(a) Frank Cho
One of the biggest debates of the comic book community in 2012 surrounded the idea of 'fake geek girls'. An alarmingly misogynistic Internet rant from a generally well-respected creator triggered numerous discussions about the nature of sexism in the world of comic books, and how that viewpoint holds back the industry in general. This trend of double standards for male and female characters in comic books was emphasized by The Hawkeye Project, a blog that posts original art of Marvel's avenging archer in traditionally female poses to point out the absurdity of how women are portrayed in mainstream comics.
Apparently, Frank Cho didn't get the memo. Savage Wolverine #1 confounds me. Putting aside the overwhelmingly flamboyant use of Shanna the She-Devil's barely-covered, Cho's storyline leaves a lot to be desired, while character development is non-existent. If a solid Wolverine story is what you're looking for, you're not going to find it here.
My biggest issue with Savage Wolverine #1 is the flimsy plot surrounding an inept group of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Off the coast of the Savage Land is an island where nobody has ventured before. For some reason, this S.H.I.E.L.D. team decides to investigate because oh yeah, Shanna is on board with them so it's okay. After failing to adequately scan island or assess the situation beyond Shanna's proposal that it's haunted by "black magic", the S.H.I.E.L.D. team swoops in only to have their aircraft grounded by a weird energy buildup. Why would a fully-trained S.H.I.E.L.D. outfit behave so nonchalantly about an island of which they have no information? In most every other Marvel book out there, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a hyper-vigilant organization that has protocols on top of protocols for how to deal with every conceivable situation possible. Why didn't anyone send coordinates or contact a S.H.I.E.L.D. Hellicarrier or base before heading into unknown territory? If all of this were background information, it might be acceptable, but the narrative trajectory of this S.H.I.E.L.D. team is the basis for the entire series of events throughout this issue. Later on, the crashed airship is attacked by native neanderthals who somehow get the one-up on extensively trained and armed operatives of an international police force that's intimately familiar with larger-than-life situations on a regular basis.
Frank Cho's artwork is fantastic. He uses the slower sequences to build up anticipation then allows himself to cut lose with the violence and facial expressions that have defined his artistic career. Wolverine is the perfect character for an artist like Cho, and it's evident from the brutal yet beautiful images of Wolverine beheading violent native hunters and being impaled by Shanna's spear. Unfortunately, Shanna's ever shifting breasts kind of ruin everything. As I mentioned earlier, sexism is an ever-present problem with the comic book industry and Frank Cho's scantily-clad Shanna does about everything it can to prove that all male comic book readers want is to see sexy women bouncing around. The core issue with Shanna's appearance is that she's an intelligent woman who would, under any other circumstances, understand that while a leopard bikini might be fine and dandy for the jungle, but that pants can be acceptable as well. Of course, that's not even to mention that Shanna is a character that's been around long enough to have deserved a costume change of some sort; she's been sporting the same TNA-exposing scraps of cloth since 1972.
What about Wolverine? For some reason that even he doesn't know, Logan has been conveniently transported to the same forbidden island that the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew crashed upon. He then proceeds to butcher some natives even though he's on their land and they were most likely acting to protect their people. But really, I don't know because Cho never really gives a whole lot of explanation. Logan guts the natives without remorse, but takes the time to build a grave for the fallen S.H.I.E.L.D. agent the natives had prisoner. I'm not saying Wolverine shouldn't have honored a fallen soldier, it's just interesting that he's got no issues with literally slaughtering the people who live there while getting emotional over an agent he'd never met.
In the end, Savage Wolverine #1 really only serves to highlight Cho's talent as an artist. The visual element of this issue is astounding and vibrant, if not overly-sexualized by an overuse and focus on Shanna's body. Otherwise, Cho fails at delivering a cohesive narrative that captures the attention. In fact, by drawing the reader's attention to Shanna's boobs, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team's conundrum, and Wolverine's violent rampages, Cho is left little space for a true plot. There's a mystery on the island of some sort? Maybe?