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Friday, July 18, 2014

X-amining Wolverine #3

"The Black Blade"
January 1989

In a Nutshell 
Lindsay & Silver Samurai work to free Wolverine from the Black Blade. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Buscema
Inker: Al Williamson
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
As Lindsay and Silver Samurai watch, Wolverine, possessed by the Black Blade, escapes into a burning building with Jessica Drew, leading Silver Samurai to believe that Wolverine intends to sacrifice her. The pair goes to the Princess Bar, where O'Donnell is holding the captive Black Blade cultists. In order to learn where the sacrifice will take place, Lindsay tricks the captives into believing she's tortured and killed one of them. Together, the three head out to an old temple in the jungle outside the city. Leaving O'Donnell outside to deal with the authorities should they fail, Lindsay and Silver Samurai enter the temple.


As Wolverine begins the ritual, Lindsay shoots him in the head, seemingly killing him. Lindsay then rushes to free Jessica as Silver Samurai fights the cultists, but a still-possessed Wolverine rises and attacks her. Silver Samurai intervenes, and the pair battle. During the course of the fight, Wolverine manages to shake the influence of the Black Blade, tossing it aside just as he's about to kill Jessica and Lindsay. Silver Samurai retrieves the blade, but isn't possessed, believing himself to be the warrior fated to be the blade's master. He leaves with the weapon, while Wolverine, Lindsay and Jessica return to the city to celebrate their victory.  

Firsts and Other Notables
O'Donnell, the owner of the Princess Bar from the Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine serial, appears in this series for the first time, and helps Silver Samurai and Lindsay rescue Jessica and Wolverine. It's said that he's taken on a silent partner in running the bar; I believe this will eventually be revealed to be Wolverine.


Police Chief Tai, though unnamed this issue, appears for the first time; he'll become part of the book's supporting cast when in Madripoor. 

The issue ends with Silver Samurai taking ownership of the Black Blade, able to withstand its  influence. This is the last we'll see or hear of the blade.


Kevin Nowlan provides the back cover illustration.

The Chronology Corner
Between this issue and the next, Wolverine appears in X-Men #232-234, X-Men Annual #12, X-Men #235-238, "Inferno" and Punisher War Journal #6-7. 

A Work in Progress
We see Silver Samurai without his armor for what I think is the first time. Though he's still humorously wearing a little silver mask. 


The possessed Wolverine appears sans patch, making it even harder to believe that neither Silver Samurai nor Lindsay recognize him (not that the patch is any great shakes as a disguise).


Wolverine draws his claws this issue, prepared to take out Silver Samurai if need be, but keeps them hidden from view.


I Love the 80s
Lindsay says the temple where Wolverine is prepared to perform the ritual execution of Jessica Drew is very Indy Jones.


Later, she displays military knowledge she learned from working on Tour of Duty

Teebore's Take
As the first story arc of Wolverine's solo title comes to a close, it's clear that while Claremont is keeping the noirish/adventure serial tone that so characterized earlier Wolverine solo stories, he's continuing to do different and unexpected things with the book's protagonist. Already, the main character hasn't been called by the name he shares with his book's title within the pages themselves, and he's gone entire issues without using his trademark claws. Here, thanks to the MacGuffin that is the Black Blade, Claremont positions Wolverine as the chief antagonist in the climax of his very first story, leaving it to guest stars Lindsay McCabe and Silver Samurai to stop the book's protagonist from murdering Jessica Drew.

While this initial arc drops the new series in thoroughly average territory (nothing here is bad, but it's definitely more "enjoyable yet routine" than "must-read" at this point), it also makes it clear that though Claremont can no longer ignore the character's burgeoning popularity (or the desires of his Editor-in-Chief) such that he's writing a solo book for Wolverine, he still has enough clout to write the book in a manner he finds interesting, consistent with the somewhat atypical status quo of X-Men at the time and well outside the usual structure and story beats of a traditional solo hero book. And that, in and of itself, is rather fascinating. 

Next Issue
We go back to "Inferno" with Madelyne confronting Mr. Sinister in Uncanny X-Men #241, Illyana struggling with her dark side in New Mutants #72 and Cyclops reuniting with his wife in X-Factor #37.

3 comments:

  1. though Claremont can no longer ignore the character's burgeoning popularity (or the desires of his Editor-in-Chief) such that he's writing a solo book for Wolverine, he still has enough clout to write the book in a manner he finds interesting, consistent with the somewhat atypical status quo of X-Men at the time and well outside the usual structure and story beats of a traditional solo hero book. And that, in and of itself, is rather fascinating.

    In some way I feel this... holding back by Claremont had its part in building up the apparently insatiable hunger for Wolverine on the markets. One perhaps kind of waits for him to (finally) show up drawn by Jim Lee in the blue&yellow costume in an epic super hero epic, but something in Wolverine fights back on the whole premises, being your traditional superhero, like an Brood embryo, and the hunger-filling satisfaction really can never come. Which is good for Marvel's business.

    A massively fun bit is that when Claremont returns on Wolverine for the giant-sized anniversary issue #125 in 1998, it's a Madripoor story with Jessie Drew popping up... and Rogue and Viper, and Kitty and Yukio, and Black Widow, and Tyger Tiger. And Jubilee on the run in some very familiar scenes. Mostly ignoring 100 issues worth of other people's stories. Like a pro.

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  2. It felt pretty random for Lindsay and the Samurai to enter The Princess Bar. Maybe it's a likely place for them to hole up, but there's no reintroduction of O'Donnell, no indication that either character knew him, no mention that the Black Blade cultists had been trussed up there. I was confused to the point that I had to reassure myself that I had read #2 (which I did by recalling the endings of both previous issues, and I still almost went to look at it).

    // Kevin Nowlan provides the back cover illustration. //

    Gruesome and gorgeous.

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  3. "This is the last we'll see or hear of the blade."

    ***Of the evil demon that possesses people, yes, but the blade itself remains the Samurai's weapon o' choice for at least a little while. He explicitly name-checks it the next time he shows up in this series, for example. (Circa Wolverine #56.)

    "making it even harder to believe that neither Silver Samurai nor Lindsay recognize him"

    *** The Samurai does recognize him. That's clear from his final dialogue, which references Logan possessing the honor sword of Clan Yashida. And, from Wolverine's narration it seems certain that he knows he's been recognized, talking about how he and Harada seem to have finally made peace after this episode, despite the "bad blood" between them from the past.

    (Although this raises the question of why he's so blase. If the whole point of faking their death was to protect the X-Men's loved ones, it seems like Logan might be a tad agitated by someone so close to Mariko -- his main loved one -- learning he's still alive.)

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