Directed by Carl Upsdell
Starring Kathleen Barr, Brian Drummond, Alessandro Juliani, Michael Dobson
Created by Bill Jemas, Joe Quesada and Paul Jenkins (writers); Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove (artists)
We finally get to see what made Marvel’s famous and perennial bad-boy hero Wolverine the man he is today. Does this story do justice in removing the mystery of the character, or is Wolverine’s back story as forgettable to us as it is to the character himself?
Starting in Alberta, Canada in the 1880s, we see a young James Howlett, a meek adolescent boy enjoying life on his family’s wealthy farm estate. Often sick from allergies, he enjoys his childhood with his friends – Rose, a redheaded Irish girl, and “Dog” Logan, the son of the groundskeeper. All is well until a horrific incident traumatizes James and sets him on a path of becoming a man and a comic book legend.
This motion comic collects the entire six-issue Origin story from 2001-2002, where Wolverine’s origins – his real name, his family, and his upbringing – were introduced for the first time since the character’s original 1974 appearance. For the longest times, one of Wolverine’s notable attributes was his mysterious past, caused by his amnesia. Marvel took a gamble by finally giving the readers what we’ve been guessing at for decades, and I think they pulled it off.
The original story is a collaborative effort between writer Paul Jenkins, Marvel’s then-editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, and Marvel’s then-president Bill Jemas, crafting a very personal and character-focused tale on how Wolverine came to be. It’s a focused story of a boy becoming a man and how the events in one’s life can shape the entire future. The beginnings of Wolverine’s defining character traits are all explained, from his rough demeanor, his healing, his amnesia, his fondness of samurai culture, and his love of redheads.
Wisely, there are no X-Men or Weapon X or almost any sci-fi elements at all. It’s completely isolated from the weight of the events yet to come. Thanks to this, the characters are developed strongly in their own right, and Jenkins fleshes them out enough that the audience can easily connect.
In the process of the story, we are treated to gorgeous vistas of rural Canada, from rolling hills to lush forests covering mountains. Penciler Andy Kubert and colorist Richard Isanove do excellent jobs with the people and scenery with a hand-crafted and painted look, surprising with how much was actually done digitally.
As for this story’s transfer to film, it still works. The voice actress for Rose – Kathleen Barr – uses a very thick Irish accent that I found distracting over time. Unfortunately, she’s the narrator. All the other voices work well enough and fit the characters, especially with James’ voice changing over time as he grows from boy to man.
Also unfortunately, this film continues the bad habit of Marvel Knights Animation motion comics of keeping the credit breaks between each episode/issue. Thankfully, this is only a six-issue story, and thus six episodes, so it doesn’t happen too often. It’s still annoying though. Marvel and Shout Factory, just cut those out when playing all.
The Video and Audio
As with all motion comics I’ve seen, the art quality drops from paper to motion video. Some of the cuts and motions are laughable adaptations from the static page, looking ridiculous in this video format.
The audio is fine. The dialog is clearly understood. Also, I must admit, this is the first Marvel Knights Animation motion comic with an opening theme that hasn’t made me roll my eyes and groan in pain.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This one disc set comes in a flimsy cardboard case and includes two 15-minute short videos detailing the creation of the story and art of the original Origin comics. In one of the interviews,
Both segments are worthwhile. The story creation segment shows just how collaborative this project was, as well as drops neat trivia. For instance, Joe Quesada says that Marvel decided to finally give Wolverine his origin in order to beat Fox to the punch, with Fox coming off of the successful first X-Men film that starred the Wolverine character. There was objection from fans when Marvel announced revealing Wolverine’s origin and doing away with this part of the character’s mystique, but with this in mind, I think Marvel made the right decision.
The art section is also informative, detailing the unique method Kubert and Isanove used of skipping the inking phase and instead coloring digitally on top of very detailed pencils. Honestly, I’m surprised the book’s coloring was digital, especially 2001 digital, considering how much it looks like actual painted art. Really well done.
Overall (Not an Average)
This character study into Wolverine is deep and entertaining, going from the privileged little boy to the gruff and hard man we know today, and it survives the adaptation process. As usual, I recommend the book more. However, with the able voice cast and the bonus features, this motion comic is a suitable alternative.
The Film 8/10
The Video and Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10