Looking at the current roster of superhero titles (or, at least, the ones I see here at Grovel) it’s easy to mourn the passing of titles for kids. When I was young, superhero comics were a rite of passage – a sign that you were moving on from the weedy humour comics based on the antics of naughty school kids into something more (if not altogether) mature and sophisticated. Superheroes now are written for my generation – the kids, it is argued, have moved on, whether you blame games, animation, manga or whatever. But meanwhile the heroes are still popular – your average four-year-old is perfectly aware of who Spider-man or Batman is, and could recognise them in a line-up, but it’s more than likely to be from toys, movies, TV or playground games than comics.
Anthony Johnston and Wilson Tortosa have gone some way towards bringing one particular Marvel superhero – Wolverine – back to the youth market with Prodigal Son. However, this isn’t the Wolverine from the comics, nor the lightly adapted version from the movies. This is an all-new Wolverine, a teenage Wolverine. The claws, the accelerated healing, the pointy hair and the general iconography hold steady, but Tortosa has manga-fied the character, wrapping Logan in the style of Japanese comic illustration and design.
The story doesn’t push any boundaries, but rumbles along quite nicely. The majority of the book sees Logan working his way through martial arts school but getting bored with the relative mediocrity of his life in the secluded Canadian forest. But when he visits New York and appears on the radar of other mutants like him, his life takes a turn for the worse.
There’s a lot of fighting in the book, but in most cases it’s not particularly clear what’s going on – the movement lines and action blur are dense and obscure much of the action. At one point we thought that someone had their head sliced off, which sounds a bit extreme but actually almost fitted the story quite nicely. Turns out they didn’t, but with so much going on in the action panels it can be hard to tell.
As well as the fighting there’s a little love interest though it’s handled quite gently – she’s as likely to try and fight him as kiss him. And Logan finds himself both railing against authority and missing it when it’s gone, giving it an element of moral tone that parents may be able to approve of, despite the main focus on violent action.
The chapters are short, the characters are tightly targeted and nothing too complex goes on – it should be ideal for its target market. I found it a bit, well, boring really, but then the characters aren’t designed for me to empathise with. It all seems to be in the right gear for older kids, though possibly best aimed at those who are a bit old for Ben 10 but a bit young for the recent Wolverine movie.