Wolverine is a popular comic character, first created in the 1970’s by Marvel Comics. He has been a member of the X-Men, The Avengers and has had countless solo comics that have explored every possible aspect of his life. He even got his own movie that just came out this week on DVD! Del Rey, in association with Marvel, has re-imagined this Canadian mutant for the manga reading audience. With a whole new origin and story, can Wolverine take over the manga world just as he did the comics world? Maybe not…
Wolverine: Prodigal Son Volume 1
Story by Antony Johnston; Art: Wilson Tortosa
Age Rating: 13+
Del Rey Manga; 2009; ISBN: 978-0-345-50516-3
185 pgs; $12.99
Logan is a teenager at the Quiet Earth School for Young People in the woods of Canada. Found at the school’s steps as a child, and seemingly watched over by a wolverine, he grew up to a skilled fighter, but with no memory of his past. Bored of life at the school, Logan wins the privilege to go to New York City where he and his Master Elliott are attacked. Logan escapes to return to the school only to find it in flames, and a former rival looking for him.
Let me say first, I have never been a big fan of Wolverine. I only ever read his early X-men days in comics, and am familiar with him through other media (movies and cartoons mostly). But one thing never changes about Wolverine no matter the media. He is a ferocious fighter. Like his namesake, he is viscous, relentless, and absolutely hates losing. In this manga version, these characteristics remain, only this time put into the body of a teenage boy, with all of the emotions that come it. He’s moody, difficult, and sometimes just plain whiny. Basically your average action protagonist.
And that’s the problem with this book. It’s average. The story is very predictable, some of it because of the genre, but also because of the Wolverine mythology behind it. Many of the plot points are standard in both manga and comics. Logan has no memory of his past before being found a the school. He is bored and complacent with the other students, so Master Elliot has to show him someone who’s better. In order to win the Trial of Wind and Water, Logan must use his claws, and even then, he wins on a technicality. The rival that Logan is compared to at the beginning of the volume, Morgan, is of course the one sent to retrieve him, and get some payback for past wrongs. It’s isn’t a bad story though. It’s well constructed and weaves in many of the original Wolverine elements well. It just isn’t anything new or inspiring.
The art has a manga feel to it, though it doesn’t use any of the more comical elements usually found in manga, such as chibis or sweatdrops. This is a serious title and the art shows it. It uses a lot of ink with thick lines and lots of dark screentone. The problem with this is that it makes the characters blend into the background too much. It was hard to distinguish background from foreground sometimes and got in the way of the action.
Another thing this title uses a lot of is violence. The volume starts with a practice fight in the dojo, where Logan chooses to take a hit to his leg that probably breaks it just to defeat Tamara, Master Elliott’s daughter. About half the volume is fighting, either as practice, or as at the end, for their lives. There’s also some bloodshed and death, so take the age rating on this title seriously.
Wolverine: Prodigal Son is very much a boys title with a lot of action and just the right amount of Wolverine’s background to be appealing to them. Girls might like the tough and independent Tamara, though her character design is geared, again, toward the boys. This is a decent title that could be used to draw boys in the library or bookstore, and then hopefully they can be directed toward more engaging titles.