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Friday, August 15, 2014

X-amining Wolverine #5

"Hunter's Moon!"
March 1989

In a Nutshell 
The gang war between Tyger Tiger and General Coy continues.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: John Buscema
Inker: Al Williamson
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Crimelord: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Madripoor, Bloodsport notes Karma's bleeding hand, and when he tastes her blood, he tells her they are now bound together, til death and perhaps beyond. Meanwhile, Patch and Archie Corrigan are flying into the Golden Triangle, en route to General Coy's opium fields. Remembering his encounter with Bloodsport, Archie struggles with the idea of executing Patch, ultimately deciding he can't do it. Just then, their plane is attacked by an old fighter plane, but together, Archie and Patch manage to destroy it. Back in Lowtown, Jessica Drew and Lindsay McCabe bring the unconscious Tyger Tiger to the office of Landau, Luckman and Lake for safe keeping. In the Golden Triangle, Battleaxe and Shotgun, two mercenaries working for Coy, are ordered by Hardcase, their commander, to investigate the plane crash, just as Patch appears out of the mud.


In Madripoor, Jessica is tending to Tyger when Jessica emerges from a back room wearing armor resembling Psylocke's. Just then, Roughhouse and Bloodsport burst through the wall. Back in the Golden Triangle, Patch captures Battleaxe and Shotgun, triggering their emergency signal to draw out Hardcase and Coy's troops. He then sneaks into the facility, creating an explosion and attacking the remaining guards, motivating them to try and escape with the opium. Outside the facility, he stops the truck loaded with the opium and tells them Madripoor is Tyger's turf. The troops shoot and seemingly kill him, but just then Archie flies overhead, firing a pair of Vulcan guns from his plane, destroying the truck and the opium. As morning breaks, Archie and Patch head back to Madripoor, with Patch noting that nothing they've done will matter if Tyger isn't still alive. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the first mention of Landau, Luckman and Lake, an interdimensional law firm/holding company run by a secret cabal determined to bring about heaven on Earth, and the first appearance of one of their offices in Madripoor and its local agent, Chang (who makes his first and only appearance this issue as well). LLL and its various agents will continue to play a periodic role in this series and others, usually on the fringes of the X-universe (most notably in Joe Kelly's Deadpool), and was named after the original owners of the Forbidden Planet comic book store (which appeared in previous Claremont-penned comics as well): Nick Landau, Mike Luckman and Mike Lake.


Hardcase and the Harriers also appear for the first time in this issue. A group of former SHIELD agents-turned-mercenaries, they are very reminiscent of a watered down GI Joe in their codenames and specific weapons of choice (ie Battleaxe, who uses a large battle...axe...). Specifically, we see Hardcase, the aformentioned Battleaxe and Shotgun (guess what his weapon of choice is?) in this issue. Claremont will use them again in a future issue of X-Men, where their roster will be greatly expanded and it will be revealed that they are working undercover against Coy for the DEA in this issue.


While at the LLL office, Lindsay emerges wearing a copy of Psylocke's armor. This has led some chronologists to place this story (and, as a result, the story which preceded it) as occurring before X-Men #232 (the first time we see Psylocke wearing the armor), the idea being this is her specific suit of armor that Lindsay is wearing, which Wolverine will later give to her. However, the text in this issue suggests it's a copy of Psylocke's armor (presumably to replace the armor damaged during "Inferno" and Psylocke's rematch with Sabretooth in X-Men #243), and the intent seems to be to show readers that Wolverine acquired the suits of armor for Psylocke through Landau, Luckman and Lake.



Cutting Edge, the series' letter column, debuts in this issue. 

The back cover illustration is by John Bolton. 

A Work in Progress
Operating in his Patch costume, Wolverine is back to wearing the strip of nylon across his eyes. 


I Love the 80s
Wolverine openly lights up a cigar in one panel. 


