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Friday, March 27, 2015

X-amining Wolverine #21

"Battleground"
February 1990

In a Nutshell

Writer: Archie Goodwin
Breakdown Artist: John Byrne
Finishing Artist: Klaus Janson
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Australia, the X-Men worry about Wolverine, with Psylocke able to sense his location but unable to read his thoughts. In Tierra Verde, Geist leads a search party through the jungle, ignoring La Bandera and the escaped prisoners to focus on Wolverine. However, Wolverine is suffering from the effects of the tainted cocaine, and though Sister Salvation is able to use her power to help him, the respites are brief. Meanwhile, La Bandera leads her group through the jungle, where they encounter a group of natives. Elsewhere, as Roughouse and Sister Salvation hide from Geist, Wolverine hallucinates that he's in World War II-era Germany fighting Nazis. After being injured in the hallucination, he sees Sister Salvation, who tells him only he can save himself. The hallucination continues as Wolverine attacks Geist, who is attending Adolf Hitler, but when he slashes open Geist, a creature called Spore spills out, encompassing Wolverine.



Spore explains that he was created to be the ultimate weapon in the Deviants' war against the Eternals but the Celestials found it unworthy and reduced Spore to the primordial slime from which it grew. But Spore persevered, eventually finding life in the crop of cocaine planted in the soil where it lay dormant, and from there, the people that used it. Though most bodies couldn't survive having an alien being growing within them, in Wolverine Spore has found a body that can survive his presence. Wolverine, however, realizing what Sister Salvation meant, marshals his healing fact and cuts out the disease, waking in the real world free of its influence. Just then, however, Caridad and Geist appear, having followed the trail surreptitiously left by Sister Salvation, who tells Wolverine she couldn't abandon her son.

Firsts and Other Notables
The X-Men (circa Uncanny X-Men #249) pop up in the opening page of this issue, as Psylocke worries about her inability to read Wolverine's mind despite being able to sense that he's in Central America. If I wanted to be pedantic, I'd point out that she should really need something like Cerebro to be able to use her telepathy across distances that vast, but I get that the point is to A. quickly establish the stakes of Wolverine's current situation and B. provide a brief check-in with the X-Men to show where this story fits in the overall chronology.


That said, it does muck with the chronology a bit, as we now have Wolverine's "Acts of Vengeance" story set well before Uncanny X-Men's "Acts of Vengeance" storyline, implying that the entirety of "Acts" covered much more time than seems reasonable (and that Magneto joined the Prime Movers before his conversation with Moira regarding his perceived villainy in X-Men #253).

Still, it's nice to John Byrne drawing the X-Men again for the first time in ages, however briefly.

This issue introduces Spore, am organism created by the Deviants eons ago during their war with the Eternals, which was judged a failure by the Celestials and seeming destroyed (the god-like Eternals and the monster-like  Deviants are long-lived, hidden races created by the Celestials as an offshoot of humanity. Not to be confused with the Inhumans, who were evolved from primitive man by the Kree). But Spore continued to exist in microscopic form, eventually taking control of the cocaine planted where it lay dormant, thus infecting the cocaine and then, the people who used the cocaine, explaining why this particular batch of the drug has the effects on people that it does.


Spore reveals itself to Wolverine during one of Wolverine's tainted-cocaine-induced hallucinations, so I suppose technically, Spore hasn't officially appeared yet.

A Work in Progress
Wolverine was hit with darts containing the tainted cocaine by Geist last issue, though it was a subtle moment - I had to go back and double check that it happened (Geist talks about doing it, and then in the last panel you can see the darts in Wolverine's back).

Teebore's Take
This is probably the weakest issue of the Goodwin/Byrne run yet, as the bulk of it involves Wolverine having drug-induced hallucinatory battles with Nazis. Which, while fighting Nazis is always fun, doesn't exactly move the story or the character forward all that much. Towards the end though, the story takes an interesting turn, with the introduction of Spore, a Deviant-created organism that is revealed to be the cause of the tainted cocaine's special abilities and dangerous side effects. Seeing the Celestials, Eternals and Deviants pop up in a story that, thus far, has mostly been a pretty straight-forward superhero representation of an 80s action flick certainly makes for an intriguing development. It does fit the way Goodwin & Byrne have been expanding the story every couple issues, but it remains to be seen if adding the Celestials to the mix is one turn too far. For now, it's just the kind of thing to grab my waning attention.

Next Issue
Next week, Uncanny X-Men #259, New Mutants #87, and X-Factor #52. 

