18th Jun2013

Adventures West Coast – The Wolverine Post

by Will

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Well, it’s been quite a while! For those not familiar with Adventures West Coast, it’s a comic review feature that I created back when I was unemployed a few years ago. “The more things change…” Let’s just say you’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the near future. But enough of that! There’s no format to this. Sometimes I do a full in-depth recap, while other times I just kinda list my thoughts. Some will be long, some will be short. I’m complex like that. Today, we’re looking at a few Wolverine collections. I’m not the biggest Logan fan, and I find him to be HIGHLY overrated. I mean, it was one thing when he had a simple healing factor, but now he’s basically invincible. I think a lot of what makes him unique has been lost by that power boost, plus current writers can’t seem to get a handle on him. On the one hand, he’s know for being the berserker, but it seems like he’s the ONLY character in which writers wish to show “growth”, as his recent appearances have mellowed him. Hell, he’s even the headmaster of the school in one X title! So, we’re going to look at a few of his most important storylines.

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Marvel Premiere Classic Vol 3: Wolverine #1-4, Uncanny X-Men #172-173

As the breakout star of the All-New, All Different X-Men, Wolverine got his first miniseries in 1982, by fan favorites Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. It’s a Wolverine In Japan story, and since the art’s by Miller, it has a shitload of ninjas. I have never been a fan of Wolverine in Japan. It’s their attempt to make him have some sort of code of honor that somewhat contradicts the fact that he’s supposed to be this maniacal killing machine. I can handle him in Madripoor, ’cause that place is basically Sodom, but his whole “peaceful samurai” shtick doesn’t work with me.

The series opens with Wolverine killing a bear. Ya know, to prove he’s badass. Then he goes to Japan and all Hell breaks loose. How to break this down? OK, he’s in love with Mariko Yashida, but she’s married to another man – a man who beats her. And Wolverine’s just looking for a reason to fight. In 4 issues, he defends Mariko, meets and teams up with Yukio, and ends up popping his claws in some Japanese gangsters. At the end of the mini, he and Mariko decide to marry, and he sends the wedding invitation to his X-Men pals.

The included Uncanny X-Men issues feature the lead-up to the wedding. The X-Men land in Japan, and Wolverine’s surprised  to see that they took in a villain like Rogue. Don’t worry, she proves herself before the story’s over, and earns Wolverine’s trust. Storm befriends Yukio, which will be much important later. Oh, did I mention that Mariko’s brother is the Silver Samurai? Well, he is. So, Wolverine’s got to deal with that, as well. Just before the wedding, Storm reveals her punk mohawk look, inspired by Yukio. If you remember Storm from the 80s, this is how you remember her. At the wedding, Mariko calls off the ceremony because Wolverine “is not worthy” – this was due to the fact that Mastermind intervened and influenced her decision.

In all, it’s “classic Wolverine”, but not the aspects of the character that I like. In Marvel comics, I hate Japan as much as I hate space. They just seem like a cop-out.

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Marvel Premiere Classic Vol 5 Wolverine: Weapon X

This was more powerful than I was expecting. It’s a fairly well-known story at this point, but the nuances in the story really make it something special. Barry Windsor-Smith wrote and drew this story in Marvel Comics Presents, which was the first time they had really tried to explain how Wolverine had become the person that he is. What struck me was the fact that he’s really a victim in this tale. While we know he’s not necessarily a “good” man, he’s still a man…at least at the beginning of the story. Department X kidnaps him and turns him into a monster. Along the way, you see the adamantium bonding process. You see the pain that it causes him. You also see the carnage that ensues when he breaks free and goes berserk in the compound. Sure, you have that “Death Star moment”, when you realize that some of these folks were independent contractors and whatnot but many of them laughed as the program treated Logan like an animal. As you see him slaughter them, you know that he’s justified in what he’s doing. No man should ever been put in that position. As you read Weapon X, you watch as a man is stripped of his humanity. If you never read another Wolverine story, you’d understand why he’s so angry. He has every right to be.