Claremontisms
Lots of the phrase "a body" being thrown around in this issue. And the Harriers are yet another name lifted from an airplane.

The Best There is at What He Does
Jessica spots a tintype featuring "Patch" and Chang on the wall of the LLL office, another indication of Wolverine's longer-than-normal age (and the quotes around "Patch" in Jessica's dialogue suggest she's well aware of Patch's true identity, particularly since he's patch-less in that image).


It's noted that Wolverine doesn't kill any of Coy's troops, and he says that it's harder to abandon a buddy who's still breathing than one who's dead. 


Teebore's Take
While continuing the storyline of the gang war between Tyger Tiger and General Coy begun last issue, this issue also continues the efforts to widen the world of Wolverine and create a distinct setting and supporting cast for the series. We meet the law firm of Landau, Luckman & Lake, for the first time, and learn they have a history with Wolverine, and in Hardcase and the Harriers we have potential new recurring villains to go along with Roughouse and Bloodscream (of course, ultimately, that turns out not to be the case). While the story continues to hit the baseline level of pleasant-enough superhero action adventure and little else, this continuing development of the world within the series makes it even more obvious that this story, rather than that ho-hum business with the Black Blade, should have been this series' initial story arc.   

Next Issue
Next week, Uncanny X-Men #243, New Mutants #74 and X-Factor #39.

18 comments:

  1. I know I've read this issue before, but for some reason I forgot Hardcase and the Harriers appeared here. In their later UXM issue, aren't they introduced there like it's the first time readers should've seen them? Or maybe I'm misremembering. Or Claremont was just treating every issue like someone's first.

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  2. @Matt: In their later UXM issue, aren't they introduced there like it's the first time readers should've seen them?

    They are. In fact, they even get a "created by Claremont & Silvestri" banner. Someone (Claremont, Silvestri, Marvel, all three) clearly though the characters had a potential future as stars in their own rights.

    Obviously, Silvestri probably didn't have a hand in the creation of Hardcase, Battleaxe, and Shotgun, since they first appeared here, but there's a ton more Harriers in UXM #261, so that must be where his credit applies. And who knows, maybe he did create these three as well, even though he didn't draw this issue.

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  3. "However, the text in this issue suggests it's a copy of Psylocke's armor"

    How so? It always read to me as if this is the original armored suit.

    "I forgot Hardcase and the Harriers appeared here. In their later UXM issue, aren't they introduced there like it's the first time readers should've seen them?"

    Their mission in UXM 261 is to kidnap Wolverine, and Battleaxe says something like, "I cannot wait to get my hands on the runt who screwed up our mission," etc. etc., and I believe a footnote directs readers to Wolverine #5.

    One thing I was never clear on, though ... is Battleaxe meant to be the same guy from those couple of New Mutants issues? (I can't remember the numbers ... issue 5 or 6 ... and then he turns up later during the arena arc circa issues 29 and 30.) Big black dude, wields an axe ... The New Mutants issues just called him "Axe," but ...

    I dunno. Later comics ended up using both characters in such a way that they can't be the same guy, but I still wonder what Claremont's intention was. Personally I think he meant it to be the same guy.

    (Another quasi-clue: The "Axe" of New Mutants was a blatant Mr. T analogue published right around when "The A-Team" was on TV, and the present issue under discussion has Wolverine quoting Hannibal's catch phrase -- "I do so love it when a plan comes together" -- as something an "old war buddy" of his used to say. I love the 80s!)

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  4. "this issue also continues the efforts to widen the world of Wolverine and create a distinct setting and supporting cast for the series"

    In those regards, it succeeds rather well, since Madropoor and many of the characters stay around for a long time in the X-universe.

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  5. @Jason:How so? It always read to me as if this is the original armored suit.

    Eh, reading it again, I suppose you're right. Certainly, there's nothing there to suggest it is or isn't the original suit. At any rate, the Marvel Index places this story after "Inferno" (which then suggests it's a second suit), and that's good enough for me.

