[10 July 2013]
For decades, the best kept secret in comics was the origin of Marvel’s claw-wielding Canadian berserker, Wolverine. So secret, in fact, was this origin story that Wolverine himself actually had no idea what his early life consisted of, how exactly he got his metal-bonded skeleton and matching claws and even what his full name might be. He answered to the name “Logan”, but there was no telling if this was really his own name. This was, of course, one of the most compelling and attractive things about the character and considering his mutant healing factor, the implication that “Logan” could be significantly older than he looks kept the mystery pumping for years.
That all changed when 20th Century Fox found success with its X-Men movie series and essentially mandated to Marvel Comics that either it divulge Wolverine’s origin story or the studio would make up its own. Hence, in 2001, this story was told in the graphic novel limited series called Origin (Wolverine was so iconic by that time, not even his name was needed in the title for it to sell). Since that time “Motion Comics” have become popular curiosities for fans. Using limited animation and voiceovers to present the story and art from the page, motion comics are not quite cartoons, but are generally unabridged comics for the screen.
Wolverine: Origin debuts on DVD just in time to cash in on Fox’s second Logan-solo adventure for the big screen, The Wolverine. This is in spite of the fact that Origin was partially retold in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That said, as a motion comic, Wolverine: Origin is the best and most thorough adaptation of its kind. Going far beyond Astonishing X-Men (adapted from the Joss Whedon series) and even Watchmen‘s motion comic, Wolverine: Origin goes beyond merely providing slideshow-style movements and panning and comes as close to becoming an actual animated film as possible without losing the rich and attractive art of Andy Kubrick.
In fact, so accurate is Wolverine: Origin that one can watch the program with Origin open and follow along with every frame and every line (and I did). While such adherence to the source material is welcome, this also calls into question the necessity of the motion comic. Fans of the comic itself might find value in Wolverine: Origin as a companion piece, background noise or possibly a gateway drug to attract animation fans into the world of comics. As close as this comes, the 66 minute video is no replacement for the comics themselves.
That said, any review of the DVD is, in essence, also a review of the comic it adapts (directly). The artwork (even moving) is beautiful, the colors (by Richard Isanove) are bright and surreal and the story is engrossing and often surprising. The story also leads to many more confusing questions and ends just as abruptly as it did in the comic, leaving the reader/ viewer looking around for a seventh issue/ episode. This drama (not exactly a superhero story or even much of an action tale) does add a new and very revealing dimension to the history of this all-too-mysterious character, but Origin is only one era of Logan’s long life and (probably intentionally on the parts of writers Paul Jenkins, Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas) leaves the reader/ viewer wanting more.
Following the deep integration between comic and feature, the documentary extras here detail the creation of the comic from unheard of concept to successful completion. At under $15 retail, Wolverine: Origin costs less than the trade paperback edition of Origin (and much less than the original issues), features a beautiful digital transfer and enhancements (even if the voices do feel a little too “cartoonish” for comfort) along with documentaries no page can hold. This is still no replacement for the comic book itself, but as comics increasingly go digital and publishers continue to search for their niche to keep comics alive, Wolverine: Origin is a fine digital version of a fine comic that isn’t likely to get dog-eared in your collection.