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Friday, June 17, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #50

"Dreams of Gore: Phase 3"
January 1992

In a Nutshell
Wolverine learns his memories have been altered as he battles Shiva.

Script: Lethal Larry Hama
Pencils: Murderous Marc Silvestri
Inks: Dangerous Dan Green, with help from Hilary Barta & Tom Palmer
Lettering: Punishing Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Stompin' Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
With Forge's help, Wolverine tracks down the refueling SHIELD helicarrier and strong-arms Nick Fury into handing over his security dossier. The transfer of those files catches the attention of a Hydra cell. Thanks to information in the files, Wolverine, accompanied by Cyclops, Jean Grey, Jubilee and Professor X, goes to a warehouse in Windsor, Canada. He enters the building alone, watched by both Hydra and Professor Thorton. Inside, he finds sets that correspond to many of his memories, while Professor Thorton activates the Shiva scenario, which brings forth a massive robot programmed to kill Wolverine. He destroys the robot, but the Shiva program is designed to learn from its defeats and powers up another body. This one proves harder to destroy, and as Professor Thornton watches the battle, he's attacked by the leader of the Hydra cell, a very-much-alive Silver Fox. As they fight, Shiva triggers all of Wolverine's memories, overwhelming him. He manages to snap out of it, insisting he's a man, not a beast, but Silver Fox realizes her memories were tampered with a well. She kills Professor Thorton just as Wolverine destroys the latest incarnation of Shiva. Joined by the X-Men, he discovers Thorton's body, and learns that Shiva has moved on to target the next name on its list: Sabretooth. Wolverine could care less though, about him and the other mutants on Shiva's list, a change in attitude that Professor X finds unsettling.

Firsts and Other Notables
Both Jean and Xavier suggest in this issue that Wolverine's exploration of his past is causing him to act more irrationally, reverting to his previous temperment when he first joined the X-Men. This seems to be an effort on Hama's part to rough up some of the edges of the character, sanded down by years serving as the X-Men's elder statesman, but it doesn't really take, at least not outside this series (and certainly, by the time the issues in which I regularly started reading roll around, I never noticed a difference), though it is perhaps too subtle a distinction to be making, especially in this era of comics.


Wolverine is wearing his old blue-and-yellow costume this issue, which (chronologically) leads into its appearance in X-Men #4. It will remain his default look in this series for most of the rest of the series, with some variations.

Teased throughout the previous two issues, this one categorically establishes that Wolverine's memories have been altered and in some cases, are completely false, the result of tampering done by what will eventually be known as the Weapon X project (here, it's usually called Project X). As a result, most of the flashbacks from the previous two issues, including Wolverine's time in Cuba with Sabretooth and his fight against an apparent gun-running Silver Fox, are revealed to be fakes. The one questionable event is Wolverine's time with Silver Fox, which he insists was real.

Her death, however, seems to be a fake memory, as she turns up alive and well this issue, in some kind of leadership position within Hydra. Her presence here is mostly just a tease (Wolverine doesn't learn she's alive), and she'll feature more directly in future issues.


She does, however, kill Professor Thorton; he will appear again in flashbacks, but this is his last present-day appearance.


This issue marks the first appearance of Shiva, a program designed to eliminate rogue members of the Weapon X project, which physically manifests as a series of large robots (the mold of which was seen briefly in issue #48). Capable of learning from its past defeats and rebuilding itself, as the issue, ends Shiva has set its sight on the next person on its list, Sabretooth.


Searching through government files, Professor X learns that the Weapon X project sought to create super-soldiers from mutants, and was a CIA operation that was sheltered in Canada.


He proceeds to find a list of operatives, including Wolverine and Sabretooth, all of whom are codenamed with some kind of animal. All of those characters named will eventually appear in one form or another as the series continues to explore Wolverine's past.


Because this is an issue with a number divisible by 25 published in the 90s, it's double-sized and gets a fancy die-cut cover (the first true cover gimmick to the hit the X-books, not counting Uncanny 275 and X-Men #1's gatefold covers) in which cuts from Wolverine's claws are cut into the cardstock cover, which lays over another image.

This issue concludes with a pair of pinups, one from Bill Sienkieiwicz and a rather ugly one from Jim Lee.


The Chronology Corner
This issue (and the entire story) takes place before X-Men #4, with Professor X, Jubilee, Cyclops and Jean Grey all appearing between X-Men #3 and that issue.

A Work in Progress
Cyclops and Jean Grey appear in this issue, wearing their new costumes, while Jubilee is back in the team training uniform.

This issue reveals that the SHIELD helicarrier, at times, refuels at the top of a skyscarper in Manhattan; not sure if the is consistent with established SHIELD protocol, or something Hama just made up for this issue.


Professor Thornton is revealed to be an agent of the US Department of Agriculture, specifically its Pest Control division (which seems to be an established covert division).

