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Friday, December 18, 2015

X-amining Wolverine #38

"See Venice & Die!
April 1991

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine runs afoul of Albert and Elsie-Dee. 

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Marc Silvestri
Inks: Dan Green
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Storm arrives in California looking for Wolverine, and runs afoul of a pair of low level crooks named Sally & Jocko, who have placing wanted posters for Wolverine throughout the city, claiming he's been robbing them. Despite video evidence, Storm refuses to believe them, and continues to search. Across town, Reno & Molokai call Sally from the bus station, saying they've found Wolverine, who steps off a bus, saying goodbye to a pair of attractive women. They grab Wolverine, while at one of Sally's casinos, another Wolverine and a small girl rob the place. Overhearing a conversation between Reno & Sally, Wolverine learns of his duplicate, then breaks out of Molokai's trunk, stealing the car and heading off in the direction of the duplicate. Meanwhile, the Wolverine duplicate and the small girl, named Elsie-Dee, arrive at an abandoned warehouse. In Australia, Pierce explains to Lady Deathstrike that Elsie-Dee is a robotic trap for Wolverine, intended to lure him close before exploding, but unknownst to him, Bonebreaker erroenously installed an advanced program into her.


Back in Venice, Elsie-Dee upgrades the Wolverine robot's intelligence, naming him Albert, then sends him out to attract Wolverine's attention. Meanwhile, Wolverine comes across the women from the bus, and together, they head for the boardwalk, where a fight breaks out between Wolverine and Albert. The fight attracts the attention of Storm as well as Sally, Jocko, Reno & Molokai. Storm uses her power to summon a tidal wave that sweeps the thugs out into the ocean, as Wolverine damages Albert enough to force his retreat. Elsie-Dee radios Albert, telling him to repair himself, but that she can no longer ignore her primary directive. Starting the warehouse on fire, she goes to a window and calls out for help, attracting Wolverine's notice.

Firsts and Other Notables
Elsie-Dee and Albert make their first full appearances in this issue, after brief cameos in the previous issue. It's established that Elsie-Dee speaks with a lisp, part of her "cute child" cover, while Albert is named this issue by Elsie-Dee, after saying that following her modifications to his programming, he'll be as smart as Einstein.


Reno and Molokai, two thugs working for a crime boss in Venice, California, appear for the first time this issue. They will later be revealed as the killers of Jubilee's parents in a later story (though I believe the circumstances of her parents death have been retconned a few times since then, so it's possible that's no longer the case).


Storm appears in this issue, appearing for the first time since her brief turn in issue #19, and the first member of the X-Men to play a significant role in the course of an issue.


The Chronology Corner
Storm appears here (and in the next two issues) after X-Factor #70 and before X-Men (vol. 2) #1, setting this story in the gap between the end of the "Muir Island Saga" and linewide relaunch.

A Work in Progress
Bonebreaker confirms this issue that he failed to stop Elsie-Dee's programming at the five-year-old level, but Reese advises him to keep that to himself rather than tell Pierce.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Bystanders of a fight believe that Lethal Weapon 3 is being filmed.


The Best There is at What He Does
Somehow, Reno & Molokai are able to knock Wolverine out with a blow to the head.


Teebore's Take
I have a feeling that Albert and Elsie-Dee are mostly maligned amongst Wolverine fandom, as they are inherently ridiculous characters (and Elsie-Dee's phonetically-written lisp is annoying, the worst Claremontian accented dialogue dialed up to eleven), but I nevertheless have always found something charming about them. Amidst all the usual grim and gore and angsty-teeth gnashing over honor and the struggle to control the beast within, etc., sometimes it's nice to have something a little more lighthearted and ridiculous thrown in - it makes for a welcome reprieve from the usual noir settings, and makes those regular settings resonate even more via contrast. And, compared to the bloodbath of the Yakuza and Spanish Civil War stories, this issue is a downright farce as a group of mildly-incompetent West Coast gangsters keep getting Albert and Wolverine confused as Wolverine makes time with a pair of bikini babes, Elsie-Dee races to outwit her programming, and Storm flits in and out of the whole thing, coming across even more like the X-Men's den mother than ever before.

