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Jan 1

Savage Wolverine #12-13 – “Come Conquer The Beasts”

Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 by Paul in x-axis

Continuing its format of bringing in a new creator for each story, Savage Wolverine brings us Phil Jimenez as writer and artist.  Or rather, as co-writer and as artist for most of the book.  The second issue features another four people working over his breakdown pencils.  But still, there’s no mistaking his layouts, which are loaded with panels without getting weighed down.

As for the story, it’s a very earnest piece about rhino and elephant poaching.

Jimenez clearly feels very strongly about this subject, and it’s a fair enough subject to tackle with Wolverine, who has always had the “in touch with his animal side” aspect to his character.  There’s even one genuinely interesting idea here, which I’ll come to shortly, even if it’s not developed in the way I might have preferred to see.

But after establishing that the suffering of mutilated animals is indeed horrible, the story faces some difficulties of where to go from there.  After all, it can’t have Wolverine actually resolve the problem (since its whole aim is to draw attention to it in the real world as an ongoing problem).  Nor does it choose to build around a symbolic win against a particular poacher.  Instead, the plot sees Wolverine, with help from the X-Men, trace the trade back to Madripoor and then… well, do a bit of awareness raising.  It doesn’t really click as a resolution, and it feels a bit like a three issue storyline has been guillotined.

The second part also goes to town a bit when it comes to selling us on the Majesty Of The Elephants, with an extended sequence in which Cypher explains to us that not only do elephants have language which he can understand (which is fair enough), but that they have “a network of communal emotion” and are “spiritual guardians of the land”.  The mechanics by which he discovers this are ludicrously improbable to start with – he co-opts a weather satellite to monitor all sub-sonic frequencies across Africa so he can listen to the entire elephant population at once.  Even by superhero comic standards, is Jimenez seriously asking us to believe  that the sub-sonic conversations of elephants are audible in space?  Or is he suggesting that the sound is producing something else that a weather satellite can intelligibly decipher?  Whatever it is, I cannot help feeling that issues of distance and vacuum would pose insuperable difficulties for even the most expertly constructed orbital pachyderm microphone.

Making matters worse, the story then proceeds to have Quentin Quire of all people intervene to express his heartfelt concern for the elephants and the tremendous importance of helping them.  This is the emotional equivalent of having someone show how powerful they are by beating up the Juggernaut – Quentin Quire’s acting massively out of character, so it must be moving!  But the fact that it’s moving ought to speak for itself.  If anything, the second half’s new age meanderings detract from the point, by giving me way too many points to stop and say “hold on…”

The story does have one genuinely strong idea, though, which goes some way to raise it beyond an issue of the week.  Wolverine goes to Madripoor expecting Tyger Tiger to agree with him about the horrors of the poaching trade, only to discover that, really, she doesn’t have much of a problem with it.  Slavery, child abuse – sure, she’s up for helping to stamp out that sort of thing.  But illegal trade in rhino horns?  Meh.

This story thread points in the direction of an interesting point about the whole Madripoor set-up.  Wolverine’s certainly endorsed local crime lords there in the past, evidently happy enough as long as they steer clear of anything he regards as really nasty.  But where exactly is he meant to be drawing that line?  Can he really be that naive about what goes on there?  What does he think Tyger Tiger’s criminal organisation was doing – wire fraud? The suggestion that Wolverine has deluded himself into thinking that the criminal island is somehow romantic is a genuinely intriguing one, and the story does prod in that direction.  Tyger isn’t presented as enthusiastically pro-poaching, which would make her wholly unsympathetic in this story; she just sees it as being on the acceptable side of the line.

I’d be interested in reading that story, but it doesn’t ultimately seem to go anywhere – the pay-off is a faintly ludicrous scene in which Wolverine tries to prove a point by cutting off his own face.  You can kind of see what Jimenez was going for – if this horrifies you when it’s me, why do you feel differently about rhinos, etc etc – but it’s so grotesque and out of nowhere that it feels like an awkward tone lurch at best.

Jimenez, of course, isn’t really that interested in Wolverine’s relationship with Madripoor, but rather in raising awareness about poaching.  His story does that, but not in a particularly satisfying way, despite having some worthwhile ideas in the mix.

Bring on the comments

  1. Even by superhero comic standards, is Jimenez seriously asking us to believe that the sub-sonic conversations of elephants are audible in space?

    Star Trek V was predicated on a space probe stopping outside the atmosphere in order to listen to whalesong from under the ocean.

    It’s a bit ’90s Vertigo and hippyish, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And at least it isn’t about Wolverine meeting, I dunno, Young Willie Lumpkin and saving him from Destiny.

    Heh. Mind that time Superman stopped eating lasagna ‘coz beef ghosts were haunting his belly?

    //\Oo/\\

  2. halapeno says:

    @Matthew – Just a minor correction: it’s Star Trek IV you’re thinking of. And the conceit there was that humpback whales were from another planet originally so it was logical within it’s own terms that an alien probe could communicate with them.

  3. “conceit there was that humpback whales were from another planet originally”

    Arooo? I just checked: the whales were indigenous to Earth, but the point of the probe was to subvert the audience’s anthropocentric bias.

    (I mean, when you think about it, between the whalers, the time-travelling fishtank and Spock fondling a gravid Gracie, that must’ve been a conversation that coulda gone either way!)