At one point Wolverine wanders through sets that were used to stage his false memories, including the site of his confrontation with drug-runner Silver Fox from the last two issues.


Professor Thorton notes that to save money, the sets were used to establish overlapping memories among the members of the Weapon X project.

The saloon where Sabretooth goaded a young Wolverine into attacking him, as seen in issue #10, is shown to be a set a well.


The professor notes that for whatever reason, everyone's memory of Wolverine's cabin with Silver Fox consistently bleeds through all his other implants, resisting being overwritten.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Wolverine's secret files, which he strong-arms out of Nick Fury, are faxed over.

The Reference Section 
Jubilee references both Super Mario Bros. and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles across two consecutive panels.


The Best There is at What He Does
Via the files received from Nick Fury, this issue confirms that, at least at one point in time, Wolverine worked as a CIA agent, something that had been previously teased via his interactions with Carol Danvers.

Austin's Analysis
Technically the conclusion to "The Shiva Scenarios", this issue makes it clear that the story as whole is really just a vehicle for setting up more stories in the future. And while a lot of what gets revealed/established here seems old hat nowadays, especially after we've had an entire series dedicated to pretty much just doing what this three issue arc does, it's important to acknowledge just how big a deal this story was at a time, when explorations of Wolverine's past were mostly confined to hints and flashbacks to finite periods of time (as in the original miniseries, or Kitty Pryde & Wolverine). And as a vehicle for exploring Wolverine's past, "The Shiva Scenario" mostly works.

I'm a sucker for the stuff, previously hinted at, that gets established here - black ops, false memories, living weapons - and from a continuity perspective, the notion of Wolverine having a mix of real and fake memories is rather ingenious  - anything inconsistent can thus be written off as a false memory. None of these revelations happen in a vacuum for the title character, as last issue and this one in particular are as much about Wolverine's reactions to these revelations and how they're changing him as they are about the revelations themselves, which helps the whole thing feel less like continuity implant it invariably is.

Yet as a story in and of itself, this is less successful. It's mostly three issues straight of flashbacks, most of which are, in the end, suggested to be false (and thus kind of pointless in the end). The intended lasting impact this seems to be setting up, the idea that Wolverine is changed by these experiences to become wilder and rougher than before, doesn't really go anywhere; even without my having read the issues that immediately follow this one, Wolverine's appearances in contemporaneous issues of other series, including X-Men, don't really reflect that change, making the whole notion something of a non starter.

Ultimately then, this issue is less the satisfying climax to a story than an issue which codifies some things we already suspected (Wolverine's memories were suspect) while laying the groundwork for future stories (with the return of Silver Fox, the escape of Shiva, and the list of Weapon X names). As a story, "The Shiva Scenario" isn't terribly engaging, but it is what it set out to be: the most significant thing, in terms of its impact on the title character and the generation of future stories, to happen in the series thus far, and it works exceedingly well at being that. Whether this issue marks the beginning of a long overdue exploration of a mysterious character's past or just the opening of a Pandora's Box of bad story ideas, there's no doubt it succeeded in its goal.

Next Issue
Next week: Uncanny X-Men #285, X-Force #7, and X-Factor #75.

Collected Editions

16 comments:


  1. I found the ending kind-of (?) abrupt.

    // Wolverine is wearing his old blue-and-yellow costume //

    And so the X-Men present, by accident or design, all match. Scott’s in his new Jim Lee outfit, like you say; Jubilee and Professor X are wearing strap-enhanced versions of the X-Men training/utility/support uniforms; and Jean’s in her new Jim Lee outfit too but, as with last issue, the normally orange part is colored yellow here and the dark blue is instead a very pale blue.

    // operatives, including Wolverine and Sabretooth, all of whom are codenamed with some kind of animal //

    Kestrel was also the name of a villain drawn by Rob Liefeld in the 1988 Hawk and Dove miniseries at DC, coincidentally — visually designed by him as well, technically, although the costume’s based largely on Hawk’s. Archie/MLJ has published a Fox character sporadically since 1940, albeit not Silver. The last name sure looks to be Wildcat, but apart from there already being a DC character by that moniker as well it’s hard to imagine anyone would use that codename in relation to a… How would we describe Project X?… say, a covert action team.

    // This issue concludes with a pair of pinups //

    He makes Wolverine too lanky, but otherwise that Sienkiewicz piece is outstanding.

    // SHIELD helicarrier, at times, refuels at the top of a skyscraper in Manhattan //

    Which is questionable enough without Forge referring to it as a “covert urban site”.

    // for whatever reason, everyone's memory of Wolverine's cabin with Silver Fox consistently bleeds through all his other implants //

    That’s an interesting touch; ditto the sets being reused. I don’t love everything about this but I do like a fair bit.

