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Friday, November 7, 2014

X-amining Wolverine #10

"24 Hours"
August 1989

In a Nutshell 
Sabretooth stalks Wolverine on his birthday. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Buscema & Bill Sienkiewicz
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Colorist: Mike Rockwitz
Editor: Bob Harras
Time Keeper: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Lowtown, Wolverine drinks at a bar, thinking back to an earlier saloon, when he found Sabretooth after Sabretooth had killed Wolverine's girlfriend, Silver Fox. In the present, Wolverine breaks up a bar fight, then heads out as the clock strikes midnight. In the past, an enraged Wolverine attacks Sabretooth. In the present, Wolverine helps save a pair of US Naval servicemen attacked by a gang of thugs, though one of them is shot. In the past, Wolverine and Sabretooth's fight spills outside, where Sabreooth buries Wolverine in a wood pile. In the present, Wolverine brings the wounded servicemen to Madame Joy'ss for treatment, where he meets Jessica and Lindsay, who have opened an office above the brothel. In the past, Wolverine flees into the woods, pursued by Sabretooth, and climbs up a nearby cliff face trying to escape. In the present, Wolverine meets with Chief Tai, who informs him the men from the bar fight are none too pleased with him, then confirms the individual Wolverine asked Tai to investigate is indeed dead.


Wolverine leaves, still not certain, as Tai wishes him a happy birthday. In the past, Sabretooth catches Wolverine, and easily beats him again. In the present, Wolverine discovers Jessica tracking him near the docks. She says his friends are worried about him, just as the two bruisers from the bar attack, seemingly killing them. In the past, Sabretooth prepares to rip out Wolverine's throat, but Wolverine manages to throw them both off the cliff. In the present, Wolverine and Jessica emerge from the water unharmed, and they realize somebody else has taken out their attackers. In the past, Sabretooth regains consciousness, impressed that Wolverine nearly took him out. In the present, Wolverine returns to the Princess Bar to find the two bruisers dead and gift wrapped for him, with a card attached saying "Nobody kills you but me - especially today!"

Firsts and Other Notables
Sabretooth makes his first appearance in this series with this issue, appearing in the flashbacks and, off-panel, in the present, as he stalks Wolverine on his birthday (a tradition first established in the backup story to Classic X-Men #10). 


Via the flashback, Silver Fox makes her first appearance, though only as a dead body. A Native American woman whom Wolverine loved, she is killed by Sabretooth on Wolverine's birthday, an event loosely adapted in the Wolverine: Origins film, where Silver Fox is played by Lynn Collins. This being comics, Silver Fox will turn up alive and well, during Larry Hama's run on the title, as part of a larger story examining Wolverine's time with Weapon X and suggesting parts of the flashback in this issue (specifically, Silver Fox's death) is the result of memory implants. 


This is Chris Claremont's final issue writing this series (at least until he returns, much later, for a brief run in the 90s). I've never seen a direct quote explaining why he left, but given that he only started writing the series to prevent someone else from doing it, it's probably safe to assume he left it to focus more on X-Men & Excalibur.

His absence will lead to a rotating series of writers, usually lasting only one or two stories, before Larry Hama finally comes aboard and begins his lengthy run on the series.

A Work in Progress
The flashback occurs at a time before Wolverine received his adamantium skeleton (and, he says, his claws, because at this time neither he nor the readers are aware that he had bone claws prior to the adamantium).


Wolverine says prior to his encounter with Sabretooth, he'd never fought anyone who was a match for him.


Madame Joy's, a brothel in Lowtown, and its eponymous proprietor, pop up, previously seen in Wolverine's initial Marvel Comics Presents story, and we learn that Jessica Drew and Lindsay McCabe have setup a PI office above the Brothel.


It's confirmed that Prince Baran's chancellor, killed in issue #4, was killed for supporting Tyger against Coy. 

The Reference Section
Wolverine and Jessica battle two brothers named Daryl, presumably a reference to Newhart.



The Best There is at What He Does
In the flashback, Wolverine notes that Sabretooth is faster and tougher than he is. 


Teebore's Take
In retrospect, this is easily the most significant issue of this series yet, and arguably the most important Wolverine story since the original Claremont/Miller limited series. On the surface, it's just a self-contained story set on Wolverine's birthday, adding a bit to the expanding setting of the series, inter cut with flashbacks to a previous birthday. But via that story, this issue introduces Sabretooth to the series, and makes it clear just how much of a disadvantage Wolverine is at relative to his foe. Thus, even though Sabretooth has battled Wolverine previously, this issue essentially serves as the introduction to the series of Wolverine's Magneto or Dr. Doom.

