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Friday, October 30, 2015

X-amining Wolverine #35

"Blood Sand and Claws!"
January 1991

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine, Puck & Lady Deathstrike get sent back in time to the Spanish Civil War. 

Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Marc Silvestri
Inker: Dan Green
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Vancouver, Wolverine visits Puck, who's filling in for a friend as a bouncer at a local bar. Meanwhile, Lady Deathstrike attempts to track Wolverine down, starting at Dai-Kumo's abandoned mansion in Osaka, where she ends up killing a pair of cops, learning from their database that Wolverine entered the country from Madripoor. Contacting Pierce, she's returned to Australia by Gateway, then immediately sets out for Madripoor. There, she confronts Tyger Tiger and, by threatening one of the waitresses at her casino, learns that Wolverine is in Vancouver. Just then, he and Puck are fishing, and Wolverine finds a picture of Puck with Ernest Hemingway, along with Inez, a woman whose name Wolverine somehow knows. Puck asks him if he was ever in Spain in 1937, as that's when and where the picture was taken. Wolverine doesn't think so, but says he can almost see the place, just as Lady Deathstrike, back in Australia, orders Gateway to send her to the place that Wolverine gazes upon at that moment.


Suddenly, she appears in Puck and Wolverine's boat, but moments later is sucked into a time vortex created by Gateway that pulls in Wolverine and Puck as well. The two heroes manifest in the middle of a bullfight during the Spanish Civil War, an event Puck remembers attending, along with Hemingway and Inez. Just then, the crowd is dive bombed by a rebel plane, and everyone flees. Hemingway tells them they're in Guernica, and though Puck remembers being there, he doesn't remember Wolverine being with him. In the midst of the ongoing bombing, Puck and Wolverine decide to leave town with Hemingway, to meet up with Inez's partisan band in the mountains. Meanwhile, Lady Deathstrike is confronted by a squad of Nazis, who believe that she is a Republican partisan, and thus, is to be hung from the nearest telephone pole. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Alpha Flight's Puck, like Wolverine a similarly long-lived Canadian superhero, guest stars in this issue (and the rest of the story). Notably, when transported to 1937, Puck regains his normal height.


Lady Deathstrike pops up to serve as the chief antagonist of this story. In a nice nod to internal continuity, she tracks Wolverine from Osaka and the events of issues #31-33 back to Madripoor, where she encounters Tyger Tiger before triggering the time warp that sends everyone back to the Spanish Civil War.


She is joined, briefly, by Pierce and a few of the other Reavers, as well as Gateway.


In 1937, Puck is friends with novelist Ernest Hemingway (aka Dr. Bitz's default answer whenever the Final Jeopardy category is something like "20th Century American Authors"), who (in real life and this story) is a journalist covering the Spanish Civil War, an experience which informed his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, and when Puck & Wolverine arrive in the past, they do so in the midst of a bullfight, the sport around which much of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises is constructed. Hemingway will continue to play a role in the rest of the story.


A new masthead debuts this issue, giving a general lowdown on Wolverine and what his deal is.



A Work in Progress
Lady Deathstrike is able to interface directly with a computer, something I don't think we've ever seen her do before.


Pierce says that while Gateway is beholden to do as the Reavers say (for still unknown reasons), he doesn't like it, and thus, the Reavers must be very careful and precise in how they phrase their orders to him.


The Reference Section 
Wolverine and Puck are in Guernica, Spain, the setting of one Pablo Picasso's more famous paintings, prompting Hemingway to reference his time in Paris with Picasso and Gertrude Stein (amongst others), members of the Lost Generation of artists who came of age between the world wars.


The two Japanese cops Lady Deathstrike attacks are named Akira and Tetsuo, likely a reference to the influential Japanese anime Akira.

Teebore's Take
I've never read the story which begins in this issue before, but I have read about it, and I am pleased with how it's beginning. In all honesty, it's the first issue of this series to feel like what I've always expected a Wolverine solo series to feel like, in that it marries the pulpy tone the book successfully and consistently achieved throughout its run to characters and situations that are specific to Wolverine: in Puck and Lady Deathstrike, this story gives Wolverine an ally and an antagonist that share history with the character, in a way few supporting cast members or villains have thus far (arguably only Karma & her uncle, Tyger Tiger, who gets the nod on a technicality, and Sabretooth in his one-issue appearance were culled from the greater history of Wolverine and the X-books, with nearly every other supporting character or villain in the series being one-offs, new creations or pulled from other corners of the Marvel Universe). Here, finally, is a story involving Wolverine interacting with characters with whom he's had significant interactions and/or a shared history with prior to the start of the series.

