Sabretooth has been sidelined since the HOX/POX era began, but now he’s aiming to escape his prison. Xavier and the Quiet Council put him in a hole, literally, but over the last two issues of Sabretooth, Victor LaValle and Leonard Kirk have revealed he’s lived in a kind of dreamland where anything goes. That dreamland got very boring after he killed the X-Men thousands of times over, but now he has a bunch of new mutants recently sent to the pit to help him get out. Or so he thinks.
Sabretooth #3 opens with a mutant named Melter who is now trapped in a pit with Sabretooth acting as his only superior. We learn what he did to his family, and what he did to piss off Xavier. You quickly can see via Kirk’s pencils he doesn’t mean ill on anyone but has made mistakes. He’s certainly no killer like Sabretooth. The themes in this series are based on the fact that prisons are unjust and we can see right at the start they are often filled with those who don’t deserve their cold isolating walls.
As this issue plays out it’s clear a heist-style escape is underway. Sabretooth is leading the charge and the mutants with him have little choice since he is in total control of the prison itself. The big plan is to escape via transporting themselves into semblances of themselves through Krakoa itself. This plan not only reveals new mysteries about the island of Krakoa and its abilities, but also shows how manipulation is one of Sabretooth’s weapons.
In a data page, Victor LaValle reveals acts by the CIA to help curb communism. These tidbits help connect the dots as far as Sabretooth’s larger plan while also detailing a bit of lost history. It’s the kind of detail that makes you think about how unaware we are of how manipulation is often unseen.
It’s in this issue Victor LaValle begins to show Sabretooth is not to be reckoned with. If the first issue was meant to show he’s a vicious killer, this issue shows us he’s far more complex. As a supervillain, one can imagine Sabretooth will come out of this story stronger than ever.
We also get to see his alternate personalities, or as he calls it, the Feral Council. These personalities are deeply fascinating and seem to have been created as a result of being put in prison. Unfortunately, they continue to be sidelined for plot progression and further exploration of other characters, which will make you wish there were more pages in each of these issues.
Art by Kirk with colors by Rain Beredo is good. They’re simpler, but also great at capturing the purpose of a moment or establishing a scene. The subtle reveal of a raft made of Sabretooth’s dead enemies will strike a bit of shock in you as you won’t see it coming. The mutants imprisoned get to take on new forms and Kirk does well to make each one look different and strange in their own ways.
If there was a weakness to Sabretooth #3 it’s that it does too much. We barely know most of the mutants trapped in the prison, for instance, and Sabretooth never truly feels like the main focus. There’s good commentary on Krakoa in general, but that wavering focus makes it hard to track what the book is about. One gets the sense this will read better when collected as new information brings things to light that helps understand elements that weren’t obvious.
Sabretooth #3 is an interesting issue that’ll have you thinking about life, manipulation, and the prison system. It’s a series that feels mature in its approach. Lavalle is very good at making you think about these characters and how the machinations of culture, society, and choice affect them. By extension, that may go for your own life as well.
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