From Hell’s Heart: Reviewing ‘Sabretooth’ #1

by Scott Redmond


At long last, the pit of exile under Krakoa comes into the spotlight as Sabretooth takes a deep dive not only into the title character’s fate but the notion of rehabilitation, justice, and the prison systems of humanity as a whole. Every bit of this book is a harsh pointed brutal but honest and deeply needed look at the state of affairs through the eyes of one mutant kind’s most notorious figures. ‘Sabretooth’ is a welcome fully necessary addition to the X-Line, taking its place amongst the top books of the new Krakoan era.


All the way back in the days of House of X/Powers of X when the new nation of Krakoa was born, the self-elected Quiet Council created a trio of laws for the land. One of which was “Kill no man” meaning to not kill humans. Despite Charles Xavier’s declaration that there would be no prisons upon their island nation, the killer Sabretooth was punished for breaking that law before it was even law and sentenced to exile in the pit of Krakoa.

What that meant and what effect that has on Krakoa itself has been left alone, until now.

If anyone had told me at any point ever that I would be 100% invested in a book about Victor Creed/Sabretooth that has his name in the title, I would not have believed them. As the issue makes sure to point out, Creed is an unrepentant killer and has been that for most of his fictional existence outside of the rare alternate reality (Age of Apocalypse) or when his brain gets inverted, and he plays at heroics.

While the character is still the same unrepentant messed up being here, what makes this book work so well is the fact that Victor LaValle uses this as a place to really dive deep into the reality of incarceration, concepts of rehabilitation or justice, and showing, even more, the deep deep flaws within this so-called paradise that Xavier and Magneto claimed to have built. It hits hard not only because of how LaValle presents these topics but because this is a realm that few superhero or superhero adjacent titles ever try to tread.

Superhero-related comics always deal with heroes taking down villains and those committing crimes, but rarely is there any real focus on the flaws of the system or how the prison system cause so much harm and destruction. Books featuring Batman or Daredevil at times might come the closest to touching on these issues, but generally very briefly because there is more superheroing to be done.

Sadly, the reality is that focusing on these topics and pointing out the flaws within a book focused on a fictionalized society/nation gives far freer reign than actually pointing at the United States or other real countries. These are not easy topics to broach or even come up with solutions, because they are conversations that most often aren’t even being had by the masses in real life. So, it sadly makes sense that comic books of all things aren’t tackling it across the board.

Another aspect that just worked was having Doug Ramsey appear here as the one handing Creed a bone of sorts, to break him out of the eternal loop prison that Xavier wanted for the man. Doug is getting a lot of long-deserved big spotlight in the books right now, but also represents what we’re seeing in New Mutants and a few other places. That being the younger guard of characters realizing and trying to deal with the flawed systems that the older guard put in place that are at times smaller copies of the flawed systems they said they were leaving behind.

Choosing Creed as the focus of such an exploration works in a certain way, especially if all the X-Line itself is taken into consideration. Just look at the Quiet Council itself. The body count that several current and former members have or the heinous actions they regularly took against humans and mutants alike before the nation formed mean nothing. They are allowed to walk around the nation and govern it.

We won’t even get into the talk about one Hank McCoy, who commits heinous war crimes in the so-called name of Krakoa on the regular like it’s a hobby at this point.

Creed very much deserves some consequences as his entire existence is one of pain and death and heinous acts. Yet, the consequences here and the so-called justifications for these consequences deserve to be fully pulled apart and deeply studied. As we’re seeing here.

We’re witness to Creed living out his most brutal and destructive fantasies, both before and after he agrees to Doug/Krakoa’s terms, really poking at the idea that prison systems are meant to spur rehabilitation. In fact, one could very easily argue that with someone like Creed in this case, it’s just fueling what is within him already and grows it since the man actually literally creates a hell under Krakoa of sorts.

Visually we feel every inch of the brutality and roughness of this issue through the work of Leonard Kirk and Rain Beredo. All the pages where we see Creed’s bloody vengeance are raw and visceral and so very detailed without getting too far into what would have once made this a book for the Marvel Max line.

Even pages where Creed might be pensive or reflective, grown somewhat out of sheer boredom after achieving all fantasy revenge, there is a rawness and striking power to the pages. Beredo brings a shadowy muted tone to the colors here, letting some stand out more than others. All through the pages, we get a lot of bursts of bright red from blood to Creed’s eyes to flashes of Krakoa itself which fits with the rage-filled and bloody tale being weaved.

Comic books are a beautiful marriage between visuals and text, and the best ones are those where the story can be followed and told even if there are little to no words written on the page. We get so many striking images that stand for themselves here from the visceral fight with the X-Men where Creed ends up holding and staring at his bleeding still-beating heart in Nightcrawler’s severed hand or the ending beats showcasing what a truly awful Hell the man has crafted.

Many of the superhero elements here still have their fantastical edge to them but are twisted around in many ways visually and color-wise because we’re seeing them through the point of view of Creed. Cyclops’ eyebeams are a duller more fire-like color when unleashed and used against his team in the vision, the reality of Nightcrawler’s gloved white hand covered in blood, even within the montages of Creed killing heroes or fantasizing about being Conan or a Starjammer.

Much of Creed’s views, as well as an omnipresent narrator, are brought to us through caption boxes with dialogue saved for particular sections including where Creed talks to Doug or versions of himself (a fantastic way to represent the competing versions of Victor we’ve seen in books over time). Cory Petit is always very good at making bits of personality/character shine through in the way he handles the lettering. Even though the bubbles are similar you can feel the difference in the words of Creed and Doug and not just because of the language they choose to use.

There is a point where the captions stop speaking in a first-person reflective tone and instead are very much third person but are written exactly the same. This takes place after the meeting of the Creeds, where it purposefully makes it so that it’s unclear if this is an outside narrator or if Creed has become so disjointed at this point that he’s almost like an observer to his own situation and brutality.

Just like noted about the colors and art above, the SFX and many other aspects of the lettering are also put through a brutal filter of sorts. Even Nightcrawler’s signature ‘BAMF’ has a sinister quality to it from Creed’s perspective, rather than the more hopeful view we normally see within other books.

One final thing of note that needed to be pointed out is the data pages here. Personally, I go back and forth on these and whether they work or not, feeling some books use them better than others. In this case not only are they very solid but they serve as a reminder of something that has been lost in the various media adaptations and even the comics themselves at times. Victor Creed is not just a savage killing machine beast, he’s quite intelligent and very much knows what he is doing and why he is doing it. Which makes him even more terrifying in many respects to some.

Sabretooth #1 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.

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