"Wakanda Wild Side"
It's Wolverine vs. Sabertooth in the Wakandan jungle for Marvel Adventures: Avengers. Well, if you're an X-Men fan, and I'm not, you've probably seen dozens of Wolverine/Sabertooth bouts, or clawfests if you prefer. The tone and characterization distinguishes this one from all the rest, and before you ask, yes, I have seen some of them. Mostly I've been unimpressed.
The Marvel Adventures' Universe Wolverine isn't a loner. He's a team player. This isn't a grudge match. Wolverine feels initially that it's his responsibility to take down Sabertooth -- sort of if Butch Cassidy felt he had to take down the Sundance Kid -- but events in the book change his outlook.
Right from the outset Storm persuades Wolverine not to go to Wakanda alone. So, Sumerak immediately avoids the tired padding that would have crusted had Wolverine gone stag with the macho posturing that often adheres to the loner archetype. Maybe Storm and the others would have followed. They'd have to keep out of his scent range, and it would have been tedious.
Sumerak freshens the story by having the team go with Wolverine and not having him protest. The Avengers, of course, visit King T'Challa, and in an interesting twist, Sumerak has T'Challa believe just the opposite of Wolverine. Sabertooth isn't his responsibility unless Sabertooth infringes on the territory he protects.
Sumerak slips in a very nice undercurrent of lost romance between T'Challa and Ororo, and Ig Guara, Jay Leisten and colorist Arreola fittingly render expressions that match an array of moods. Normally, Ororo is very aloof in Marvel Adventures: Avengers, but Guara, Leisten and Arreola loosen her up quite a bit in these pages. Her more emotional behavior neatly contrasts the Wakandan tribes' belief in her godhood.
In addition to illustrating Ororo's nuanced reactions, the art team contributes a mirthful Hulk -- who really should have faded given his lack of anger -- a very realistic Spider-Man, a beautiful Giant-Girl and a powerful Captain America. Their sinewy touch for a special guest star makes the character look better than he has in years.
In turn, Sumerak characterizes Spidey as the jokester. He makes Jan actually quite humble when faced with the Ororo worship. The last thing needed is another cat fight, and Hulk becomes the focus for absurdist humor. Actually, what he says is quite normal. It's the fact that he's the Hulk saying those things that tickles the funnybone. Sumerak in addition cues the nostalgia strings subtly for a Captain America and T'Challa "reunion".
Marvel Adventures: Avengers continues to outshine the continuity titles, and now that JLU's cancellation is imminent, it's easily the best team book on the shelves.
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