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    1. The reason for the cabin overflow is heavily hinted at right there: there is no cabin set to be found within the facility.

      I still get chuckles out of that they apparently can afford an endless supply of super hi-tech Shiva robots, but when it comes to the plywool and cardboard memory implant sets, they're suddenly operating under heavy budget constraints. I think someone was just being lazy. Anyway, I love the never-explained glimpses shown of other Weapon X subjects' false memory sets. Sabretooth must've had hell of a time in that sawmill. Had they not filmed Adventures of Brisco County jr only at a later date, I would totally claim they've seen that one episode. And based Bishop on Julius Carry's likeness.

      But, I'm not exactly sure if they somehow telepathically forced the people act out the false memories in the sets or what, and at what point. There was no hint of any of this in WEAPON X and I believe the idea was to tie the false memories into the pain caused by the Weapon X shenanigans.

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    2. // I'm not exactly sure if they somehow telepathically forced the people act out the false memories //

      Marvel Universe résumés are probably full of credits like “Cuban Soldier #2 — ‘Dreams of Gore’ (experimental short film for US Dept. of Agriculture)”.

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    3. Blam -- "...Jean’s in her new Jim Lee outfit too but, as with last issue, the normally orange part is colored yellow here and the dark blue is instead a very pale blue."

      Somewhere around UNCANNY 300, yellow becomes the official color for her costume. It's a change I somehow never noticed as a kid; I think it was somewhere around "Onslaught" where I looked at her and said, "Hey, when did they change her costume yellow?" I went back... and back... and back through my issues to find it had happened years earlier!

      I think I failed to notice because on the cartoon series it stayed orange long after the comics changed it.

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    4. I found the ending kind-of (?) abrupt.

      Indeed. I probably should have made more of a point about that. It definitely contributes to the feeling that this story is, overall, less of a story than a vehicle for setting up these new elements of Wolverine's backstory and new avenues for future stories to explore.

      @Teemu: I still get chuckles out of that they apparently can afford an endless supply of super hi-tech Shiva robots, but when it comes to the plywool and cardboard memory implant sets, they're suddenly operating under heavy budget constraints.

      Professor Thornton actually does mention their supply of Shiva robots is finite, due to, again, budget constraints. It seems like a bit of a running gag/commentary on Hama's part: even the super-secret clandestine government projects designed to create superhuman weapons operate under the same kind of budgetary limitations as other government departments.

      @Matt: Somewhere around UNCANNY 300, yellow becomes the official color for her costume. It's a change I somehow never noticed as a kid

      Ditto. Though it makes more sense for her to be in yellow, since yellow & blue are kind of the teams colors.

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    5. D'oh. You're right, Austin, right there on the panel he says so. Still, you'd get quite a lot of scenery with the price of one Shiva robot.

      One so wishes to think Professor is forced just to play "André" in the memory implants because of the same budget constraints (though he has the same air of importance that would prompt a director to also star in his own movie, to the consternation of everyone participating in the production), but remembering how he died also in the WEAPON X scenario in hands of Wolverine, maybe having them kill their own creator is an important bit in the psychological conditioning of their Experiment X subjects.

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  2. Nathan A. was at some point telling us that they intended "an old X-Men villain" to be behind the Weapon X project and was suggesting that it would've been Baron von Strucker. It would make disturbing amount of sense, with Andrea&Andreas activating in UNCANNY at this time in related business and Silver Fox shown here building a career as Madame Hydra.

    I love plentily that shameless action sequence of Wolverine pushing his bike up the stairs just to ride it down through the window to the bridge of the Helicarrier.

    "Pest Control", lol.

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    1. The bit with Wolverine pushing the bike up the stairs is pretty good. I don't mention it very often, but Hama has a tendency to effectively sneak in little comedy bits like that under the radar, amongst all the other more traditionally-comic book-y stuff he does.

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  3. "Both Jean and Xavier suggest in this issue that Wolverine's exploration of his past is causing him to act more irrationally, reverting to his previous temperment when he first joined the X-Men."

    I wish this had taken off, at lest for a while. I love the "unlikeable little dick" Wolverine from his early appearances. We didn't get enough of him before his evolution began.

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    1. In general, I'm probably glad this didn't take (I prefer my characters to grow/move forward, however incrementally, rather than revert to previous iterations), but I do wish it had been consistent. If Hama wanted to do this, it should have been applied over in X-MEN; if Lee wasn't on board, that Harras should have nixed the idea here.

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  4. " anything inconsistent can thus be written off as a false memory."

    I don't know that it worked out this way in practice. Plus, am I reading it wrong or is some stuff inconsistent right here? The Professor (the bad one) says that the cabin memories are implants, but issue 65 is meant to confirm that Logan and Silver Fox's time in the cabin was real.

    And ... the Cuba stuff is revealed to be fake? Then why was Logan able to extort a favor from Nick Fury in this issue by saying that he knows all about what was happening in Cuba in the 1960s?