It also presents us with one of our first concrete looks at Wolverine's mysterious past, beyond vague asides and brief flash backs, showing us the character at his youngest point yet, chronologically. Silver Fox, here, is just a dead body, cheap motivation for Wolverine's rage, but she'll be back again later, and in the meantime, her death gives Wolverine's feud with Sabretooth an additional level of complexity, showing us a specific example of how it got personal, making the rivalry that much more intense not just because Sabretooth killed a woman Wolverine loved, but because Wolverine, despite his best efforts, was unable to avenge her.

It will be some time before the Wolverine/Sabretooth relationship becomes a central fixture of this series, but when it does, much of it will grow out of what's presented here, the first time all the vague comments and hinted-at interactions are given a specific, concrete context. Their relationship is one of the defining elements of Wolverine's character, and much of that comes from this issue.

Next Issue
Next week, Uncanny X-Men #248, New Mutants #79 and X-Factor #44.

11 comments:

  1. I love Claremont's "true" Sabretooth. Too bad he didn't get more page-time.

    I wonder if Claremont really planned to leave for good after this issue, or if he thought he might return in a few months or a year or more? It seems odd to bring his characters, Jessica and Lindsay, to Madripoor, set them up with a status quo, then immediately leave them behind for someone else.

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  2. "Imprimatur" sounds like something a majestrix would have.

    So, there's a rare piece of Logan's backstory written by Claremont, and they go and retcon it the minute he's out of the door? (have read the Dreams of Gore arc, it's a retoric question made very underliningly.) Well... at least we got to keep Ogun.

    Oh, and, they did find the cabin in the end, so everything about Silver Fox wasn't necessarily just studio work.

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  3. I didn't know that Logan's Native American (Canadian?) galpal in Origins was from the comics. And she is not what I picture when I hear the phrase "Silver Fox".

    // as he stalks Wolverine on his birthday //

    When that Classic backup saw print, I guess we weren't aware of how much of Logan's own history was lost to him — whether he knew it was lost to him or not — so him knowing his birthday wasn't suspect. There are plenty of ways he'd still know it even with all the Weapon X memory implants anyway, including Sabretooth making sure he knew so that the annual stalking had some significance. I feel less confident that Logan as Patch would use Logan's actual birthday, however.

    // parts of the flashback in this issue (specifically, Silver Fox's death) [are] the result of memory implants ... at this time neither he nor the readers are aware that he had bone claws prior to the adamantium //

    I figured that he had to have some kind of block on recalling that his claws popped when pulling up that memory, assuming the memory was otherwise largely correct. Next option I suppose would have been some kind of block during the flashback period on the claws actually popping, but given how strong his berserker rages could be that would be harder to buy even for Xavier-level psychic abilities.

    // Wolverine returns to the Princess Bar to find the two bruisers dead and gift wrapped for him //

    "Saloon's closed for the night," his first-person thought captions read. "Place should be empty, staff all gone home." You can't expect me to believe that a saloon in Madripoor's Lowtown would be closed before midnight, which is the time established in the pages immediately preceding, or even shortly after midnight depending on how long it took Jessica to get Logan out of the water while Sabretooth dealt with the Darryls.

    I didn't know that this was Claremont's last issue, and that really has no bearing on my observation, but as it happens I was particularly struck from the very first pages of this issue how great a job he does with Logan's narration. While certain cadences and pet phrases have been parodied, and justifiably so, including by Claremont himself, I think that the hard-boiled, terse yet sometimes surprisingly poetic voice he's established is a real accomplishment, genuinely putting me in Logan's head without (usually) making me intrusively aware that it's scripted.

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  4. "before Larry Hama finally comes aboard and begins his lengthy run on the series"

    And for the most part, it's a really good run.

    "because at this time neither he nor the readers are aware that he had bone claws prior to the adamantium"

    Well, as it turns out, he was aware of the claws, he just "forgot" about them or his healing factor covered it up or some other dumb ass retcon.

    "Wolverine says prior to his encounter with Sabretooth, he'd never fought anyone who was a match for him."

    CC always did like to drive home how Sabretooth was always Logan's superior. Especially when there was still the idea of the "original"/clone.

    I wonder if at this point, CC is still writing Sabretooth with the idea that there is still the original and the Marauders clone version? In any case, unless I am mistaken, isn't this the last time CC writes any version of Sabretooth until he returns back to the title in th 90s?

    For his final issue, CC certainly gives us quite a bit of Wolverine backstory and history. And Hama will at least retcon it in a creative way by weaving it in with the Weapon X stuff (which still hasn't been revealed to the readers at this point). Did CC ever mention what some of his long-term plans for the title would have been had he stayed?

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  5. @Matt: I wonder if Claremont really planned to leave for good after this issue, or if he thought he might return in a few months or a year or more?

