Monday, January 28, 2008

WOLVERINE #75 – November 1993

Nightmares Persist
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Adam Kubert (penciler), Mark Farmer/Dan Green/Mark Pennington (inkers), Pat Brosseau (letters), Steve Buccelato (colorist)

Xavier and Jean Grey try to ease Wolverine’s pain after having his adamantium removed, while the Blackbird falls apart during reentry. Wolverine is ready to accept death, until he realizes that Jean is being thrown out of the Blackbird. He brings himself back to pull her inside. Jean uses her telekinetic powers to keep the ship together and the X-Men return home. Wolverine’s healing power is barely working, but he still feels the need to prove himself to the team. During a training session, he instinctively pops his claws, and everyone is shocked to see bone claws come out of his hands. Losing a lot of blood, he continues to recover over the next few weeks. After a talk with Jubilee, Wolverine decides that he isn’t fit enough to be with the team and leaves during the night.

Continuity Notes
Wolverine’s bone claws appear for the first time. He says that he doesn’t remember ever having them, although later flashback stories show him using them in his pre-Weapon X days.

Wolverine’s healing factor is almost gone after overexerting itself. He quits smoking at the end of this issue.

After being sucked from his body, there’s no reference to where Wolverine’s adamantium actually went. I believe it’s brought up later (maybe in issue #100?), but it seems odd that none of these stories bring this up for years.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority
When Wolverine releases his bone claws for the first time, he’s covered in blood (and not the black blood the Comics Code normally required).

This issue has a cardstock cover with a hologram.

A ‘90s X-Men crossover comic with a hologram cover isn’t the place most people would expect to find a quality story, but I’ve always liked this issue. I had forgotten that so much of the issue is dedicated to the X-Men trying to keep the Blackbird together, because I mainly remember this issue for the Wolverine/Jubilee scenes at the end. Hama’s inclination towards realism shows up again, as several pages of dialogue are spent on characters describing what’s wrong with the plane and how they might be able to circumvent it. I have no idea if lines like “altitude is decaying into a wobble that is generating resonating waves”, “can we scrub this descent and replot a shallower angle?”, and “one degree of declination can increase our drag-friction over the red line!” actually mean anything, but Hama seems to enjoy writing them. They start to get distracting after a while (okay, the plane’s falling apart), but maybe an aviation/X-Men fanatic got a kick out of them.

The excessive technical dialogue is my only real fault with this issue, though. It’s actually a very human story about Wolverine facing his own mortality. Even though no one thinks Wolverine’s actually going to die, Hama does an admirable job of selling the idea. If Magneto were to rip out Wolverine’s skeleton, even with a healing factor, he’d probably die instantly (as Peter David pointed out when he jokingly suggested the idea in the first place). Hama can’t kill Wolverine off, but he treats the prospect seriously and even has Wolverine ready to embrace his own death. It’s a surprising turn for the character that few writers could pull off. The new status quo for Wolverine, on the mend and humbled for perhaps the first time, is an interesting direction for the character.

I’ve always liked the scene with Wolverine’s letter to Jubilee at the end. If I remember his Usenet posts correctly, Hama was actually a fan of Jubilee, and he seems to be speaking through Wolverine’s letter on the final pages, spelling out the character's best qualities. Referencing Jubilee seems to have become internet shorthand for ridiculing ‘90s era X-comics, but I’ve never really understood the hatred of the character. While recuperating, Wolverine tells Jubilee that it hurts every time he releases his claws; a dialogue exchange similar to one later used in the first X-Men movie. I don’t know if the producers of the movie ever read this issue, but it seems likely. The introduction of Magneto’s real name “Erik Lensherr” is another bit from this crossover that made it into the movies. Come to think of it, these are the only elements of this era of X-continuity that the movies used (unless I’m just forgetting something).

This issue marks the first time Wolverine left the X-Men since joining in 1975. Marvel stuck with this for almost two years, and were pretty committed to it (Wolverine doesn’t even make a real appearance in the Scott/Jean wedding issue). It’s hard to believe that there was ever a time in recent memory when Wolverine didn’t appear in at least two team books a month. Wolverine joining the Avengers actually seems more like something from the gimmicky ‘90s than anything in this issue, really. And, yes, Wolverine losing his adamantium is gimmicky, but it paved the way for some enjoyable stories. Losing the adamantium and healing factor really did seem like something new and different was happening to the character, which is hard to pull off with someone as overexposed as Wolverine. Giving Wolverine bone claws never bothered me, since doing Wolverine stories without claws just doesn’t seem right, and the crude, natural look of the claws fits Wolverine’s feral nature. Considering their loyalty to the ‘90s comics, I was surprised that the X-Men animated series never adapted this storyline. The ‘90s Marvel novel series, which was pretty continuity heavy, also ignored the bone claws. Plus, I don’t recall any merchandising with Wolverine’s bone claws (in fact, I think some comic art with the bone claws was redrawn for the merchandising). It’s interesting that Marvel was willing to let the comics stray from the standard merchandising of a popular character, but I don’t really understand the reluctance to use the bone claws in outside media. Are they really such a radical departure that they would turn kids away from an X-Men video game or lunchbox?

