Summary: Neil Langram, partner of Canadian special agent Logan, is killed by Sabretooth. Logan and his friend Carol Danvers investigate his murder and uncover a conspiracy to keep the existence of mutants a secret. They find Dr. Perry Edwards, an author who has written a book about the rise of superhumans, on a list held by a secret branch of Department H. Logan and Carol travel to America and protect him from agents sent to kill him. Perry’s research has pointed him towards the Hellfire Club, where Logan investigates but finds no answers. Sebastian Shaw watches the incident and asks Sabretooth to intervene. Back in Canada, Logan and Carol discover the bodies of Dr. Edwards and numerous government officials. Sabretooth appears, explaining that mutants are choosing sides and rogue agents must be killed. Sabretooth sets off a bomb, but Logan’s powers enable him to survive and protect Carol. As Carol recovers from her injuries, Logan leaves Department H and heads for the Yukon.
Production Note: This is a forty-eight page bookshelf format book, with a cover price of $5.95.
Continuity Notes: Where to start on this one? The story takes place during Wolverine’s days as a secret agent. This is after his Cold War stint with Team X, but before the Weapon X project that gave him an adamantium skeleton. The ending is problematic since it has Wolverine abandoning Department H (and Department H apparently turning against him) and moving to the Yukon. The Weapon X serial opens with Wolverine still working as a Department H agent when he’s kidnapped and implanted with adamantium.
Carol Danvers’ role lead many people to question if this story was even canon when it was released. The story keeps reminding us that she’s younger than she seems (she claims to be under the legal drinking age at one point), but Wolverine keeps making references to the number of years they’ve worked together. I wonder if the “she’s so young” lines were added after the story was plotted when someone realized that Carol isn’t old enough to fit in with this time in Wolverine’s life. However, there’s still a cameo by Angel as a boy during the Hellfire Club scene, which would make Carol at least ten years older than him. Making this even murkier is Wolverine #-1, which takes place after Wolverine is bonded with adamantium, and has Wolverine meeting Carol Danvers for the first time. Wolverine has memory issues, but Carol doesn’t, does she?
Another potential continuity problem is Wolverine facing a group of Hellfire Club guards years before their first “official” meeting during the Dark Phoenix Saga. Also, the Hellfire Club has an “Inner Circle” at this point, but I believe that term didn’t exist until Sebastian Shaw took over years later. In their earliest appearances during the Claremont/Cockrum UXM issues, they were the “Council of the Chosen.”
Let’s just declare this one “out-of-continuity,” okay?
Review: Before Wolverine officially had annuals, Marvel would release one bookshelf format Wolverine comic each year, usually with a pretty high-profile creative team. Wolverine already had annuals by 1996, but that didn’t stop Marvel from producing a few more bookshelf comics. It’s possible a series of these were planned, as another Logan one-shot was released in 1996. If you’re willing to overlook the continuity headaches (although that seems to defeat the purpose of a prequel story), this actually isn’t half-bad. The basic idea focuses on what exactly Wolverine and Sabretooth were doing when the existence of mutants first became public knowledge, which is an era that’s largely been ignored. We know that Wolverine and various other characters from the X-universe had superheroic adventures in the shadows for decades, so exploring what they were doing as Professor Xavier and Sebastian Shaw began searching for mutants has potential. I’m not familiar with Mark Jason’s other work, but he manages to write a natural, believable script for much of the story (I really wish he’d drop the “best there is” lines, though). Considering some of Howard Mackie’s clunkers on X-Factor during this era, perhaps it’s best that he didn’t finish the issue.
Wolverine is normally clothed as a redneck while in civilian clothes, but Tomm Coker pushes the secret agent angle and instead dresses him in tight dress shirts and sunglasses (which look rather feminine to me, but I doubt he was going for that). It reminds me of the metrosexual makeover the character received after the first X-Men movie came out, although thankfully we’re spared the soul patch. The new look doesn’t really suit the character, but Coker’s art is still the highlight of the book. His style is somewhere in-between Bill Sienkiewicz, John Romita, Jr., early Chris Bachalo, and Klaus Janson. If I’m naming that many people it means I have no idea how to describe his style, but it suits the tone of the story and seems appropriate for a more “artistic” prestige-format book. A few of the pages look a little awkward, which might be the ones handled by the co-artists. The final product, though, looks very nice overall. If the story went through a few rewrites, I could see this worthy of its lofty format.