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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure

"The Jungle Adventure"
1990

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine battles Apocalypse in the Savage Land. 

Writer: Walt Simonson
Penciler: Mike Mignola
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Colorist: Mark Chiarello
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In the Savage Land, a group of primitive natives, the Tribe of Fire, celebrate the arrival of Wolverine, who lands a small plane and is heralded as a child of the gods. He is challenged to combat by the chieftain of the tribe, and after a furious fight, Wolverine prevails, winning leadership of the tribe in the process. Later that night, the chieftain visits Wolverine in his cave, revealing herself to be a woman named Gahck, who takes Wolverine as her mate. Wolverine tells her that he came to the Savage Land after smelling the place on a failed assassin who tried to kill him. Time passes, and though Wolverine is no closer to learning who sent the assassin, he finds comfort in the simple life he is living amongst the tribe. Eventually, he leads the tribe in battle against a massive dinosaur that's been preying on their people, and he discovers the creature is actually a cyborg, designed to capture the individuals believed to have been eaten.


The tribe leads him to the volcano from which the creature came. Finding an access tunnel hidden nearby, Wolverine discovers a secret lab hidden within the mountain, and finds himself face to face with Apocalypse. He reveals that he's transforming the captured natives into cyborgs designed to target specific mutants, but when Apocalypse discovers Gahck lurking in the base, he is distracted enough for Wolverine to escape. As Gahck frees the captives, Wolverine battles Apocalypse, who turns out to be a robot. Wolverine destroys the robot, and in the wake of the battle, he discovers an adamantium skull in the laboratory. Just then, the real Apocalypse appears via a hologram, explaining that his robot duplicate's programming had changed from its original configuration, and so Apocalypse sent the assassin to lure Wolverine into a confrontation with the robot in order to destroy him. As Apocalypse fades away, Wolverine destroys the lab and flies off in his plane, leaving behind stories of his adventures amongst the Tribe of Fire, as well, possibly, as a child by Gahck.  

Firsts and Other Notables
This story marks the first encounter (in terms of publication dates) between Wolverine and Apocalypse, and is mostly remembered for teasing the idea that Apocalypse is responsible for giving Wolverine his adamantium skeleton (an idea previously hinted at in Uncanny X-Men #242). This was Claremont's original plan for the character, something of which Barry Windsor-Smith was aware when he created "Weapon X", the story which first depicted the process of Wolverine acquiring the skeleton.

Claremont never got around to officially establishing the Wolverine/Apocalypse connection, making it yet another ghost plot lost in Claremont's departure from the X-Universe, yet Apocalypse would eventually become a major X-Men villain (at this time, he was still chiefly an X-Factor villain, having not yet appeared in X-Men itself) and would become responsible for giving Wolverine his second adamantium skeleton (after Magneto forcibly removed the first one in X-Men (vol. 2) #25) and briefly transforming him into his Horseman of Death, making their first encounter here still notable, albeit for entirely different reasons than intended at the time.


The specific hint at Apocalypse's involvment in Wolverine's past comes from Wolverine's discovery of an adamantium skull in Apocalypse's abandoned lab. 


Like Colossus before him, this issue hints that Wolverine fathered a child with a Savage Land native, as the final panel shows Gahck, with whom it was heavily implied Wolverine knocked boots earlier in the issue, holding an infant. This child has never been named or acknowledged as a child of Wolverine in any comic save the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe - X-Men in 2004, which listed "Erista" as a son of Wolverine. As that name doesn't appear anywhere else, it's possible Erista was intended by the handbook writers to refer to the child in this issue.


Art comes from a pre-Hellboy Mike Mignola, the first of two projects he did for the X-office, while the story is written by former X-Factor penciler Walt Simonson.

Like Mojo Mayhem, this issue is a prestige format book intended to serve as the Wolverine annual for 1989 (though it cover dated as 1990, it came out in late '89).  

The Chronology Corner
This issue takes place after Wolverine #16, and thus before Wolverine's torture at the hands of the Reavers in Uncanny X-Men #251.

A Work in Progress
Wolverine mentions that Cyclops told the X-Men about Apocalypse at some point.

Teebore's Take
The most notable thing about this issue, aside from being Wolverine's first encounter with Apocalypse (an encounter that becomes more significant in light of future events/aborted storylines moreso than anything at the time), is the art. Though not quite yet in the style for which Mignola will be known (it remains a little rough around the edges), it's still quite effective, able to broadly complement the setting and set the mood while also capable of delving into some nicely detailed backgrounds as well (such as in Apocalypse's lab).

The narrative is a bit more dubious, coming dangerously close at times to falling into stereotypical "white man tames the noble savage" tropes. But Simonson is clearly walking that line intentionally, as the story is clearly meant to evoke Tarzan-esque pulp adventure stories, and by setting the tale in the Savage Land, any representation issues involving any real life peoples are sidestepped.

The end result is an annual that fits in well with the pulpy adventure tone of the regular series (albeit via a different kind of adventure story), one which chronicles a first encounter between two characters that manages to remain significant even though the plotline it was originally meant to tease was ultimately aborted, with some especially snazzy art. Especially as annuals go, that's not too shabby.

