Wednesday, 4 January 2012

WOL #2: "Debts And Obligations"

(The land of masks and stages.)


My my.  A double splash. Another staple (often maddeningly so) of modern day comics has arrived.  At least it's gorgeous, though:

If only Miller had stuck to pencils, rather than jingoism and homophobia
That scan (shamelessly stolen from doesn't do it justice, really.  Like the rest of the comic (and the one that preceded it) it's pretty simple, but all the more effective for that.

As you can see above, Wolverine has woken from his poison-induced delirium to find himself and his rescuer Yukio surrounded by the ninjas of the Hand (who Logan apparently hasn't heard of, rather surprisingly, though at the time of writing this issue the Hand had only been introduced a year earlier, and hadn't accumulated the massive weight of back story it currently lays claim to).  Unsurprisingly, Wolverine begins the carving process, allowing him time to think conveniently recap-like thoughts, with a running commentary on how his abilities aid him in combat in addition.  Indeed, I'm trying to think if Claremont's written anything like this before, a first person narrative that specifically references the fact that Wolverine is telling a story ("Something I forgot to mention"), rather than simply providing a simple account of what's going on in a character's head (which in itself I don't remember him doing often).

Much like last time, this gives the comic a very distinctive voice and feel, and reinforces the impression from last time around that fighting is something Wolverine does exceptionally well, but doesn't really thrill him the way one might expect, considering his bellicosity.  The fight itself, in short, isn't really the point, though that doesn't mean he isn't utterly terrifying when his blood is up, as the art takes great pains to remind us.

Once Wolverine has polished off his RDA of ninja-killing, he brings Yukio back to his hotel before the cops can arrive. There she tells him the Hand are working for her enemy, a man who intends to upgrade from criminal lord to politician (well, I say "upgrade"...)  He promises to protect her, which rather pricks her pride, so she tries to stab him.  He deflects the blow, however, which impresses her, so she tries to sleep with him.  Are there really women who'd do that?  I mean, there are obviously men who would.  You could stick the minds of Hitler and Richard Littlejohn into the heads of the Faiers sisters and there's still literally not a Zoo reader alive who wouldn't try to fuck them in a hotel hot tub.

We switch our scene to the Meguro district, then (as now) one of the most exclusive areas of Tokyo.  Mariko and her husband are waiting to see her father, but he's not accepting visitors.  Moments later, though, they're gazumped by a woman hiding her face beneath a wide-brimmed hat and voluminous coat, who gains entry simply by terrifying the door man.

And gosh, wouldn't you know it - it turns out it's Yukio!  Who could see that coming?  She's rather annoyed that the Hand ninjas sent to persuade Wolverine that she was in deadly danger were playing their parts a little too well (though as Shingen notes, Logan's too smart to fall for half-measures).  Shingen is nonplussed - what's the point of hiring an expensive assassin if she can't survive a ninja attack? - and - lucky for us! - reminds her of the plan:
  1. Take Wolverine and follow Mariko and her husband to a peace conference with Katsuyori, Shingen's rival;
  2. Kill Katsuyori whilst simultaneously protecting Mariko from harm;
  3. Finish off the now useless Wolverine.
Wolverine lives up to his reputation and sneaks himself and Yukio into the kabuki theatre being used for the meeting.  As far as he's concerned, Katsuyori is a threat to Yukio, but his intention is to lean on him rather than chop him up.  This plan changes considerably of course when Wolverine catches sight of Mariko, especially since seconds later a member of the kabuki troop draws a very real katana and lunges forward at her.

Wolverine intercepts the blow and disembowels the assailant for good measure.  Whilst he sets about massacring his cronies, Katsuyori and his wife flee the scene, only for their car to explode as they try to leave.  Yukio's work. 

After some unknowable measure of time, Wolverine stops killing, because there's no-one within reach left alive.  A bone-deep cut drove him into a beserker rage but, not to be too purple about it, a worse wound is to come.  Mariko watched it all, her eyes so sad and wide I'm not sure she was even able to blink.

Wordlessly, she turns, and wordlessly, Wolverine lets her go.  He spent all this time hiding what he was, what is he to do now the secret is finally out?

Yukio gloats in the shadows.  She knows what Wolverine is to do.  He will be coming for her.


Placing this story is slightly difficult, since it's impossible to know for how long Wolverine was unconscious.  It seems likely that this is still the same night, however, partially because of the speed of Logan's healing factor (the damage he takes from the ninjas is gone by the time he and Yukio arrive at his hotel room), and partially because it rather tarnishes the Hand ninja's reputation (which has yet to be ground into the dirt at this point) to believe it took them a full day to track their quarry.

We shall therefore assume he awakes on the same night, after midnight.  The attack on Katsuyori takes place the following evening.


Sunday 25th April, 1983.



Contemporary Events

Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine received a response to this letter, sent in November of the previous year:
Dear Mr. Andropov,
My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren't please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.
Samantha Smith
(It's the "Congratulations on the new job" that sells it, I think).  The reply, written personally by Andropov, invited Smith to visit the USSR, which she did, concluding that the Russians were "just like us", and suggesting that major world leaders host each others' grandchildren for a few weeks of every year, in order to dissuade governments from declaring war their grandchildren would be visiting.

Standout Line

"<If you think me skilled in the arts of war... Wait 'til you see me perform those of love.>"

Ugh.  I mean, I realise a lot of assassins won't spend much time honing their seduction technique, but even so.  And once you realise Yukio is working for Shingen, this gets even worse, because at some point either he or Yukio herself figured the best way to seduce Wolverine would be to try and stab him to death immediately beforehand.

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