Thursday, 5 January 2012
WOL #3: "Loss"
(Some masks you discard, others are torn away.)
Ah, what a broken heart can do to a man. It affects all of us differently, of course. Wolverine's coping mechanism would appear to be getting drunk, screwing Yukio, and engaging in illegal sumo brawls in skeezy Tokyo bars. Each, as they, to their own. At least he keeps winning. And apparently Yukio really is as skilled in "[the arts] of love" as she claimed - when Wolverine's old friend Asano (presumably of the koanchosa-cho) shows up to beg his help in protecting Japan from the newly-crowned king of the entire Japanese underworld, Wolverine threatens to maim him if he doesn't back off, so Logan and Yukio can go do the wild thing. Hand ninjas watch the scene from above, but are waiting for something before they strike.
Perhaps they're just enjoying the spectacle - Wolverine's so drunk that the only reason Yukio fails to have him do her on the train tracks is that the actual train shows up and nearly flattens them both. Wolverine is so angry about this he falls asleep, and dreams of finding Mariko once more, and her once more rejecting him (all whilst imagining he's a humble ronin in feudal Japan, and that the colour blue doesn't exist. This series really is wonderfully illustrated).
The Hand, apparently aware that they won't get to see Logans adamantium boner after all, leap to the attack whilst Wolverine snores. Lord Shingen is somewhat displeased that Yukio hasn't assassinated her diminutive pet psychopath yet. She promises to do the deed immediately, though notes that his metal-clad skeleton will make finishing him off quite tricky. The Hand hoods suggest cutting out his heart, which she agrees to, which means a) the alleged death-on-legs silent killing machines of the Hand don't know what a ribcage is, and b) Yukio is playing them for saps. Indeed, moments later, she uses her blades to dispatch her former comrades. Wolverine is woken by the scuffle, but calls his saviour "Mariko", which earns him a kick to the face that knocks him down again. Yukio flees into the night, leaving five ninjas dead, and one unconscious and a mutant.
She returns to the hotel room, and laments her poor fortune. It seems that Yukio has broken the number one rule of being evil - don't pretend to fall in love with someone for your own gain only to actually fall in love with them (see also Liasons, Dangerous). Fortunately an intruder breaks her out of her reverie, and she crouches beside the door as it slowly opens to reveal someone entering gun-first.
I don't think it's particularly difficult to work out who the mysterious breaker/enterer is, but the comic doesn't keep us in suspense in any case: once Wolverine awakes he returns to the room, and finds Asano dead on the floor, one of Yukio's blades buried just below his clavicle. For a moment I was confused as to why that would kill someone, but of course the blades are poisoned. Wolverine can smell it. The same poison the shuriken that nailed him outside Shingen's place were coated in. Logan immediately pieces together what's happened (though I'd have though Occam's Razor would simply suggest that two different people are using the same poison). Yukio emerges from the darkness, but runs when Logan confronts her.
Wolverine gives chase, still working things through in his head. Katsuyori must have been all that stood between Shingen and total control, he realises, and Yukio killed Asano to prevent him warning Wolverine that by helping remove Katsuyori from the chess board, he's helped his enemy become the leader of the Japanese criminal community. "I gave her my heart" he concludes, throwing one of Yukio's own blades at her, burying it deep in her back, "And she killed my friend".
With Yukio injured, catching her is easy. Killing her is trickier. Love and hatred and betrayal and self-loathing make for a confusing cocktail, and Logan is still trying to convince himself to strike the killing blow when another team of Hand ninjas interrupt. This fight doesn't go any better for Japan's premier 1HP mook service than the last few did, but it does give Yukio cover to escape (killing two ninjas into the bargain, prompting Wolverine to wonder whether they were a threat to her, or to himself).
With the fight over, Logan has time to take in his surroundings - a zen garden. The violent fracas has reduced its calm and ordered configuration. This is not a particularly subtle metaphor, of course, but metaphors of any kind are to be welcomed in early '80s comics. Having Wolverine spell it out ("Order turned to chaos. The story of my life.") probably goes too far, but it's a nice moment nonetheless, as he considers the two women he's failed - Mariko, for letting her see the beast inside, and Yukio, for not surrendering to that beast completely. He wants to be what Mariko needs him to be, but he can never make it stick, and nor can he shut down the parts of him that would, once gone, allow him to be happy in what he is.
But simply because one failed, it does not mean one should not have tried. Some see madness in climbing over and over again, only to fall each time. Others see a nobility in that, a realisation that sometimes we fight not because we know we'll win, or even have any reason to hope we'll ever win. We fight because it is important to us that we know we didn't surrender. Nothing of any worth, no man of any measure, came to be because there was no chance of failure.
What else is Wolverine to do then, except to begin to restore the garden? And, whilst he does so, swear two things to himself. Firstly: he will not stop trying, simply because he has failed before.
Secondly: that vicious prick Shingen is going down.
This story picks up some time after the ending of WOL #2. Clearly at least a little time must have passed - I can't believe Logan would immediately shack up with Yukio, no matter how badly Mariko's rejection must have messed him up. He also mentions that he and Yukio have carved a trail of drunken destruction across Tokyo, which presumably takes some time despite the efficiency of the local train network.
Thirdly, the consolidation of underworld power mentioned by Asano presumably didn't happen the very instant Yukio's car-bomb finished off Katsuyori. All told, I think we should probably leave a week between the issues.
Sunday 2nd May, 1983.
A 6.5 earthquake hits Coalinga, California, causing $10 000 000 in damage and almost 100 injuries.
"<You'd best kill me now, Yukio. You won't get a second chance.>" - Wolverine