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Friday, September 23, 2016

X-amining Wolverine #54

"Station Identification"
May 1992

In a Nutshell
Wolverine meets Shatterstar.

Guest Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Guest Penciler: Darick Robertson
Guest Inker: Don Hudson
Letterers: Brousseau & Heisler
Colorist: Kelly Corverse
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
A group of teenagers calling themselves the Vid Kids chase down a Morlock, beating him to death while filming the whole thing, after which they send the tape to a news station. Seeing the story on the news, Shatterstar decides to investigate. Meanwhile, Rogue & Wolverine are training in the Danger Room, after which they too see the news report, and Wolverine leaves to track down the Vidkids as well. Soon, he and Shatterstar cross paths and attack each other, until Shatterstar recognizes Wolverine and kneels to him in deference. Together, they track down the Vidkids, who are in the midst of stalking another homeless mutant, and defeat them, but Shatterstar is shocked to learn they fight for no other reason than the fun of it. However, Wolverine doesn't let Shatterstar kill them; instead, he smashes their video camera, saying the best way to punish kids is to take away their toys. Later, they watch as the police arrest the Vidkids, with Wolverine noting they're still getting the attention they wanted, and Shatterstar left unsure about his place in the world.

Firsts and Other Notables
Shatterstar guest stars in this issue, and meets Wolverine for the first time, which probably felt like a bigger deal in 1992 than it does now (Cannonball and Rogue also makes brief appearances in the issue as well).

The villains of this story are the Vidkids, a group of teenagers who attack mutants and capture the whole thing on videotape. They're generally just terrible people, as opposed to anti-mutant bigots (ie they target mutants just because it guarantees more attention for their videos). They are pretty terrible and horribly dated, and as far as I know, exist nowhere outside of this issue.

Wolverine is wearing his brown-and-orange costume in this issue, which places it a fairs way back chronologically, but also suggests it may have been sitting in a drawer for a few months after being completed.

The then-current New Warriors team of Fabian Nicieza and Darick Roberton write & draw this issue.

The Chronology Corner
The Marvel Chronology Project places this issue between X-Men #3 and #4, after Hearts of Darkness and before Wolverine #48, though it should probably go back even further, to the gap before the relaunch, since Magneto's death isn't really referenced despite a pretty clear opportunity to do so.

A Work in Progress
When Rogue comes up short during a Danger Room scenario after Magneto appears, Wolverine asks if she's still sorting out her feelings for him (note that speaks of Magneto in the present tense).



Shatterstar refers to Wolverine as "Lord Wolverine", and holds him in some reverence.


Wolverine (or Nicieza) is apparently not much of a TV guy.


The Reference Section
Cannonball is wearing a Button Your Fly t-shirt, a reference to Rob Liefeld's Spike Lee-directed jeans commercial.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Shatterstar references American Gladiators, considering it one of the closest approximations to the way his homeworld views TV currently on the air.

And, of course, the dominant physical media format of the early 90s, the videotape, is all over this issue.

The Best There is at What He Does
Wolverine gives Shatterstar the old "don't make me pop the middle claw" routine.


Austin's Analysis
This is obviously a fill-in issue, what with the different writer, artist and anachronistic costume for the main character, but instead of giving us the usual one-and-done "Wolverine fights some random foes and in doing says something about his character" fill-in, this one focuses on Shatterstar, essentially comparing and contrasting Wolverine to one of the countless imitators his popularity spawned. Ordinarily, I'd write something like this off as pointless filler, but in this case, it helps that the fill-in writer is Fabian Nicieza, the closest thing X-Force has to a writer at this point. And since Rob Liefeld hasn't really given Nicieza much space to do any character work yet in that title, this random Wolverine fill-in thus represents really the first concerted effort to do anything with Shatterstar as a character aside from having him round out fight scenes and drop random bits of made-up slang.

The character work isn't exactly groundbreaking or relevatory (it's pretty much the standard "stranger in a strange land" material, not unlike what Bishop is doing over in the two X-Men books, with the media-satire of Mojoworld lightly sprinkled on top), but the effort on Nicieza's part is still appreciated. And Darick Robertson is at least a decent artist holding down a regular book (as opposed to the random rookies or journeymen artists who tend to populate these fill-ins), so the art isn't half bad either. By no means essential reading and entirely skippable, this is nevertheless better than the usual Wolverine fill-in fare, especially in the context of the larger X-narrative.

Next Issue
Next week: Uncanny X-Men #289, X-Force #11 and X-Factor #79.

Collected Editions

12 comments:

  1. Back in 1992 I regarded this issue as one of the best comics of the year (along with Alpha Flight 106, 107, and 108). I probably overrated it then, but I would probably still enjoy it.

    For those wondering, AF 106 was Northstar's official outing, #107 featured AF with X-Factor at a zombie wedding (i'd understand it not being reviewed, but it would be sweet if it was), and 108 was Af having to stop brainwashed superheroes from all over Europe from killing their leaders.

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  2. "Cannonball is wearing a Button Your Fly t-shirt"

    Even if it wasn't a reference to Liefeld, it's still such an early 90s thing.

    "Shatterstar references American Gladiators, considering it one of the closest approximations to the way his homeworld views TV currently on the air."

