Credits: Jim Lee (Plot/Art), Art Thibert (Finisher), Scott Lobdell (Scripter), Joe Rosas (Colorist), Tom Orzechowski (Letterer)
Omega Red, Matsuo, and Fenris capture the X-Men, while Sabretooth arrives to track down the escaped Wolverine. Maverick tries to revive Wolverine so that he can also learn the location of the C-Synthesizer. Through a sequence of flashbacks, we learn that Maverick, Sabretooth, and Wolverine were all part of a team of covert government agents. During one of their missions, Sabretooth murdered a double agent while trying to escape with the C-Synthesizer. In the present, Matsuo revives a post-hypnotic suggestion on Psylocke, forcing her to follow his orders. He sends her with Sabretooth to locate Wolverine. After a brief fight, they return with Wolverine and Maverick.
Entertainment This Month’s ad says that the Marvel Swimsuit Special is one of their highest sellers ever. That’s nice to know.
Sabretooth’s new costume debuts in this issue. He wore this costume during the ‘90s X-Men cartoon, probably making it his best-known look. Birdy, his telepathic assistant, also shows up in this issue, given no introduction or explanation at all. Sabretooth’s history with Gambit is introduced here, and Sabretooth implies that Gambit used to be a villain. The creators might have still been going with Claremont’s original idea that Gambit was a sleeper agent for Mr. Sinister.
Given everything that’s happened in the years since this issue was published, it’s hard to appreciate how significant it seemed at the time. Before this storyline, Wolverine was very rarely seen in flashbacks. The only clues to his past were vague comments made by himself or a few other characters. The only Wolverine flashbacks I can remember during the Claremont issues are Wolverine being discovered in the woods by the Hudsons, and the story of Sabretooth killing his girlfriend on his birthday. Shortly before this issue was released, Marvel published the flashback Weapon X serial, and a sequel storyline in Wolverine. I think another reason for the massive success of the X-line during this time was the focus on Wolverine, and the number of storylines that seemed to give answers about this past. Within a year, the audience knew more about Wolverine’s past than it ever had before. Over fifteen years later, Marvel is still going to the “Wolverine’s mysterious past” well. It’s hard to imagine that this ever felt new.
It’s also worth noting that Wolverine spends most of this storyline gravely injured after Omega Red gives him a healthy beating. This wasn’t unusual at the time; there was even a year-long period in Uncanny X-Men with Wolverine nursing himself back to health after being ambushed by the Reavers. Marvel’s current interpretation of the character is that he can survive anything short of an atomic bomb. He’s gone from being the gruff, short ugly scrapper who barely pulls it off in the end to the tall, handsome superman who can survive anything. I know which version I find more interesting.
The plot of this issue is still a bit messy, and can’t fully be reconciled with the previous parts of the storyline. In the last issue, Wolverine awakened from the dark, suddenly holding the C-Synthesizer. Now, in this issue, the C-Synthesizer from last issue is gone and forgotten. Now, Maverick wants to know how to find it. So the story has shifted back from Wolverine actually having the plot device to just knowing where it is. This issue makes clear that Omega Red needs the C-Synthesizer to survive, or else he has to keep feeding off the life energies of other people. Fine, but why does Maverick want it? Another mystery. The flashbacks also seem to be confused about the C-Synthesizer. In the scene where the team escapes, Maverick says that they have the C-Synthesizer. In the scene where the team is rescued, they’re admonished for losing it. When did they lose it? Why can’t the story keep track of this stupid thing?
Jim Lee’s art is starting to look cluttered and a little dreary. A lot of the energy from the earlier issues seems to be gone. Scott Lobdell replaces John Byrne on dialogue and does an okay job. I can understand the appeal of this arc. You get to learn more about Wolverine’s past. You’re introduced to a new villain who can challenge the X-Men. You get to see the team fight the Hand and Sabretooth before these characters became so over-used. It’s all just hung on a flimsy story.