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Friday, March 11, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #44

"Babes at Sea"
Late August 1991

In a Nutshell

Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Larry Stroman
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
In Central Park, Wolverine thinks back to the time he was compelled to board a cruise ship by dreams of an infant being attacked by a monstrous creature. Aboard the ship, he befriends a trio of pregnant women, Gretchen, Rachel and Brenda. Rachel goes for a swim but is attacked in the pool by an invisible creature. Wolverine manages to fight it off, but not before Rachel and her child die. Realizing the pregnant women are being targeted, Wolverine urges them to stay locked in their cabin, while he hunts down the creature responsible. However, Brenda is killed by the creature in the elevator, but before it can kill Gretchen, Wolverine manages to knock it overboard and into the ship's propellers. Later, Wolverine visits Gretchen, telling her he has a feeling her baby is destined for big things; Gretchen agrees.

Firsts and Other Notables
A fill-in/inventory story, the upcoming X-Factor creative team of Peter David and Larry Stroman writes and draws this. David, of course, penned the similar fill-in issues #9 and #25, as well as "The Gehenna Stone Affair" in issues #11-16.

Stroman is an artist whose work seems very divisive; you either love it, or hate it. His current stuff isn't quite the same, but his work from this era, particularly on X-Factor, I rather enjoy. It's quirky and at times goofy, definitely not realistic (his sense of anatomy is Sienkiewiczian, but where Sienkiewicz's figures were built around vertical lines, Stroman's are built around circles), but I like it.

Hama & Silvestri contribute the opening page, which finds Wolverine in Central Park, the water in the pond comically triggering his memory of that time he fought a weird invisible demon at the urging of a psychic fetus while on a cruise ship.


Artistic Achievements
Either Larry Stroman doesn't realize how shallow even the deepest recreational pools are, or I've been swimming in the wrong pools.


Teebore's Take
Unlike the previous issue, which only felt partially like a fill-in story, this is 100% a fill-in issue. And, aside from the most hilarious setup for a completely unrelated fill-in story ever ("look at that pond...ponds are water...cruise ships float on water...here's a story about a time I was on a cruise ship!"; I mean, we're taking "It happened at sea. See? "C "for Catwoman!" level territory here), it's not terribly notable or all that memorable. Aside from the general inconsequentialness of it, the story also suffers from the huge coincidence that the last pregnant woman targeted also, of course, happens to be the one carrying the creepy psychic fetus reaching out to Wolverine. The Stroman art is better than most fill-in/inventory stories get, but this is otherwise entirely superfluous and forgettable.

Next Issue
Deadpool returns and the "Muir Island Saga" concludes: Uncanny X-Men #280, X-Force #2, X-Factor #70.

Collected Editions

17 comments:

  1. That front page could also be a unused pin-up someone decided would make a great (well, not so great) framing device.

    Psychic fetus? Maybe a random relative of Haven's...

    I mean, I haven't ever read this one, but that picture of the fetus you posted calling out to Logan cracked me up for some reason.

    Does the story ever mention why an invisible creature is slaughtering pregnant women on a cruise ship? I mean, besides "Comic books, that's why!"

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    1. Besides the creature strongly hinting at an/The age-old battle and what Logan says on the final page, the story does not, and it's fine that way. It's quite obvious that there's your standard variety kill-the-unborn-messiah-child-before-the-birth thing going on and Gretchen is Sarah Connor and the creature plays the role of the Terminator.

      I get Rosemary's Baby vibes from Gretchen of the last page though.

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    2. Good point on the pin-up - I bet you're right about that.

      There's really no backstory/motivation given to the conflict, beyond just, as Teemu says, a sort of vague good-vs-evil/messiah child kind of thing going on.

      Which, for an ultimately superfluous fill-in, is fine, I guess.

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  2. "Brenda, Rachel, a ghost baby and Gretchen" reads like Who's Who of the early 90's - mid 00's young female romantics & social standing genre.

    I just love the use of the framing device for a fill-in here. Totally shameless. "In matter of mere minutes it will be furs & claws for me, but for now, let's reminisce a moment--" *the theme for Love Boat starts swimming in*

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    1. The first page and its setup is easily the best thing about this issue.

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  3. Wow, brutally murdering pregnant women. This is the sort of comic that would've given me nightmares as a kid.

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    1. Ha, I didn't much register the pregnant women dying, but felt strongly for the two innocent bystanders who died in the elevator.

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  4. So does that portentous last panel ever get picked up on? I can’t tell for sure if it’s supposed to be a foreboding ellipsis rather than just a button; the fact that it’s a giant half-page, extreme closeup on her face suggests the latter, despite the story being a fill-in.

    // Wolverine in Central Park, the water in the pond comically triggering his memory of that time he fought a weird invisible demon at the urging of a psychic fetus while on a cruise ship. //

    Zinda, his face black, his eyes red. Darmok and Jalad on the ocean.

