A Northern Exposure
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Adam Kubert (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Joe Rosas & Digital Chameleon (colors), Pat Brosseau (letterer)
James and Heather Hudson, along with Beast and Professor Xavier, examine Wolverine and Sabretooth. They scan Sabretooth’s brain to study the damage Wolverine’s claw did to it, learning that he’s been effectively lobotomized, even though they don’t know how long his new state will last. Boomer escorts Sabretooth back to his room, sparking jealousy in Wolverine. Wolverine’s taken to the Danger Room and hooked up to a sensor array, which reminds him of the wires and plugs inserted into his body by the Weapon X project. A holographic arctic environment causes him to flash back to his first meeting with the Hudsons. Suddenly, Wolverine runs out of the Danger Room into the night, without taking off his sensor array. Xavier, Beast, and the Hudsons observe his biological and psychological reactions to what’s going on outside. Wolverine runs towards a nearby highway, where the X-Men’s abusive neighbor is driving drunk and rapidly approaching a blind curve. Trying to prevent an accident, Wolverine jumps in his way and yells for him to stop. The man responds by running over Wolverine, which severely injures him. To everyone’s surprise, his healing factor begins to repair his wounds at an accelerated rate. Wolverine resists his animal urges and saves the man from the wreckage of his car, and then picks up one of his beer cans and drinks it. Pleased that Wolverine didn’t give in to his darker urges, Heather shuts off the sensors to give him his privacy. Zoe Culloden and another Landau, Luckman, and Lake agent watch the entire episode and determine that Wolverine is “ready”.
The Danger Room simulation causes Wolverine to remember that he was shot by poachers shortly before he came across the Hudsons for the first time. He thought they were members of the poachers’ hunting party and attacked. Heather Hudson is relieved to know that he actually had a reason to strike and was never just a berserk animal. This does add a twist to his established origin story, since Wolverine always claimed that he was just a wild animal before the Hudsons discovered him and offered help.
According to Xavier, the rapid rate Wolverine recovers from being run over is the “true rate of the healing factor when it isn’t compensating for the adamantium”. This means that Wolverine should have an accelerated healing factor in all of the flashback stories that take place before he received the adamantium, but I doubt that’s been kept consistent.
This is very similar to the previous issue, which also dealt with the X-Men’s responses to the resurgence of Wolverine’s animal nature. It doesn’t feel too repetitive, though, mainly because Hama uses Wolverine’s first person narrative captions to humanize the character and bring some weight to the storyline. The other X-books just have an omniscient narrator claim that Sabretooth has changed, but Wolverine has the title character express the same doubts the readers have about his conversion (as Wolverine puts it, “that wounded kitten look is about as convincin’ as Sylvester with a mouthful o’ Tweety”). Wolverine’s narration also raises the idea that Sabretooth can’t effectively fake feelings like compassion because he’s never actually felt them. Hama actually gets some mileage out of the storyline, since the reader can’t be sure if Wolverine can see through Sabretooth because of their past together, or if Wolverine’s just giving in to the same dark impulses that ruled Sabretooth and judging him unfairly. I didn’t realize this until now, but these two separate storylines might’ve been created to compliment one another. Sabretooth is now a tame animal who can’t threaten the X-Men while Wolverine is withdrawing from the team and getting nastier and more animalistic. If that’s the case, this issue seems to be the only story that actually makes the idea work.
Adam Kubert returns as artist, thankfully. He produces another nice-looking issue that blends heavily detailed drawings with exaggerated cartooning. Quite a few pages of this issue consist of characters standing around monitors talking, but it never looks boring. During the flashback scene he seems to be following his father’s sketchier style and does a fine job with it. He also does a nine-panel grid layout leading up to Wolverine getting run over that I like a lot. This turns out to be a pretty strong issue, making it one of the highlights of an era that’s not very fondly remembered by a lot of fans.