Next Issue
We jump back in time to Cyclops' past in the backup stories of Classic X-Men #41-42.

15 comments:

  1. I always love it when adamantium skeletons come complete with teeth. Not really how teeth work.

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  2. "This issue takes place after Wolverine #16, and thus before Wolverine's torture at the hands of the Reavers in Uncanny X-Men #251."

    And also thus before all that Zaladane Savage Land stuff that began in X-Men 249.

    You'll get to it eventually, but Wolverine #23 -- the ending of the arc beginning in issue 17 -- awkwardly shoehorns in a reference to "Jungle Adventure," I assume specifically for chronological clarity. Goodwin and Byrne seemed to be gamely accommodating a LOT of editorial manoeuvrings just so that their arc was clearly placed in the overall X-timeline. (They even expanded the arc from six parts to seven parts in order to have a little "Acts of Vengeance" sidebar.)

    Boy, I remember this era so crazily well. I actually remember my mom yelling at me to come help decorate the Christmas tree, when I only had five pages left of "The Jungle Adventure." (Let me finish my COMICBOOK, mother!!!!)

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  3. I'm kind of mixed on the idea of Apocalypse being behind Wolverine's adamantium skeleton. It is better than, say, Romulus, though...

    "Like Colossus before him, this issue hints that Wolverine fathered a child with a Savage Land native"

    I'm surprised Jason Aaron never did anything with this...or Danial Way. Then again, maybe it's for the best.

    "Wolverine mentions that Cyclops told the X-Men about Apocalypse at some point."

    Which never made sense to me, but, I guess we'll just go with it. Then again, considering how Wolverine thought he was meeting Jean Grey at the time the cyborg tried to assassinate him, it could be fanwanked that some of the X-men - Wolverine, Storm, Havok, and Colossus - might have met up with the members of X-factor post-Inferno?

    "The narrative is a bit more dubious, coming dangerously close at times to falling into stereotypical "white man tames the noble savage" tropes.""

    Well, in all fairness, the white man himself is something of a savage himself...who seems to enjoy and acclimate himself rather well to the "savages" and their lifestyle.

    "Especially as annuals go, that's not too shabby."

    No, it isn't. For those who haven't read it, it is definitely worth picking up.

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  4. "Wolverine mentions that Cyclops told the X-Men about Apocalypse at some point."

    "Which never made sense to me, but, I guess we'll just go with it."

    It works if you assume that on the way to the Mansion to confront Sinister, one of the X-Men asked how Warren turned blue.

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  5. Rogue would know of Apocalypse, having absorbed Warren's memories during Inferno and very specifically having brought forth the one about Apocalypse. The associated shock might even have make her bring the matter up. "So, sugah, who's..."

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  6. @Anonymous: I always love it when adamantium skeletons come complete with teeth. Not really how teeth work.

    Heh. Yeah. You have to wonder if everyone just gets it wrong, or if they're all following the lead of whomever did it first.

    @Jason: Goodwin and Byrne seemed to be gamely accommodating a LOT of editorial manoeuvrings just so that their arc was clearly placed in the overall X-timeline.

    Do you know if they were intended to be the new creative team on the book, or just another fill-in story arc a la Peter David and Jo Duffy's stories?

    I actually remember my mom yelling at me to come help decorate the Christmas tree, when I only had five pages left of "The Jungle Adventure." (Let me finish my COMICBOOK, mother!!!!)

    Ha! I have similar recollections involving some specific books from the early 90s (I can still remember exactly where I bought X-Men: Alpha and that I hastily read it the first time before babysitting the kids next door.

    @wwk5d: I'm kind of mixed on the idea of Apocalypse being behind Wolverine's adamantium skeleton. It is better than, say, Romulus, though...

    That's a pretty low bar to clear, though. :)

    I'd have been okay with Apocalypse being behind the skeleton, but at the same time, in the grand scheme of aborted/unfinished Claremont plots, there are others I'm more saddened never came to fruition.

    Which never made sense to me, but, I guess we'll just go with it.

    As others have said, there's ways it can work. I'm okay with the idea that there was a general exchange of information between the two teams at some point during "Inferno", especially with Archangel's connection to Apocalypse.


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  7. I've never read this, though it's reprinted in one of the WOLVERINE BY LARRY HAMA & MARC SILVESTRI volumes that I own. I'll get to it someday.

    I like the idea of Apocalypse being behind Wolverine's skeleton. I probably would've loved it as a teenager. As the years have gone on, I've come to believe too many characters have been shoehorned into Wolverine's past, and I'd prefer that it just be the Canadian government with no outside influence who did the job. But if it couldn't be them, why not go big and have Apocalypse (or Mr. Sinister) as the puppet master?

    "Art comes from a pre-Hellboy Mike Mignola, the first of two projects he did for the X-office..."

    Mignola also provided covers to a handful of CLASSIC X-MEN issues around this time, covering the Brood saga from the 150s of UXM. As a kid I didn't like his art because it wasn't flashy enough for me, but as an adult I love it.

    Teebore -- "Do you know if they were intended to be the new creative team on the book...?"

