Underrated: Wolverine: Save The Tiger

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet-pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week:  Wolverine: Save The Tiger.

Originally printed in the first ten issues of Marvel Comics Presents from late September ’88 to early January ’99 (MCP started out as a bi-weekly anthology series), Save The Tiger tells the story of Tyger Tiger’s origin in Madripoor.

The story was written by Chris Claremont with art by John Buscema (though the image featured today is of a comic collecting just the ten parts of Save The Tiger with Sam Keith’s artwork on the cover), and leads into Wolverine’s first ongoing solo series (also by Claremont and Buscema initially). Depending on how you read it, whether it’s in the comic pictured to the right or Wolverine Epic Collection: Madripoor Nights or through Marvel Unlimited, you’re going to find a story that still holds up more than thirty years later.

Save The Tiger introduces a lot of what we now associate as standard parts of Wolverine’s life; the Princess Bar, Madripoor, and the characters who make the island a living breathing place. It’s set during the time that the X-Men are thought dead, and so you don’t see Wolverine popping his claws as often as you’d expect when engaging in brawls. It’s an added layer to the story where Claremont is writing the X-Man as avoiding using his claws in order to maintain his cover of being dead. That makes this one of the few stories I’ve read recently where events in another book actually play a larger role behind the scenes than they would otherwise. Given that this is a 30 year old story written by the same person who was also writing the main X-book at the time, it’s not surprising to me that the two books influence each other.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll happily say it again, but I’ve noticed that the older the comic the more story you get in it. That Save The Tiger is told over the course of about 80 pages (the asterisk here is that’s what the floppy book clocks in at, and I’m not sure if there’s ads in there because I read it via the Epic Collection method), but it feels so much longer than that (in a good way) because of the amount of story that Claremont packs into each issue.

Because Claremont also wrote the main X-book for a long time, you’ll find some consequences to the X-Men’s actions here that still isn’t that common today – that it’s tied to Uncanny X-Men wasn’t an issue for me, because even though I’ve long forgotten those events, Claremont still adds enough context within the comic for the reader to understand the poignancy of the moment.

I’m always a sucker for older comics from the 80’s and 90’s, so obviously I’ll be a little more biased toward this one, but Save The Tiger surprised me in how much I actually enjoyed it. It’s not a defining Wolverine story, and consequently won’t be high on the Must Read Wolverine list, but it’s one that’s well worth checking out.

Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.