Friday, December 26, 2008

WOLVERINE #104 – August 1996

The Emperor of the Realm of Grief
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Val Semeiks (penciler), Chad Hunt (inker), Joe Rosas & Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (lettering)

Summary: Wolverine travels to Xavier’s school in Massachusetts to see if Gateway has information on how to stop Onslaught. Gateway uses his mystic teleportation powers to take Wolverine back to the day his fiancée Mariko died. Elektra arrives and tries to speak to the mute Gateway, and he responds by sending her back to the day the Hand resurrected her dead body. Elektra speculates that Gateway is showing them their worst pains in order to prepare them for the answer. Gateway then sends them back to the day Magneto ripped the adamantium from Wolverine’s body and Xavier responded by mind-wiping him. They witness the events on the Astral Plane, and discover that Magneto’s dark ego reached out and entered Xavier during the incident. Wolverine claims that he’s partly responsible, since he lost control first, which lead to Xavier’s response to Magneto’s attack on him. He wonders if Xavier could ever be the same again, and if he can regain his own humanity.

Continuity Notes: The opening narrative captions have Wolverine complaining about being sent on this mission, even though Uncanny X-Men #335 said that this was “a hunch” he’s playing out.

Gateway recognizes the name of Elektra’s mentor, Stick. She wonders if they know each other.

Miscellaneous Note: The title of this issue is a reference to The Divine Comedy.

Commercial Break: An ad for the Onslaught crossover boasts about the website, which was created to promote the event. It seems like Marvel registered this site before putting up their official In case you're wondering, they don't maintain it.

Review: I assume this is the “origin of Onslaught” issue Larry Hama was assigned to write before anyone knew who Onslaught was supposed to be. Even though this issue doesn’t introduce the idea that Magneto had a part in Onslaught’s creation, since that had been implied since the Onslaught one-shot, it is the story that explicitly shows how it happened. Revealing that a dark part of Magneto entered Xavier’s consciousness and lead to the creation of Onslaught was presumably an attempt to alleviate Xavier of guilt for Onslaught’s actions. This seems unnecessary to me, since Mark Waid had already firmly established that Onslaught was being fed by Xavier’s repressed, darker emotions. It’s not as if Xavier could truly be blamed for the dark thoughts he repressed, and there had already been two stories years earlier that followed the same theme (the X-Men and the Micronauts mini, and an inventory story that ran in Uncanny X-Men #106, which was even adapted in the cartoon). Doing a story about Xavier's repressed desires at least relates to the human condition; revealing that Magneto was involved just turns it into a sequel to a previous storyline.

Hama tries to fulfill the editorial edict while also making the story about Wolverine and Elektra, but it’s a rough fit. Why exactly Wolverine would go to a mute man with no connection to Xavier to learn about Onslaught is never explained, and the opening narration even dismisses the premise. The dialogue is often stiff and awkward (Elektra: “What earthly purpose is there in searing my soul with images best left forgotten forever?”), which makes it hard to buy into the emotional anguish the characters are supposed to be experiencing. And if the purpose of connecting Magneto to Onslaught was to help preserve Xavier’s character, Wolverine’s final conversation with Elektra undermines it. Wolverine claims that it was the “dark inside” of Xavier that gave into anger and attacked Magneto, which opened him up to Magneto’s influence. How exactly is this better than Xavier’s repressed urges subconsciously manifesting as Onslaught?

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