Wednesday, February 4, 2009

WOLVERINE #107 – November 1996

Once Upon a Time in Little Tokyo
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Anthony Winn (penciler), Dan Green (inker), Comicraft (lettering), Gloria Vasquez (colors)

Summary: Wolverine travels to Japan to visit Yukio and his adopted daughter, Amiko. He’s ambushed in their apartment by Hand ninjas. After he kills them, he’s attacked by government agents, who believe that he’s responsible for Yukio and Amiko’s disappearance. Wolverine takes a motorcycle from the apartment next door and flees. Soon, an actor named Akatora is informed of Wolverine’s escape. He visits Yukio in a dungeon and taunts her, and then orders the brainwashing of Amiko. Wolverine travels to a casino and asks the Yakuza members there for sanctuary, claiming that he is also an outlaw. A representative named Shirohana, the Pale Flower takes him in. While eating the meal she gives him, Wovlerine learns that she’s actually the daughter of a Yakuza crimelord he killed years earlier. She expects the blowfish toxin to kill him, but he quickly recovers. Suddenly, government agents with armored vehicles crash through the door.

Creative Differences: Wolverine is drawn with his normal appearance in this issue. A narrative caption on the first page claims that he’s using an image inducer so that his adopted daughter isn’t afraid. At the time of this issue’s release, Larry Hama posted on Usenet that this line was added by editorial, and that he didn't agree with the explanation (maybe he considered the storyline over by this time?).

I Love the ‘90s: Wolverine declares that the scent of the Hand’s swords “smells like ninja spirit” and that they don’t have the “good karma to attain Nirvana”. This was a little much even back in 1996.

Miscellaneous Note: According to the Statement of Ownership, average sales for the year were 266,815 copies with the most recent issue selling 337,672.

Review: This is the first issue of Wolverine in over a year that has nothing to do with his growing feral regression, his physical devolution, Onslaught, or forced Elektra cameos. In other words, it’s the first issue in a while with no obvious editorial influence. Hama goes back to the fast-paced, action-heavy stories that dominated the majority of his run. There’s nothing original here, but it’s fun to read and everything moves at a steady pace. Akatora debuts as the latest Hand superior. For no obvious reason, Hama presents him as an actor who wears a rubber suit in Godzilla-style monster movies, I guess as his day job. It’s so bizarre you just have to go along with it.

Anthony Winn debuts as the fill-in artist between Adam Kubert and Lenil Francis Yu. Winn is obviously influenced by Marc Silvestri’s early work, but his art is more attractive than most of Silvestri’s clones. Winn seems to understand what made Silvestri’s Uncanny X-Men issues work in the first place, so he isn’t indiscriminately throwing lines everywhere. When figures become more stylized, it’s for a specific effect that actually complements the script. When the story calms down, so does the art. After a few pages of a subdued conversation scene between Wolverine and Pale Flower, a more chaotic-looking Wolverine reacts to the blowfish toxin. When it turns out he’s faking, the exaggerated rendition of Wolverine from two panels earlier seems even more amusing. Some of the faces and anatomy are a little rough, but most of his work here is strong.

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