Comic fans in attendance this weekend at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (AKA C2E2), or those following the news online, already have heard that this July, the team of Jeph Loeb and Simone Bianchi will return to Marvel Comics’ “Wolverine” starting with #310 for the ominously titled story arc “Sabretooth Reborn.” But whether readers are caught up on the original “Wolverine: Evolution” story from over five years ago where the creative team both had the popular X-Man behead his hated foe and clash with mystery villain Romulus or not, Loeb explained to CBR News that the new arc is not what they might expect.
“I have to give credit where credit’s due. This was never considered to be anything other than a two-part story,” the writer said of his and Bianchi’s plan to return to complete the tale. “In fact, in the original pitch, the first part was called ‘Evolution,’ and the second part was called ‘Revolution.’ Of course, knowing what I know now, it probably should have been called ‘The Death of Sabretooth’ and ‘The Life of Sabretooth.’ But what happened was that Marvel agreed to take Sabretooth off the table for an indefinite amount of time. We didn’t really know how long it was going to be, but in fairness to everybody, it was not going to be this long. I have to really give credit to Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, X-Men Editor Nick Lowe and our own Editorial goddess Jeanine Schaefer because they really stood on the wall for what’s been over five years. Every time someone wanted to use Sabretooth, they said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that yet because Jeph and Simone are coming back to finish that story.'”
The longer than expected delay fell at the feet of the pair’s working style, Loeb explained. “It really came down to the fact that we kind of ran out of time. Between my television gig and what Simone had been working on, we couldn’t find the right point [to get it going.] I like involving my artist from the beginning. So the idea of my going away and writing five scripts and then going, ‘Here you go!’ doesn’t really work in my brain. There were times where Marvel would say, ‘Would you consider this person or that person?’ but there just really wasn’t any choice. The thing I keep saying over and over was that the story wasn’t finished. We stopped in the middle of it.”
The writer said that while Wolverine stands front and center in the story — it is his comic book, after all — the focus for Loeb and Bianchi was to return to the original story’s thematic exploration of “I am what you will be” — or the question of “Will Wolverine become a merciless killer like his foe?” — and view that dilemma more through the experience of the resurrected killer. “I think it’s a theme that we explore now from the point of view of Sabretooth having died, asking in his resurrection, ‘What has he learned? Where has he been? What has that experience done?'” Loeb said. “If you’ve built your whole life on murder, where all you did was take life, to have your own life taken from you would change you. I think it’ll be a really interesting series that explores that relationship between Sabretooth and Wolverine in a new way, but it will also change that relationship moving forward. One of the things that was important was that when we got done, we agreed that there was no point in bringing him back just to be the same merciless killer running around. What he’s going to be has been hinted at a little bit in Jason Aaron’s run, and when we get there, it’ll be pretty cool.”
Of course, one piece of the story that hasn’t been off the table all these years is Romulus, the mysterious, feral villain who’s apparently been influencing Logan’s life for decades and beyond. The character has clashed with Wolverine since his initial appearance, though Loeb promised that the core question of who he is has been saved for this story. “We had really just started to peel the onion of who Romulus really was. If you go to the end of ‘Evolution’ in ‘Wolverine’ #50 to 55, Romulus has made all kinds of incredible statements about who he is and his relationship with Wolverine and all these things,” the writer said, noting a certain pop culture similarity. “I couldn’t just say it then, but now I can: if you’re old enough where you have experience with ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ where you saw in a movie theater like I can actually cop to having done, when Vader claims ‘I am your father,’ you just have to take the villains word for it! There was no one giving interviews like this, and there was no internet. There were no people Tweeting that afternoon about whether Vader was lying or not. You just had to go, ‘I hope he’s wrong,’ and wait three years to see ‘Jedi’ and find what the story was. Since that time we always coordinated through Axel with really talented writers like Daniel Way, who came along to do more with Romulus. They’d ask, ‘Is this right? Is this okay?’ and we’d say, ‘Just make sure you don’t do this because that’s what we’ll explain in our story.'”
As with many of Loeb’s comics, a mystery or two will run through “Sabretooth Reborn” — not the least of which is exactly how the villain has returned since, the last he was seen, he had no head. “The one thing that I want everybody to be very clear on is that there was no trick. This is what we planned from the very beginning. From the moment we killed Sabretooth, Wolverine has always expected that there was something wrong with what happened. ‘Dead is dead,’ but it’s Sabretooth! And Wolverine is old enough to know that these kinds of things go badly. It’s always been in the back of his mind that there’s something more to this. We left a keyhole in the first arc where, if you look at it carefully, it’s right there. I’m actually very surprised that when we published those issues, someone didn’t come out immediately and say, ‘This is ridiculous. The answer is right there!’ In the early issues of this new story, we go back to that moment, and there’s no hiding it. We’ll explain what the whole plan has been.”
As with the first arc from Loeb and Bianchi, quest stars will factor into the story, but the writer again stressed that Victor Creed will be front and center. “The second half of this story is all about ‘Who is Sabretooth? What has happened to him, and what is his relationship going to be like with Wolverine?’ Then, there’s also the question of how Romulus fits into this. And then I’ll hint that if you know the story of Romulus [in traditional myth], there’s an implication that there’s another character we haven’t met yet. All will be revealed here, and you’ll get to that place by issue #2.”
Loeb also expressed excitement in returning to the visual world built by Bianchi in the first story which jumped between ancient wolf people, Gladiator times and the modern day all at once. “Any time I’m working with an artist, I want them to be incredibly excited about what it is they’re doing,” he said. “The nice part about spending so much time in between arcs is that we could talk a lot about the plans, and [Simone] could gather all his reference to prepare. This time, we really wanted to get into Sabretooth and how to make him really a dynamic force. The way that Simone is using the storytelling elements in this, he’s really upped his game. By the same token, we know these two stories and their collections are going to sit next to each other eventually, and they’ve got to feel of a piece. I think it’s very similar to when you make a sequel to a movie years later. You want things to fit together, but at the same time, your effects work is going to be so much greater, that it all grows and grows.”