Here’s something that a number of media properties haven’t figured out yet. Are you ready? Here goes… it’s not always necessary for the lead male character to have a love interest. Shocking, I know. Take as much time as needed. It’s also shocking how writers have such a hard time of telling a compelling story that doesn’t involve some guy trying to hook up with some girl or vice versa. I’m all for romantic sub-plots. Heck, I even write them myself. But I also understand that it’s not always necessary to tell an awesome story. And that’s where I come in with Savage Wolverine.
This series takes Wolverine away from being an X-man, an Avenger, and a guy who occasionally does some solo heroics so that he can get in touch with his true nature. And for him, his true nature involves him being a snarling, violent, ill-tempered brute that you still want to love, hug, and have a beer with. That has always been part of his mystique. What’s more, there are already plenty of stories about Wolverine tempest-tossed on the waves of relationships. Going all the way back to Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s Wolverine. And some of those stories are pretty good. But there’s nothing essential rescuing the damsel in distress when it comes to Wolverine. So it shouldn’t be the case that only these kinds of stories are told about the character.
The first arc of Savage Wolverine succeeded in telling a simple, gritty Wolverine story where he interacted with a beautiful woman wearing nothing but a bikini. Yet there were no romantic or sexual undertones. Wolverine and Shanna the She-Devil toiled in the Savage Land to find an alien artifact and while they failed miserably in the end, they did it without it turning into a bad porno. This arc ended up establishing one of the best Wolverine series I’ve seen in recent memory. It’s Wolverine without the emotional baggage that turned him into an Edward Cullen wannabe in the movies and that’s the Wolverine that we all know and love and love to hate.
But now that arc is over. Now Savage Wolverine #6 begins another arc that involves another hot female co-star. Elektra, she of Daredevil and more recently Thunderbolts fame, is the new alpha female of this arc. She’s also the one that sets it into motion by revealing that whoever was hired to guard Bullseye’s dead body needs to be fired. Like Shanna, her presence in this comic adds a nice blend of estrogen-powered awesome to a series based on someone who has more testosterone in his pinkie finger than most men ever will.
This issue also highlights just how different Wolverine is from his fellow Avengers. Like the first Savage Land arc, there’s a nice bit of internal narration that helps offer some unique perspective into Wolverine’s thought process. Without it, he would just be another snarling beast who got hacked off because someone other than Cyclops handed him his butt. He knows that he’s a killer. He knows that he’s not a hero on the same level as the Avengers. And that sort of thing often gets lost in the whole spectacle of having such a diverse cast in books like the Avengers or Wolverine & the X-Men. Sure, Hawkeye may have an attitude, but Wolverine has both an attitude and serious issues that no amount of therapy could treat.
This sort of perspective on Wolverine is compelling. What isn’t so compelling is how Spider-Man is shoehorned into the story. Reading this issue gives the impression that the events of Superior Spider-Man are being completely ignored. That may be music to the ears of those who utterly despise what Dan Slott has done to Peter Parker as of late, but in this comic it’s a distraction. So when Elektra shows up asking for Wolverine’s help, we get an entire page of Spider-Man making a total fool of himself. If this was meant to add a touch of humor to the book, it failed miserably.
The conflict that Elektra drags Wolverine into is deadly serious. The Kingpin may now be the leader of the Hand, but for whatever reason they question his strength. Now I have no idea why they would question the strength of a crime lord whose pants are probably stronger than any of his predecessors. I guess it must be a ninja thing. But the Hand’s snooty lawyer (every evil organization has to have one) says that he must face some kind of twisted ninja arbitration. It sounds like an extreme version of Judge Judy, but it’s apparently a big deal and the Kingpin has never taken challenges to his power lightly.
It sets the stage for some interesting challenges and some more interesting insight for Wolverine, but it falls short in the end when the nature of Elektra’s mission is revealed to him. Even though Wolverine is a killer and a brute who doesn’t think things through, even he has to understand why this mission is bound to be a painful failure.
The setup of this issue is compelling. The characterization for Wolverine and Elektra is spot on. But the details are what’s lacking. And an entire page was wasted on Spider-Man. Moreover, there’s still no romantic overtone between Wolverine and Elektra. While he refers to her as a “kindred spirit” that understands what it’s like to be a killer, he’s just fighting alongside her without without even the suggestion of romance getting in the way. It’s a refreshing take on Wolverine that shies away from clichés and as much as it does misogyny.