A remagining of the X-Men character puts a new spin on an old favourite.
Writer/Artist: Antony Johnston and Wilson Tortosa
What They Say
The gripping, all-new adventure of the x-men's greatest icon, comletely reimagined in the Manga style
This is not the Wolverine you know.
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.
Wolverine: Prodigal Son's presentation is pretty typical of a normal Del Rey manga release, which is a little odd considering that it costs two dollars more. I can't see anything to justify the extra expense to anyone who's not a fan of the character already. Cover design works well and has a nice rough-around-the-edges style that not only suits the character but actually provides literal rough edges on the book, as if the volume is already showing wear and tear. Printing is mostly good; blacks are usually solid but some panels are not as dark as they should be. The only extra is a design sketch gallery.
Overall the work in this category is decent. Characters look good and are expressive when they need to be. The sense of atmosphere in the second half of the book works well, as there are a lot of darker night scenes that lend a more serious tone to the material and start to make it feel like the kind of story you'd want to see Wolverine in. Action scenes are probably the standout area. The artist has a penchant for using speedlines, which in the galley made it difficult to see what was going on in panels; but in the finished version they look fine and do what they're supposed to do. The thing I like best about the art is the way Wolverine's claws are drawn. They're rough and mean and really look like claws. The classic manufactured knife-blade style never seemed quite right to me, and these are a definate improvement.
Since this is an original English work, no translation was required. Text is handled well with no errors I spotted; sound effects are appropriate and non-intrusive.
Rebooting an established series or character is usually cause for alarm among fans, and understandably so. Trying to keep what made the property work in the first place and change things around to bring in a new following is a tricky balancing act. If you're not careful, you can end up turning away a lot of people who liked the property already and failing to reach anybody who doesn't. Into this perilous realm ventures Wolverine: Prodigal Son, a new (and hopefully fresh) take on a popular Marvel universe character, and one of the more atypical releases for Del Rey. I was naturally curious to see how the effort would turn out.
The answer the first volume leaves me with is "kind of middling." There's not a whole lot that's wrong with Wolverine: Prodigal Son. But there isn't anything particularly right, either. Wolverine himself comes across as a run-of-the-mill angry teen - though, granted, being abandoned as a child gives him more than the usual angry teen reasons for being the way his is, and he deals with it in a more interesting way. His almost too dedicated martial arts training is much better to read about than watching him complain how oppressed he is over a five-dollar expresso at Panera. But he doesn't display a definite or extraordinary personality of any kind you would associate with the Wolverine character. He feels pretty generic.
In that sense, he fits in easily with the rest of the characters. Equally generic are the martial arts master - a dencent enough fellow, but neither commanding or sagacious enough to convince us that he's good at what he's supposed to be doing - and the love interest - the daughter of the martial arts master, who has no real function beyond providing a little useless romantic tension. Is it just me, or does Wolverine just work better as a loner? The villains are nothing to write home about either, though all we really find out about them are that they're sinister, secretive, and have some sort of connection to Wolverine's past.
It's always dangerous to speculate about plot quality from a first volume, but the storyline of Wolverine: Prodigal Son didn't grip me. The plot just feels like a dozen other, better stories. It also kills off a surprising number of people for the beginning of the series. The way Wolverine does one of the bad guys in is pretty dark, even for such a grim character. The action scenes made a better impression on me now that I can see them printed properly, and they ultimately give the book its best content, in particular a training test that involves Logan in traps, ambushes and battles while balancing a bowl of water in one hand. There's nothing in the book that quite matches up to that.
Wolverine: Prodigal Son touches the bases it needs to but hasn't distinguished itself to any degree. The only part of the book that got a rise out of me was a scene where Wolverine complains about being "a freak," and his sensei takes him to New York City, where everybody is a freak. And in retrospect, I think I was reading that into the scene. The ad copy bills the book this way: "This is not the Wolverine you know." But that's hardly the point. The real question is whether or not it's a Wolverine you'll want to read about. So far I'm not convinced that it is. Then again, the book leaves off just when it was starting to gain my interest. If it keeps the momentum going it might win me over.