    Man, I think Hama is a good writer but boy did he and the X-office lose me fast with this stuff? They were so obviously winging it, and the end result was that fans who were expecting eventual answers to all of these questions were disappointed over and over, with these abrupt endings that didn't resolve anything. It's like Hama's "Wolverine" was the "Lost" of its day.

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    1. he Professor (the bad one) says that the cabin memories are implants, but issue 65 is meant to confirm that Logan and Silver Fox's time in the cabin was real.

      I've still about 20 odd issues before we catch up to the point in this series I've read before, so I only know what I've read ABOUT the upcoming issues, and not their specific content, but I think the idea is that Weapon X created false memories around the cabin, but elements of it were true (like Wolverine & Silver Fox's relationship). Or something.

      And ... the Cuba stuff is revealed to be fake? Then why was Logan able to extort a favor from Nick Fury in this issue by saying that he knows all about what was happening in Cuba in the 1960s?

      Suggested to be fake (it was one of the sets). And Wolverine was still a CIA agent. SO even if the specific scenes we saw last issue were fakes, he was still presumably in the know about the Cuba in the 60s, enough so to freak out Fury's bosses.

      the end result was that fans who were expecting eventual answers to all of these questions were disappointed over and over, with these abrupt endings that didn't resolve anything. It's like Hama's "Wolverine" was the "Lost" of its day.

      That's probably an apt analogy. I wasn't reading this particular series at the time, but even with the teases of Wolverine backstory over in X-MEN, I assumed someone had a grand plan all worked, and was doling at this info in dribs and drabs as part of that plan. Obviously, not so much.

      Of course, even to this day, I can't fathom the idea of sitting down to write a story without having some idea of the story beats along the way and how it will end, but I've learned that, apparently, very few professional writers do it that way, and that, as in the case of LOST, even if they SAY they're doing it that way, they're actually not.

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    2. Austin: I think the idea is that Weapon X created false memories around the cabin, but elements of it were true (like Wolverine & Silver Fox's relationship). Or something.

      Professor speaks of the "cabin implant", suggesting there would've been such an implant, but then we learn the cabin actually exists. The apartment in Windsor had a calendar with the cabin in the picture in #49 for some reason. Maybe they need, again for the psychological conditioning, some happy memory they can use, but it then acts up because the Professor obviously is bad at happy.

      Maybe they needed the cabin with all the surroundings and nature and forest smell for the effect, which is why they can't fit it into the studio, but all that realness then seeps through the programming.

      Except one of the subjects obviously has his happy memory about the World's Largest Artichoke in Castroville, CA instead. My vote is Sabretooth.

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    3. Silver Fox's senior prom btw seems to have taken place in Castroville High, so it's sensible her apartment in Frisco has a calendar from there. It may be Wolverine was just imagining the cabin in the calendar pic during his memory trip, it once again seaping through there.

      But on happy note, the Logan who went to Silver Fox's prom in her memory implant was a greaser, so maybe the fifties' weenie car thing actually did happen.

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  5. Jason: And ... the Cuba stuff is revealed to be fake? Then why was Logan able to extort a favor from Nick Fury in this issue by saying that he knows all about what was happening in Cuba in the 1960s?

    It's Nick Fury. He let Hulk have his way while knowing that he totally was bluffing with his threat of tactical nuclear strike in his Pantheon leader capacity, and here he obviously has more intel on the whole Weapon X scene than Logan does and knows the Emilio Garra thing to be a phony scenario and may just think that the Ol' Canucklehead deserves/needs to know now, especially as things have starter to brew up around that stuff recently. I don't think he called to the CIA director, he just went to his office for a smoke for a fiver for the looks of things before telling his people to print the files out.

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  6. Actually this was a great time to go read WOLVERINE #10 the first time ever, and I wish to rectify a statement made by me in the comments: the whole thing pans out quite beautifully. UNCANNY #213, the first Sabretooth fight had the psychic image in Sabretooth's mind of Wolverine broken and thrown onto snow, which then gets zoomed out in WOLVERINE #10 to pay for the tease and give the context. It's kind of fun that it builds up to this on slow burn.

    Although I'm a bit lost in the memory implants myself now. "She was uppity squaw, said now" was used by Sabretooth then, in what assumably was Logan's memory implant. But #49 has the Windsor scene, which also is assumably one of Logan's, and it's Sabretooth again using the same phrase about Silver Fox in wholly different role. Did they make the implants excplicitly overlapping and messy, or is Logan himself messing it up in his head while sorting stuff out, or was it really an implant meant for some of the other guys, or gal, and Logan just remembers being part of making it to that someone? I know there's more to come, telepathy-related, but can't remember much anything of it, and it's messy anyway. I fear now I may not get all my answers.

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