Gimmick or Good? - Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #1

In this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence "Gimmick or Good?" Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the foil cover for Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #1...

Silver Sable & the Wild Pack (published June 1992) – script by Gregory Wright, art by Steven Butler and Jim Sanders III

Since we’ve been getting at least one brand new series or reboot nearly every week for the past month courtesy of the All-New Marvel Now initiative, I thought it would be fun to go back to the early 90s when the “House of Ideas” was pumping out new series after new series – many of which featured characters that wouldn’t even show-up in a team book these days, not to mention their very own solo book.

Case in point, Silver Sable and her team of mercenaries, the Wildpack. First created by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz during their underappreciated run on Amazing Spider-Man in the 80s, Sable, a bounty hunter from the fictional European state of Symkaria, spent the bulk of the late 80s and early 90s making appearances in other heroes’ books until the powers that be at Marvel decided she had enough cachet to carry her own series in 1992. To commemorate the first issue, the front cover featured a somewhat garish silver embossing (her name is Silver Sable, after all).

But what about inside the comic?

I guess I should put a disclaimer up top here that, despite the fact that I’m a pretty hardcore Spider-Man fan, I’ve never understood the fascination with Silver Sable, and I remain equally perplexed that she was ever viewed as being popular enough to command her own series that lasted 35 issues. The thing I’ve always liked best about Sable was the story of her origin – DeFalco and Frenz allegedly were going through a deck of flash cards featuring different animals, and were inspired to create a number of villains and supporting characters for ASM using these cards (like Sable and Puma) [Confirmed in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed - BC]

Generally, I’ve long found Sable to be a very bland and boring character. Yes, it’s always good to have more female heroes (or anti-heroes if we’re being honest), who can take care of themselves and not have to rely on all of the men who inhabit the Marvel superhero universe, but I can’t recall a single story that featured Sable prominently where she wasn’t acting like an emotionless robot worth investing my time and money to read about.

In Silver Sable and the Wildpack #1, Gregory Wright doesn’t deliver much in terms of his script that compels me to change my opinion about the character. There’s no personality to Sable throughout this comic. The story just meanders from one “mission” to the next, culminating with an eventual team-up with Spider-Man (because of course Marvel was going to throw him into another character’s first issue to make sure that people picked it up), where even Spidey tells the Symkarian mercenary that she has no sense of humor.

Let me be clear: it’s not that I’m confusing unemotional focus with a lack of personality. Sable’s dialogue is stilted and rigid and serves no other purpose than to disengage the reader. In the comic’s opening sequence, Sable is fighting with someone who the reader is initially supposed to assume is another assassin (but it turns out to be a training exercise to recruit future Widpack members). During the battle she says such robotic things as “You’ll have to excuse me – I have a victory to claim.” Even when she quips, there’s no liveliness or originality to what she says. Like how after she hits one would-be male opponent in the family jewels she jokes, “I had assumed your brain was in your skull.” Oh yeah, I get it … because men only think with their genitals. What a clever joke that I’ve never heard before ….

And when she doesn’t sound like a Schwarzenegger action flick, Sable says and does things that make her come across as extremely unlikeable. When she learns that HYDRA terrorists seized a dormitory filled with daughters of famous political leaders (and Sable’s niece), she expresses disinterest about the prospects of saving the day unless there’s a “financial offering.”

Granted, this series was released during the rise of the anti-hero in comics, and this kind of aloofness and questionable morality led to the stratospheric rise of such characters like Wolverine, Ghost Rider and Punisher, but there’s nothing about Sable’s characterization here that comes close to convincing me to invest my $1.50 every month to continue reading about her exploits. She’s even a jerk to her own teammates, financially penalizing them after they almost interfered with her eventual rescue mission at the aforementioned school dormitory. I guess the money Wildpack teammates like Sandman received from Sable was pretty good because, otherwise, why would any of these guys stand by her?

There’s nothing all that fantastic about the Steven Butler/Jim Sanders III art team, though they manage to produce a couple of fun spreads that feature some token 90s hero-posing. Butler also seems to have taken a page out of the Ron Lim notebook by adding a shimmering effect to Sable’s costume.

I guess I shouldn’t expected a comic from the early 90s to convince me to reconsider my feelings about a character I was lukewarm about to begin with, but Silver Sable and the Wildpack is a pretty forgettable read all these years later. I wonder if there are any current new Marvel Now series that we might end up saying the same kinds of things about 20 years after the fact.

Verdict: Gimmick

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