Friday, November 21, 2008

WOLVERINE #100 – April 1996

Furnace of His Brain, Anvil of His Heart
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Adam Kubert (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering), Joe Rosas & Electric Crayon (colors)

Summary: Genesis and the Dark Riders prepare Wolverine for the adamantium bonding process, as Cannonball and Zoe Culloden watch from the ducts above. Nearby, Genesis has placed his prisoners inside sarcophagi. Zoe explains to Cannonball his plan to use their life energy to revive Apocalypse. As Wolverine’s body begins to reject the adamantium, Genesis increases the power. Cannonball demands that Zoe use her teleportation device to save Wolverine. She tells him that Wolverine must fulfill his own destiny. After he defeats the bonding process, Zoe tells Cannonball to strike then. She disappears and Cannonball promptly attacks the Dark Riders, as the increased power seems to stabilize the bonding process. During the fight with Cannonball, parts of the bonding apparatus are destroyed. Soon Wolverine begins to reject the adamantium and Genesis’ brain implants. Wolverine’s tank explodes, shooting sharp blades of adamantium across the room. Hurricane and Lifeforce are immediately killed. Wolverine begins to kill the rest of the Dark Riders in the shadows, as Genesis drags Cannonball to Apocalypse’s revival crèche. Wolverine, now de-evolved and resembling an animal, is standing on top of Apocalypse’s tomb. As he fights Genesis, Cannonball opens the tomb and discovers that Apocalypse’s body is gone. Wolverine drops Genesis’ body at Cannonball’s feet and asks him to apologize to Cable for him. He then disappears. Meanwhile, Stick sends Elektra to find the warrior who has fallen from “the path”.

Continuity Notes: The de-evolved, animalistic Wolverine debuts in this issue. Even though it’s a horrible idea, this becomes his look for over a year.

Aside from Genesis, most of the Dark Riders are explicitly killed. Hurricane, Lifeforce, Spyne, and Deadbolt all die on-panel. Gauntlet’s death is implied, as Genesis hears him screaming off-panel.

Apocalypse’s body isn’t inside his tomb, leading Cannonball to speculate that Genesis was either lying or crazy, or that Apocalypse already left by himself. Apocalypse isn’t actually revived until the summer 1999 crossover, I believe.

Genesis tells Wolverine, “without the adamantium, you were doomed to degenerate into a howling beast”. This is an idea that also appeared in the early issues after Wolverine lost the adamantium. I’ve never quite understood the claim that adamantium prevented Wolverine from de-evolving into some sort of animal. Marvel, even at this point, had done dozens of pre-adamantium stories about Wolverine, and he seemed fine back then. Unless they’re saying that recovering from the loss of his adamantium led him to become bestial, the idea doesn’t really work.

Miscellaneous Note: The title of this issue is a reference to William Blake’s poem, “The Tyger”.

Production Note: Starting with this issue, Wolverine’s word balloon lettering appears in a “savage” font (the same font began to be used a few issues earlier in his narrative captions). This sticks around for years even after this storyline is over.

Gimmicks: This issue has a cardstock hologram cover for $3.95. I have the non-enhanced newsstand version, which just has Adam Kubert's drawing of Wolverine and costs a dollar less.

Commercial Break: There’s an ad for the FOX made-for-TV Generation X movie. I’m still not quite sure how the twenty-eighth X-Men spinoff ended up with its own movie adaptation before the original series did (can you imagine an X-Men film on a TV-movie budget?). I barely remember anything about the movie, except that Jubilee was played by a white actress and some of the characters weren’t even in the comic.

Creative Differences: A Larry Hama quote regarding this storyline from Usenet:

"Never wanted to take away the Adamantium and never wanted to regress
him to the bestial state. I did the best I could under the
circumstances, but I really don't like the little guy without his nose
and looking stooped over and stupid. I didn't think there was
anything to gain by quitting the book in a huff and walking away from
a committment is not something I do anyway. The people who made the
decision to change the character in that way have made other decisions
about stories and characters that were right on and brilliant. People
make mistakes. We deal with it. I do not hate anybody for decisions
they make about a fictional character no matter how deeply I am
involved with it. I reserve hatred for the guy who kicks down my door
and shoots my dog. Let's get real, folks. I have been lobbying for a
return to normal and the return of the Adamantium for over a year. I
have been assured that I can go about it in a logical and satisfying

There's also an interesting thread from earlier in this year, which has Larry Hama and Scott Lobdell (posting as "Kid York") defending Bob Harras. According to Lobdell, the higher-ups at Marvel actually wanted to re-number the entire X-line when the format changed in 1994.