The tone of this story, meanwhile, maintains the pulpy feel of earlier issues, though most of the trappings here (time travel, cyborgs, Nazis) definitely skew more comic book-y than the series' now-standard adventure serial vibe (though the bull-fighting element definitely matches the traditional machismo of earlier stories), which adds to this feeling more like an issue of a traditional comic book series. But, after introducing the idea a bit in the previous issue, this story is also where Hama really starts playing with Wolverine's history, and the idea of him as a time traveler. Not just a literal one (going back from the present to a time in the past), as in this story, but just the fact that thanks to his longevity, Wolverine has seen a lot and been around for significant historical events.

It's not just about revealing bits of his personal backstory that had previously been so shrouded in mystery (though there's definitely some of that in play, here and later in Hama's run), but about emphasizing that Wolverine has a lot more personal history than most characters and thus, that a lot of interesting stories can be culled from that, and about not being so afraid of demystifying the character's past that his past can't be used as the basis of any stories at all. Ultimately, the exploration of that aspect of his character, which will dominate especially the first half or so of Hama's run on this title, along with the presence of characters with significant ties to Wolverine specifically, makes this issue feel like the true start of what a Wolverine ongoing series should be.

Next Issue
Next week: Uncanny X-Men #273, New Mutants #98, and X-Factor #63.

Collected Editions

18 comments:

  1. Is it just me, or does that cover have a certain Mignola-esque quality to it?

    "She is joined, briefly, by Pierce and a few of the other Reavers, as well as Gateway."

    Am I the only one who cracked up at Pierce's comment about Madripoor being too dangerous even for the Reavers? A little bit of overselling by Hama, and given what we've already seen of Madripoor, a bit much.

    "Lady Deathstrike is able to interface directly with a computer, something I don't think we've ever seen her do before."

    Before or since, no?

    So this is the first "real" issue of Hama's run, the previous issues were just a warm up.

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    1. Is it just me, or does that cover have a certain Mignola-esque quality to it?

      Now that you mention it, I see it too.

      A little bit of overselling by Hama, and given what we've already seen of Madripoor, a bit much.

      Yeah. If anything, I thought it really undersold the Reavers. Like, you guys can't handle the fancy Prince and the crime boss who is only a crime boss because you half-ass turned her evil in the first place?

      Before or since, no?

      Not that I can recall.

      So this is the first "real" issue of Hama's run, the previous issues were just a warm up.

      Well said. The Yakuza story, in hindsight, feels a lot like Hama trying to do a story in the series' usual aesthetic, with the superhero/comic book elements toned down, a light supporting cast, a plot that could star really any gritty "street level" character (you could easily sub in Daredevil or Punisher for that story with minimal fuss). Issue #34 is him flexing his muscles, starting to play with the idea of Wolverine dealing with his long personal history. This, then, is where he marries the two approaches into his own vision for the series.

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    2. I disagree. As you pointed out, there is continuity between this issue and the end of #33. Also, Hama will have both Reiko from the first arc and the Hunter in Darkness from issue 34 return to play major roles in other storylines. I don't see anything warmup-y, personally, about the first four issues. I think Hama and Silverstri hit the ground running. But, different strokes. Just my two cents. :)

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    3. It isn't about continuity, its about the overall tone and style that begins with this issue. But as you said, different strokes.

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    4. wwk5d: Am I the only one who cracked up at Pierce's comment about Madripoor being too dangerous even for the Reavers?

      Well, it is a place for which Havok, Longshot and Colossus aren't old enough.

      Shame about the bastard Cable taking kids there for their first outing.

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    5. I'm with Jason on this one. The main difference is only the milieu that was Madripoor of Claremont in the first one, and Hama can hardly be expected to start from Canada from his panel one and just yellow-box Logan's departure from Madripoor away. But while he was there, he got impaled with steel to horror of people not unlike in this issue (which scene I, again, love) and there was a silly yahoo making ado of his invulnerability except for alien steel. Totally Hama.

      It's like Hama was very visibly pouring himself into the cracks between the brickwork that was WOLVERINE title this far in the first story, and at this point he's already crushed the bricks and made the title his own.

