Not even Wolverine can save the future of this stylish, but boring sci-fi manga romp.
Oh, Wolverine. What can’t he do? Take mortal wounds that would fell a lesser man, survive in conditions that would cause the stoutest of spirits to fail, fight foes of the most titanic of stature; Wolverine has become one of the most famous and powerful members of the X-Men over the years and for good reason. His mutant healing factor combined with his adamantium skeleton makes him virtually indestructible and incredibly difficult to put down.
Wolverine has faced some truly varied and dangerous situations in his tenure as a mutant hero, but perhaps none as bizarre and dangerous as his adventure into a dystopian manga future. Yup, Wolverine did indeed venture outside of his own world into a manga and the result was less than stellar.
Released in 2003, Wolverine: Snikt! (by Tsutomu Nihei) is a five-issue miniseries that puts Wolverine into an anime hellscape. A future destroyed by an unstoppable enemy cries for help from the surly mutant and sends someone into the past to retrieve him. Different than his regular adventures with the X-Men, Wolverine works completely solo in this story, left only with his wits and experience to save not only himself, but the remnants of the human race.
Wolverine’s Solo Manga Adventure Is Style Over Substance
Snikt! begins with a young girl approaching Wolverine as he walks alone in New York City. Nestled deep within a park and far from other seeing eyes, the young girl named Fusa calls Wolverine by his real name and tells him that she needs his help. Never one to shy away from helping someone, Wolverine asks what the trouble is only for Fusa to touch his hand, launching him into a blue teleportational vortex. When Wolverine comes to he finds himself in a blasted hellscape of a world and is quickly attacked by a monstrous beast.
Wolverine learns that the world had been destroyed by an uncontrollable mutant organism known as The Mandate. As the world crumbled and fell to ruin, the human survivors realized the only thing capable of destroying The Mandate was the adamantium found in Wolverine’s claws. The humans sent Fusa into the past to bring Wolverine to their time to help destroy The Mandate. Joining the final attack against The Mandate, Wolverine succeeds in destroying the core of The Mandate and thus saving the future. Wolverine returns back to his own time and continues on with his day in true Canucklehead fashion.
First and foremost, Nihei’s art is superb…in some ways. Landscapes are vast and detailed and The Mandate are detailed exquisitely. Wolverine, on the other hand, doesn’t translate too well to Nihei’s manga art style. Often being relegated to just standing around and scowling in confusion, many of Wolverine’s classic stances and poses aren’t utilized throughout the series, leaving him to standing around listlessly. Character faces are also hit or miss, with certain shots looking good with others leaving the characters to look hopelessly wall-eyed.
While the story itself is unique and engaging, dialogue is not one of Nihei’s strong suits. Characters generally speak in nothing more than exposition which offers very little characterization. Wolverine, being chronally displaced the entire story, asks short questions most of the story, rarely letting his trademark gruff charm shine through. The occasional “bub” is the most he gets, with auxiliary characters receiving even less. Snikt! becomes nothing more than a gallery of Nihei’s art with the occasional text box tossed in for good measure.
Wolverine: Snikt! Is a Missed Manga Opportunity
What makes the weak dialogue worse is the lightning-fast pacing that plagues Snikt! As each issue is dedicated to Nihei’s panoramic shots and Mandate creatures it leaves little room for dialogue or narration. Issue #3 is one giant info dump that condenses the entire series’ plot into eight pages. The series rushes to a climax that’s full of action, but little else. What doesn’t help Snikt! are the questions that arise from the narrative that’s given. Why would Wolverine be so nonchalant about being forced into time travel against his will? Why would he help people that A) he doesn’t know and B) kidnapped him?
Even if Wolverine defeats The Mandate at that specific moment in time doesn’t that mean that The Mandate event still happens, thus causing the need to pull Wolverine from the past never disappearing which then means the world still ends up destroyed? Why doesn’t Wolverine decide to TELL ANYONE ABOUT THIS instead of just walking away like it was just a regular Tuesday? It’s a shame, too, because Nihei definitely knows how to create monsters and atmosphere in his work, only at the cost of a cohesive plot.
A Similar Look and Feel
If the artwork and story of Snikt! seem familiar it’s because Nihei would go on to create his own manga series, Biomega, in 2004. Snikt! and Biomega share a massive amount of similarities: mutant monsters have destroyed the world, the future is grim and dark, and the narrative goes completely off the rails. Monster design, destroyed cityscapes, and solo heroes with little dialogue all return in Biomega which makes Snikt! feel like it was just practice for Nihei to get his ideas in order for Biomega.
Wolverine: Snikt! is an interesting idea executed poorly. While the premise of putting Wolverine into a gritty sci fi manga should be a surefire hit, Wolverine himself takes a major backseat to Nihei’s art. For Snikt! to have worked there needed to be a greater emphasis on Wolverine’s interactions with Fusa and the survivors and a deeper exploration of Wolverine’s involvement with fighting a sentient apocalypse. If the series had been twelve issues instead of eight that gave greater attention to its characters as it did its art, it could have been far better. As it stands, Wolverine: Snikt! is a sci fi manga that just so happens to feature Wolverine. It’s certainly not the worst Wolverine story you’ll ever read, but it’s definitely far from the best.
- THE GOOD
- Great Art
- Super Stylish
- A Unique Setting For Wolverine
- THE BAD
- Absolute Waste of Wolverine As a Character
- Terrible Pacing
- Plot Holes and Utter Lack of Any Real Narrative
Wolverine: Snikt! offers an interesting premise and some stellar art, but a lack of any real substance makes it a boring and messy affair.