    You know, I've never really considered that, but I could see it. Maybe he figured he'd step aside for the bi-weekly "Gehenna Stone" story, then come back after that, but just decided to stay gone?

    @Teemu: Well... at least we got to keep Ogun.

    Bleck. That's a piece of backstory I'd have preferred they did retcon out.

    Oh, and, they did find the cabin in the end, so everything about Silver Fox wasn't necessarily just studio work.

    Yeah, if memory serves, pretty much the only part of this story that turns out to be entirely the result of a memory implant is Silver Fox's death. Everything else (including Sabretooth attacking her and triggering Wolverine) actually happened more or less as depicted. I think.

    @Blam: And she is not what I picture when I hear the phrase "Silver Fox".

    Heh. You were thinking more Anderson Cooper? ;)

    I feel less confident that Logan as Patch would use Logan's actual birthday, however.

    Then again, considering how half assed the rest of the Patch disguise is, maybe he would.

    While certain cadences and pet phrases have been parodied, and justifiably so, including by Claremont himself, I think that the hard-boiled, terse yet sometimes surprisingly poetic voice he's established is a real accomplishment, genuinely putting me in Logan's head without (usually) making me intrusively aware that it's scripted.

    Well said. I hesitate to call Claremont's first person Wolverine narration naturalistic, but there's definitely an effortlessness to it that makes it more enjoyable to read. I can pick up an issue of this series and slip into it without finding it jarring at all.

    @wwk5d: And for the most part, it's a really good run.

    That's my recollection as well, though I've never read the early part of it.

    Well, as it turns out, he was aware of the claws, he just "forgot" about them or his healing factor covered it up or some other dumb ass retcon.

    I think the official retcon is the healing factor "healing" his mind of the traumatic memories associated with the claws.

    Which, as dumbass retcons goes, I've always found to be rather elegant in its simplicity.

    I wonder if at this point, CC is still writing Sabretooth with the idea that there is still the original and the Marauders clone version?

    I would assume so. And yeah, I'm pretty sure this is the last time he writes Sabretooth until his 00s return.

    Did CC ever mention what some of his long-term plans for the title would have been had he stayed?

    All of the "coulda been" plans I've seen seemed to speak directly to events in X-Men. I've not seen anything about Claremont's specific plans for this series.

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  6. Teebore: Bleck. That's a piece of backstory I'd have preferred they did retcon out.

    Yes. I do hope it was obvious that I presented this particular silver lining in sarcastical sense. Though I do have lots of love for Kitty Pryde & Wolverine, what with our publication of it having been an unprecedencedly massive 144-or-so book that was advertised in the back covers of some of my very first Marvel comic books, having Wolverine, Wolverine hacking a ninja, Wolverine, some great continuity control regarding Storm's losing powers, James Hudson's death and Casket of Ancient Winters, plus the cutest trick of portraying )text translated from Japanese(.

    It's the sole reason my heart bleeds a bit every time people disbarage Milgrom.

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  7. @Teemu: It's the sole reason my heart bleeds a bit every time people disbarage Milgrom.

    Heh. Whereas for me, it's example A of why I think Milgrom's art is horrible (exhibit B is Secret Wars II).

    I would have enjoyed that series so much more if literally anyone, including some kind of chimp baby using his feet, had drawn it.

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  8. Ha! Good Milgrom burn, Teebore.

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  9. "That's my recollection as well, though I've never read the early part of it. "

    I think you'll enjoy it. The beginning was the best part. Once Silvestri left, it got .... Meh.

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  10. @Teebore: // Then again, considering how half assed the rest of the Patch disguise is, maybe he would. //

    Touché.


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  11. There are 2 really cool things about Wolverine's backstory here that I picked up on:

    1) In the flashback, Wolvie doesn't have his Adamantium yet. I'm pretty sure at this point Wolvie is just tight-lipped on his past and doesn't like to talk about it. As a kid I always assumed that Wolverine lost any memories he had prior to the Weapon X project. However, this was only established in the 1991 Weapon X storyline, and the character still had 15 years of history before that. How else could he remember getting into a brawl with Sabretooth pre-Adamantium if his memory was wiped? This adds a level of dimension to the character in that it's not that he doesn't REMEMBER his past, it's that he doesn't want to talk about it, preferring to remain stoic and mysterious.

    2) Look at the clothing of the patrons at the bar - This is old-timey turn-of-the-century garb. I'm not sure if it's explicitly stated in the issue, but something tells me the flashbacks might've occurred in the late 1800's or early 1900's. Again, Wolvie's age has never been established, but in the 80's he said he was a member of the Devil's Brigade in WWII and therefore is probably much older than he looks. It isn't until the Origin comics that we learn he's anywhere from 120-150 years old.

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