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Graphic Novel Review: Wolverine: Prodigal Son by Anthony Johnson and Wilson Tortosa

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Wolverine fans who like their hero pure and unadulterated should probably stay away from this “mangafied” version of the character. However, people interested in seeing how Wolverine might have fared had he been brought up steeped in Japanese culture could have a new venue for watching their hero in action as a rebellious (can you believe it?) teen.

I originally bought this book for my 11-year-old because he’s interested in anime and manga. Through him, I’ve deepened my curiosity into a love of the art form, especially with The Last Avatar. Since he wasn’t reading Wolverine: Prodigal Son, I picked it up just to spend a few minutes with in between projects. Then I finished it off the next day.

Anthony Johnson wrote the graphic novel, paring the words down on the page to only what was necessary to keep the story moving along. In fact, there’s a chapter in the book that doesn’t have a single word on the page, and the story moves along like a jet. His “repurposed” Wolverine as a young man is a bit more sympathetic at the outset, but his origin story is no less dark. By the end of the novel, Wolverine’s innate rebel nature gives way to a full-throttle need for retribution, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Wilson Tortosa is a new artist to me, but a quick search revealed that he comes from manga roots. He’s been the artist on several of the Battle of the Planets comics and graphic novels. I really enjoyed his black and white artwork. The images and the action are both fluid, easy for the eye to pick up and follow along. He also keeps the dialogue-heavy scenes interesting, drawing from different angles or showing different things than I expected. In several action panels, the background all but disappears, but in the more static ones, the background takes on layers.

I enjoyed the story a lot, but it’s not the Wolverine I grew up with. This one has some of the same characteristics, and he throws in the occasional “bub,” but it’s not the same. So far, he has a mysterious past that I can’t see leading to the Weapon X project that later laced his bones with adamantium, but who knows what’s in store next?

Since this is manga and set apart from Wolverine’s life in the Marvel Comics Universe, I suppose the other heroes are going to be missing as well — including the X-Men. But I really do like the support characters he has now. The father figure and the younger sister/rival/potential love interest fit the bill quite nicely at the moment, though I’m sure with some of the baddies we already see lurking around in the background that those numbers will multiply.

Wolverine: Prodigal Son is a great, tight little read that will definitely pass time for anyone used to the character who doesn’t take offense at the new take. As an adult, I enjoyed the story a lot, and the size makes it convenient to throw in a coat pocket or computer messenger bag for reading during down time. For the younger set, this is a story that can be easily understood and enjoyed. I’d really recommend this one for struggling or reluctant readers.

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