    // Stroman is an artist whose work seems very divisive; you either love it, or hate it. //

    Well, I’m ambivalent towards it, so… nyah. There’s a lot to like here, but a fair amount goes wrong, too, although whether that’s him missing the mark he set for himself or it just not being to my taste I don’t know. I have a general recollection of similarly appreciating the style if not always the execution in his work on Alien Legion and X-Factor and Tribe.

    // The Stroman art is better than most fill-in/inventory stories get //

    Credit where it's due: You mean the Stroman/Milgrom art. 8^)

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    1. So does that portentous last panel ever get picked up on?

      Not as far as I know. I definitely got a foreboding/to-be-continued vibe from that last image, though. I think it was just trying to emphasize that the fetus which contacted Wolverine was hers.

      Zinda, his face black, his eyes red. Darmok and Jalad on the ocean.

      Ha! +1 for a Darmok & Jalad reference.

      Credit where it's due: You mean the Stroman/Milgrom art. 8^)

      Heh. I almost made a comment about how Stroman managed to rise above being inked by Milgrom, but, you know, if you can't something nice (and I've broken that rule w/Milgrom enough already).

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  5. Count me in as a fan of Larry Stroman's work, aside from really only encountering it on X-Factor - even Al Milgrom's inking seems to work with it!

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    1. Yeah, X-FACTOR is pretty much the only spot I've seen Stroman's work, aside from random fill-ins like this.

      And yes, he even manages to rise above Milgrom. :)

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  6. Aside from the general inconsequentialness of it, the story also suffers from the huge coincidence that the last pregnant woman targeted also, of course, happens to be the one carrying the creepy psychic fetus reaching out to Wolverine.

    Notwithstanding that the rule of three is nothing sort of narratively mandatory thing since always and the Three Little Piggies, I don't see it as that bad really because had it been the first pregnant woman then it would have been pretty much it for the monster's and the baby's bit and the rest of the story would have turned into Logan comforting two single women on a cruise ship after a common tragedy. Possibly in a world shaded by upcoming Hyborian darkness.

    Technically PAD already did a tragic loss story on a cruise ship with his Tribute the Third recently. But Logan going Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Life Goes On here within that setting would be a bit tacky. "Oh well, got some tail at least. Thank you, creepy psychic fetus. Sorry 'bout the... you know."

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    1. Besides, the creepy psychic fetus managed to lure Wolverine to the ship to fight the creature. As you normally don't really leave for a cruise with two other pregnant women you've just met after learning of being pregnant yourself, it's not at all impossible that the creepy psychic fetus intentionally lured the two other women as a decoy and then actively effected on the creature going after them first with his creepy psychic fetus powers.

      I'm starting to think I love this story, and I also think Logan's remembering the cruise here now because it's started to dawn on him that he's seriously done fuck up blindly doing creepy psychic fetus' bidding.

      It's really a predecessor story to the one when he allows an alien girl to lure himself into space and then he goes on to unstealth the Collector's refugium for Galactus to eat.

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    2. Like, Matt's been doing his reviews on Byrne FF and pointing out the Twilight Zone-y done-in-ones. Well, this one reads like a Tales from the Crypt episode.

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    3. No, I get that the story as presented doesn't work if the creature kills the baby the first or second time. It just seems that's always the case in these kinds of stories; I just wish there was a way to tell it so that the hero sort of loses before ultimately winning, but in not such a contrived way. Like, establish that the fetus was protecting itself by directing the creature to the other women first, or something.

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    4. It's physically painful to see you so carelessly question the rule of three. It's been with is since the first storyteller in some cave thousands and thousands of years ago. Just embrace the three. :)

      Next you'll probably make problem of the three women being a redhead, a darkhair and a blonde, and that it being the blonde who survives. These things just happen like this. ;)

      Seriously, I find myself thinking if I have allowed myself become too indoctrinated by stories to just allow this sort of thing go on unquestioningly. Years back I remember amusing myself on idea of a cop film that would try to avert every cliche there is, but since then I think I have softened and feel it would make a real crappy film. I mean, for starters, the Captain couldn't be a loud middle-aged fat guy, or black guy, or hard-as-stone woman, or Edward James Olmos.

      On completely other point, I absolutely love Logan's face when he comments on not seeing a wedding ring, and what it is with these guest starring women on Wolverine refusing to go in water and get their bathsuit wet? Hama did the same thing just couple of issues back in Venice.

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    5. Oh, and, I must say I very much love the story establishing very little on what it was about and leaving the reader to fill in the blanks. PAD is known enough talent to make me refuse to one second entertain the idea that his namedropping Hyborian or Chthulhu wouldn't be there as intentionally given building blocks for the reader to do just that.

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