    Looking at the preview pages on Comixology and it sure is a purty book. Wonder if Jimenez has ever fancied doing a war comic.

    //\Oo/\\

  4. ZZZ says:

    I don’t think the whales were supposed to be from another planet, I think the idea was that the aliens had visited Earth millions of years ago before humans existed and whales where the smartest life form on the planet and the aliens befriended the whales. So when the aliens returned and found the whales extinct and humans all over the place, they reacted like you would if you went to visit a friend and found him and his family dead and the house overrun by rats.

    But otherwise, the point stands, that the alien probe was specifically intended to communicate with whales. Presumably it had some kind of sci-fi gibberishy technology that could create and detect vibrations within an atmosphere from space (if memory serves, early in the movie they actually interpret its transmissions as an attempt at of ship-to-ship communication).

    Whereas weather satellites are definitely incapable of detecting sounds from space, and aren’t designed to receive elephant communications, so unless the elephants were affecting weather patterns, it doesn’t really make sense.

  5. Sol says:

    “But still, there’s no mistaking [Phil Jimenez] layouts, which are loaded with panels without getting weighed down.”

    I have no idea what the status of this series is, or Jimenez’s work in general, but my primary association with Jimenez’s name is “The hotshot artist that Zander Cannon was doing layouts for on Fairest.” (There was a big text article about those layouts in Zander’s Double Barrel comic.)

  6. halapeno says:

    Oh, ok. Been years since I’ve seen the film so I must have misremembered. As ZZZ pointed out though, the whale/probe communication at least made sense.

    And while I’m thinking back on the film, my favorite Spock lines…

    “They love you very much, but they are not the hell your whales.”

    “Just one damned minute, Captain.”

  7. Dan says:

    “Hunting a species to extinction is illogical.”

    “Whoever said humans were logical?”

    Star Trek IV was great.

  8. I got the movies for Xmas and I’m working my way through ‘em. I had completely forgotten V existed, although the first three plus IV and VI have been playing on a lazy loop the last few weeks and I think Film4 have forgotten about V, too. It’s such a relaxed, angstless affair compared to all the others (even IV, even with all the sad backstory stuff) that it feels really refreshing.

    The Redlettermedia crew recorded a commentary track for Star Trek V. I must download it. I tried recording one for Amazing Spider-Man, but it ended up being two hours of me sighing with exasperation and muttering about shoes.

    //\Oo/\\

  9. Si says:

    So wolverine cut of his nose to fight his case?

  10. Joe S. Walker says:

    It’s hard to take the majesty of the elephants seriously when you’ve seen Lula on Blue Peter.

  11. Neil Kapit says:

    I only read the first issue, which is why I didn’t read the second. As an animal lover (especially of elephants and rhinos, old childhood favorites), I find poaching viscerally sickening and think it should be stopped. It’d be hard to find anyone who actually thinks that killing peaceful, sensitive, wild herbivores is a good thing. As a reasoning adult, I know that the people who poach animals are not universally bad, and it’s hard to fault someone for taking an animal’s life in order to feed themselves or their families. The economic demand for illegal ivory and rhino horn isn’t a problem with a convenient face to punch, and it’s especially ill-suited to Wolverine’s brand of final justice.

    But then, I guess it’s in-character for Wolverine to be a big huggy teddy bear around children and animals, while chopping up any adult who so much as sneezes at him funny.

  12. Neil Kapit says:

    And Logan did fine without a nose during the feral sub-human days in 1996….

  13. halapeno says:

    “It’d be hard to find anyone who actually thinks that killing peaceful, sensitive, wild herbivores is a good thing.”

    We have our fair share of game hunters in the western world, and we engage in and approve of slaughtering animals for various different reasons. We tell ourselves it’s okay when we’re killing the animals for food, but I doubt it makes any difference to the animal what they’re being killed for.

    But elephants are exotic to us and therefore “majestic.” Killing cows and chickens is okay, though. Even though in Jiminez’s world, the songs of the blackhorn angus are probably being registered by cellphone towers.

    I know I probably sound like a militant vegan, but I’m not. I’m just pointing out that we tend to be hypocrites when it comes to this sort of thing.

  14. Ethan says:

    They never really explain what exactly the aliens were trying to do. The working explanation in the film was that they weren’t trying to avenge the whales, they were just scanning harder and harder and destroying humanity (which they might not even have noticed), in the process. Of course the mechanism by which Earth was being rendered uninhabitable was the heating of the oceans to the point of boiling off and choking the atmosphere with water vapour, so looking back on it, whatever the aliens were doing they either knew the whales were already extinct, or were really, really, stupid in order to either not know the effect their scanners would have on water, or not realizing that if there still were any whales, boiling off the oceans would definitely kill them, rather painfully at that.

  15. halapeno says:

    They were trying to establish communication. I remember Spock saying the following lines:

    “Admiral, if my theory is correct, there can be no response to this message.”

    “We could mimic the sounds, but not the language. We would be responding in gibberish.”

    He also said something to the effect that the probe seemed unaware it was doing damage.

    So, yeah. Stupid alien tech.

  16. Lord Galen says:

    At one point Eddie Murphy was in talks to costar in Star Trek IV as a fast talking 1983 local who hooks up with the crew. But no, we got Catherine Hicks the marine biologist love interest instead.

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