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Friday, June 16, 2017

X-amining Wolverine #68

"Epsilon Red"
April 1993

In a Nutshell
Wolverine battles Epsilon Red.

Script: Larry Hama
Art: Mark Texeira
Backgrounds: Steve Biasi
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Wolverine confronts Epsilon Red, and still thinking it's the 1960s, recalls their last encounter, in which he was sent to kill the Soviet astronaut. The memory causes him to come to his senses and realize the correct year, and Epsilon Red says that he's using his psi-talents to help Wolverine remember. With his help, Wolverine recalls the original "Terry Adams" mission, in which he was meant to kill Epsilon Red to stop him from getting to the moon before the Americans, but was called off when the US landed a man on the moon. He thanks Epsilon Red for clearing up his memories, then helps him board a space shuttle and return "home" before being picked up by the X-Men. As they leave, one of the Russian guards ask Epsilon Red's daughter Elena why she used her telepathic powers to show Wolverine what she did; she tells him she left out part of the mission, when Sabretooth arrived and killed her mother, and that while inside Wolverine's head, she was able get some clues to Sabretooth's whereabouts, so she can track him down and kill him.

Firsts and Other Notables
This is Mark Texeira's last issue as the series' artist, as he departs to work on the Sabretooth limited series. Larry Hama has said that his run was never meant to be permanent, that it was something he did to kill time before Sabretooth. True or not, in the wake of his departure, the series will go without a new regular or even consistent artist for the next half dozen issues, before Adam Kubert comes aboard with issue #75 and begins a lengthy multi-year run.

Mentioned last issue, this issue marks the first appearance of Epsilon Red, a Russian super astronaut. Like the similarly-named Omega Red, Epsilon Red has tentacles of a sort, which seem to be tools (presumably to help him in space). He also leads Wolverine to believe he has telepathic powers, but they, in fact, belong to his daughter Elena. And after all that, don't get too attached to the guy, because he dies at the end of the story and has yet to appear again.


It's revealed that Epsilon Red's daughter Elena is telepathic, and that she orchestrated Wolverine's return to Tyuratam in order to comb his mind for clues about Sabretooth, on whom she wants revenge for killing her mother (Wolverine's memories show that while the hit on Epsilon Red was recalled in the wake of Neil Armstrong beating the Russians to the moon, Sabretooth decided to kill Epsilon Red's wife anyway, leading to Elena being born via C-section after her mother died).


Elena's next appearance are in the Maverick solo series, but I have no idea if her grudge against Sabretooth is picked up there, or simply forgotten.

After picking up Wolverine at Tyuratam, the X-Men tell him they're making a short stop in Russia, thus transitioning them into the events of X-Men #17-19 (which begin with this group of X-Men flying to Colossus' home from Tyuratam), though their visit is said to be short here while in the X-Men issues it clearly seems like they intended to stay at least a few days before they got sucked into the Soul Skinner situation.


A case could be made that this cover is an homage to X-Men #5, which similarly featured Wolverine in a close-up fight with a Russian super-soldier code-named >Greek Letter< Red.

A Work in Progress
While on Earth, Epsilon Red is forced to wear a containment suit, as his body has been altered to survive in the vacuum of space.


Epsilon Red describes Wolverine's mind as being clogged with false memories and mental blocks, some of which were placed in his mind by his own subconscious for his own protection, a precursor of the later idea that at least some of Wolverine's memory problems come from his healing factor wiping out bad memories in an effort to "heal" his mind.


In the end, Epsilon Red (by way of Elena) manages to unlock some of Wolverine's memories, though his memory problems are far from over and he still doesn't have full recollection of his life or the knowledge of exactly what he remembers is real and what is fake.


Austin's Analysis
The conclusion to the three part Terry Adams/Epsilon Red/Wolverine-go-crazy story is also the best of the three partx, mostly because it is the most coherent and straightforward. It's still not terribly exciting, as the whole thing just turns out to be an excuse to play around in Wolverine's head and maybe, for real this time, settle some of his memory issues (and set up a confrontation with Sabretooth that never really comes to fruition). The idea of exploring Wolverine's past isn't inherently bad, and the jumble of memories can make for some trippy scenes (and convenient retcons).

But after after the initial Shiva story in issues #48-50, the Psi-Borg story, and now this, "Wolverine's past" is an area in which Hama has spent far too much time, with diminishing returns. Thankfully, he seems to have recognized this, as he will shortly move on to other things in preparation for one of the biggest status quo upsets in the character's history, while the juxtaposition between Epsilon Red and Wolverine (both mutants transformed into something more than human in service of their governments) here allows this extended trip down memory lane come to a close with something of a happy ending. But the important takeaway from this issue is still that all the memory stuff is, for now.

5 comments:

  1. "I have no idea if her grudge against Sabretooth is picked up there, or simply forgotten."
    She does attempt to get revenge on Sabretooth.

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    1. That's good to know! Kudos to a 90s comic about Maverick for following up on this.

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  2. Gotta love Wolverine moving so fast that the guards can't track him. Because as we remember, the thing that Wolverine does best is moving.

    On which note, that "Don't leave me here!" quote by Silver Fox juxtaposed next to abusive Sabretooth on the visible outcome of Logan's mental probe probably goes a long way in explaining what Silver Fox had against Logan after her resurfaciation, and to what Aldo Ferro was referring when taunting Logan about his less heroic moments (on that one issue I just am unable to come up what issue it was). And would be thematically in line with the false memory implant from the prom parking lot and Logan ditching Silver Fox.

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  3. I know this story is a rambling, weird shaggy-dog tale — up ’til a rather welcome end in Wolverine getting some of his memories defragged — and I’d very possibly have been frustrated shelling out money for it issue by issue at the time, but now I’m happy to simply admire the art. Like I’ve said here before, I’m familiar with Texeira almost exclusively from the 1996 Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil one-shot and some glances at Ghost Rider back in the day, having largely avoided the sort of stuff he was working on then, so this is a revelation to me. Speaking of the end, however: The X-Men showing up after all the action’s gone down, right in time to pick up Wolverine, is kinda silly. My narrative radar suggests that it’d actually be an acceptable enough plot move if we hadn’t spent time periodically checking in with the team, only to have nothing come of their arrival beyond being Wolverine's ride outta there, and they instead just showed up to grab him en route to Siberia.

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    Replies
    1. The X-Men functioned as the means for exposition; through their scenes with Maverick etc. the reader gets to know what "Terry Adams" means and whatnot, while Wolverine pushes forward like it was 1968 and isn't much up for "as you know" dialogues about spy scene stuff with other spy scene dudes.

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