Thursday, June 29, 2017


WOLVERINE #11 - Early September 1989
If you thought you weren’t getting enough Wolverine before his solo series, now you’re getting WOLVERINE twice a month! No wonder Claremont left.

Peter David returns, while Buscema is joined by Sienkiewicz, reinventing the book’s visuals. The lushness is gone, replaced by sketchy lines. I’m happy either way, although the darker art doesn’t match the story. David is going for comedy for much of the arc, with Wolverine as the well-intentioned friend who’s thrown into a wild adventure.

Archie Corrigan’s past is fleshed out a bit, as we discover that his brother has mental problems and is soon to lose the family’s wealth. Burt Corrigan routinely convinces himself that he’s movie heroes, and this time it’s Indiana Jones. Who knew that the public would become so sensitive to these issues one day that this story might be deemed offensive? Who knew that a massive media conglomerate would own both Marvel and the Indiana Jones property?

WOLVERINE #12 - Late September 1989
More of Wolverine and friends being chased around San Fran by vampires. Supposedly, there’s a long-unspoken ban on car chases in comics, but this one isn’t so bad.  David’s script is thick with one-liners, although he manages to keep Wolverine’s character pretty consistent throughout.  There’s a flimsy excuse for everyone to return to Madripoor at the end, but I get the sense that David couldn’t care less about the setting.

WOLVERINE #13 - Early October 1989
More Gehenna Stone, more PAD jokes, more Nowlan covers that I didn’t like as a kid…

This issue, Wolverine confronts the leader of the Gehenna cult, while two brothers who’ve acquired a piece of the stone end up in Madripoor, coincidentally. They end up killing each other in the Princess Bar.

All of these chapters on their own have been fine. The art’s great, and the story keeps moving at a decent pace. Overall, though, there’s a sense that any hero could’ve been plugged into this story, which is often a problem with these WOLVERINE fill-ins. There haven’t been enough solo tales to define what a Wolverine story really is, so the title suffers while Marvel decides what to do post-Claremont.

Another note about the issue -- it’s the final one to feature Wolverine out of costume. The experiment lasted just under a year.

WOLVERINE #14 - Late October 1989
As the cover indicates, Wolverine is now dressing like Wolverine.

Story-wise, there’s no justification for this. Logan declares that he wants to change into something “apropos.” This happens while on a plane ride to Madripoor, where he’s explicitly hiding his Wolverine identity -- so, this makes zero sense. Clearly, this had to be editorial fiat. I don’t know if sales were harmed by the initial decision to downplay the superhero element, but I wonder today if perhaps I wasn’t so excited by this book as a kid because it didn’t truly resemble other Marvel books. Were there legions of kids not buying WOLVERINE because they didn’t see that costume on the cover?

The big revelation this issue - Jessica Drew has always known Logan is Patch. Certainly not what Claremont intended, although I’m not sure if it harms the status quo. Jessica can keep a secret, so the X-Men will remain “ghosts.” It’s amusing Marvel launched WOLVERINE during the time Claremont was adamant about keeping them “dead” to the world.

WOLVERINE #15 - Early November 1989
Apparently, this cover gave us the standard WOLVERINE corner box art.

I’ve never understood why this figure was selected. Nowlan’s style doesn’t match any of the regular artists on this title, the pose is awkward, and the recycling just feels cheap. Was Marvel in a hurry to reassure fans that, no, Wolverine really does wear his real outfit in this book?

This issue - Wolverine is mocked thoroughly for his Patch disguise, the Madripoor cast is enchanted by the Gehenna Stone and tries to kill each other, and the Prince joins forces with Ba’al, the ancient evil god who created the stone. No real justification for this story to still be going, but it’s mindlessly entertaining. Peter David has Wolverine utter his first pun, which is also the first time David’s attempt at a jokier Logan falls flat. The rest of this story has actually managed to keep Logan jokey and in-character.

WOLVERINE #16 - Late November 1989
The final issue in the collection, and the storyline. Thankfully, this Epic reprint doesn’t drop off on a cliffhanger, which I wish was a basic rule.

There’s an attempt at making this specifically a Wolverine story, and fan reaction was mixed. David never outright says that Wolverine represents the “Hand of God,” but he steps right up to the edge. Not only does Wolverine feel in touch with a higher power, and is compelled to offer an earnest prayer, when facing Ba’al, but he’s remained immune to the Gehenna Stone throughout the arc. It is a role that you couldn’t place Spider-Man into, and I suppose Wolverine’s healing power leaves the door open to this interpretation. But that’s not really how people want to see Wolverine, is it?

