A Utopia Built Upon Lies: Reviewing ‘Sabretooth’ #2

by Scott Redmond

Overview

Sabretooth continues to shine a spotlight upon the web of lies which Krakoa, the mutant paradise, was built upon as Professor Xavier and Magneto dispense injustice from their lofty council positions. This series is an essential read not just for fans of the X-Line that wanted to see more of this angle, but just comic book readers and the general public overall. An examination of the prison industrial complex and the way that our society allows those with power to treat others distilled through the X-Men lens is worth checking out.

Overall
10/10
10/10

Krakoa was born as the idea of a mutant paradise or utopia, free from the trappings that had held so many down back in the societies of humans. There would be “no prisons” and just three laws, all created by a governmental body that was not elected nor selected by the people but essentially just took power for itself. There are a number of things that Kate Pryde has been correct about during the many decades the character has existed, chief of which is, Professor Xavier is indeed a jerk.

Sabretooth #2 flashes us back to the moment where the five other mutants that ended up in the hell that is the void were sentenced. Turns out Xavier and Magneto decided to make themselves a two-person judge and jury system as they talk down to and speak ill of those they are condemning to this pit. The fact that Xavier sees it as just a reflective “time out” speaks so much to how sanctimonious the character always has been, especially once he references his own mistakes that generally have never seen him ‘punished’ in any fashion.

What Victor LaValle is doing with this series is impressive and perfect. Rather than a book just about the savagery of Sabretooth, it’s a commentary and indictment of the prison system and what it does to people and how those in power use prison, by whatever name they want to call it, to continue to hold that power. Magneto literally talks about his preferred method would have been tossing them into a volcano in a spiteful vindictive way, with the unconscious prison of Krakoa being the so-called better alternative.

Again, as noted in the first issue review, the choice to focus on the part of Victor Creed that has him plotting and thinking and not just being the savage murderous beast that he can and has been, makes the story work even better. Especially once the charade of the created Hell is wiped away and their true status is revealed, and the six mutants are together. Changing the visual to actual prison, with Xavier as warden, is just as impactful as every other element of the story in showing that Xavier is a major hypocrite.

Something which Doug actually calls him out on, and Xavier comes up with a lame defense to walk back on his “no prisons” declaration that he said so forcefully back in House of X/Powers of X. That we’re in an era where Doug Ramsey is a powerful behind-the-scenes mover and shaker and voice of reason, with an awesome warrior wife and alien best friend and island partner, is pretty darn great.

There are many great action scenes here and sections in the fantasy hellscape, but one of the things that Leonard Kirk and Rain Beredo do so well here is setting the emotional tone. Kirk’s paneling really brings a lot of spotlight onto the emotional moments, giving us closeups with great facial expression work or other panels where the surroundings aren’t in the clearest focus because all focus is upon the characters and the trials they are going through. I love when there are panels that are set over other panels, drawing the eye in different directions of reading. There are very heavy topics in the works here and making those visually distinctive and appealing is a key element in the whole package.

Beredo keeps the muted tone colors with heavy shadows, fitting of the darker and serious tone that the story is going to around the more superhero-like elements. It makes for a lot of powerful visuals, such as Krakoa State Penitentiary on fire, that will certainly stick with you. All the hellscape stuff pales in comparison to how rightfully terrifying Beredo and Kirk make their actual situation in the pit appear. Magneto might have said there is no torture in the pit, but their existence seems pretty dang hellish even without the mental hellscape.

The floating numbers that are above the heads of the five mutants are a solid touch, while I’ll admit that it took more than a moment or two for me to put together what the numbers meant. Once that moment of realization struck it made them even better. There are a number of little visual elements like these across the pages which are so well thought out and add a lot to the overall situation.

Changing the way font appears or is emphasized helps with a great many things, but there is also a great skill that allows similar fonts to feel very different for each character. That’s something that Cory Petit does very well every time he’s behind the lettering for a book. There is a sequence of pages with a variety of big well-known characters blowing off a Morlock that is trying to help those trapped in the pit, and each of their words ‘sound’ accurate.

There is also a lot of dialogue here, as this is the type of story that needs more words, but it’s never overwhelming as Petit makes sure it flows smoothly in the right direction for easy reading.

Sabretooth #2 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.

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