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    6. The cover definitely has a Mignola-esque quality, as do parts of the interior art — particularly the heavily spotted blacks and minimalism of characters seen in long shots, all of which is evident at once in the final panel.

      @wwk5d: // Am I the only one who cracked up at Pierce's comment about Madripoor being too dangerous even for the Reavers? //

      No.

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  2. Lady Deathstrike is able to interface directly with a computer, something I don't think we've ever seen her do before.

    It's (about) 1990, that's what cyber-somethings do in the current scifi. They had this absolutely kooky idea that everyone would be connected to this world wide web called cyberspace or cybernet, and hundreds of Megabytes of information would fit into tiny chips and by 2020 they would even have mobile modems that would lose connection with only 25 % probability every turn.

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    1. Oh, it's certainly not an out-of-left-field development of her abilities. I'm not being critical of it, just pointing out this is the first time we've seen her do something like that.

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    2. She hasn't really had much on-panel reason before, but I think the new Deathlok connected similarly in his own book that had been recently published. I love the callback and usage of the cargo manifest from the previous story. Continuity done right, even if it's inter-title.

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    3. Definitely. Hama could have easily had Deathstrike pick up Wolverine's trail in any of a dozen places, but bringing in his first story just helps tighten things up and make everything feel like it matters. Continuity done right, indeed.

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  3. I absolutely love Deathstrike getting titillated by the data flow. It sells her non-humanity better than any action-action would.

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  4. This is the issue in which Hama corrects his mistake from issue 31, re: which poet wrote "The Fog."

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    1. But talk about making lemonade of lemons, when Puck cues in with his notion of Hemingway, and sends Logan's eyes of mind wandering just when L. Deathstrike gives her ill-formed instructions. Do we have actual admission of it being writer's own fault or did Hama plant the mistake originally just to bring up Hemingway here? As noted when the misquote happened, it was Logan rather than the narrator speaking. Same as with the cargo manifest, it works so magnificently here it's hard to believe it wasn't intentional plant to begin with.

      I love the plot device that takes them back in time, because it's so cheesy especially for comics of this era and at the same time totally shameless and awesome.

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    2. Even though it’s easy to pass off the mistake as Logan’s due to the narration, I feel like the lack of correction in proximity to it and the clunky way it’s brought up here point to the mistake being Hama’s, although the clunk gives way to elegance in terms of how it segues into the springboard for the new plot.

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    3. I don't know Hama's other work, but on the comments for X-amination for UNCANNY #257 I was positively exhilarated of Hama picking up the cue for the interdimensionality of Landau, Luckman & Lake to the extent that I wouldn't on this know put it past him of dropping some of his own too for later picking-up. Do we know how far ahead he was usually planning things? Four issues is nothing.

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  5. Not only do Logan and Puck share psychic scars and inhuman longevity; it’s also a reunion of the Guys Who Pined For Married Heather Hudson club — Madison Jeffries only being an auxiliary member since, from what I recall, they had an actual romance while Mac was presumed dead.

    // it marries the pulpy tone the book successfully and consistently achieved throughout its run to characters and situations that are specific to Wolverine //

    Agreed with all that stuff.

    // Lady Deathstrike, back in Australia, orders Gateway to send her to the place that Wolverine gazes upon at that moment //

    I know such a wrinkle isn’t entirely original but I enjoyed it. Plus now I really want someone to edit Hugh Jackman as Wolverine into Midnight in Paris.

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  6. Hmh. I would say the pulpiness at least takes backseat from after this story if it doesn't disappear completely. It may be the change of locale from the more exotic places that mostly gives me that feel, but the book will also be married more tightly to the X-continuum which will amp up the superheroics.

    On completely other matters, I own up to being a war puff to the extent that I can't help but point out that Luftwaffe (airforce) gang Schlachter claims them to be would generally not be going around in the (unquestionably betterknown) Wehrmacht (army) uniforms, and specifically in the Spanish civil war the Legion Condor were supposed to be but "volunteers" and as such dressing in Spanish uniforms. Of course, what fun is fighting nazis if you can't properly show them as nazis, so it may have been a deliberate ahistoric editorial choice.

    As captain of Luftwaffe Schlachter is of course a 'hauptmann' rather than 'kaptain', which may though be down only his funetik accent here because they address him correctly on the next issue. Which begets the question: in what language does he address L. Deathstrike, who I guess would have been talking Japanese when talking to herself?

    But, I'm pleased to report they at least got the Stuka in historically accurate context.

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