Review: This is the beginning of an era with a very obvious editorial influence. Not only is Wolverine’s physical appearance drastically altered for no discernable reason, but he’s also going to be hanging out with Elektra for the next few months because she has a new series to promote. Hama tries to make the best of things, but there’s no way to disguise how flagrantly ill-conceived all of this is. This specific issue is actually fairly entertaining, if you get past the nonsensical de-evolution of Wolverine. Hama’s at least able to add some tension to the story, and throwing Cannonball into the mix as a spoiler works well. The one-by-one deaths of the new Dark Riders are fun (most of them are such poorly designed, poorly defined characters it doesn’t feel like a waste), and Kubert’s art is as dynamic and energetic as ever. The issue was hyped for months in advance as the issue that would definitively answer the question, “Will Wolverine get his adamantium back?” Marvel did everything short of outright telling you that was exactly what was going to happen in this issue, which clearly didn’t happen. Depending on your point of view, that’s either flagrant false advertising or an admirable fake-out on the readers. I didn’t particularly care if Wolverine got his metal back or not, so the bait and switch didn’t bother me too much at the time. It was the decision to turn Wolverine into a dog that left me scratching my head.

The de-evolution plotline is what really tarnishes the post-AoA era of Wolverine. This storyline received months and months of buildup, as each chapter hinted that Wolverine was in the midst of an event of cosmic importance. When issue #100 eventually arrives, we finally get the payoff…and it’s a bizarrely redesigned Wolverine who acts like Scooby Doo. I get that Wolverine’s core conflict is his struggle to prove his humanity and fight against his animal instincts, but over-literalizing it and turning him into a canine is just absurd. How exactly this transformation happened isn’t even dealt with. Why would fighting off the bonding process cause his physical appearance to change? Is this supposed to be because Cannonball interfered before Zoe told him to? Even so, how exactly would this cause Wolverine’s nose to disappear and fur to grow on his arms? It’s outright ridiculous. Larry Hama never hid the fact that he wasn’t a fan of this idea. My memory is that he plays with it for a few issues, and then writes Wolverine with his established personality again. His physical appearance is portrayed inconsistently throughout the books as the months go on. In his own title, he regains his normal appearance almost a year before the two main X-books catch up. How exactly he regained his normal appearance is never explained either. I seem to remember that once the “Zero Tolerance” crossover was over, he was back to his normal look in every title. This “eh, whatever” type of storytelling unfortunately shows up in quite a few Marvel titles during this era.


Arvin Bautista said...

His reevolution to normal is what really bugged me, and seriously just seemed like the kind of editorial holes that was the main reason something that outlandish shouldn't've been attempted to begin with. Seriously, I'm pretty sure all the fill-in artists just had no idea wolverine had a new look (I'm surprised they were able to consistently draw him with bone claws, though).

Anonymous said...

Apocalypse rises from his tomb during the Onslaught crossover to chat with the Watcher (!!) and battle Hulk and Cable IIRC. Must be a different empty tomb in this issue.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I though the same thing Paul...unless he left the tomb before this issue, went into hiding, showed up during Onslaught, then went into hiding again till the Twelve story?

Anonymous said...

This is around the time I started reading the Wolverine comic, knowing very little about the character. If you were coming in cold, the devolution, the bone claws, the dating Elektra, they didn't seem so bad. It was an interesting book. Now that I've read a billion Wolverine stories I can regognize how bad these were, but I still feel nostalgic for ol' no-nose.

Seangreyson said...

As an occasional reader of Wolverine at this point I didn't mind this era. Looking back now it seems silly, but it at least offered a dramatic change for the character (as opposed to some comic characters who never change over 40+ years).

Not having liked Wolverine much, I appreciated that this era meant he wasn't appearing in every book with an X (as opposed to modern books where he's a major character in a minimum of 7-8 books per month).

jim said...

I had dropped most of the X-books by this point and was reading books randomly and infrequently. The inconsistent portrayal of what he looked and acted like, led me to believe that his body was disfigured by the rejection and it was slowly healing back to normal. Since I never went back to read this era, I completely missed the deevolution point of the story.

Anonymous said...

This was one of the few issues of Wolverine that I bought, and I enjoyed it well enough. I didn't really like the feral Wolvie thing, but I figured he'd be back to normal soon enough, so I didn't lose any sleep over it.

That Usenet conversation about Bob Harras is fascinating! I've always felt the guy was unjustly vilified by fandom, and I've seen quotes from Lobdell, Kurt Busiek, Warren Ellis, Tom Brevoort (and now Hama), and more agreeing with that stance. Even Chris Claremont eventually came back to Marvel to work for him (on staff, as his second-in-command no less)! I've said it before, but it bears repeating -- I would gladly rather have Bob Harras over Joe Quesada running Marvel today! He had his misfires, but he was nothing compared to Quesada. And besides, in the past few years, Quesada's Marvel has reverted to what it was under Harras anyway -- one giant "event" crossover after another! And at least in Harras's crossovers, the characters acted like themselves rather than behave as the story needed them to!

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