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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

X-amining Wolverine: Bloodlust

"Bloodlust"
1990

In a Nutshell
Wolverine fights a renegade splinter group of an ancient evolutionary offshoot of humanity.

Story & Art: Alan Davis & Paul Neary
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Colorist: Bernie Jaye
Assistant Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
At a bar in Canada, Wolverine is suddenly overwhelmed by the same sensations as when he's violently attacking someone, drawing the ire of several of the patrons and triggering a bar fight. He's led outside by a woman named Saskia, and the pair are attacked by a group of savage bipedal creatures. Wolverine manages to slay several of them, but the rest capture Saskia during the attack. Feeling his animalistic side getting stronger, Wolverine mediates, then dons his X-Men uniform before setting off in search of Saskia. Along the way, he experiences another sensation of savage fury, and watches through someone else's eyes as a family is attacked by the creatures. Just then, he's confronted by another group of the creatures, who bring him onto the spirit plane of Alshra, where they introduce themselves as the Neuri, a race of beings who retreated to the north in the face of humanity's violence centuries ago, but have been forced south by pollution.


The ones who attacked Wolverine are renegades who have broken away from the Neuri group consciousness to attack humans, their savagery affecting Wolverine through his link to the Alshra. Wolverine agrees to stop the renegades and sets off in pursuit at the same time that the bar patrons, hunting for Wolverine, are attacked by the renegade Neuri. Wolverine intervenes, killing more of the renegades, but is badly injured and must be healed by the Neuri before going after the renegade's leader. Wolverine tracks him to cave, where he discovers Saskia. As he tries to shepherd her out of the cave, he realizes she has no scent, and was the renegade leader all along. Wolverine attacks and kills the creature, but their battle brings the cave crashing down around Wolverine. Eventually, he manages to carve his way out, and the remaining Neuri thank him, announcing they're returning to their homeland despite the dangers so as to avoid future conflicts with humanity.

Firsts and Other Notables
Aside from a bit of scripting work for Marvel UK and a couple co-plotting credits on Excalibur, this issue represents Alan Davis' first work as a writer, in advance of his assumption of the role as writer and artist on Excalibur in a few months' time (as well as other things, of course).

A squarebound prestige format issue printed on high gloss paper, like the previous Jungle Adventure, this issue essentially serves as the Wolverine annual for the year (1990).

This issue marks the first appearance of the Neuri, an ancient race that evolved alongside humanity, then fled to the north in the face of humanity's violence, before polution threatened their existence and drove them south into Canada and triggered a group of Neuri to become violent renegades, attacking humanity. They are telepathic and can access an Astral plane like location called Alshra, and can also send their consciousness traveling through space. I believe they pop up again in a future Marvel Comics Presents story, but otherwise, this is more or less their sole significant appearance.


The Neuri tell Wolverine that his adamantium skeleton is holding him back from achieving a balance with his animal nature, and that his healing factor is actively working to reject the metal, an idea that Larry Hama will play with in later issues of Wolverine (particularly in the wake of Wolverine losing the adamantium during "Fatal Attractions").

The Best There is at What He Does
After battling the group of renegade Neuri, Wolverine is said to be injured beyond his body's capacity to heal itself, and the Neuri must intervene to save his life (and repair his costume).


Young Love
Believing himself to be dying, Wolverine's final thoughts are of Mariko.


Teebore's Take
Pitting Wolverine against his bestial side is hardly a novel idea, even in 1990 - heck, it's basically the thematic core of the original Wolverine limited series, and it's the reason writers can't help dropping Wolverine into stories set in Japan. But a Wolverine story in which he fights his bestial side as represented by a group of evolutionary-offshoot telepathic New Age Bigfoots, well, that is a fairly novel approach to the trope. Not surprisingly, this is a weird story, thanks to the presence of the Neuri, but it's not a terrible one. Much of that is that is down to the Davis & Neary art - this story would probably be interminable long and downright dull in the hands of lesser artists, but the art helps smooth over some of the more cliche elements of Davis' scripting and keep the energy up.

In addition to the "struggle against his bestial nature" (a struggle this story suggests Wolverine has mostly won at this point, barring the influence of the renegade Neuri, which doesn't quite gel with other depictions of the character around this time), this issue also carries something of an environmental message (as the Neuri are being displaced by the effects of human pollution), something that remains, sadly, as relevant now as then, and Davis has some fun with the French-Canadians chasing Wolverine, who assume he's a member of Alpha Flight once they see him in costume and immediately embrace him as a superhero (despite wanting to kill him when they thought he was just a runty brawler). So while the main thrust of this issue is a fairly routine Wolverine story, the kind of thing we've seen before and will see again, there's enough little details on the margins (and, of course, some pretty great art) to help it rise above the pack.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, "Girls School from Heck" continues in Excalibur #33. Friday, Lady Deathstrike returns in Wolverine #35. Next week, an artist jam in Uncanny X-Men #273.