The rest of the trade is a thick collection of promo interviews and art for the series. I love seeing this stuff reprinted. The people working in Marvel’s trade department deserve immense credit for the work that they’re doing. Not only is the fanzine press of the era represented, but even unused covers that appeared in MARVEL AGE are slotted in. As a reprint collection (an affordable one!), this is a fantastic package.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


I’ve never seen that Art Adams cover before. Surprised it hasn’t been recycled endlessly like his CLASSIC X-MEN #1 cover.

This was a preview for WOLVERINE #1, that’s actually been placed after issue #3 in this collection. I like the way the editors don’t just toss stories out there; they want to make them fit. I’ll play “umm, actually” and point out that it should be placed sometime after #4, however, because Logan doesn’t know Gen. Coy is in Madripoor at this point.

Calling this a story is generous. Wolverine wanders Madripoor, and all of the X-teams somehow make quick, unexplained, cameo appearances. It’s worth reprinting, though, because it’s by the original creative team, and I love when the Epic collections find these obscure pieces that no one remembers. 

WOLVERINE #4 - February 1989
These opening pages are Orzechowski at the height of his hand-lettering days. There’s just as much character in the lettering as the art, but it isn’t distracting at all. It’s also Orz’s last issue as letterer, which I suppose helped to give WOLVERINE an identity separate from UNCANNY X-MEN, but it feels like a real loss.

This issue, Claremont makes his greatest strides in establishing the world of the series. New villains and supporting cast members, like the pilot Archie Corrigan, are introduced, while Claremont leftovers from SPIDER-WOMAN and NEW MUTANTS also join the cast. I’ve always admired the way Claremont seems to have a plan for any character who had more than a walk-on appearance in one of his books. Allegedly, he has notebooks packed with plot ideas for all of these obscure characters.

I’ve never heard of a clear reason why Bloodsport’s name was changed to Bloodscream. Was it really to avoid a lawsuit from the “Bloodsport” movie producers?

Not that this goes anywhere, but having Jessica Drew play against Logan’s acceptance of Tyger is a smart idea. Wolverine figures she’s the “good” crimelord, because she doesn’t deal in drugs or slaves. Jessica doesn’t want to side with any criminal. 

What Tyger actually DOES do for money isn’t clear, aside from some scenes establishing that she runs joyhouses (Code-approved brothels). We’re told she’s a crimelord, but what that entails is murky.

WOLVERINE #5 - March 1989
The debut of Hardcase & the Harriers, some of them at least, a paramilitary team that didn’t take off. Even though the Harriers all resemble background GI JOE players, Hama had no use for them. Hardcase later appeared in WOLVERINE as a parody of Cable clones, even though Erik Larsen didn’t seem to know that Hardcase predated Cable’s debut.  

Another oddity this issue - Psylocke’s Inferno-era armor debuts…months after it’s already appeared in UNCANNY X-MEN. Jessica and Lindsay discover it in the offices of Landau, Luckman, & Lake, which also debuts here. I’m assuming Claremont had some secret origin in mind for the armor, and LL&L, but I doubt we’ll ever discover it. I’ll repeat again that it’s a shame X-MEN FOREVER didn’t cover this territory. 

While Hardcase offers no real threat, Wolverine spends much of the issue fighting Coy’s hired guards. An extended fight scene featuring an Anglo hero fighting minority foes, and there’s no scene like this to make it okay. 

Oh, how backwards we were in 1989. And 1999. And 2009. Comics had yet to reach peak wokeness.

WOLVERINE #6 - April 1989
Tyger is rescued, while Karma joins Wolverine’s side and Claremont drops very Claremontian hints that never paid off.

Karma’s working with her criminal uncle in order to rescue her missing siblings. No payoff (from Claremont).

The armor that appears to be Psylocke’s was apparently not forged by “mortal hands.” No payoff.

Archie Corrigan is somehow a “disgrace” to his uniform. No payoff.

I’m convinced that Claremont did have resolutions in mind, it’s just clear that they weren’t deemed a priority at the time.