    One thing I was never clear on, though ... is Battleaxe meant to be the same guy from those couple of New Mutants issues?

    "Meant to be" is hard to say. As you say, later stories make it clear it's not, but their speaking styles seem different enough(less Mr. T in Battleaxe) that I'd assume it wasn't Claremont's intent. Then again, it could be, and he just forgot how he wrote Axe's dialogue before.

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  6. About Wolverine not killing... that's pretty basic military stuff. Wounding an enemy soldier rather than killing him will hopefully take two guys out, the wounded one and and at least one of his buddy taking him back to the medics.

    Of course in these circles the villain bosses usually couldn't care less about the wounded goons, and Hellfire Club was particularly harsh upon us meeting them the first time in Deerfield, IL.

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  7. "Certainly, there's nothing there to suggest it is or isn't the original suit."

    I'd fanwank that it is a replacement suit...if for no other reason that Logan and the X-men used LL&L to get all their costumes during the Outback era from them.

    "Then again, it could be, and he just forgot how he wrote Axe's dialogue before."

    If it was, I'd expect there to be a footnote indicating that it was the same person. This being late 80s Marvel, of course, and there being footnotes for far more obscure references. Maybe CC just like the idea of a big black guy with an axe?

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  8. @Teemu: About Wolverine not killing... that's pretty basic military stuff.

    Oh, absolutely. I was merely pointing out that it was a tactic Wolverine was using, making it a possible hint at his own military past.

    And I think the technique works better here, since Wolverine's essentially fighting a bunch of goons. Their bosses would probably be fine leaving the wounded to die, but their buddies on the line wouldn't be, and that's who he's fighting.

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  9. And Axe... it could be conceivable (probably not likely though) that Marvel has been at some point contacted by the legal people of Mr T stating that their client pities the fool who continue infringing his likeness. Cue a sudden visit to barber and laser-guided amnesia of the previous demeanor.

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  10. Yes, I made my point half-assedly, my intention was to point out that any boss employing mercenary goons like here may actively disencourage them from such buddying if it means that they are less likely to do the job he is paying them handsomely for. Likely by killing any moron who even thinks that the boss would be the least amount interested in that Kenny got claw-wounds and needed to be brought back and the fellow in tights run into forest and we lost him, guv.

    Though Logan does have a point, and I kind of have to acknowledge that he is considerably better than me at what he does.

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  11. " At any rate, the Marvel Index places this story after "Inferno" (which then suggests it's a second suit), and that's good enough for me. "
    The reason is the Hulk appears in issues 8-9 after his appearance in the last Evolutionary Wars Annual, and Betsy already had the suit in the Evolutionary Wars.

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  12. ""Meant to be" is hard to say. As you say, later stories make it clear it's not, but their speaking styles seem different enough(less Mr. T in Battleaxe) that I'd assume it wasn't Claremont's intent. Then again, it could be, and he just forgot how he wrote Axe's dialogue before. "

    Well, the other possibility that I was pondering is that he was embarrassed by the early "Mr T" incarnation and -- if it was the same character -- he was trying to give him a less campy form of speech. (The other thing is that in UXM 261, other Harriers call Battleaxe "Axe" ...)

    But wwkd makes a good point about the footnotes. *Shrug* I kind of want it to be the same character, even though I know canonically it's not.

    "The reason is the Hulk appears in issues 7-8 after his appearance in the last Evolutionary Wars Annual, and Betsy already had the suit in the Evolutionary Wars."

    Yeah, I was involved in the online debates regarding this issue, from which the Index writers eventually decided on the current "official" placement. There were bitter arguments, passionately fought, with no quarter asked and none given. But ultimately the "replacement armor" theory was, I think, the right way to go. (Though I was arguing against it back then.)

    Also, dang it, Teebore, there's no textual evidence that the cross-hatching on his eyes is an actual piece of fabric! (This is the last issue in which it looks like that, by the way. Issue 6 makes it look more like a shadow.)



