Tuesday, November 11, 2008

WOLVERINE #98 – February 1996

Fade to Black
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Ramon Bernado (penciler), Napolitano/Milgrom/Morales (inkers), Joe Rosas & Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Wolverine wakes up in a haze inside the Princess Bar in Madripoor. He’s surrounded by dead bodies with claw marks, including his friends Archie Corrigan and O’Donnell. He flashes back to his last meeting with Zoe Culloden. He opened the package she gave him and discovered a key and an address written on a sheet of paper. In the present, he discovers his friend Rose is also dying. Walking outside of the bar, he’s arrested by police chief Tai, who also confiscates the key and sheet of paper. He places Wolverine in jail, where Wolverine uses his enhanced hearing to learn that Tai has been bought off. The plan is to leave Wolverine alone long enough for him to be taken care of. Tyger Tiger throws a hacksaw and an old costume for Wolverine to wear through his cell window. A group of thugs enter with General Coy and the Prince. Two of the men with strapped-on claws admit to killing Wolverine’s friends. Wolverine fights off the men and confronts Coy and the Prince. Coy shoots the Prince in the back of his head, hoping that Wolverine will back off. Suddenly, Coy is shot in the back by Tyger Tiger. She gives Wolverine the key and paper that Tai took from him. They head to the address, which is the Madripoor office of Landau, Luckman, and Lake. Wolverine uses the key to open the Warp Chamber room, and enters a void where Zoe Culloden is waiting on him.

Continuity Notes: Virtually every Madripoor supporting cast member is killed in this issue. Archie Corrigan, O’Donnell, Prince Baran, and Rose Wu all die on-panel. General Coy is shot in the back, which presumably kills him, and Tiger Tyger infers that she killed police chief Tai by running him over. Wolverine comments that Prince Baran and General Coy were never this “bloodthirsty”, which acknowledges that some of the characters are behaving strangely (police chief Tai is also portrayed as corrupt, which I believe contradicts his original appearances). There’s no explanation given, outside of Wolverine saying, “It’s almost like someone was makin’ ‘em hurt people I know”.

Production Note: It’s another issue with only nineteen pages.

Miscellaneous Note: According to the Statement of Ownership, average sales for the year were 334,592 copies with the most recent issue selling 329,768.

Review: This is one of those “kill off those characters we never use anymore” bloodbath issues. There’s a lot of carnage and running around, but the story doesn’t really advance the ongoing plotline at all. In fact, this issue ends in almost the same place as last issue, with Wolverine meeting up with Zoe Culloden. They were already face-to-face at the end of the last issue, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense for her to give him a key and an address to travel to so that they could immediately meet again. Killing off the entire Madripoor supporting cast always seemed wasteful to me, since most of these characters at least have some potential, and the same point could’ve been conveyed by just killing one or two characters. As usual, Hama’s able to handle the characterization and action well, but Adam Kubert isn’t around to sell the story. The guest art by Ramon Bernado is capable enough (except for his bizarre rendition of Wolverine’s cowl), but it looks rushed and comes across as pretty bland for much of the issue. The feral regression storyline is starting to wear on this book, and it’s too bad it’s going to lead to the misguided “de-evolution” of Wolverine in issue #100.


Fnord Serious said...

I agree that these sorts of bloodbath issues feel very wasteful. Just because these characters are not being used at the time doesn't mean that future writers won't have some good ideas for them. Usually this kind of thing happens when a writer wants to make a new villain seem incredibly bad-ass and evil without spending the time to build the character up over the course of a bunch of issues. In the case of this book, there seems to be no particular reason why all these characters had to get the axe.

Matt said...

Since I've never read Wolverine's solo series regularly (except for very briefly when Erik Larsen was the writer -- and I did pick up the issues that tied into crossovers, too), this is the very first time I've heard that all those characters were dead -- over a decade after the fact! It does seem wasteful, but as someone who's never been big on solo Wolverine, I don't consider it as big a loss as other "deck-clearing" exercises in recent years (Chuck Austen's crucifixtion scene in Uncanny X-Men comes to mind...).

wwk5d said...

Still, deck clearing issues seem lazy to me. Madripoor and it's characters work best in short doses, so they could've just kept them for later (and I liked Rose Wu, I remember her appearing in X-men once the Australia team went to pieces). Ah well.

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