Adam Kubert makes his debut as penciler, breaking the chain of subpar fill-ins. His work here is impressive, and it’s interesting to watch his style evolve over his three years on the title. He starts out with a strong detail-oriented, realistic style that evolves into a more expressionistic cartoony look. Even when grounded in reality, his work never looks stiff, and the scenes inside Wolverine’s mind show that he can also pull of psychedelic craziness. I really liked the Hama/Kubert run during my early teens, so I’m looking forward to reading these issues again.


Sandy said...

Me too - I'm glad you're getting to this era of Wolverine. I always thought that Hama and Kubert did an excellent job, and this issue stuck out as something special to me. One of my best comic memories from my teenage years.

Teebore said...

I read this issue and X-Men 25 so many times when I was kid. There was just something...visceral and impactful about them that really resonated with me, for some reason.

Agent 2112 said...

Has there ever been an action figure of Wolverine with bone claws? I can not think of any...

Teebore said...

Offhand,I can think of one that came out towards the end of the X-men line, in an Onslaught wave or something like that.

There was Jean Grey w/Franklin Richards, Onslaught, and a Wolverine w/bone claws (and that horrid bandana/mask he was wearing during Onslaught when he was feral and noseless).

There were four figures in the wave, I think, but I can't recall the fourth.

Knox said...

I used to work at a 5 &10 at the shore. I'm pretty sure we sold a boogie board with bone-claw, yellow and blue Wolverine on it. We had a Hulk board too, i think.

Anonymous said...

Always loved this issue! The art is incredible from Kubert. A favourite from the era, and I agree that some of the images (the claw pop scene) and scenes (Jubilee/Logan) have always stayed with me.

Fnord Serious said...

Ah yes, the bone claws....
The issue may have been great, but all I can remember was having a giant WTF?!?! at the reveal of the bone claws. It felt like a cheap contrivance to add even more grim-n-gritty to a character that already had a pretty heavy dose to start with. I had been growing more and more disenchanted with the X-Books over the past year's worth of issues and this was the end of it for me. I even passed on the final chapter of the crossover, something I couldn't have imagined doing during the height of my obsession with all things X.
I'm glad to see that what was such a deal breaker for me succeeded in hooking so many new readers though. Adam Kubert was always my favorite of the Kubert bros and I would be amenable to reading this run someday if I can find 'em for a decent price.

wwk5d said...

This, along with X-force, are probably the best 2 chapters of FA. And even when compared with the other titles, still a good read. And yeah, I never understood all the hatred for Jubilee...Hama always did a good job with her, if you ask me.

Gary said...

"The new status quo for Wolverine, on the mend and humbled for perhaps the first time, is an interesting direction for the character."
It's not the first time. The Reavers whupped him good at the end of the Outback era and he spent from Uncanny 255(ish) up to the launch of Ajectiveless X-Men "a shadow of his former self" (Deathbird's term). He also hallucinated Carol Danvers and Nick Fury during this time.

I was always disappointed by the "Wolverine always had bone claws" revelation. We've been told that his claws leaped from "bionic housings in his forearms". Why install bionic housings for something that was already there? My theory, and I still wish they'd used this, was that his healing factor had seen the claws (and, presumably, the housings, though I admit just realizing that) for so long that when they were absent, his body put them back.

Gary said...

Also, the technical dialogue from Hama fits the X-Men. Chris Claremont loves him the airplanes. Like you, I enjoyed that this issue was spent, not fighting a villain, but surviving a situation. One of my favorite bits from the Claremont/Byrne Uncanny was when the X-Men escaped the Savage Land on a raft only to nearly die from the common, real world storms off the tip of South America.

Jonathan Washington said...

I know this is super late, and people probably don't even care anymore, but "Bone Wolverine" (snicker) was in the Marvel vs Capcom games

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