Saturday, 31 December 2011

Wolverine #1: "Wolverine"

(Trouble and strife.)


This is the first issue in a miniseries that may or may not have been intended as a trial balloon for an ongoing Wolverine title.  In the end such a thing didn't come into being for another four six years.  It's still kind of hard to imagine a time in which interest in Wolverine might only be thought enough to sustain four books, especially how much faith was being shown in Dazzler.

There's definitely a very different tone here than in Claremont's UXM.  These kinds of tonal switches were something of a speciality of Claremont's back in the day - that's what made Excalibur so difficult to read.  In this case, though, it's very atmospheric (and somewhat decompressed, which adds to the sense of lonely space the issue trades in).  Wolverine's taciturn, weary narration in the opening pages as he hunts down both an insane, man-killing grizzly and the hunter responsible for its state gets right to the heart of what makes Logan, when written well, so interesting: not his capacity for rapacious violence, but his melancholy resignation of the fact that that's all he's really able to be. 

Indeed, the question of exactly what Wolverine can be is pretty important here.  With the set-up over, Logan flies to Japan to discover why his true love Mariko has vanished from New York.  Wolverine is convinced Mariko is completely out of his league, and not just culturally, something the art beautifully rams home by the way it presents Wolverine's photo of his love in amongst the muted panels.

Gorgeous. The whole book is well put together, in fact - full credit to Frank Miller - all muted tones and long shadows, colours standing in for emotions and silhouettes representing those deeds done at night best not thought of in daylight.

Once Logan arrives in Tokyo, he learns Mariko's presumed-dead father has returned, and has married Mariko off in order to pay an outstanding debt.  Despite her obvious wish to be left alone in her misery, Wolverine is determined to see her one last time, and breaks into the mansion he last saw in UXM #119.

He finds her beneath a Buddha statue in the garden.  She is not pleased to see him, there is too much pride in her.  It's amazing the lengths some people will go to in order to avoid an offer of help.  Not that there's any help to be given, at least as far as Mariko is concerned.  She loves her family's honour more than she does Logan, and that's simply all there is to it, despite the fact that her new husband is clearly beating her.  They are interrupted by the man himself, and Wolverine, of course, is immediately ready to gut him.  Mariko persuades him otherwise, however, and he leaves, heartbroken.

He doesn't get far - poisoned shuriken fly out from the darkness, and his healing factor drops him into a coma whilst it expels the deadly concoction.  He awakes before Lord Shingen - Mariko's father - and his two sumo bodyguards.  Mariko sits to one side, grief-stricken.  Shingen berates Wolverine, pouring scorn upon the arrogance that could make him consider himself worthy of someone of Yashida blood (yes, clearly Logan is the one with a superiority complex), and challenges him to a duel in order to humiliate him further.

Logan accepts immediately, and the surprisingly spry Shingen springs into action.  Brilliantly, it's all an exceptionally devious trap.  By choosing wooden swords, Shingen lets Mariko believe the duel is merely for show, but he immediately attempts to kill Wolverine by breaking his neck.  Lacking the necessary skill with a katana (he's good, but Shingen is exceptional), Logan's forced to toss his wooden blade aside and pop his claws, therefore giving the impression that a playful (if sour-natured) duel is enough to unleash his killing instinct.  Even with his claws, Wolverine cannot beat Shingen (though the Japanese Lord does not escape without injury), but that no longer matters: he has seemingly proven himself to Mariko the animal her father accused him of being.

He passes out, either from the pain, or the poison, or the overwhelming shame.  When he regains consciousness, he's out in the street, being threatened by some rather unpleasant "keep Japan pure!" types.  He lacks the strength to see them off, but luck is with him when they're dispatched for him.

Or is it really lucky?  His saviour, a woman strong enough to lift him into the air, has a simple message for him.  "mine, Wolverine.  Now -- and forever.>"

To be continued...


Wolverine's Canadian adventure lasts two days. He flies out to Japan the following morning, and the duel with Shingen (and presumably his return to consciousness) happen the following day.

We'll assume for now that this issue takes place immediately after UXM #160, which was published in the previous month.  Whether this assumption remains plausible after reading UXM Annual #6, which is next on the list, we shall see.


Wednesday 21st to Saturday 24th April, 1983.


X+5Y+21 to X+5Y+24.

Contemporary Events

The nuclear reactor at Kursk is forced to shut down following failure in its fuel rods.

Buster Crabbe passes away, aged 75.  Crabbe was probably most famous (especially for geeks) for portraying Flash Gordon in the 1936 serial (and its two sequels) that so enraged Annie Wilkes in Misery.

Standout Line

"Wooden practice swords?  Why not the real thing?"
"To be frank... you are not worthy of a true sword."

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