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.
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.