But for all the farce, there's also something inherently said about Elsie-Dee. Making her a doomed robot in the form of a five-year-old girl is easy shooting, of course, but beyond that, there's the pathos of her being ridiculously smart but still unable to fix herself, and her struggle to overcome her embedded programming parallels (intentionally or not) the similar struggle we've seen Wolverine go through for most of his existence, a struggle that will shortly become much more of a focus of the series as Hama delves deeper into Wolverine's backstory. Ultimately, all the various elements of this issue, the juxtaposition of Pierce's mad vendetta against Wolverine and the sunny, farcical settings elevate the story. It's not something that would work all the time, but for now, it serves as a welcome break from the usual tone of the series.  

Next Issue
Next week, Marvel Comics Presents #72-84, "Weapon X".

Collected Editions

9 comments:

  1. I have a feeling that Albert and Elsie-Dee are mostly maligned amongst Wolverine fandom, as they are inherently ridiculous characters (and Elsie-Dee's phonetically-written lisp is annoying, the worst Claremontian accented dialogue dialed up to eleven), but I nevertheless have always found something charming about them.

    Can you back this assumed malignation up by something? I just love them as a supporting cast, especially in and because of this "first act" era of Hama's run before the dissecting of Wolverine's backstory begins in earnest. Elsie-Dee is just awesome and Albert too will soon enough find distinctive look of his own to not be botheringly a mere Wolverine clone.

    Is there any sensible reason for Logan and Albert to be having exactly the same shirt? Logan deliberately chooses to wear the same shirt as Albert in the picture?, to fool everyone who's looking "him"?

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    1. // Is there any sensible reason for Logan and Albert to be having exactly the same shirt? //

      None that I can tell (other than the Comics Law of Cosmic Coincidence, stretched to its limits by the fact that Pierce would have to see into the future to dress his robot duplicate appropriately).

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    2. We're in luck there then, because technically Gateway's powers and Pierce's geas on him allows him do exactly that.

      More difficult question is then though why Pierce bothers in the first place because he should've seen they'll just befriend Wolverine instead of burying him. Really, between Vision and Jocasta and Torgo etc. it looks like every evil robot builder forgets to uncheck Asimov from the programming. Well, maybe not Shaw Industries.

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    3. Hey! Spoilers! Not everybody's read this stuff before! 8^)
      (Okay, I realize that probably everybody commenting but me has read this stuff before or at least knows the broad strokes, and it's fine...)

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    4. (Plus it's not like I've read absolutely none of it and I'd have no qualms myself about referring to stuff that I do know ends up happening.)

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    5. Ah rats! I usually try to be careful with not spoiling 25 years old issues, but me having actually read an 90's X-series with no "X-Men" in the title just got me too excitable.

      Unless of course I have been deviously fooling you here and you will be really surprised to see their plan to blow up Wolverine into red mist succeed in the next issue.

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  2. I imagine that at the time I wasn't really into this issue, if for no other reason than I wanted to see more "important" Wolverine stuff happening in this series ... but I'm pretty sure Hama won me over by the time we get to issue 40. His and Silvestri's storytelling is just so fluent, and while this issue is mostly comic, the next two are really breathless in pace and very tightly plotted.

    Also, if this issue's light-heartedness annoyed me at all back then, my thirteen-year-old self probably took some comfort in Silvestri's depiction of Logan's two girlfriends.

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  3. Hama lays those accents on way too thick for my taste. When it hampers ease of reading, it’s not worth the color. I found Sally and Jocko’s speech most egregious, although Elsie Dee’s was annoying too — not technically a lisp, by the way, since her trouble is with r sounds rather than s.

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  4. Back at the height of X-MEN toys in the nineties, Toy Biz made an action figure called "Robot Wolverine (Albert)". Having missed this era of the series, for years I had no idea what that was all about. I think I finally figured it out from a Marvel handbook or maybe an RPG supplement or something.

    I've still never read these issues. Someday...

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