Friday, 6 January 2012
WOL #4: "Honor"
(Never piss off a Wolverine.)
The opening to this issue is truly gorgeous, so much so that I once again lament my lack of access to a scanner (I really must get round to buying one at some point). Wolverine is crouched in the bushes, the leaves of the surrounding plants scattering long, thin shadows across his body, each one resembling one of the innumerable scars Wolverine carries with him, whether one can see them or not.
Logan's watching a heroin exchange, which he unceremoniously disrupts, carving up briefcases filled with money or white powder, and ordering the astonished criminals to tell Lord Shingen that "Wolverine is coming for him." Over the next several hours, Wolverine repeats this process, putting the squeeze on as many Shingen flunkies as possible. The crimelord responds by sending his most lethal cadre of ninjas after the Canadian interloper. Wolverine sends their hoods back in the post, alongside a note: "Tonight."
Both men are aware that honour demands they face each other, though neither intend to repeat a simple duel. Wolverine straps on pretty much every piece of sharp-edged equipment he's "inherited" from the now comatose ninja avengers (including a crossbow fitted with a telescopic sight, which, really?). Shingen, for his part, has called in another bevy of Hand assassins, which I guess means that whatever else you want to say about him, he doesn't lack for optimism.
Whilst the two men prepare for combat, others have their own battles to fight. Mariko sits weeping in a darkened room, praying to her ancestors for an answer as to how one should act when honour dictates obeying a dishonorable man (always a good question, as Jaime Lannister will tell you). Outside in the grounds, Yukio is sneaking her way inside, offering a quick jolt of poison to anyone unlucky enough to be in her way (those poor doggies!). Alas, it is a trap, and once safely inside, she is snared.
Shingen is amused that Yukio is trying to kill him (an attempt to balance the scales after she slew Wolverine's friend) and, much as he did earlier with Logan himself, he allows Yukio to attack him whilst making his daughter watch. Yukio lasts even less time than her former lover managed, but Shingen doesn't have time to kill her before word comes over the radio that Wolverine has arrived. Not that anyone gets far enough into a sentence to make that clear, but Shingen's bright enough to know what a cut-off transmission means tonight. All his guards (and it certainly looks like all) are dead.
Mariko's husband Hideki, in a display of enlightened self-preservation that he probably should have used back before he started beating his wife, decides that a quick exit is called for. Even so, he's too late - Wolverine is already in the room. Classless to the end, Hideki puts his gun to his wife's head in the hope of scaring Logan into letting them both leave, but the now-forgotten Yukio kills him. She cuts a piece away from Mariko's clothes, and wraps it round Wolverine's shoulders - an acknowledgement of her willingness to let him go. A single kiss, and she's gone again. Wolverine could go after her, either to forgive her, or stain the blood-red grass outside with one more death. He could stay and comfort Mariko.
But he doesn't. He has an appointment with Lord Shingen. As Logan notes, this is all just a kabuki play, and it has to play out to the end.
This time, the duel is with steel sword and adamantium claws. Shingen has more skill, Logan near-endless endurance. It's a fairer fight than it might seem at first: an unbreakable skeleton versus an almost unbreakable defence. But all Wolverine has to do is break that defence once, and eventually Shingen makes a mistake, and pays with his life.
We're in the final scene of the play, now. Honour dictates that Mariko attempt to slay her father's killer. She knows she can't. She knows Wolverine could finish her off in a heart-beat, wounded as he is. She picks up Shingen's sword anyway, and Logan does nothing.
But Mariko has found her answer, at it's one that suprises Wolverine. Shingen's criminal activities and contempt for human life dishonoured him to the point where he had no right to wield the honour sword of the Yashida family, and Logan's willingness to slay him despite believing it would cost him the love of his life is proof enough of his worthiness to inherit the blade. And, along with it, Mariko's hand in marriage.
This whole miniseries has been a pleasure to read. It feels like the first X-book that works as a package, with the characteristically interesting ideas and colourful characters finally being wed to writing and art that carry and reinforce a theme, rather than just describing events (it's comparative decompression also makes a nice change from endless narrative boxes describing what the artwork is already making clear). I've enjoyed plenty of the comics I've covered so far on this blog, but this is the first time I can remember being this generally impressed.
This story takes place over a single day and night. Presumably, though, Wolverine has spent a little longer than this tearing down Shingen's empire: no matter how dedicated to the job he is, there's only so much that can be done at once. He says the job is done in "hours", though, so we'll assume he's spent the last two days destroying Shingen's assets, and that the duel that ends Logan's quest for vengeance takes place on the night of the third day.
There's a major problem to overcome, however, which is that the epilogue tells us that Wolverine recuperates in the mountains with Mariko until spring, before writing to the X-Men and inviting them to the wedding. In our current timeline, spring came to an end during the events of UXM #151, and we can't do much to change around the dates due to the fairly stringent limitations imposed on us by Kitty's age.
Probably the most sensible response is to assume a long engagement for Mariko and Wolverine, and have the events of this miniseries take place between UXM #150 and Annual #3. If we give Wolverine a fortnight to recover, then that at least allows Wolverine's first duel with Shingen to take place during the winter, and the wedding invitation to arrive a little way into spring, presumably followed almost immediately by Wolverine himself.
Sunday 5th May, 1983.
The 1000th edition of Top of the Pops is broadcast.
"I can't forgive her for Asano -- and I can never repay her for Mariko -- so I let her go." Wolverine says goodbye to Yukio.