    Which even back then, made me laugh. I guess today he'd be referencing the Hunger Games?

    This is a weird one. It's too good to be pointless filler, between the better than average art-work Robertson gives us, and the decent characterization Nicieza gives us via Shatterstar. If anything, this is probably the most character work we've gotten up till now regarding Shatterstar, and certainly more than what we got in X-force so far. So, why is it appearing in Wolverine, and not X-force?

    If anything, this would been better had it appeared in X-force. With a little tweaking, by having a few less pages featuring Wolverine and a few more showing what some more members of X-force were up to, it would have been a better than average issue of X-force at the time.

    Overall, as you say, it isn't bad. It's more than cromulent. It just isn't all the essential as an issue of Wolverine.

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    1. "So, why is it appearing in Wolverine, and not X-force?"

      I think it was practice back during this period (at least I know it was during the Shooter era) to commission fill-ins co-starring characters from multiple series so they could be plugged into one or another as needed. In this case, this story could work in an issue of WOLVERINE or X-FORCE (or, even in a pinch, X-MEN or UNCANNY). So depending on how deadlines shook out, it could very well have been an X-FORCE issue instead.

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  3. "The then-current New Warriors team of Fabian Nicieza and Darick Roberton write & draw this issue."
    Not quite- Robertson didn't start New Warriors until a few months after this issue came out.

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    1. Ah, that's right. I think I got the timing screwed up in my head from reading SuperMegaMonkey, where fnord is about nine months ahead of me (and thus Robertson is on NEW WARRIORS).

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  4. I see Anonymous already pointed it out what I was going to say, but yeah, at this time the New Warriors team was Nicieza and Mark Bagley.

    Given the way these fill-in stories usually work, I'm surprised there wasn't simply a framing sequence introduced to explain away any uniform discrepancies ("Slicing up The Hand for the 400th tome reminds me of the time I met Shatterstar who...") Speaking of costume continuity, I wonder if the MCP places this story after X-Men# 3 because Rogue is wearing her then-modern outfit, which she didn't start wearing until the big X-relaunches.

    "The villains of this story are the Vidkids, a group of teenagers who attack mutants and capture the whole thing on videotape. They're generally just terrible people, as opposed to anti-mutant bigots (ie they target mutants just because it guarantees more attention for their videos). They are pretty terrible and horribly dated, and as far as I know, exist nowhere outside of this issue."

    While their dress and overall "look" is probably dated, unfortunely the act of doing horrible things to people and putting it on camera isn't. In other words with a few more "updated" references, this story could be have bern done today (indeed, given that the videotape aspect of this story has such a "ripped-from-the-headlines" vibe around it, I suspect that Nicieza got this idea from some big shocking "scandal" makingbthe news at the time, although I'm not sure which headlines this story wpuld be "ripped" from.)

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    1. "I wonder if the MCP places this story after X-Men# 3 because Rogue is wearing her then-modern outfit, which she didn't start wearing until the big X-relaunches."

      That probably is their reasoning, but if so, I think they're taking the costume's debut a bit too literally. Are we to assume that the training sequence in X-MEN #1 was the very first day Rogue ever wore this outfit? Time clearly passed between "Muir Island" and the relaunch; she probably got the costume sometime during that span.

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    2. While their dress and overall "look" is probably dated, unfortunely the act of doing horrible things to people and putting it on camera isn't.

      Yeah, I should have clarified that it's all the video schtick specifically that is dated, not, unfortunately, the general idea of bad people filming themselves doing terrible things to other people.

      @Matt: I agree that using the costume as a temporal indicator is dubious. Not only for the reasons you mention, but the fact that the her costume in this issue isn't an exact match for her X-MEN #1 look anyway. And if the "Muir Island Saga" taught us anything, it's that Rogue is capable of going through many looks in a short period of time.

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  5. The whole “mutant snuff-film” thing is a solid enough idea. On the other hand, I find Nicieza’s dialogue for the Vidkids just atrocious. On the other hand again, Shatterstar really is more of a character on his first page here than he’s been in all of X-Force to date — a dubious accolade to be sure, but like you say perhaps due to what Liefeld has given him to work with there. Wolverine’s “I’m startin’ t’like this kid” is spot-on, too. On the other hand, Shatterstar telling Wolverine he was there to join the Vidkids’ game confused me, because when he said he was going on the hunt it seemed like he’d already determined that the Vidkids’ preying on Morlocks was a hateful, grisly perversion of entertainment. Robertson’s art looks pretty uneven here, some of the faces especially, although I’ll confess to not being a particular fan of his later, more celebrated work either.

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    1. I agree that Shatterstar's "I'm was going to join them!" comment was weird. I was definitely getting a "I want to stop this" vibe from him before that.

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  6. This is definitely the most (or, any) characterization Shatterstar has received up until now. Probably why they're including it in the first volume of X-Force Epics.

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    1. Ah, I missed that. I hadn't looked too closely at what was being included in that Epic since I figured it would just be the first chunk of X-FORCE issues. I like that it's getting included. It fits there, and I also appreciate when the Epics toss in extra stuff like that outside of the main series a given volume is collecting.

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