Now that my “Frank Miller Daredevil” discussion is nearing the end of Miller’s first run, I find myself in the mood to read the 1982 Wolverine limited series, also by Miller (with Chris Claremont). Wolverine was only Marvel’s third limited series (following Contest of Champions and Hercules). I remember Rich Lane saying that this series should have been the end of Wolverine’s story, but when I tried to verify that with him over the weekend he didn’t remember. I haven’t actually read the story myself in 20 years, but I’m going to read it with an eye toward determining whether or not that’s true.
In 1982, I had only recently entered a comic book shop for the first time after three years of collecting only three titles via subscription. Frank Miller was the new “Big Thing” at the time, and I was only just discovering his work. Miller’s Wolverine inker was Josef Rubinstein (as opposed to his Daredevil inker, Klaus Janson). Rubinstein is neither better nor worse than Janson; just different. I read Wolverine’s first appearances in Hulk #181 and Giant-Size X-Men #1 in “real time,” but this may have been my first time seeing him without his mask. Wolverine walked out of X-Men #168 into the first issue of his own (limited) series. As the story opens, Logan is tracking a rogue grizzly bear that has killed seven men, three women and five kids. He finds it driven mad by a poisoned arrow in its back. He tracks the hunter who didn’t confirm the kill and brings him to justice.
I think this issue may be the first use of his csatch-phrase, “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do isn’t very nice.”
He soon discovers that his lady love, Mariko Yashida, has returned from Japan. Furthermore, all his recent letters to her have been returned unopened. He follows her to Japan and is met by Japanese official Asano Kimura, also an old friend, at immigration. He learns that Mariko father, missing since her childhood, has returned, and that now she is married. He goes to her ancestral stronghold, where he finds her bruised and beated. She is bound by Giri, however, and will not leave. Wolverine confronts her husband, but ultimately admits defeat and intends to leave Japan. He is ambushed from behind by poisoned shuriken.
When he awakens, he is maneuvered into a dual with Mariko’s father with wooden practice swords. Her father cheats, however, and Wolverine is defeated. He wakes up in a Tokyo alley where his is about to be mugged. Suddenly, an unknown woman comes to his rescue.