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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

X-amining Marvel Comics Presents #51-53: The Wilding

"Face Off " / "The First Cut is the Deepest" / "The First Cut is the Deepest"
June - July 1990

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine battles Wildchild

Plot: Rob Liefeld
Script: Rob Liefeld (issue #51), Fabian Nicieza (issue #52-53)
Pencils: Rob Liefeld
Inkers: Rob Liefeld, Chris Ivy/Joe Rubinstein (issue #53)
Letterer: Jade Moede
Colorist:Brad Vancata
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Issue #51: Leaving a bar, Wolverine is attacked by Wild Child, leading both Wolverine and Heather Hudson to believe that Wild Child is responsible for a recent rash of serial killings. Wolverine, after remembering a previous training session with Wild Child, vows to track him down. Issue #52: Wolverine stakes out Wild Child's apartment, and watches as Heather Hudson enters the building. Inside, she's attacked by Wild Child, who rips through the circuitry of her suit. Wolverine crashes into the room, and spotting Heather's condition, realizes Wild Child is not a man to be saved but an animal to be put down. The two fight, but Wild Child retreats, knowing Wolverine will opt to save Heather rather than pursue him.


After Wolverine gets Heather to a hospital, he resumes the hunt for Wild Child. Issue #53: Wolverine tracks Wild Child for eleven days, finally confronting him in the forests of the Yukon. As they fight, Wolverine wants to know why he attacked Heather, and Wild Child insists that he had to, then declares that Wolverine will either have to kill him or let him go, as he won't go to jail. The two end up facing off atop a log spanning a deep chasm with a river at the bottom, and the log ends up falling into the river, taking the two men with it. Later, Wolverine climbs out of the river, knowing he's lost Wild Child, the choice of killing him or sparing him taken out of his hands.

Firsts and Other Notables
The antagonist of this story is Wild Child (or Wildchild, if you prefer), an Alpha Flight villain who at this point in time is pretty much like Sabretooth in terms of powers and temperament. He eventually is cured of his mental illnesses by Department H, pardoned, and made a member of Alpha Flight as Weapon Omega. After "Age of Apocalypse", in which an alternate version of Wild Child is shown to be a member of the X-Men, he will join the government-sponsored iteration of X-Factor and be a regular part of that series nearly to the end of its initial run.

Rob Liefeld, an avowed fan of Wolverine, writes and draws all three issues of this story. He's joined by Fabian Nicieza, his future New Mutants/X-Force co-writer, as scripter, starting with issue #52.

Issue #53 also features a done-in-one Black Widow/Silver Sable story, written and drawn by Liefeld.

The letter column in this issue teases the upcoming Barry Windsor-Smith-drawn "Weapon X" serial, the first significant effort to tell a tale set in Wolverine's past, though that story doesn't start for another twenty-odd issues. 

The Chronology Corner
Wolverine's appearance in this story occurs prior to Uncanny X-Men #246 and Wolverine #17.

A Work in Progress
As issue #51 opens, Wolverine is in disguise as Patch.

A flashback to Wolverine's time with the early Alpha Flight affords Liefeld an opportunity to draw Wolverine in his original yellow and blue costume.


In issue #52, Wolverine notes that Heather Hudson still believes him to be dead, as of X-Men #227, something he thinks he should rectify (also, maybe tell Mariko?).
 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Wolverine, drunk as issue #51 begins, makes a point of not driving in his inebriated state.


The Best There is at What He Does
This story features another old friend from Wolverine's past we've never seen before nor will again (we really need to come up with a catchy, shorter name for this type of character), an emergency room doctor named Giloski who helps patch up Heather but keeps Wolverine's involvement to himself.


501 Genes
Not that Liefeld is the only artist with this problem, but Wolverine's claws on the final page of issue #51 look to be coming out at the wrong angle and are shaped such that they probably couldn't reside in his forearms and come out the top of his hands.


Teebore's Take
A relic from a time when Rob Liefeld was still enough of an up-and-comer that he'd do inventory stories, the appeal here is seeing him devote an issue's worth of pages to one his favorite characters, the end result being something of a perfect storm of early 90s kewlness, one of the half-decade's biggest artists drawing one of its biggest characters. Liefeld actually shows a surprising amount of knowledge about Wolverine and Alpha Flight history (though a kick internet check tells me this story is something of a nightmare to place within Alpha Flight continuity) working in references to both Wolverine's past with Heather Hudson & Alpha Flight as well as Wild Child's past history with the same.

The central narrative is fairly routine/repetitious, a series of fights between Wolverine and Wild Child, with both issues #51 and #52 ending as Wolverine declares his intentions to hunt down Wild Child and a lot of the standard material in which Wolverine's inner monologue contrasts himself with his more feral, uninhibited opponent. And the open-ended resolution, with neither character emerging a winner and Wolverine let off the hook from deciding whether or not to kill Wild Child, smacks of Liefeld trying to make A Deep Statement. But as with the Erik Larsen Spider-Man/Wolverine story in the previous three issues, the brevity of this story helps smooth over the repetition of the narrative and the somewhat pompous ending. Little more than a curious relic of its era, then, but short enough in its telling to not be overly tedious.

Next Issue
Next week: Uncanny X-Men #263, New Mutants #91, and X-Factor #56.

Collected Editions

7 comments:

  1. This story features another old friend from Wolverine's past we've never seen before nor will again (we really need to come up with a catchy, shorter name for this type of character)

    They're 'Asanos', to commemorate Asano Kimura, an old friend and a plot victim from Claremont-Miller #1.

