Home Video Hovel- Wolverine vs. Sabretooth, by Tyler Smith
A common complaint about George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels is that they took Darth Vader and turned him into something that he was never meant to be. Vader was already very tragic, but that didn’t seem good enough for Lucas. He wanted Vader to be much more. He didn’t merely want his story to be sad; he wanted it to be epic. He wanted it to be operatic. And as he told the story of Anakin Skywalker’s seduction to the Dark Side, his attempts to grow the character backfired and Darth Vader as a concept was diminished.
I feel like this is what Marvel has been doing with the character of Wolverine. When I was growing up, Wolverine was my favorite comic book character. He was tough, funny, and dark. His cynicism and animalistic tendencies hinted at a past that intrigued me. But, of course, Wolverine didn’t really know his past. He had little flashes of it here and there; Weapon X, Sabretooth, Silver Fox, and a few other random memories. But it never actually added up to a complete story. And that is how we liked it; it’s what made the character so interesting.
I stopped reading comics long ago, but the Marvel Knights motion comics have helped me get a bit of a sense of what has been happening in the Marvel universe for the last fifteen years or so. Mostly, I haven’t liked what I’ve seen. The tone of the stories is different; everything seems much grander now. There seem to be no more fights. It’s all been replaced with epic struggles.
And so here we are with Wolverine vs. Sabretooth, the latest in Marvel’s attempt to make Wolverine the end-all-be-all super antihero, with Sabretooth as his hellish nemesis. I’ve always enjoyed the brutal and mysterious relationship between these two characters, but Marvel really seems to want to take their rivalry to soaring new heights. Rather than explore the implications of their beastly nature, it has instead been decided to explain that nature away.
Turns out that there are two different strains of human evolution. The first is the one with which we’re all familiar, with man evolving from apes. However, Wolverine vs. Sabretooth posits that there is a second path, in which some humans evolved from wild dogs. It is heavily implied that not only are Sabretooth and Wolverine descendants of prehistoric wolves of some sort, but that there has been some sort of Sabretooth-and-Wolverine struggle throughout history in some form or another. From the prehistoric era to the Roman coliseum to modern day, there has always been a blonde creature fighting a dark-haired creature, with Wolverine and Sabretooth merely the latest- and quite possibly the best- incarnation of that.
Good God! What the hell are we even talking about here?!
I understand that, after several decades, a character runs the risk of becoming stale and predictable, and that modern writers have to come up with new ways to make that character fresh, but they’re literally making Wolverine out to be the perfect specimen of a different evolutionary line! The cigar-chomping, wisecracking, angry little tough guy with a shady past from my childhood has now been turned into something he was never meant to be.
There’s an urban legend that when the character of Wolverine was first created, the Marvel writers were toying with the idea that he was in fact a mutated wolverine. This has been disputed within Marvel, likely because they recognize just how stupid such an idea would be. And yet they’re now heading very much in that direction. Perhaps they were out of ideas; perhaps they simply wanted to add something significant and unique to the character. Who knows?
All I know is that by adding so much to the character, the character with the once-mysterious origin is now- in my opinion- collapsing under the weight of too much origin. It’s getting to the point that we don’t even know what drives him anymore. Is it the rough life that he has lived, filled with loss and brutality? Is it the horrible experiments performed on him in the Weapon X program? Or maybe there’s no motive at all, and he’s just an evolved wolf.
This was never a problem with Batman or Spider-Man or Captain America. I always knew what drove them. And, for a while, I thought I had a pretty good handle on Wolverine’s primary motivators. He was a man with a shady past striving to be honorable and good, despite his natural brutality. And the more he discovered about his past and the violence in it, the more he was determined to be a good man. It was both simple and complex, which made for an intriguing character.
Now, though, Marvel has effectively made the same mistakes that George Lucas made by adding so much to the character that he’s hardly recognizable anymore. By trying to make him gargantuan, they’ve actually spread him so thin that there’s barely any of him left. When I was a kid, I was always excited to find out a new piece of Wolverine’s history, because it always felt like another piece of the puzzle. Now, with each new revelation, I just roll my eyes. Because now I’m being asked to put together what feels like several different puzzles into one coherent picture. Were I to attempt such a thing, it wouldn’t be long before I simply threw my hands up and walked away, which is almost exactly what I feel like doing with the Marvel Knights motion comic series.