Wolverine: Origin DVD Review: The Best There Is at What He Does.

Ever wonder about how Wolverine got his start? So did the rest of the Marvel Comics Universe and its readers, until this comic book miniseries launched in 2001. Now the series has been repurposed into this motion comic DVD, making for a thrilling new experience for first-timers as well as forgetful readers of the book.

From his introduction to the Marvel Universe, Wolverine was always a shadowy character with a murky past made even more perplexing by his own memory loss. We knew he aged slowly, we knew he had been around a long time, but not exactly how long or how he was shaped by his childhood. As written by Paul Jenkins, Origin reveals that he’s been around since the late 19th century, and delves fully into his formative childhood years.

The series introduces the rich Howlett family of Canada, plantation owners living on a large estate, as well as their poor and surly hired help, the Logans. That approach immediately sets up an Upstairs/Downstairs vibe as we further explore the lives of both the rich and poor characters and their interactions with each other. The Howletts are comprised of a cranky old patriarch, his son and son’s wife who currently run the plantation, as well as their sickly and fey son named James. The Logans are the drunk, abusive father named Thomas, bearing an unmistakable likeness to later-day Wolverine, along with his child and helper simply and cruelly named Dog. So which one is Wolverine? That’s part of the fun Jenkins gets out of the early going, keeping us guessing as he gradually unpacks his twisty tale.

James and Dog often play together, but find their friendship dynamic tested when the Howlett family adopts a pretty red-headed orphan girl named Rose. She’s an obvious nod to Wolverine’s later romantic relationship with one of the original X-Men, Jean Grey, suggesting that Jean was just a surrogate for Wolverine’s original puppy love for Rose. As the three kids grow up and come of age, they find themselves faced with a tragic event that permanently alters their paths and reveals the identity of Wolverine, but that’s far from the end of the tale. That’s also the point where the story starts to drag and lose relevance, although it’s still worth sticking through to the conclusion.

The motion comic animation isn’t the best I’ve seen, but does an admirable job of bringing kinetic energy to the static frames, particularly through the use of undulating pencil sketch background fills that occasionally bring to mind the classic A-Ha music video for Take On Me. Those new fills merge well with the original artwork that took the unique approach of having Richard Isanove color directly over artist Andy Kubert’s original pencils instead of inking them first. The artwork isn’t quite as impressive as I recalled, but certainly continues to fulfill its objective of setting the project aside from anything else on the racks.

Vocal talent is above average, and while there aren’t any recognizable names in the cast they all fit their roles well. The project runs just over an hour and is split into six separate episodes that mirror the original six issues of the comic book. As always with Marvel motion comics, the DVD annoyingly contains individual opening and closing episode credits rather than one cohesive film. Bonus features are new interviews with the entire creative staff of the original comic book, a rewarding trip down memory lane as they reminisce about the genesis of the project, its initial reception, and its ongoing legacy.

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Steve Geise

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