Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WOLVERINE ‘97 - November 1997

Heart of the Beast

Credits: John Ostrander & Joe Edkin (writers), Leonardo Manco (art), Comicraft (letters), Shannon Blanchard (colors)

Summary: In his past as a secret agent, Wolverine helped Russian scientist Dimitri Suhkarov and his daughter Viktoria escape the USSR. Although Wolverine escaped with Viktoria, Russian agent Volk intercepted the rescue mission and killed Dimitri. Today, Viktoria works for the Canadian Secret Service. She informs Wolverine that Volk has been sent to kill him, and that KGB experiments have given him the ability to morph into a wolf-creature. Soon, Volk has kidnapped Viktoria and goaded Wolverine into following him to Russia. During their fight, Volk is finally pushed into a true wolf form. Content as an animal, he abandons the fight and joins a wolf pack. Wolverine realizes that this is what Volk wanted all along, but Viktoria is still adamant about finding Volk and killing him.

Continuity Notes: Viktoria is listed as a member of Xavier’s Mutant Underground, although that doesn’t play a role in the story. Government agent Bowser, a character from this wondrous era of X-Factor, hires Volk to kill Wolverine in retaliation for his role in ending Operation: Zero Tolerance. However, Bowser’s Hound program and OZT were two separate entities (at least, that’s the impression I get when trying to decipher X-Factor)

Review: So, what do you do when you’re writing a one-off Wolverine story? Either you tell a story about his past as a secret agent, or you manipulate circumstances so that Wolverine is forced to fight his animal rage. If you’re doing a double-sized book, it’s possible to work them both in. There’s nothing new here, but the execution is competent, and Leonardo Manco, who’s perfectly suited for Wolverine, is drawing it. Volk’s clearly designed to be an evil doppelganger of Wolverine, and while I think he serves his role in the story, the creators have made the mistake of giving him blonde hair and facial features virtually identical to Sabretooth. On paper, Volk might be a wolf-man, but in the published comic, he just looks like Sabretooth in civilian clothes.

The twist at the end of the story reveals that Volk never really wanted to fight Wolverine; he just wanted an opponent good enough to push him over the edge so that he can finally become a wolf. Wolverine’s willing to let him go (even though he killed Dimitri Suhkarov, and a friend of Wolverine’s during another encounter) because he feels there’s no need to punish an animal. Viktoria refuses to forgive, though, and goes into the woods to (somehow) track down a wolf that used to be human. Viktoria’s obviously supposed to represent the darker side of human nature, as Wolverine muses that perhaps he’s misread his berserker rages all of these years. He says that an animal only kills for survival, while humans act out of anger and revenge. Yes, it’s his human nature he’s been fighting all along. I don’t necessarily buy the reasoning (animals only kill for survival, literally, every time?), but the closing monologue is well written, and the twist makes the story feel less generic.

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