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  13. I never could stand the Harriers- Claremont kept SAYING that they were a match for the Avengers but they came off as losers that would be lucky to last a few seconds against the Avengers.

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  14. I'm seriously creeped out by the shades, leather, and skull earrings that Aunt May is wearing — not to mention that whole thing with tasting Xian's blood.

    // Jessica Drew and Lindsay McCabe bring the unconscious Tyger Tiger to the office of Landau, Luckman and Lake for safe keeping. //

    Even as they prudently keep Tyger anonymous, they give Chang their own real names without a thought, which probably isn't the best idea period and definitely not if Lindsay is going to blithely mention Jessica's superpowers.

    // Patch captures Battleaxe and Shotgun, triggering their emergency signal to draw out Hardcase and Coy's troops. //

    As you later reference: "Dead is dead. You leave the bodies an' move on. Harder to abandon a buddy who's still breathin'." I don't know if Claremont was as restricted on this series as on X-Men (or under DeFalco as under Shooter) from having Logan kill his opponents, but if so it's a canny move to give him a logical in-story purpose for sparing them.

    // Archie flies overhead, firing a pair of Vulcan guns from his plane //

    The guy may be a crack pilot, but it has to be really hard to aim artillery that's built into the side rear of a plane you're piloting; it's an extension of the plane, not your body the way a handgun, rifle, or even a shoulder-mounted rocket would be, not intuitive in the least.

    // Operating in his Patch costume, Wolverine is back to wearing the strip of nylon across his eyes.  //

    His stupid red belt and my perennial hatred of blue-for-black aside, I'd like to praise Glynis Oliver's nice work on the colors here as in Excalibur. Also, Joe Rosen's been doing a fine job on New Mutants and X-Factor, but for Wolverine, if we can't have Orz lettering, Janice Chiang is a good substitution.

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  15. "I don't know if Claremont was as restricted on this series as on X-Men (or under DeFalco as under Shooter) from having Logan kill his opponents, but if so it's a canny move to give him a logical in-story purpose for sparing them."
    He killed a gazillion bad guys in issue 1.

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  16. Yeah, I actually meant to flip through earlier issues to check after writing that. It's just that there was sort-of a "Hellfire goon" vibe coming off the page when it seemed like he'd slashed the guys dead off-panel, only to be revealed pages later that he kept them alive to use as bait, which struck me as both a having and an eating of the cake.

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  17. Bloodsport telling Karma they are now bound together is reminiscent of Dracula to Mina Murray;)

    Forge is offered a place in Malone's Harriers unit but declines so he can join the Marauders;)

    Re: Landau, Luckman & Lake, I've got a feeling Claremont was setting up this firm to be equivalent to the Temporal Bureau of Robert A. Heinlein's "—All You Zombies—" and they would prefigure into his planned origin for Mystique (if you get my drift). This would seem to suggest Irene Adler, upon realising the Shadow King had influenced her and Raven to become terrorists, established LL&L. The year would likely be 1985, the same year the Brotherhood went clean and became Freedom Force. But this leave the question, just what terrorist event are LL&L trying to prevent? Mystique's assassination of Senator Robert Kelly!? So does the Shadow King then manipulate Legion to kill Irene, so Raven loses her anchor and returns to her previous terrorist ways?

    @Teebore, I hope you plan to review X-Men: True Friends in line with when Claremont originally intended its release, as back-to-back Excalibur Annuals for 1990/1991!?

    @Blam: Interesting the Wolvie’s costume colours here are equivalent to the Hellfire goons he sliced and diced years ago;)

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  18. It is revealed in the Gehenna Stone affair that Chang was murdered by Baal's vampires, but its obvious that Claremont intended Bloodsport to be the perpetrator. I suspect that change was Peter David's subtle payback for Chris's use of Hulk in #8.

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