Way back in 2013, Frank Cho was given free rein over a new Wolverine series set in the Savage Land. It was Logan vs. dinosaurs, ancient people, and an intergalactic threat. All he had on his side was Amadeus Cho and a scantily clad Shanna to cut through dangers at every corner. It’s a series that kicked off with a decent first issue, but it left me wanting in a big way. Returning to the series seven years later, does the work hold up, especially read in one sitting, or does it lean too heavily on cheesecake and action?
There is no doubt Frank Cho draws in a clean, detailed, and appealing style. There’s a concerted effort to display every image in an appealing way, especially with Cho’s inks. Jason Keith colors this book, splashing it in brightness and positivity. There’s no mistaking that this is a superhero comic even though Logan is the only character in a traditional costume with superpowers. You can crack this book open to nearly any page and find a visually appealing scene, be it details in a double-page splash of a jungle surrounding Wolverine who faces off against two giant gorillas, or a giant monster chomping through a makeshift raft.
Unfortunately, the book shows its age visually in how it depicts Shanna, who is constantly framed so her breasts can be in focus. The male-gazey nature of this character is not assuaged by how she’s written, either — men call her “girl” and “woman” in this book as if she’s dumb, though she does get to prove herself numerous times. Thankfully she’s never bent over or put into sexually disrespectful ways. It’s more that Cho draws her so her breasts are always in frame, even if it hinders the pacing and framing of the story.
Despite its problems, this book is enjoyable enough. There is a big threat to conquer, a survivalist story afoot, and plenty for the Wolverine lovers out there to enjoy. The character looks and sounds the part in his grumpy, beleaguered way. You get lots of action, some big superhero ideas, and by the end, there’s a cliffhanger that is semi-interesting too. The problem is, the action never matters all that much, and the plotting is boring at best.
The biggest detriment to the story is how none of the heroes are ever in danger. Logan gets stabbed and thrown off cliffs — multiple times, in fact — but alas, he cannot die. We know this. Amadeus Cho has some nifty tech to protect him always. Even Shanna has the means to come back from the dead. The lack of danger permeates the book due to these details, which takes all the stakes out of the fight scenes. The only character who might be put in danger is killed off before the first issue ends. Adding to this, the stakes are low for the bigger picture threat since we aren’t made aware of what it is till late into the series.
Exposition can also be an issue. Throughout the series there are scenes where characters talk so much the word balloons can take up entire panels. It’s almost comical in how bad it can get and is a sign Cho tended to focus on an action scene too long and then write himself out of a corner before an issue was up.
For those who like clean and appealing looking art (and can ignore the oversexualized nature of Shanna), Wolverine: Savage Land is a fun read. Outside of the art, however, there isn’t much left on the page to dissect and truly enjoy. Frank Cho is clearly a highly skilled artist, but his storytelling chops aren’t quite good enough to draw your interest past the art itself.
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