Wolverine: The Japanese Saga & the New Film

Jul 25, 2013

I was first introduced to Wolverine by the 90’s cartoon X-Men.  I remember the first episode and watching him tear apart sentinels with his Adamantium claws.  I wanted to be Wolverine so badly that, one year, I even asked for healing powers and an unbreakable skeleton for Christmas. Now the Berserker has become one of the most recognizable characters in the world.  He still graces comic covers every week and has taken over the big screen as well.  Wolverine has been featured in 6 films, two of which are dedicated to him.  The latest, “The Wolverine,” borrows from one of the character’s most revered and acclaimed stories.

Wolverine Vol. 1, or “The Japanese Saga”, as it’s called amongst the comic crowd, is written by acclaimed X-Men scribe Chris Claremont, with art by the one and only Frank Miller.  This story follows Logan as he travels back to Japan to reclaim his lost love and restore what little honor he has left.  When Claremont and Miller dreamed up this story they meant to change Wolverine forever.  They wanted to show Logan was more than a crazed Berserker, and that deep down all he wanted was peace, honor and love.

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In The Japanese saga, Logan is thrust into the middle of a gang war, when he finds out the love of his life is married and her long thought dead father has returned and taken control of the Japanese underground.  Claremont and Miller brought new life to Wolverine by taking him away from the fantastical elements of the X-Men and bringing him to the dirty streets of Tokyo. You feel it in every page.  This story is like a high octane soap opera with ninjas and samurai.  It’s easy to see why any studio would want to make this their tent-pole-summer-blockbuster.

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From what I have seen of the feature film, we won’t be getting anything close to Claremont and Miller’s Wolverine. Its presence, however, will be felt.  I’m sure you will see deadly ninja assassins and the hint of a love story. I do fear though that the film will be lacking the heart and soul of what makes this story so special.  The Japanese Saga fundamentally changes the character and still influences his actions today.  This is the period of Logan’s life in which he lost everything and we see every heartbreaking moment.  Logan comes to Japan a lost warrior in search of hope and redemption and he finds it, but only long enough to have it torn away just as the light would begin to shine.

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Wolverine is forever broken in Japan and Claremont makes you feel every painful snap and bend.  He tells a story that acts as a roller-coaster through Logan’s heart as a lover and soul as a warrior.  It’s the story of a Ronan; samurai without a master, a man on a journey to take back everything he has lost.  Claremont’s saga is beautiful and enthralling, I love reading it and getting lost in the world he thrust Wolverine into.  This is only heightened by Miller’s gritty, street level art.  The world feels dirty, bloody and violent.  Characters are not always attractive and appealing to the eye but feel more alive for it.  The fight scenes are crafted with masterful precision by Miller.  Each stroke, block and strike counts.  You feel the weight and importance of each move.  You see the chess game of a warrior play out before your eyes.  These scenes are silent and quick but play out much as a battle would between to equal warriors.  Both writer and artist display they mastery with Wolverine in this setting and it’s a near perfect story.

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Before you head to the theaters and watch Marvel’s most popular character go berserker on the big screen, I really encourage you read Claremont and Miller’s Wolverine first.  Although, I am sure Logan’s newest film will be entertaining and only strengthen the characters popular.  It is this story that solidified him as a warrior, lover and character with more depth than any other in the Marvel universe.  The Japanese Saga will show you there is more to the berserker than cool claws, super human healing, and a pension for living on the darker side of life.

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