One continuing theme of the series is the thin line between heroes and villains in Madripoor. This issue, Karma is inspired to become a hero again, thanks to Wolverine’s influence. (Wolverine’s arc from rebel to mainstay had already been completed. And it’s a testament to Claremont’s skills that fans still embraced the character.) Meanwhile, their big heroic mission is to save one crimelord from another.

The promise of seeing Wolverine “cut loose” has him slicing Bloodsport’s throat…off-panel. It’s all amazingly tame today, but it was as close to edgy as Marvel was going to get in 1989.

WOLVERINE #7 - May 1989
The status quo continues to evolve - the Prince declares that Coy & Tyger will both serve as crimelords. Since Tyger doesn’t touch drugs or slaves, Coy can handle the nasty stuff. Wolverine gives some rationale on why this is okay. It’s another way duality is introduced into the series. Both Tyger & Coy are morally flawed, but only together can they make life work in Madripoor.

Meanwhile, the Hulk appears, in scenes that were supposed to be colored as night, but weren’t. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be that big a deal, but Hulk only comes out at night in these comics, and that plays to the issue’s cliffhanger.

Another sign this was intended as an “older” Marvel book of the era - two attempted rape scenes in one issue. Not that anything happens, of course. We also learn the Prince is an obsessed fan of Lindsay’s and it’s played as a joke. Jessica questions if this is a man who would ever accept “no,” however.

More odd continuity - Lindsay can remove Psylocke’s (?) armor, but Tyger can’t. Wolverine has the “ultimate key,” because he commissioned it from “a friend.” 

WOLVERINE #8 - June 1989
Hulk, split between Joe Fixit and Banner, is here for a silly guest spot, but Claremont is still mindful of the theme. Just as Madripoor’s Lowtown and Hightown represent the two sides of Wolverine, and Tyger and Jessica Drew represent his dueling animal/hero natures, Hulk is also two people residing in one body.

I always liked this issue as a kid. Wolverine spends much of the story conspiring ways to put the Hulk back into purple pants. And in the closing pages, it’s heavily implied that Hulk has seen through the “Patch” disguise, so he ends up with a small victory over the hero. 

WOLVERINE #9 - July 1989
The first of many, so many, WOLVERINE fill-in issues.

It’s possible this was inventory, maybe a MARVEL FANFARE story, that was slotted in. The final page reveals that the entire story’s been a flashback, and there’s some attempt to have Logan declare that he isn’t the same man we see in the story.

The plot treats Wolverine as the Punisher, methodically tracking down mercenaries and killing them for their actions in Iraq five years ago. Wolverine says he was “Weapon X” then, and then claims the flashback was also years ago, so…how long were we to believe Wolverine’s been an X-Man? He also appears in his yellow outfit, another hint that the story might’ve been lying around for a while. Then again, I don’t think Peter David was writing freelance for Marvel during the yellow costume days, so maybe this was intended for WOLVERINE.

While the story plays out like an EC morality tale, David still makes an effort to maintain Wolverine’s unique moral code. He assures the reader that he takes no joy in killing, and only finds happiness in innocence. The mercenaries have to die because they stole that innocence from someone, and he’s keeping a promise he made years ago. This was all pretty daring stuff for Marvel in the ‘80s…now, it reads as a template WOLVERINE solo tale from the early Quesada years.

WOLVERINE #10 - August 1989
The comic that cemented Sabretooth’s place as Wolverine’s major villain. The seeds were planted during “Mutant Massacre,” but this was the moment that a generation of kids forgot that Sabretooth was a lame henchman character, along the lines of the Constrictor, and embraced him as Wolverine’s evil opposite.

It’s still so early in Sabretooth’s development, his name is spelled “Sabre-Tooth.”

The fight here has been revisited numerous times. And, done properly, it could’ve been an excellent set piece in one of the movies. Instead, it was thoroughly botched in that first WOLVERINE movie.

Another significance of the issue is that it’s one of the extremely rare Wolverine flashback stories from this era. One of the first ever -- I think the KITTY PRYDE & WOLVERINE mini might’ve had a flashback, but other than that, Claremont tended to avoid them.

It’s also the final Claremont issue, although he leaves with no fanfare. His return is over 100 issues away, and perhaps the less said about that the better. The internal politics of Madripoor are still in play, as we learn that Jessica & Lindsay have set up shop in a “bawdy house” under the Prince’s command. None of the post-Claremont writers wanted to touch this stuff. The closest anyone came was the Goodwin run, which used Madripoor effectively as a setting, but I believe avoided the politics.

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