Yes, Manga!Wolverine has arrived! Released last week by Del Rey, Wolverine: Prodigal Son, written by Antony Johnson and art by Wilson Tortosa, re-imagines the character and history of the most popular X-Man (at least if one is judging by the sheer number of Marvel books in which he appears).
The end result is the manga-fying of Wolverine takes a lot of the bite out of the character. The book introduces a teenager with a massive chip on his shoulder, who as a young child had been abandoned near an isolated martial arts school in the woods of Canada. Like the Wolverine we know, this one also starts out with no memory of his past or how he came to be all alone in this world. The book’s back-cover text announces that this Wolverine is a “teenage rebel,” but this is one of those instances in which teenage rebellion translates to arrogant self-importance. Years after he has joined the martial arts school and matured into a suitably hairy teenage ball of angst, Logan has become a lazy fighter thanks to the easy confidence his mutated genetics have given him. The school’s other students resent him, and in the course of proving himself, he reveals that he’s more of a genetic “freak” than previously suspected (i.e. the claws come out!).
The first half the book introduces this new version of the character, while the second half follows him on a quest to discover more about his mutant powers (suddenly there’s a lame pretext to go to New York City, which has something to do with his desire to become the ultimate fighting…oh wait. Never mind, I’m thinking of something else). Once in the city he becomes the target of a group of mysterious and dangerous individuals who see themselves as soldiers who answer to a unseen “General,” and who appear to be collecting mutants. Wolverine starts to unleash his real fighting powers when he resists their attempts to take him hostage (and, most likely, turn him into some form of “Weapon X”).
The first volume sets up this manga-spliced Wolverine personality and a necessarily powerful group of villains to fight, but the production as a whole lacks a certain something. The writing is a little too generic and beside the trademark claws (here bone, not yet metal), this teenager could be any original superhero character, drawn in stereotypical “manga” art style that only marks this book as a Westerner’s interpretation of manga as tone- heavy backgrounds, action-lines for every. single. character. movement., mixed with the figure-drawing of less successful superhero art.
Review Copy Provided by Del Rey.
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