Friday, May 15, 2009

WOLVERINE #127 - #128, August 1998 - September 1998

Wolverine #127

I’m King of the World!

Credits: Chris Claremont (writer), Lenil Francis Yu, Carlos Pacheco, Cary Nord, Jeff Matsuda, Melvin Rubi, & Mike Miller (pencilers), Tadeo/Holdredge/Alquiza/Miller (inkers), Wright & Smith (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Wolverine learns that Hydra and the Hand have teamed up to take over Madripoor. With the help of various props, he divides their forces and convinces them that Captain America and other heroes have arrived to stop them. Police chief Tai explains to Wolverine that the Hand’s leader, Matsuo Tsurayaba, is positioning himself as the new Prince of Madripoor. Meanwhile, Sabretooth teams up with Shadowcat to keep Hydra and the Hand out of Madripoor. They search for Viper, who was turned over to the Hand by a local crimelord she thought she could trust. Soon, their search leads them to an oil tanker, where Wolverine is tracking Hydra activity. The floor drops underneath them, as Matsuo Tsurayaba unveils his trap.

Continuity Notes: The former Prince of Madripoor was killed in Wolverine #98 (aka the Madripoor bloodbath issue). Police chief Tai was run over off-panel by Tyger Tiger in that issue, but I guess he got better.

For the record, Sabretooth is helping Shadowcat fight the Hand and Hydra because it’s “fun”, and because he wants Madripoor to remain an outlaw nation. Wolverine (who is wearing his ‘80s brown costume for no discernable reason) is also searching for Viper, along with Jessica Drew and Tyger Tiger, who were apparently kidnapped in-between issues.

Review: And now the story is so incomprehensible, it reads as if an entire issue has been skipped. Somehow, all of the characters are suddenly aware that Hydra and the Hand have teamed up to take over Madripoor, Viper (the character who set the story in motion) has been kidnapped off-panel, Jessica Drew and Tyger Tiger have also gone missing off-panel, there’s a political struggle for Madripoor royalty, Shadowcat and Sabretooth are working together, and Wolverine is waging a one-man war on Hydra and the Hand. Where did this stuff come from? Hydra and the Hand had brief cameos in the last issue, but there certainly wasn’t anything to set up what we’re seeing here. What is this story about? Viper marrying Wolverine? Sabretooth gaining adamantium? A power struggle for control of Madripoor? It’s certainly possible that all of these ideas could be connected, but the story hasn’t even come close to doing the job. What’s even more frustrating is the fact that a large portion of the issue consists of ridiculous scenes that have Wolverine impersonating members of the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the Hulk. It’s Silver Age-level silliness that has nothing to do with the actual story, and it eats up pages that could’ve covered all of the off-panel plot developments that have happened since the last issue. The art is also a mess, as six different pencilers with mostly incompatible styles turn in an obvious rush job.

Wolverine #128

Green for Death

Credits: Chris Claremont (writer), Stephen Platt & Angel Unzueta (pencilers), Banning/Mendoza/Candelaro/Hunter/Martin (inkers), Wayne Robinson (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: Matsuo begins the process of brainwashing Wolverine, Sabretooth, and Shadowcat into Hand assassins. Shadowcat breaks free of her restraints and rescues Viper, Tyger Tiger, and Jessica Drew, who are secretly being held by Hydra nearby. Sabretooth escapes from his restraints and immediately attacks Wolverine again. Wolverine convinces him to stop the fight and join forces against Hydra and the Hand. After they’re defeated, Viper attempts to kill Sabretooth, but Wolverine and Shadowcat stop her. Viper declares that she will have vengeance on Sabretooth, and anyone who’s protected him. She assumes the throne of Madripoor, and issues warrants for Wolverine and Shadowcat.

Continuity Note: Viper is installed as Madripoor’s “ruling prince”, a position Wolverine claims “she only occupies as long as our symbolic ‘union’ still stands.” Don’t ask me how this works, because I can assure you it makes no sense. According to the story recap in the gatefold, Wolverine agreed to marry viper “to prevent a bloody gang war…in an effort to unify rival factions.” It would’ve been nice if the story itself ever got around to explaining that.

Review: And now we have the brutal conclusion. Somehow, this issue even manages to top the last issue in terms of sheer incomprehensibility. We’re now told, through a story recap on the inside front cover, that Wolverine and Viper married to create some sort of truce between rival gangs. This also somehow leads to Viper assuming royalty in Madripoor. What? Wolverine owns a bar in Madripoor; he’s not supposed to be some kind of monarch, is he? (And why is Viper the prince and not the princess of Madripoor?) And if her marriage to Wolverine is what gives her power, how does she get away with openly calling for his arrest (or worse)?

The rest of the issue consists of some clichéd brainwashing scenes, which I assume were supposed to call back to the popular “Lady Mandarin” storyline, but instead feel like time-killer. In another example of impenetrable storytelling, the Hand’s magics have briefly given Wolverine, Sabretooth, and Shadowcat elements of each other’s personalities. This isn’t a bad idea for a story, but it’s poorly introduced and really doesn’t go anywhere. Wolverine has to outright say that Sabretooth now has his sense of honor, which contradicts a scene from two pages earlier that had Sabretooth declaring that he has no friends and planning his lone escape. This is supposed to set up the idea that Sabretooth hates Wolverine more than ever, because he’s now lived with Wolverine’s moral center and knows that he can’t live up to who he truly is. Again, this is a perfectly fine idea, but the execution is horribly botched.

The art is actually more of a mess than the previous issue, as Stephen Platt and Angel Unzueta do another last minute job. Platt was supposed to be one of the hottest artists of the ‘90s after his much-hyped run on Moon Knight, but he seemed to disappear after leaving for Image. Wizard loved his stuff due to his McFarlane-esque obsession with detail lines and heavy ink, but what we get here is a generic, stiff, early ‘90s style job without any excessive busyness to distract from the poor drawings. Unzueta’s pages look like a bizarre mix of Carlos Pacheco and Jeff Matsuda, and they’re really not any easier on the eyes. I’d complain about their storytelling skills, but it doesn’t seem as if there was a coherent story to tell in the first place.


rob said...

This reminds me of Claremont's return in 2000 - when, in certain stories, so many large plot developments allegedly happened between issues that it seems whole issues had passed (particularly bad in the slavers crossover story b/w the two titles). When the story is boring and uninteresting to begin with, this type of storytelling doesn't help.

Matt said...

Was Chris Claremont's run on Fantastic Four at this time also this incomprehensible? I seem to recall enjoying and being able to follow it, but if these Wolverine issues are anything to go by, maybe I'm misremembering!!

Jeff said...

I really enjoyed Claremont's Fantastic Four at this time. It wasn't groundbreaking, but I do remember it making sense. Maybe since he didn't have as much history with the characters he wasn't trying to continually shoehorn too much into each issue?

G. Kendall said...

I seem to recall his first arc with Technet and the Captain Britain Corps had a fairly unsatisfying ending. Other than that, I can't recall any storylines that were as confusing as this arc.

Mike Loughlin said...

Good Lord, I had forgotten about Wolverine pretending to be other superheroes. Those scenes were cringeworthy.

Bibs said...

This is a gigantic mess...

And #128 has to win the prize for most coloring mistakes ever made in a X-Men comic...Just look at scenes where Wolverine is fighting the Second Genesis X-Men...All of them are colored wrong at some point...ridiculous

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