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Sabretooth #1
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Sabretooth: The Adversary’ uses its title character to drag Krakoa’s secrets out by tooth and claw

Leonard Kirk and Victor LaValle take the famously vicious Victor Creed on a tour through himself.

Victor “Sabretooth” Creed is a horrific person. He’s a gleeful sadist, habitually manipulative and abusive, and egomaniacal. He’s well aware of this, and for the longest time, he reveled in his wretchedness. But, when he was condemned by the Quiet Council of Krakoa for murdering humans while operating in their service and cast into a part of the Living Island known only as The Pit, Creed’s forced to face himself. To reflect. To grow.

This does not make Sabretooth a better person. At all. But it does change him. And when he’s joined by others who the Quiet Council saw fit to condemn for not following the mutant nation’s laws (or, more cynically, for not falling in line with the Council’s desired status quo), he sees an opportunity—for his usual vengeance of course, and perhaps for a rare moment where he can claim a legitimate moral high ground over the leaders of mutantkind.

Sabretooth: The Adversary
Sabretooth by Leonard Kirk and Victor LaValle – Marvel Comics

With Sabretooth: The Adversary, penciler Leonard Kirk, co-inker Craig Yeung, colorist Rain Beredo, letterer Cory Petit and writer Victor LaValle have crafted a strong character study—not only for their title protagonist but for the ensemble who join him in The Pit: X-Man Oya, Alpha Flight’s Madison Jeffries, once villains Nekra and Melter and the newly introduced one-time “arcane assassin” Third Eye.

Creed remains venal as ever, but the nature of his imprisonment—and the well-meant lifeline offered him by Doug Ramsey and Krakoa—forces him to get introspective and creative in ways that he has not for quite some time. The younger Oya and Melter struggle with their loyalty to the idea of Krakoa in the face of the reality of their unjust incarceration, while Nekra, Jeffries, and Third Eye approach their imprisonment from the perspectives of adults who, while cynical, are far from Creed’s selfishness and gleeful evil. Individually, they’re compelling. Together, they have spiky chemistry—they’re wildly different people with wildly different approaches to life, and the sub-groups within the whole play off of each other in fun ways—Nekra and Oya’s mentor-mentee friendship, and Third Eye’s recognition of his past in Melter for instance.

(And on a purely dweeby level, it’s really nice to see Melter getting page time (page time with strong character beats at that) — he’s a neat character, and I’ve been fond of him since his introduction in Mark Brooks and Paul Cornell’s Dark Reign: Young Avengers mini-series.)

Sabretooth: The Adversary
Sabretooth by Leonard Kirk and Victor LaValle – Marvel Comics

The work that LaValle, Kirk, and their collaborators do with Sabretooth is the crown, though. LaValle recognizes the complexity and humanity in Victor Creed — why he is who he is and how he moves through the world. He’s terrifying (his bottomless need for revenge), capable of pushing himself (the scheme he enacts throughout The Adversary is impressive on both macro and micro levels), bleakly funny (he’s so egomaniacal that when he fantasizes about leading a crew of space pirates, every one of the pirates is him) and possessed of some shred of care for others (as Third Eye puts it when Creed recalls the death of a long-dead companion, “I’m guessing he was hoping to find somewhere safe, someone he could trust. But who can you turn to when you’re the type that runs everyone over? Needing someone isn’t the same as loving someone.”). It’s a really, really fine piece of villain writing.

Kirk’s illustrations are strong throughout, with two major caveats—Sabretooth’s classic era costume (admittedly not a favorite of mine) clashes with the more modern outfits worn by the rest of the ensemble (and Kirk’s done good work modernizing superhero costumes in the past—see his sadly short-lived rework of Captain Britain in Captain Britain and MI: 13) and the book’s action feels a bit floaty in places. While this works in the earlier parts of the story, which mostly occur within Sabretooth’s mindscape, it undermines the climax somewhat.

Sabretooth #2
Sabretooth by Leonard Kirk and Victor LaValle – Marvel Comics

With that said, Kirk’s body language and expression work are excellent throughout, particularly when the ensemble (or Sabretooth’s inner “Feral Council”) bounce off of each other. Whether it’s the group sitting down to a vital but deeply awkward meeting or a one-on-one confrontation, Kirk captures not only individual character, but the way each player relates to each other—everyone is always on some level of guard around Sabretooth, for instance.

LaValle, Kirk and their collaborators have crafted a damn good miniseries with Sabretooth: The Adversary. I’m really, really curious to see how they’ll follow it up with their upcoming sequel.

Sabretooth #1
‘Sabretooth: The Adversary’ uses its title character to drag Krakoa’s secrets out by tooth and claw
Sabretooth: The Adversary
LaValle, Kirk and their collaborators have crafted a damn good miniseries with Sabretooth: The Adversary. I'm really, really curious to see how they'll follow it up with their upcoming sequel.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Author Victor LaValle's study of Sabretooth aims for understanding, not unearned sympathy or righteousness. His Victor Creed's a cunning villain with a legitimate grievance and a deep well of cruelty.
The ensemble who find themselves in Creed's self-made hell have good chemistry, and on a personal level it's fun to see Melter again. He's one of my favorite obscure Marvel characters.
Leonard Kirk's depiction of Sabretooth's hell are appropriately nightmarish, and there's an excellent humor to Creed's macho fantasies.
Kirk's expression work is strong throughout, particularly when the full ensemble are in play.
While Kirk's expression work is strong, Sabretooth's classic costume clashes with the ensemble cast's more modern designs.
The action can feel oddly weightless, which is thematically appropriate until the final issue, where it's disappointingly flat.
9
Great

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