Monday, October 3, 2011

WOLVERINE #133 - January 1999

Losing Control

Credits: Erik Larsen (writer), Jeff Matsuda (penciler), Jonathan Sibal (inker), Jason Wright (colors), Comicraft (letters)

Summary: A female alien escapes captivity by possessing her captors. She lands on Earth and possesses a teenager in the woods. Meanwhile, Wolverine and Warbird drink in a bar. When a TV news report broadcasts Powerhouse’s attack on the UN, they leave to confront the mutant extremist. Wolverine defeats Powerhouse, but the inebriated Warbird is injured during the fight. Abruptly, a teenager races into the crime scene. The alien leaves his body and possesses Wolverine.

Continuity Notes: Powerhouse is an Erik Larsen creation who first appeared (without a name) in Spider-Man #15. She’s a prototype for the Savage Dragon character Rapture. Larsen also drew an alternate cover for this issue, which was used as the basis for the cover to Savage Dragon #61.

Miscellaneous Note: The final splash page of an evil, possessed Wolverine directly mimics the ending of Savage Dragon #14.

Review: I wasn’t too eager to continue buying Wolverine at this point, but I was a Savage Dragon fan at the time, so I was willing to give Larsen a chance. He lost me before this arc finished. In retrospect, this storyline actually isn’t so bad, but at the time I had a hard time getting past Matsuda’s art, and found a lot of the dialogue irredeemably bad. When online fans made similar complaints, I recall Larsen admitting that Lenil Francis Yu would’ve been a better choice as artist, and he revealed that editorial had rewritten more than a few pages of the story. While Yu does eventually return, the editorial rewrites never stop. Reading Larsen’s issue-by-issue catalog of rewrites online (for Wolverine and Nova) was surreal. I was used to freelancers complaining about rewrites after they left a book, but not during their run.

Larsen did a lot of press before his run began, so even though his stint on the book wasn’t very long, we have a clear idea of how he interpreted the character and what he wanted to do with the title. Larsen’s complaint, even though he admitted he wasn’t a regular reader of the book, was that Wolverine spent too much time fighting ninjas, guys in trenchcoats, and Sabretooth. He wanted to see Wolverine face off against Blastaar or Annihilus. That didn’t seem to represent the sentiment of most fans, who wanted the books to be even more “realistic,” but I think it’s a legitimate way to go. At least it’s not another recycling of the original Claremont/Miller miniseries. Obviously, it’s all in the execution, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with pitting Wolverine against Avengers and Fantastic Four villains. It probably would’ve been best to mix them in with some of the established villains instead of wildly going off in a new direction, though, given the amount of sheer hate these opening issues generated.

The new art and direction for Wolverine, coupled with the frosty responses to the “Hunt for Xavier” and “Magneto War” crossovers, contributed to a strong backlash against the X-titles in 1998/1999. I don’t know if too many of the vocal haters actually stopped buying the books, but the overall sentiment of fans online was intensely negative. Regardless, this isn’t a bad start for the run. My major complaint at this point is Matsuda’s artwork, which is already looking rushed and inconsistent.


Matt said...

I liked Erik Larsen's brief run on this title. I'm surprised to learn there was internet backlash against it. I thought this first story arc was a bit too cosmic, but it settled down afterwards and I found it quite enjoyable (even if it turned out retroactively that it wasn't even the real Wolverine starring in it).

Is there anyplace where the rewrites can still be seen? I'm curious about that...

kerry said...

I tought I had remembered Larsen saying he hand-picked Matsuda for it, citing his desire to make Wolverine an "all-ages" book? Maybe I'm misremembering.

Edward said...

I also enjoyed this arch, especially the alien girl. Too bad we only found out the truth about Wolverine lots of XM issues down the road.
Still a fun period though.

G. Kendall said...

Matt: Larsen mostly commented on the old Savage Dragon message board and the X-Men usenet group. He also discussed the corrections in the Savage Dragon letters page and a couple of interviews. For example, the splash page debut of the lobster-man in a future issue was supposed to be a silent scene, as opposed to what it looked like after the editors were done with it.

Kerry: I assume Larsen's a fan of Matsuda's since he hired him to draw some Dragon material. He said that Yu might've been a better choice after the storyline was over, I believe.

Lebeau2501 said...

I had no idea Erik Larsen wrote for Wolverine. I'll have to back issue it. It would have been awesome if he had penciled it, too, but I guess Savage Dragon fans would have been disappointed.

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