Collected Editions

8 comments:

  1. "it does muck with the chronology a bit, as we now have Wolverine's "Acts of Vengeance" story set well before Uncanny X-Men's "Acts of Vengeance" storyline, implying that the entirety of "Acts" covered much more time than seems reasonable (and that Magneto joined the Prime Movers before his conversation with Moira regarding his perceived villainy in X-Men #253)"
    I think the real problem is the Skull's appearance in Wolverine 19. In Captain America 365, the Skull decides to join Loki's cabal after Cap learns that Hydrobase has been sunk. In Avengers West Coast 53, the West Coasters still don't know that Hydrobase has been sunk. Avengers 312 and Avengers West Coast 54 are clearly intended to take place a few hours after Avengers West Coast 53. The problem is that since the Skull is present in Wolverine 19, and the battle with the Reavers in X-Men 255 is mentioned in Avengers 312, everything between Wolverine 19 and X-Men 255 has to be squeezed in between Cap finding out about Hydrobase and Avengers 312, which makes no sense.

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  2. The X-men's appearance is a bit problematic, for many reasons. Besides the continuity brainhurt it gives you with regards to AOV, it seems weird that the X-men know where Wolverine is but decide not to help him, even though they can get there with no problem. And also, the conversation itself doesn't quite fit in with the story that was printed at the time. So while it might be nice to have seen Byrne draw the X-men, it might have been better to not have the scene appear at all. Or maybe show the team already on the mission to save Lorna, even though it happened ages ago. Yikes, what a mess.

    As for the issue itself...well, we're crossed the half-way point in this run. As for Spore...it's either a great plot twist or something that doesn't belong in this story. Should be interesting to see how things get wrapped up in the next 2 issues.

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  3. How long does Wolverine need in estimation (in days) for all his adventures, proximately? Things get wrapped up in Tierra Verde quite snappily, he then heads for Oz by his own means, gets tortured by the Reavers for... days(?), escapes with Jubes walking from the middle of the Outback, they find their way to Madripoor.

    I'm completely willing myself to write off the Kingpin bit in last ish as symbolic rather than actual happening. He and the Tiger Shark may anyway have had jumped the sha... gun with the Cabal-agreed timetable, because the drug load needed their immediate attention (he's a business man), and it's not like La Bandera has established herself as someone in dire need of an Act of Vengeance by the joint effort of the supervillains.

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  4. @Teemu: I'm completely willing myself to write off the Kingpin bit in last ish as symbolic rather than actual happening.

    That's probably the best way to handle it - really, it's just the appearance of the Prime Movers that causes the problem, as anonymous pointed out above. Remove that, and it's just a tale of Kingpin sending an operative to Tiera Verde to take care of La Bandera, Tiger Shark name-dropping the crossover in his dialogue just a coincidence.

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  5. // Spore reveals itself to Wolverine during one of Wolverine's tainted-cocaine-induced hallucinations, so I suppose technically, Spore hasn't officially appeared yet. //

    That is fantastic.

    And it's pretty much the opposite kind of brain-twist I get from seeing everyone speak to La Bandera using the definite article attached to her name, which is like saying, "Hey, The Flash, good to see you."

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  6. PS: Given that Spore exists microscopically in all of the tainted cocaine, I suppose his/its first appearance could also have been a few issues back when we saw someone dosed with it.

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  7. during one of Wolverine's tainted-cocaine-induced hallucinations

    Not a sentence a young comic enthusiast would want anywhere near a moral panic prone mom.

    About 'La Bandera', totally okay with the associated language switch. Compare to "Hej, The Flash, trevligt att möta." Well, maybe not that one, but if the Spanish-speaking Zorro would visit Paris and go as 'Le Renaud'... well, not that either. But, in Spanish, wouldn't they use the definite article when addressing her by her name? "Dos cerveza, por favor, La Bandera?"

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  8. God damn, not even Klaus Janson can save John Byrne's late 80's art. I've been openly critical of Byrne before - His work on the X-Men is some of the most beautiful comic art in mainstream superhero comics, in my opinion. Then he put too much on his plate work-wise and his art suffered (And all the while his ego grew more and more and more, where he thought he was infallible while putting out some of the worst work of his career).

    It's cool to see him drawing the X-Men in this issue, but that page doesn't even compare to his worst work in his original UXM run. I've been under the impression that Byrne's work looks better with some inkers (Hence why I think Byrne and Austin were a brilliant combination), but an inker can only do so much with what's handed to them. I've often wondered what Byrne's art would look like during this period if he only penciled his work, instead of writing/penciling/inking one or even two books a month.

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