In September 2000, legendary comic writer, artist, and TV Producer, Joe Quesada, came up with the idea to tell the origin story of the iconic character, Wolverine. This was a decision that left many apprehensive, as Wolverine had always been portrayed with a very mysterious past before in comics, and it was a concern that telling the story might soften the character’s darker side and that the loss of his mysterious beginnings might in turn limit his development. But Quesada was adamant in his vision for the book, and wanted Marvel comics to tell the tale before it was done by writers with less knowledge and love for the character, through a movie.
Jump forward 9 years and Quesada’s fears became realised in the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While not a terrible movie, it had its moments and Hugh Jackman remains a perfect casting for the character. The amazing origin story that Quesada and his co-creators had made in the comic run, was butchered and disjointed in the film. And if that is what happens when the movie writers and directors had a fully fleshed out story to work with, just imagine the chaos that could have been Wolverine’s back story if the movie makers had been the ones to invent it with no direction or input from the comic creators themselves.
The comic series (and in this case, collected graphic novel) of Wolverine: Origin doesn’t tell an entirely different story to what the more well know film tried to tell, although there are some large differences between the two, but it tells the story in a much more compelling and refined manner. And in keeping with the mystery that Marvel was apprehensive in losing with telling an origin story of this nature, there are many things hinted at but left unsaid. There are symbolic representations in the artwork, dialogue, and narrative that insinuate at parts of Wolverine’s nature, or what his future holds. And there are cliff hangers, drop offs, and focus shifts, so even though an origin story is being told, not all the information is revealed. The book is as detailed as a map at some points, and then almost vague as a foggy landscape in others, much as one might associate with memories themselves. In presenting the saga in this way, although Wolverine’s origin is clearly revealed, many aspects of his mystery remain intact, or perhaps in some cases, seem even more enhanced than they had been before.
As I said, some of the specifics of the details differ between the book and the later film (which was not an adaptation, but obviously influenced by the book), but I’m not going to go into details of those here, better for the reader to discover these on their own, and let them see the differences in light of their own views on the subject. But the basic tale of the book follows the life of a girl named Rose, who at a young age gets a position far above her station as a companion for the wealthy but sickly James Howlett.
Through Rose’s eyes we meet James, who she has an instant fondness and maternal instinct for, his father and grandfather, and the other servants. We also meet the cruel groundskeeper Logan, and his abused and abrasive son, nicknamed Dog, through Roses young and innocent eyes. Events unfold at a rapid rate through Rose’s perception, the three children become close friends and James’ poor health seems to improve because of it. As time goes on, Dog grows apart form Rose and James, partly because of his abusive father, and partly from the barrier imposed by their parents and society itself due to their class. Rose, as a young girl, sees the changes as they develop and as Dog becomes more aggressive and more hostile, but she is too unworldly to really recognise what is happening. Then, one fateful night, events come to a head, families are destroyed, and the Wolverine is revealed.
After the death of James’ parents, and the situation surrounding it, Rose and James are forced to flee the estate, and find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Rose remembers tales her father used to tell about the quarries at the Northern frontier, that it was a hard life but a person could earn an honest living there, and be just about impossible to find. The two get a job at one such quarry, and earn their way, slowly discovering themselves, slowly becoming themselves. Here James, although he has little to no memories of the night he lost his parents, embraces his animalistic side and grows into the force of nature that is the Wolverine, while Rose, always watchful and protecting over him, is continuously if inadvertently pushed aside by James.
He keeps his head down and works hard, and when he has a break from the work, he explores this other side of himself in the forest, embracing the beast and hunter inside. Rose is left to herself often, her musings, her worry for James, and her loneliness. By the time James realises that Rose means more to him than he has admitted to himself or to her, it is too late, and she has become involved with another man, the foreman of the quarry. The book ends with James’ dark past catching up with him, a series of alarming events which lead to his bestial nature taking over, and ultimately the loss of his first love, the young girl, Rose.
Boardgame and graphic novel enthusiast. Marvel or DC? Image. Old-school gamer. Avid role-player. Kermit for president. I believe that werewolves will rule the world one day.
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