Wolverine and Sabretooth meet, fight and...become buddies?
Written by: Brian K. Vaughan Art by: Tom Mandrake Colored by: Dan Brown Lettered by: Paul Tutrone Assistant Editor: Mike Raicht & Nova Ren Suma Editor: Mike Marts Editor-In-Chief: Joe Quesada President: Bill Jemas
There was a time when Wolverine was my favorite character in comic books. My first memory of Logan was when I received from "Santa Claus" a Wolverine action figure as my Christmas gift. "Cool! He has claws!" My fascination with Wolverine led me to buy my first American comic book, Wolverine #50, and eventually, led me to Jim Lee's X-Men. Sadly, Wolverine's overexposure during the 90s really hurt the character. As Wolverine and Wolverine wannabes pop up all over the place, I find myself getting dinterested or even apathetic to the character. Wolverine, in my eyes, became SO un-cool.
That is, until Hugh Jackman portrayed him on the big screen. As I watched the X-Men Movie, I enjoyed every line, every punch, every slash Wolverine made. This is Wolverine. He's no longer the tired shopworn cliche he has become in comic books. It's not so much that the movie's version was so different from the comic book version. It's all about the execution, and letting Wolvie's character dominate the stereotype, rather than letting the stereotype dominate his character.
Now, Brian Vaughan and company takes its cue from the movie as they try to bridge the gap between Wolverine's adventures in X-Men and in X2. And its not an easy task for Vaughan as he needs to work within several constraints. First, he has to take note of the first movie's continuity as this would serve as the springboard to his story. Second, his story should just serve as fill-in between the two movies, but at the same time, it should still be something that readers should care about. Third, the portrayal of Wolverine should somehow be reminescent enough of the comicbook version so that potential readers of this prequel may be hooked to follow the core X-Men books.
Did Vaughan and company succeed in hurdling these constraints?
Well, this prequel is somewhat an enjoyable read. For an established fan like me, there's nothing much here because I have seen all of these before. Wolverine vs. Sabretooth. Wolverine teaming up with Sabretooth. Mysterious organization stalking the two slashers. But for new readers, I believe they would really enjoy the action, which I believe was the main strength of this book. The fight scenes were handled really well and felt like watching a summer popcorn flick. Particularly impressive was the fight in the gasoline station. There's something in me which applauded Wolverine's masochistic tendencies when he burned himself to prove a point to Sabretooth. There were also some good jokes, specially Sabretooth's remark on Cyclops. I just wish that Vaughan did not hold back and used the PG language that the X-Men Movie used.
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The story, though, failed on two points. First of all, technically speaking, Vaughan's script was a bit too wordy. Which was ironic considering that the highlight of this book was the action. One reason why Jackman portrayed Wolverine so well was because he let his fists do the talking and cracked one-liners effectively. The prequels' Wolverine and Sabretooth, though, were really chatty as hell. At first, the one-liners were good. "No thanks, bub...got enough metal already!" was a sure winner. But the one-liners lost their appeal when they were dished out almost page-by page. And then there's this scene where Wolverine explained his healing factor during a fight, and another scene where Sabretooth described in detail the bad things he's going to do with the X-Men, and I can not help but say that this comic book was too wordy for my taste.
The second failing I noted was with regards to the propriety of the script concerning its target audience. Earlier, I said that the version of Wolverine in this prequel should be somehow reminescent of that in the core comic books. But I believe that Vaughan should not emphasize from the obvious contradictions between the comic book and movie versions. In the movie, Wolverine was the tallest among the X-Men. So why should there be jokes about his height? In the movie, Wolverine was somehow the silent type. As noted before, that was not the case here. And then, of course, there's Sabretooth. When Sabretooth showed up in this book, the first thought that came to my mind was:
"He can talk?! Eureka, he can think?!"
As much as I did not like the dimwit portrayal of Sabretooth in the movie, I think that Vaughan strayed too far from the movie version. Sabretooth became a totally different character. From somebody who was not able to utter more than 10 words in a sentence in the movie, the prequel version of Sabretooth offered long sentences in succession. Sure, Sabretooth here has a more rounded character, but it should be noted that this book is aimed at those who have seen the movie, not the people who read Ultimate X-Men, where a joking and taunting Victor Creed is the norm.
Tom Mandrake's art, storytelling wise, was very good. Unlike his work in Call of Duty, he handled the action scenes really well. Still, as I noted with his artwork before, there was a lack of impact or oomph which would have made the art stand out. I think it's because Mandrake's style is better suited with horror type of stories rather than action.
As with the writing, the art in this book was also confused with its target audience. Wolverine here is nowhere near Hugh Jackman. It's very reminescent of Dave Cockrum's sort of "feral" portrayal of Logan. Again, this is aimed at the moviegoing audience, most of which may have not yet seen the comic books before, so the disparity may prove confusing. The funny thing about it was that Mandrake's drawing of Sabretooth captured the Tyler Mane version. So why did he not apply the same principle when he drew Wolverine?
Despite the flaws, I still believe that this comic book may prove to be an enjoyable read. The premise was interesting, the plot has potential, and there were very good lines and moents. It's not bad, not bad at all. In the end, though, the script and the art's confusion as to its audience detracted a lot from what this story purports to be - a movie prequel. With a story which did not serve anything new to the established readers, but at the same time, presented elements that only old readers can appreciate, X-Men 2 Prequel: Wolverine may be a good read, but definitely not a good movie tie-in.