his slight overabundance of limp hair does take away from some of the inherently visual gruffness that fans are used to. Fight scene-wise, as what’s a Wolverine anything without some action, there are some good sequences that generally proved easy to follow, however in some cases I found the use of speed lines overshadowed movement that should’ve been better focused on the characters’ themselves.
Ultimately as a long-fan of the cranky Canuck, I would’ve enjoyed seeing him rendered in a darker manga style that doesn’t stay in the safety-net zone of teenage protagonist. Logan’s age and callous nature was always part of his non-descript charm in classic Marvel-mythos. Though I can understand, from the new target-demographic point of the view, the need to make the character younger, there’s still much of the character lost in translation. But, for what it is, Wolverine does it fairly well and I think it could appeal well to a younger teen audience who want more of the clawed-mutant without the fuss of swimming through today’s mainstream comics continuity.