Monday, January 31, 2011

WOLVERINE: BLOOD HUNGRY - December 1993

Credits: Peter David (writer), Sam Kieth (art), Clem Robins, Dave Sharpe, & Steve Dutro (letters), Glynis Oliver (colors)

Summary: Cyber arrives in Madripoor, as Wolverine befriends a wolf in the woods. Soon, Wolverine confronts Cyber outside of General Coy’s office and is left hallucinating. He recovers in the wilderness, while Cyber offers both General Coy and Tiger Tyger a batch of hallucinogenic drugs. Wolverine eventually summons the courage to face Cyber again, just as Cyber double-crosses Coy and Tyger. During their fight, Wolverine’s wolf friend bites Cyber on his neck, sending him into a barrel of the drugs. Hallucinating wildly, Cyber disappears into the sea.

Continuity Notes: Wolverine knows Cyber from his past, but can’t remember how exactly. Cyber mentions that he has mental powers, which is apparently related to Wolverine’s memory loss (this is before the “implanted memories” story arc in Wolverine). In Wolverine’s hallucinations, he’s fighting Cyber over a blonde woman named Janet.

Production Note: This is a sixty-four page bookshelf one-shot, reprinting the Wolverine serial from Marvel Comics Presents #85-#92. There’s also a Beast serial in these issues, written by Scott Lobdell and penciled by Rob Liefeld and Jae Lee. How exactly did Marvel avoid reprinting this during the ‘90s?

Review: One of the few stories from MCP that stuck in continuity is the introduction of Cyber, who appeared occasionally as a villain in the’90s and was apparently revived inexplicably a few years ago in Wolverine Origins. I recall Larry Hama saying he disagreed with even the premise of the character, since the suggestion in this story is that Wolverine is afraid of Cyber. He has a point. If Wolverine isn’t afraid of death itself, he shouldn’t be afraid of retconned new villains from his past, either. In fairness, the story doesn’t actually say Wolverine is afraid of him, although Wolverine’s actions certainly leave you with that impression. The specific term used is that Cyber has placed a “mental block” on Wolverine, which is the source of his odd behavior.

The story doesn’t really hinge on whether or not Wolverine is honestly afraid of Cyber, or just responding to a mental command, so it’s actually not as controversial as I would’ve expected. It’s the type of Wolverine story that we’ve seen a thousand times today (mystery foe returns from Wolverine’s past, a few unreliable flashbacks occur, a previously unknown love is revealed…), but most of this was pretty new when the story was published in 1991. Almost half of the story is dedicated to hallucinations, which is one way to use Sam Kieth effectively. I don’t know if the script asked for Wolverine and Cyber to be driving comically phallic cars during the hallucination/flashback scenes, but it wouldn’t shock me to learn it was Kieth’s contribution. (Cyber’s is bigger by the way; he’s given the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, after all.) Kieth’s art is all over the place here, alternating between a weak McFarlane impression in some places to the signature “photo-realism meets ‘70s underground comix meets Frazetta” look he later developed. At this point, he’s still warming up for The Maxx, which I consider his greatest work by far.

As this is a comic packed full with hallucinations, David’s obligated to play around with some symbolism. For much of the hallucination, Wolverine views himself as a ‘50s greaser, competing with high school coach Cyber for the affections of the teenaged Janet. Wolverine’s the young punk, Cyber’s the bigger authority figure, and Janet’s just there to be fought over, although she definitely seems to prefer Cyber. We’re also introduced to two animals that make repeated appearances throughout the story, an aged wolf and a white cat. Wolverine encounters the wolf in the woods and feeds it pieces of a deer out of mercy. The cat he later meets outside of Coy’s office, and for some reason it follows him for the rest of the story. When Tyger meets them, she wonders if the wolf represents Wolverine and she’s supposed to be the cat. The cat doesn’t really do anything, yet at the story’s climax, he or she’s riding on top of the wolf as it bites Cyber and saves the day.

Perhaps the wolf is the Wolverine we’re all familiar with, and the cat represents the hidden vulnerabilities Wolverine never shows. I’m sure there’s some significance to the cat riding on top of the wolf at the end, but there’s an implication there that Wolverine needs this softer side to defeat Cyber, which isn’t conveyed by the main story. Honestly, the psychological examinations of Wolverine aren’t the highlight, but as a slightly wacky action story, it’s certainly enjoyable.

5 comments:

The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

It's interesting that this was the first Wolverine serial right after Barry WIndsor-Smith's fantastic Weapon X series in MCP. If MCP had always been the sleepy backwater where stuff happens that is never again mentioned, Weapon X changed that, and I recall there was quite a bit of attention paid to this serial as a consequence. Keith was just coming off his early run on Sandman, as a recall, so he was "hot."

That this was a damn weird story that probably alienated more readers than it attracted was, in hindsight, perhaps a questionable choice for a follow-up to WOLVERINE'S ORIGIN, but I think the idea was that, in a time before people were sick of Wolverine's origin, MCP would be the book that actually teased out some secrets on that score. The next few storylines also played with the concept as well, if I recall correctly.

What I remember most is just how off-the-wall this drug storyline was in a mainline Marvel comic CA 1991, one that carried the Code to boot.

Master Mahan said...

So that's the first appearance of Cyber? Interesting. I recall when Peter David used him for his X-Factor run, which was a story about how Strong Guy was scared of him.

Jason said...

I liked this story a lot as a kid. The gimmick of a guy with adamantium skin as an adversary for Wolverine was one of those things that's neat to a teenage comic-book fan. And Peter David's love of silly puns was on solid display, like when Coy meets Cyber for the first time:

"I am Coy."

"I myself am painfully shy."

Or in the hallucination when he first shows his claws to Janet.

"How do you keep 'em so shiny."

"With Weaponex. It's like Windex, but for weapons."

The ending kinda sucked, where it seemed like Wolverine's "mental block" was suddenly gotten over in the space of a couple panels. But other than that, this was awesome to me.

PeterCSM said...

I have the original MCP issues after #89 really caught my eye (and ended being on a few Marvel t-shirts and posters) back in the day. It's not a bad story. I don't mind Wolverine being "afraid" every once in a while. But like The Estate of Tim O'Neil said: 'MCP had always been the sleepy backwater where stuff happens that is never again mentioned, Weapon X changed that'. Just last Wednesday I had to convince that Weapon X took place in MCP. They thought they were reprints of the original story. Rarely does my limited comic book knowledge make me feel special but I certainly did last Wednesday!

Anonymous said...

I just read this today in 2013 (20 years or so after it was published)

It was absolutely AWESOME and cannot understand the criticism - truly an amazing piece of writing and art.

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