Marvel Knights: Wolverine vs. Sabretooth
Shout Factory // Unrated // $14.97 // January 14, 2014
Review by Nick Hartel | posted February 7, 2014
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There are probably few superheroes that have had multiple comic titles existing at the same time as Wolverine. From his origins as a secondary character popping up in a 1970s issue of "The Incredible Hulk" to his almost exponentially growing pop culture status through the 90s and into the 00's (essentially being the a-level focal point of the X-Men films), the stocky, surly Canadian antihero also comes with his share of continuity issues, namely around his origin, which shockingly wasn't even explored until 30 years after his genesis on the printed page. While, I and a good number of others were likely let down by the anticlimactic "Wolverine: Origins" miniseries, after experiencing Jeph Loeb's "Wolverine vs. Sabertooth" (an adaptation from the "Wolverine: Evolution" storyline), I'd gladly take the rather dull, story of Wolverine's days as mopey lumberjack than the nonsense Loeb blindsides us with midway through what is regrettably, another disposable Marvel Knights branded motion comic.

To Loeb's credit, he knows how to hook an unsuspecting audience, perhaps only familiar with the pinnacle of his work, "Batman: The Long Halloween" and not debacles such as "Heroes Reborn" or "The Ultimates 3." Those familiar with Loeb's generally mediocrity, not to mention recent status as shot caller for Marvel animation, effectively pulling the plug on "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" for reasons, when you get to the heart of the matter, are solely because it was smarter than your average cookie cutter cartoon, will know, "Wolverine vs. Sabertooth" may show promise, but in the end something will go wrong. Beginning with a head scratching set-up featuring Sabertooth as a member of the X-Men, "Wolverine vs. Sabertooth" tries the classic ploy of feeding viewers raw, no-holds barred action from the get-go, with an immediate knock-down dragout between our titular characters; cue a mysterious flashback wherein Sabertooth ominously tells Wolverine, in Latin no less, "I am what you'll become," and we enter a world of confused narratives aided by effective, eye-catching visuals from Simon Bianchi. That's roughly where the most entertaining aspect of the story ends.

Apart form stellar voice work, "Wolverine vs. Sabertooth" mixes a dull plotline of visions experienced by Wolverine centered on a mysterious wolfen creature that our hero can't understand. The gimmick is rote and disappointing, materializing only to try and keep interest in a story that drags in Storm and Black Panther solely because Wolverine winds up in Africa. None of this is as criminal as the realization that Loeb's creation of the shadowy figure results in what could be construed as a retcon of years of storyline that may have been muddled, but arguably made a ton more sense than this nonsense. There's little more to say about "Wolverine vs. Sabertooth," which like all its other Marvel Knights animated predecessors, runs around the 50-minute mark when you don't count the incessant opening and closing credits that accompany each of the five episodes (representing, surprise, surprise an issue from the original printed storyline).

"Wolverine vs. Sabertooth" represents not only an inherent problem with a comics industry focused on quantity of a character over quality, but more important and relevant to this adaptation, a glaring wound in the Marvel brand. I may be a Marvel fan when it's all done and said, but I have no qualms saying DC is trouncing Marvel in the animation department. It truly seems the Marvel Knights motion comic brand is the preferred method for getting adaptations of storylines (I won't say popular, because frankly some of the choices in the line are highly questionable, especially this one) to the small screen. Looking ahead, I see another Wolverine title on the docket as well as "Eternals" which if it is indeed an adaptation of Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.'s miniseries, is a damn shame its being relegated to a brand mostly known for churning out style over substance. To make a long story short though, "Wolverine vs. Sabertooth" is as anemic on the screen as it was on the printed page; save the inevitable frustration and steer clear.


The Video

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer captures the animation reasonably enough and accurately compared to the source material, capturing the essence of the original title quite well. Likely a result of the motion comic process, there aren't a lot of smooth lines to be found, although as in previous titles, compression artifacts weren't as noticeable here..

The Audio

The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track is much better than a lot of the Marvel Knights offerings I've reviewed, with an overall high level of kick to the low-end and a remarkably balanced mix that doesn't suffer from dialogue sounding like added narration, rather than natural voice work.

The Extras

An interview segment pertaining to the original comic series is the lone extra.

Final Thoughts

While from a technical standpoint, the Marvel Knights brand has increased in quality, "Wolverine vs. Sabertooth" is a huge step backwards in terms of engaging, quality narrative. If this is the preferred method of adapting classic stories in the animated format, then Marvel needs to at least mine from the b-level and steer clear of dreck like this. Skip It.

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