    From Byrne's website:

    "I was on the book only for the chance to work with Archie, who I considered one of the best writers in the Biz, and neither of us planned to stay beyond that story arc."

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  8. @Matt: Mignola also provided covers to a handful of CLASSIC X-MEN issues around this time, covering the Brood saga from the 150s of UXM. As a kid I didn't like his art because it wasn't flashy enough for me, but as an adult I love it.

    Ah yeah, I'd forgotten about his covers for Classic X-Men. I was also thinking of the one fill-in issue of X-Force he did.

    And I'm right there with you in terms of gaining an appreciation for his style as I've gotten older.

    And thanks for the Byrne quote. Good to know!

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  9. Teebore -- "And thanks for the Byrne quote. Good to know!"

    Well, I'm no @JohnByrneSays, but I do my best.

    It occurs to me that at some point Byrne also commented that, when he and Goodwin received their royalty checks for those few WOLVERINE issues, they both immediately wondered why they hadn't stuck around longer.

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  10. Matt: It occurs to me that at some point Byrne also commented that, when he and Goodwin received their royalty checks for those few WOLVERINE issues, they both immediately wondered why they hadn't stuck around longer.

    A nasty person would remark that he was too busy in getting to bury a celebrated Claremont character in Avengers West Coast to stay praising another one in Wolverine. But that may be my interpretation of FF #258 talking.

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  11. You get a Savage Land baby! You get a Savage Land baby! Everybody gets a Savage Land baby!!!

    I'm a little curious as to what you meant by "This story marks the first encounter (in terms of publication dates) between Wolverine and Apocalypse" because the rest of the post makes it clear — I think? — that it's their first encounter both in terms of seeing print and, like the story itself suggests, in terms of the narrative. Which seems to cover all the bases. Maybe it was a reference to the teased possibility of Apocalypse having given Logan his adamantium that never came to pass.

    @wwk5d: // considering how Wolverine thought he was meeting Jean Grey at the time the cyborg tried to assassinate him //

    He knows it's a ruse because the paper "doesn't even smell like Jean" but goes out of curiosity.

    @Anonymous: // It works if you assume that on the way to the Mansion to confront Sinister, one of the X-Men asked how Warren turned blue. //

    That is easily one of my favorite comments ever.

    I remember seeing Goodwin/Byrne/Janson hyped, probably in Comics Buyer's Guide, as the new creative team, period, not as a limited run, but maybe I'm fuzzy on my recollection or maybe that quote reflects internal discussions not shared with the fan press right away.

    I've been mesmerized by Mignola's stuff since I first saw it around the time of the Hulk < — > Alpha Flight swap, despite some of its awkwardness; snapped it up wherever I could and remain under its spell to this day. Not to mention that he turned out to be one hell of a writer, especially when he's doing the visual storytelling himself.

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  12. "He knows it's a ruse because the paper "doesn't even smell like Jean" but goes out of curiosity."

    Yeah, but I was alluding to the fact that it seemed to suggest the teams were communicating somehow, and it might suggest that they were meeting socially off-panel as well.

    Ignoring the scent thing, you have to wonder why Wolverine doesn't question how anyone - whether "Jean" or Apocalypse - was able to track him down to begin with. So far, Nanny, the Reavers, and Apocalypse know the X-men are still alive and where to find them, which, worst secret death ever!

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  13. @Teebore: Which aborted/unfinished Claremont plots in particular were you more saddened never came to fruition?

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  14. @Blam: I'm a little curious as to what you meant by "This story marks the first encounter (in terms of publication dates) between Wolverine and Apocalypse" because the rest of the post makes it clear — I think? — that it's their first encounter both in terms of seeing print and, like the story itself suggests, in terms of the narrative. Which seems to cover all the bases.

    Basically, I was being careful to cover my bases just in case there is a later story that establishes the characters first met prior to this story - I can't think of one offhand, but it's possible I'm forgetting one, or that there's one out there I haven't read.

    @Nathan: Which aborted/unfinished Claremont plots in particular were you more saddened never came to fruition?

    I think, most of all, I really wanted to see how his version of the Muir Island Saga would have played out, and then his original plans for the big Xavier/Shadow King fight in #300 that led to Xavier dying and Magneto taking over the X-Men for good.

    The whole "Wolverine dies and comes back as a Hand assassin" element of that storyline I don't really care about (in part because it was eventually done by Millar, in part because I don't think it's as captivating an idea as Claremont did), but all the other stuff he's talked about being in his plans for the run-up to #300 I really wish we'd have gotten, if only because it would have made the the non-team era of the series (when he setup/teased a lot of that stuff which ultimately fizzled, went nowhere, or got handled by someone else) a lot more captivating.

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  15. Claremont always intending for Apocalypse to be the villain behind the adamantium experiment seems incorrect given the villain was only created in 1986.

    I'd suggest that as the villain was introduced under Harras' editorship of X-Factor he was forcing Claremont to make him behind it. We see this when Claremont had the Shadow King hinted as behind the Hounds, while in X-Factor Apocalypse creates Caliban to be the "First Hound". Perhaps Claremont's comment was more an implication that he had started accepting defeat from Harras's editorial decisions.

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