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.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
About 10 years ago, Marvel published the Wolverine Omnibus. I was never caught up in the frenzy of Wolverine fans that others were, so I gave it a pass. It has since fallen out of print, but a new edition has been solicited for March 25 release. Applying “Sturgeon’s Law” to the contents (far less than 10% of published stories), I have decided that the Wolverine Omnibus is something I would like to own after all. Now all I have to do is keep this discussion going for the next four months to maintain (my) interest.
I could have done that and I was prepared to, but actually I was in the mood to read some of the stories reprinted in the omnibus next. As it turned out, because of COVID-19, I had longer than four months to wait before the omni. I still could have done it; even applying Sturgeon's Law I could have found enough good Wolverine stories to fill the gap, but I've got the omni now so it's a moot point.
NOTE: The stories are presented in more or less the chronological order they happened, not were published. IOW, "Weapon-X," for example, precedes Wolverine's first appearance in Hulk, for example. Even so, I don't plan to read everything (some I've already covered), just pick and choose. I've decided to dip my toe in with a couple of short pieces rather than dive head first off the deep end 9to mix a few metaphors).
MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #26: This is a six page back-up scripted by Mary Jo Duffy and penciled by Ken Landgraf (who?), featuring a bar fight with Hercules. It's been reprinted elsewhere, and what might otherwise make this story noteworthy is that it was inked by George Perez, but for the life of me I can't discern his style. It's a little nothing of a story.
BEST OF MARVEL COMICS HARDCOVER: This one has been reprinted elsewhere, too. It's another six-pager, but this one is by Chris Claremont and Marshall Rogers. (There's someone I'd like to see inked by George Perez.) Claremont is more "qualified" to write Wolverine, like Stan Lee writing the Silver Surfer (and, yes, I understand the full implications of that statement!).
SPIDER-MAN VERSUS WOLVERINE (1987):
I read this one-shot only once before, 33 years ago when it was first released. I didn't like it and got rid of it many years ago. I didn't remember a whole lot about it, not even who wrote and drew it; I just remembered I didn't like it. Here's what I do remember about it. [SPOILERS] It supposedly presented the death of the Hobgoblin. Roger Stern presented the character of the Hobgoblin, in Amazing Spider-Man, in the spirit of Lee and Ditko's Green Goblin in that his identity was kept secret from the readers. Stern had someone specific in mind, and peppered the stories with clues and red herrings, but by the time it came to reveal his identity, Stern had moved on.
For reasons I no longer recall (and certainly didn't know at the time, in any case), the decision was made to change the identity of the Hobgoblin from what Stern had intended. The writer and/or editor decided that the Hobgoblin was longtime supporting cast member Ned Leeds. He was killed "off camera" in as low-key a manner as possible. the Spider-Man Versus Wolverine one-shot presented that death from an entirely different angle, one which didn't tie into the Hobgoblin at all. When the "truth" came out (in Spider-Man), the price of the one-shot sky-rocketed in value. I got rid of it, not so much as to make a profit on the backissue market, but to show my disgust at a "revelation" which didn't fit the clues... like, at all.
It wasn't until decades later that I discovered Ned Leeds was not the Hobgoblin. When I mentioned my "discovery" on this board, it was treated as common knowledge, but it came as a complete surprise to me, having long since dropped the title in disgust, I don't know if Ned Leeds was ever truly intended to be the Hobgoblin, or if I was just taken in by an ill-conceived red herring, but I thought it was intended to be true. After I found out the truth, I thought I might like to read the one-shot once again, but it was selling for even more money that i sold it for. when I discovered it was collected in the Wolverine omnibus, I had one more reason to buy it. [END SPOILERS]
It is written by James Owsley (Christopher Priest) and drawn by Mark Bright. Priest has never been one of my favorite writers, and I never found Bright's pencils anything more than competent. It's inked by Al Williamson, surely one of the greats in anyone's book, but I think Bright's pencils and Williamson's inks are horribly mismatched. Personally, I think the story would have been better served if it had been inked by Klaus Janson), Honestly, I still don't think too much of the story. Spider-Man and Wolverine are both given roughly equal shares of the story, much of which is written as "internal dialogue," but there's nothing in the lettering to denote who is doing the "thinking." Scenes in which they appear together are often confusing in that it is often difficult to discern from whose point of view the story is being told.
But that's merely technical. From a storytelling standpoint (and I can't really believe there wasn't a bigger deal made of this at the time or today), Spider-Man actually kills someone. Granted, she was already wounded and he was maneuvered into striking her. but it is a marot plot point that it was Spider-Man, not Wolverine, who is responsible for her death. "Sidey's gonna be workin' this one out for the rest of his life," narrates Wolverine. The rest of the issue, more like.
I'm glad I got the opportunity to read this one a seconf time (I never will again), but my initial assessment stands: it's crap.
MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS 31-10 ("Save the Tiger"):
This is the story I was in the mood to read next at the end of last year. Sometimes my moods change, and I probably would have enjoyed it more then than I did last night. It's got a simple, straightforward plot with lots of action and little characterization. There's not a lot of plot recap due to the limited number of pages per chapter, although the main characters are re-introduced a number of times which becomes repetitious when read in a single sitting. John Buscema's splash pages are always dynamic, partially because the plot sometimes skips ahead a bit from the previous issue's cliffhanger. Chris Claremont is not as skilled as, say, frank Miller when it comes to writing crime noir, but he adds enough of a punch to keep it lively. these stories were published at a time when I found X-Men to be unreadable, but in these ten issues, Wolverine was the only one of the four features per issue I was interested in. "Save the Tiger" is more like a Columbia movie serial than a Mickey Spillane novel.
Back in the '80s there was a sizable hue and cry for Marvel to grant Wolverine his own solo series. Me, I thought he made a good supporting character, but didn't think he was interesting enough to support a title on his own. Then Marvel released a four-issue limited series and I, like everyone else, figured an ongoping series wold soon follow. It ended up taking another six years, and I, along with everyone else, wondered why it took so long. I didn't buy it at first because I still didn't think Wolverine was all that interesting. I didn't start to buy it until the Goodwin/Byrne run (#17-23). That I liked and, completist that I am, decided to pick up the backissues after that storyline was complete (but I didn't collect forward until #48-50).
The ongoing series picks up pretty much where the Marvel Comics Presents serial left off, with Wolverine in Madripoor. Linsey McCabe (from the old Spider-Woman series) was reintroduced in the first issue, and Jessica Drew in the second. By the fourth issue, Xian Coy Manh (Karma from New Mutants) was folded in, but I can't really think much of any of these characters who can't recognize "Patch" as Wolverine. Beyond that, here's the breakdown of the rest of the first ten issues:
#2-3 - Silver Samurai
#4-6 - Roughouse & Bloodsport
#7-8 - Mr. Fixit (Grey Hulk)
#9 - Fill-in/flashback to Wolverine's "Weapon X" days by Peter David and Gene Colan
#10 - A half-flashback, inked by Bill Sienkiewicz, featuring Sabretooth
This is my third time reading this run of issues. I think that if Wolverine started in issue #1 of this series, he would not be nearly so popular as he was then or is now. Claremont's "tough guy" patter is embarrassing.