Anthony Johnston and Wilson Tortosa’s Wolverine Volume 1: Prodigal Son

cover art for Wolverine Volume 1 Prodigal SonDoes anyone remember walking into dollar stores and seeing the knockoff toys? You know, all the “Spider-Mans” and “Battman” and “Wunder Woman” toys in garishly wrong green, orange, or magenta costumes. The toys made by cheap distributors who thought neon paint and an extra consonant would keep the copyright lawyers at bay. We knew better, didn’t we?

Wolverine, Volume 1, a graphic novel written by Anthony Johnston and drawn manga-style by Wilson Tortosa, is the literary example of this – a cheap, poorly written and shabbily drawn comic book released, oh! Just in time for the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie! It’s basically the paper-and-ink equivalent of a plastic “Wolferine” action figure wearing gaudy maroon tights. The editors warn us beforehand that this is “something entirely new” and to “forget what you think you know about Logan.” Why? Oh yeah – so that they can write an entirely different story with shameful stereotypes and childish characterization but still slap the coveted X-Man Wolverine label on it.

Heaven knows, the creators of this forgot everything they knew about Logan, as well as about plot, subtly-developed female characters, and realistic dialogue. In this first issue, Logan is a mop-topped teenage bishounen (“pretty boy” in Japanese) and the reluctant star of his Canadian ninja school (government-funded, eh?), Quiet Earth. The other students treat him like a freak for his healing abilities while his sensei Mr. Elliot chastises him for using them as a crutch while fighting.

Most of the volume concerns Mr. Elliot’s attempts to train Logan, but Logan’s comically exaggerated temper combined with his contrived teenage angst keep getting in the way. He also harbours a crush for Mr. Elliot’s daughter Tamara, a very loosely-developed character who’s constantly whining, crying, or lashing out with surprising violence for no reason.

Logan is short, Canadian, and has healing abilities and claws (natural, this time), but nothing else from the X-Men universe exists. This wouldn’t have been such a crime if the story that resulted had been anything nearing quality, but instead it’s a mish-mash of childish overreaction combined with adult language and violence. The artwork imitates Japanese manga-style art, which to Wilson Tortosa means drawing lots of whooshing straight lines instead of moving legs or fists. Important things like faces are often drawn out of proportion, with distorted mouths and noses and eyes that can become quite distracting. X-Men or Wolverine fans will want to avoid this volume and the series at all costs.

(Ballantine, 2009)