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Wolverine: Origin

When this was first announced, comic fandom shat a collective brick. How could they reveal Wolverine’s origin?! That would kill his mystique! Little did we know that this story  wouldn’t really contribute much to the Wolverine mythos. Some define “origin” as “the beginning of something’s existence”. They could’ve released 4 issues of Wolverine coming out of his mother’s vagina, and it would have been classified as an “origin”. All we learned was where he came from, but we still didn’t learn much more from Origin. Here are the bulletpoints:

-His birth name was James Howlett; he takes the name “Logan” (which was the name of the groundskeeper) once he runs away from his old life

-He was from a rich family, but the groundskeeper is probably his real father, as a dalliance between he and Mrs Howlett was implied

-He was cast out after one fateful night when basically everyone in his house was murdered from various circumstances

-We find out why he has an affinity for redheads

-He also has a brother out there somewhere, who eventually comes back in Wolverine: The End

He runs away, becomes a cagefighter, and that’s pretty much it. This project was ordered by Bill Jemas, and it seemed like it was the beginning of a larger project. Not that it had to be an ongoing series, but it did feel like they could return to the well anytime they needed to boost the bottom line. That, however, didn’t exactly come to pass. The Origin storyline seemed to culminate in the Wolverine: The End, though many of these events have been contradicted since, especially by the “Old Man Logan” storyline. It’s important to note that Origin and The End were both written by Paul Jenkins, allowing him to expand on his ideas. Eventually, Marvel released a Wolverine: Origins ongoing series, which meant to fill in some gaps but it seemed to “dance between the raindrops” of continuity. It was written by Daniel Way, and introduced such concepts as Romulus and Wolverine’s pre Weapon X life. The series lasted for 50 issues, but it didn’t really fill in many gaps, nor have we had a sequel that picks up immediately after the initial Jenkins story.

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Wolverine: Logan

I used to be a fan of Brian K. Vaughan. While I was late to the game on Y: The Last Man, I was an early adopter on Runaways and Ex Machina. After finishing those 3 series, I came to a conclusion: Vaughan is a HORRIBLE closer. He’s got some great ideas, and he seems to think outside the box of conventional concepts. That said, I don’t think he has ever followed those ideas through to a satisfying ending. His Runaways stint ends with a bit of a non ending, as the reigns were handed over to Joss Whedon, who kinda shat the bed. That situation’s even sadder when you realize that he created the Runaways. Sure, it was work-for-hire, but it’s as close to “creator owned” as you’re gonna get at Marvel without moving over to Icon. He created characters that will actually factor into the Marvel Universe in years to come. All that, but he never really said a proper goodbye. Y: The Last Man is one of those situations where, late in the game, you realize it’s more about the journey than the destination. That’s fine and all, but it made for an unsatisfying ending. And I know people who were angered by the ending to Ex Machina, myself included. So, I pretty much considered myself done with the Vaughan catalog.

One day, I happened upon this collection of Wolverine: Logan, and I couldn’t resist the $5 price tag. I’d read good things about the series, and it’s only 3 issues, so how bad could it be? I can honestly say that this is one of the best, most fleshed out things that I’ve read from Vaughan. As bad as it sounds, I think he’s better suited to minis than ongoings. With only 3 issues, he didn’t have enough time to get lost in his ideas. Hell, if you read Y: The Last Man collected, you know there are some volumes around Vol 6 that just kinda slow things down. So, he seems better when he’s focused and has a finite page limit.

Basically, this is another Wolverine in Japan tale, but it’s unlike any we’ve seen before. It’s the middle of WWII, and Wolverine and another soldier end up in a prison camp. After they escape, they happen upon a woman. The partner wants to kill her, as “all Japs are the same”, while Wolverine tells him to just walk away. She nurses Wolverine’s wounds, and the two strike up a romance. They enjoy their solitary life until that soldier returns, bent on killing the Japanese woman. He stabs her, and Wolverine goes berserk. During their fight, an atomic bomb is dropped on them. Yes, an atomic bomb. WOLVERINE IS CAUGHT IN THE BLAST OF AN ATOMIC BOMB. I don’t even know how to process that, but I accept it. Turns out the soldier was a mutant, and the bomb blast turned him into something of a ghost, who’s been haunting Logan ever since. Logan returns to the island to finally end the nightmare.

Like I said, it’s a tight, 3-issue story. It felt like it was longer, but it hit all the necessary beats. Plus, the artwork by Eduardo Risso hit all the gritty notes needed in a story like this.

So, there ya have it. I still think Wolverine’s overrated, but you can’t get much more definitive than the four stories I covered today. If you really want to get down to the core of the Wolverine character, definitely check these out.

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