Writer: Victor LaValle
Art: Leonard Kirk
Colors: Rain Baredo
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer & Frank Martin
Variant Cover: Maria Wolf
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: July 6th, 2022
Reviewer: Theron Couch
Sabretooth is loose! Has Doug Ramsey made a deal with the devil, and what about the rest of the mutants in the Pit? This issue brings to a close one of the most engaging stories of the Krakoa era, and there is no shortage of consequences. Let’s dive into Sabretooth #5 by Victor LaValle to see what shakes out!
There’s a lot of plot to wrap up in Sabretooth #5, and Victor LaValle ties it up ably. The series ends with threads in place to spin off into another, but all of the story beats that have been at work since the first issue are satisfactorily concluded. The willingness to work with others that Sabretooth displayed is twisted here as he betrays some allies while searching for others who share his vicious tendencies.
Second, to Sabretooth, the character with the most development in this issue is Doug Ramsey. He’s a victim of his own good intentions, and he knows it. When he makes his confession to Oya, Third Eye, Nekra, Melter, and Madison Jeffries, they rightly lay blame at his feet and offer him no absolution.
Ramsey reveals that releasing Sabretooth was necessary because he was damaging Krakoa. This is a fascinating idea that raises the question of whether the Quiet Council, putting Sabretooth in the Pit for dubious reasons, bears responsibility for that damage and ultimately broke their own law about not hurting the island.
This series hasn’t pulled any punches critiquing the justice and prison system, both in the comic and in the real world. Sabretooth #5 doesn’t let up. LaValle still takes time to dwell on the aftermath of Sabretooth’s incarceration. Xavier’s greatest indiscretions have so far been known only to the Quiet Council but now, thanks to Sabretooth and his imprisoned companions, word of the unfairness of Krakoa’s justice system is poised to spread throughout the island.
The damage to mutants’ trust in Xavier plays into the series’s metaphor. Sabretooth has asked us to think about how criminal justice and incarceration work within society. This issue, most directly laying the blame at Xavier’s feet (complete with a full-page spread of him standing over a “Sabretooth was right” carving), invites us to wonder whether a system proven to be corrupt can ever be trusted again.
Leonard Kirk finishes off the series once again handling both pencils and inks which is welcome. He’s shown a particular talent in showcasing Sabretooth’s various moods, and no small part of that is due to his inks. He gives Sabretooth just the right amount of menace, adjusting it to fit his expression at any given time. The page focusing on Xavier is filled with the faces of the characters that the prisoners spoke to in previous issues, and Kirk captures a mix of anger and betrayal on each of their faces.
Rain Beredo’s colors once again create a contrast between the Pit and Krakoa with the Pit looking somewhat muted by comparison. Even the characters’ outfits lack the brightness that we see for those on the surface.
Compared to the previous issues, Sabretooth #5 is the weakest. But that in no way means it’s bad or even middle of the road. It’s another strong issue. The story is tight. The plot threads resolve tidily. And the issue spends enough time with the main characters to satisfy. It also continues the commentary that’s been present throughout.
The weakness is in its effort to set up the follow-up story. It’s already been reported that Marvel has more plans for Sabretooth, and the building blocks for that story are evident throughout this issue. While LaValle doesn’t linger on them too much, it does create a cliffhanger feel that leaves the final pages feeling underwhelming.