13 comments:

  1. I don't know the pronounciation of Neary so I don't know if Neuri was part meant as a pun of the name, but the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus knew to tell us of Neuri, who allegedly were a tribe living around modern-day northern Ukraine/southern Belarus and of whom the neighboring Scythians were totally positive that they were wizards who would turn themselves into wolves for a few days every year.

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    1. I believe these Neuri are meant to be those Neuri - the story says they're from the Ural mountains, and they could be described as being like werewolves. So another case of legend in our world being fact in the Marvel Universe!

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    2. Well, that one Neuri does make a fuss of the acts of murdering and eating human flesh, which funnily resonates the neighbors of Neuri according to Herodotus, the Androphagi, "man-eaters", supposedly the Mordvins, whose name in various neighboring languages referred either to "murderer" or "man-eater" and of whom the later Christian missionaries allegedly told that otherwise they found the new religion sensible but they had massive taboo-like hang-ups with the part of Eucharist where you eat someone's body. Totally coincidental, of course, because I find it uncredible that Davis would be into Finnic history fan fiction, but technically even misinformation is information so there you have it.

      But what is hilarious is that if they are a human off-shoot and are currently in the vast Canadian forests eating human flesh, they face the risk of becoming massive white furry muscular creatures with fangs and claws... and... oh, nevermind.

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  2. I think Davis will use the Neuri in his Excalibur run, when he is writing it. Unless I am mixing them up with some other mythical beast tribe ...

    I adore the artwork for this. Especially the fight scenes.

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    1. It's funny, I even Googled the Neuri, as I usually do when encountering something in a comic for the first time that I'm uncertain whether or not it pops up again, and nothing about Davis' Excalibur came up, even though I had an inkling (from who knows where) that he used them some other time. Way to fail, Marvel Wikia.

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    2. fay to wail

      "What is a 'banshee'", Alex.

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  3. When Wolverine shows up in costume, someone shouts, "It's a superhero! One o' them Alpher Flights!" I always liked that.

    A few years later, there was a scene in McFarlane's Spawn, possibly the first issue, where someone sees him and says, "It's a superhero! One o' them Youngbloods!"

    Coincidence?

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    1. A part of me would like to argue that it's obvious enough a joke to be made out of cold in comics, and specifically that 'Youngbloods' isn't humorously misspelled as 'Yankeebloods' (unless the 's' counts for that of course), but I have to say the Image folks generally and the creator of SPAWN #10 specifically took themselves seriously enough to not allow the hot new creator-owned property by Rob Liefeld to be mentioned by anatomically incorrect written form. So the 's' probably counts. It's verbatim, so I lock the answer 'yes'.

      The big answer I have had for two decades now though is why did the Rob choose to name them after a hockey movie starring Rob Lowe? Also, the hockey movie for all times is 'Slapshot', and 70's Hanson brothers >> 90's Hanson brothers.

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    2. And to clear any possible misunderstandings, that means 'yes, it's no coincidence'.

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  4. Yes, the Neuri show up in one of the sub-plots (or co-lead plots? You'll see when you get there) of Excalibur 42-50. Have I mentioned Alan Davis's solo run of Excalibur is one of my favorite comics?

    This story is okay, but it had me at "Alan Davis art." It's probably the best of the prestige format Wolverine "annuals."

    - Mike Loughlin

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    1. Mike, I'm with you on Davis's EXCALIBUR. It's such a short run, but so good. Especially the first nine issues, which are like a clinic in juggling myriad sub-plots and tying them all together in the end.

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    2. I had to go take looksy what with being mentally invested with them Neuri and holy shit that's some awesome comics right there. I'll bite my lips in sexy Alan Davis way on further comments and wait for Teeb to get there.

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  5. // this issue essentially serves as the Wolverine annual for the year //

    In more than the abstract: The indicia actually calls it “Wolverine Annual #2: Bloodlust.” (I just looked at Jungle Adventure to see if its indicia said #1, which it rather understandably [if annoyingly for my inner consistency nerd] doesn’t.)

    // Wolverine's final thoughts are of Mariko //

    Maybe we’re at the point in the recently mentioned love-triangle retcon that he should be thinking of Jean, but I really appreciated Davis’ usage of Mariko here.

    // this story would probably be interminable long and downright dull in the hands of lesser artists //

    Agreed… There were times it felt, well, if not insubstantial than at least inconsequential enough to be a Marvel Comics Presents story, although the introduction of something as significant as the Neuri and the whole alternate plane of Alshra would’ve been far more eye-rolling in such a context — not that it’s bad stuff, just that it’s always weird to have something so fundamental to the fabric of a shared-world universe only used as a (more or less) one-off thing. I also wondered as the story kept rolling along and it dawned on me that it basically unfolds in real time whether that contributed to its slightness. Davis handles Wolverine nicely, however, and — rounded depiction of the mask flaps, which bugs me, notwithstanding — the Davis/Farmer/Jaye art is pretty sweet.

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