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.