Credits: Erik Larsen (writer), Jeff Matsuda (penciler), Jonathan Sibal (inker), Jason Wright (colors), Comicraft (letters)
Summary: The possessed Wolverine attacks nearby police officers, leading Vision, Justice, and Firestar to try and stop him. Numerous heroes soon arrive to fight Wolverine, but none can defeat him. Finally, the alien possessing him reveals that she’s been wrongly held on a prison world that holds representatives of alien races captive. She’s heard stories of the legendary X-Man Wolverine and escaped to Earth to seek his help. Meanwhile, the Collector is informed that the alien Zennan has escaped.
Creative Differences: Hawkeye was originally in Erik Larsen’s script, but editor Mark Powers replaced him with Vision to make the story fit with Avengers and Thunderbolts continuity. However, Wolverine’s method of dispatching the Avenger was left unchanged, so in the published issue, the normally intangible Vision is grabbed by Wolverine and thrown into a van.
Review: It’s a “Wolverine vs. Everybody” story, long before Mark Millar got the idea to stretch the same plot out over six issues. There’s no mistaking that the basic premise of this issue is pretty dumb. The woman allegedly needs Wolverine’s urgent help, yet she has the time to “test” him against a dozen or so Marvel superheroes in a continuous string of gratuitous fight scenes. Ideally, any “testing” would’ve been satisfied by the opening fight with three of the Avengers, but that wouldn’t satisfy the issue’s gimmick. And, once you accept the fact that this is just a gimmicky action story, it’s a lot easier to enjoy the ridiculousness.
Larsen’s choice of heroes is anything but obvious (Moon Knight, Black Cat, U.S. Agent, Falcon, Rage, Black Widow, Speedball, etc.), so the sheer novelty of seeing these characters in a Wolverine story is amusing. Larsen’s also thrown in two Spider-Man anti-heroes he designed, Cardiac and Solo. Solo’s anti-terror motivation gives him a shaky justification for joining the other heroes, but Cardiac is clearly there because Larsen wants to see the character again. Cardiac’s gimmick is that he targets individuals who exploit legal loopholes; he’s never been portrayed as a “patrolling the streets” vigilante. I guess it’s conceivable that he wouldn’t allow Wolverine to terrorize Manhattan if he came across him, so it’s not a total stretch, but I wish more of the character’s individuality could’ve been maintained.
Matsuda’s art still looks too rushed for much of the issue, but when he’s on his game, the cartoony style works quite well. I’ve never seen a manga-style U. S. Agent before, but I kind of like it. This chapter of the story is probably the one best suited for his style, because starting with the next issue the story takes a weird turn into prison drama/space opera. At that point, his work looks particularly out of place. This installment, as goofy as it is, might turn out to be the best installment of the arc. If you’re willing to accept it as a “don’t think too hard” action issue, it’s fun.