With the latest live-action movie starring Hugh Jackman as Marvel Comics’ X-Men legend in theaters, it’s worth appreciating the mutant’s roots told through the motion comic Wolverine Origin (Shout! Factory and Marvel Knights Animation, not rated, $14.97).
Based on the six-issue, comic book series from 2002, the slightly animated story takes place in 19th century Canada and introduces the rich, young and sickly James Howlett to viewers.
A series of unfortunate encounters with a grandfather, a servant class boy named Dog Logan and cousin Rose leads to the young Howlett discovering his horrific abilities to sprout claws and tap into his animal instincts.
I won’t give much more away other than to report writer Paul Jenkins delivered a tragic tale of loss and lifelong suffering that leads to the birth and complex personality of one of comic books most popular superheroes.
As far as the story’s presentation on the DVD format, I’ll first report that I’m not much of a fan of the initiatives by both Marvel and DC Entertainment to bring PG-13, direct-to-disc-related cartoons based on legendary sequential-art series to life. I’ve rarely liked the efforts and have often been disappointed by the animation style.
My beef was always that the onscreen work could never capture the artist’s incredible effort. However, I can’t complain with the release of Wolverine Origin. It liberally uses artists Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove’s visual masterpiece, literally ripping art pieces from the pages and configuring them into an animated format.
We get about a 50-minute, violent soap opera broken up into six chapters and near perfectly mirroring of the book’s style.
The key to a successful motion comic is not the art or story, that’s already brilliant, but the devil is in the visual and audio details.
In this case, the sophisticated digital film storyboard features effects such as snow flakes falling, coat panels moving, a crackling fireplace, textured shadows, the occasional eyebrow raise, eyeball movement along with camera pans and zooming.
Added also are moving mouths replacing dialogue bubbles, sound effects and a musical score that all lead to not quite the traditional cartoon but a living art landscape for the viewer to appreciate. And, potent voice-over work kept the emotions running strong throughout the highly charged story.
Digital craftsmen Atomic Cartoons delivered the magic, and I was riveted to the DVD presentation throughout.
Now, would I suggest not reading the original source material from Marvel and simply view Wolverine Origin? Absolutely not. However, watching Mr. Kubert and Mr. Isanove’s art dance about on a wide screen is certainly an experience worth admiring.
Best extra: Bonuses on the DVD include a pair of 15-minute featurettes, with the one devoted to the artwork being the stand out.
The discussion revolves around the process of Mr. Kubert doing enhanced pencil work and then Mr. Isanove digitally painting over it, bypassing the inking process but giving the art a very vibrant and textured, watercolor effect bathed in sepia tones. It’s fascinating to hear about the creative process in action.