Despite being relatively new to the business of superhero comics, Kieron Gillen is a welcome addition to Marvel’s stable of writers. He demonstrates exactly why with this, his second X-verse assignment, offering a sincere approach to the rather unenviable task of writing a Sabretooth “Origins” one-shot.
While the mandate to write Sabretooth’s ‘origin’ might suggest an examination of his abusive childhood in an attempt to find out where his violent tendencies come from, Gillen is aware that Creed’s character defies that sort of analysis. The entire point of Sabretooth is that he’s a sociopath who kills for the sadistic pleasure of it, and it’s hard to write a story that would justify such fundamentally unexplainable behavior.
Instead, Gillen takes a different route, instead choosing to show why Sabretooth -- already a remorseless sociopath when we are introduced to him as a child -- took it upon himself to become the “anti-Wolverine.” It’s not immediately apparent (largely because there’s no point where a character sits down and lays it all out) but Sabretooth is essentially looking for a playmate to fill the role of the brother he murdered. That’s the “origin” of the Sabretooth we’ve come to know -- a relentless foil for Wolverine, the one guy he can fight again and again.
The story itself tries to address a wide chronology, and there’s a sense that the tale would’ve benefited from a little more breathing room. Gillen attempts to examine some of the nuances of Logan and Creed’s relationship (such as the period where they were actually friends, in Team X) but there’s little time to do so satisfyingly. The best moments in the book are concentrated at the beginning where Sabretooth isn’t overshadowed by Logan’s inclusion.
Artist Dan Panosian performs his part dutifully -- his work is never less than competent (and occasionally stretches beyond that, such as his depiction of Creed’s sideburned and polo-necked “60s” look) but it’s interesting to imagine how the book might’ve looked with a less workmanlike artist. Panosian conveys the story perfectly well, but the overall tone of the artwork fails to reflect Creed’s cold-hearted nature.
While the idea of a Sabretooth “origin” story is a fairly hard one to stretch, the issue does, at least, deliver one. Consider that ten years down the line you could potentially point someone at this comic and say “this explains why Sabretooth and Wolverine hate each other” and it’ll still ring as true then as it does today. That, surely, has to be the litmus test of an “Origins” one-shot, and certainly on that level, the comic is an undeniable success.