    In the first part Logan yellow bix narrates the kid being taken by rage, something "his old man learned to control"... we don't know his pa, right? A Sabretooth tease, perhaps, only to be unceremoniously thrown out when Sabretooth becomes Wolvie's presumed pa instead for a while?

    The coiner of the 90's phrase, "Stab my eyes!", totally had read this story. That, oh so much.

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  2. "(though a kick internet check tells me this story is something of a nightmare to place within Alpha Flight continuity)"
    The problem is that from Alpha Flight 76-86, Wild Child was working for the Canadian Government as part of Gamma Flight. (This story came out around Alpha Flight 85). Wild Child seemed to be completely lucid and much more under control in those issues. And we can't just push this issue back just before Alpha Flight 76, since the dialogue in Alpha Flight 76 implies that Wild Child was released at the same time as Diamond Lil, who was released in Alpha Flight 71. And Lil's appearance in issue 71 takes place the day after the story in Alpha Flight 67-70. (For what it's worth, according to Alpha Flight 87-90 this story took place "a year ago" which in Marvel time could easliyl be before Alpha Flight 67.)

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  3. Ah, Rob Liefeld. The artistic comedic gift that just keeps on giving.

    "Issue #53 also features a done-in-one Black Widow/Silver Sable story, written and drawn by Liefeld."

    I can only imagine how that one turned out.

    "Not that Liefeld is the only artist with this problem, but Wolverine's claws on the final page of issue #51 look to be coming out at the wrong angle and are shaped such that they probably couldn't reside in his forearms and come out the top of his hands."

    Just look at that other panel you posted with Wolverine training in his old costume. His claws in that panel are twice as long as his fist and forearm combined!

    Also, it seems Dept H got their training battlesuits from the Hellfire Club, which can only mean the Shadow King was trying to corrupt Alpha Flight too at one point ;)

    If nothing else, Leifeld's art is at least fun to laugh at. As much as we make fun of his anatomy, his faces and facial expressions aren't that much better. Teebore, was anyone shouting in this issue with their eyes closed?

    Who did the cover? I can't make out the signature.

    Asano is a bit of a different case, since he was created just to die. He was basically just created to die. Characters like Giloski, though, just show up for an appearance (or two, maximum) and then just book a one-way ticket to comic book limbo.

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  4. Fred Butler is credited with the cover to #53. His GCD entries are sparse. Paul Gulacy and Richard Howell drew the covers to #51 and #52, respectively.

    // A flashback to Wolverine's time with the early Alpha Flight affords Liefeld an opportunity to draw Wolverine in his original yellow and blue costume. //

    I don’t think Byrne or Cockrum ever drew the shoulder flares on that uniform as metallic the way they’re done here. Someone else would know better than I whether this is the first such depiction, but I’ve always associated the change with the Jim Lee era’s return to this costume after the brown one, so I was surprised. The mask flares are depicted as particularly tall, also, and come to think of it so are the boot flares — just another example of how, like McFarlane and to a lesser extent Lee, Liefeld never met a flourish he didn’t prefer to take to the, um, extreme.

    That caption noting the flashback was to 1974 surprised me too, although the impetus was presumably to firmly set it before Giant-Size X-Men. I guess whether Marvel Time is applied here or not doesn’t matter since Wolverine and Wild Child both have that slowed aging deal that comes with a “healing factor”; James Hudson is name-checked by Wolverine, but he’s dead in the present day of the story and he was likely on the older side of the standard superhero set, circumstances that keep the 15-year span between past and present from being more than a curiosity.

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  5. wwk5d: Also, it seems Dept H got their training battlesuits from the Hellfire Club, which can only mean the Shadow King was trying to corrupt Alpha Flight too at one point

    Hey! So it was a Department H training suit that "Patch" was masquerading himself with early on in Madripoor. Going undercover is not the best thing there is he does.

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  6. And moreover, The Thing returns from Battle Planet in spring '85 in that same uniform, and in the summer of the same year we suddenly find Karma being possessed out of nowhere by Farouk. Coincidence? The Thing even goes to hang with the Team America, associated with Xi'an's initial disappearance , right afterwards. I call shadowningans!

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  7. @Teemu: The coiner of the 90's phrase, "Stab my eyes!", totally had read this story. That, oh so much.

    Heh. I'm pretty sure it's either Liefeld or Nicieza who coin that phrase as Cable's oath of choice, so yeah, they read this story. :)

    @wwk5d: I can only imagine how that one turned out.

    I gave it a quick skim. There was actually a mildly amusing bit where the two women comment on the obligatory "fight before we team up" bit and Liefeld depicts their ensuing fight as a series of static fight scenes on one page. Otherwise, about what you'd expect from Liefeld and MCP.

    Teebore, was anyone shouting in this issue with their eyes closed?

    Pretty sure, yeah. And eyes closed without shouting.

    Asano is a bit of a different case, since he was created just to die. He was basically just created to die. Characters like Giloski, though, just show up for an appearance (or two, maximum) and then just book a one-way ticket to comic book limbo.

    Agreed. "Asano" is not quite right, as he was a bit of a different case.

    @Blam: Someone else would know better than I whether this is the first such depiction, but I’ve always associated the change with the Jim Lee era’s return to this costume after the brown one, so I was surprised.

    I would too, now that you mention it. Offhand, I can't think of other instances of it showing up between this and when Lee brings it back in X-MEN (vol. 2) #4, so it is possible this is the first appearance of the more (to use your word) extreme iteration of the original costume. Which is certainly notable, if true.

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