Friday, November 7, 2014
X-amining Wolverine #10
In a Nutshell
Sabretooth stalks Wolverine on his birthday.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Buscema & Bill Sienkiewicz
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Colorist: Mike Rockwitz
Editor: Bob Harras
Time Keeper: Tom DeFalco
In Lowtown, Wolverine drinks at a bar, thinking back to an earlier saloon, when he found Sabretooth after Sabretooth had killed Wolverine's girlfriend, Silver Fox. In the present, Wolverine breaks up a bar fight, then heads out as the clock strikes midnight. In the past, an enraged Wolverine attacks Sabretooth. In the present, Wolverine helps save a pair of US Naval servicemen attacked by a gang of thugs, though one of them is shot. In the past, Wolverine and Sabretooth's fight spills outside, where Sabreooth buries Wolverine in a wood pile. In the present, Wolverine brings the wounded servicemen to Madame Joy'ss for treatment, where he meets Jessica and Lindsay, who have opened an office above the brothel. In the past, Wolverine flees into the woods, pursued by Sabretooth, and climbs up a nearby cliff face trying to escape. In the present, Wolverine meets with Chief Tai, who informs him the men from the bar fight are none too pleased with him, then confirms the individual Wolverine asked Tai to investigate is indeed dead.
Wolverine leaves, still not certain, as Tai wishes him a happy birthday. In the past, Sabretooth catches Wolverine, and easily beats him again. In the present, Wolverine discovers Jessica tracking him near the docks. She says his friends are worried about him, just as the two bruisers from the bar attack, seemingly killing them. In the past, Sabretooth prepares to rip out Wolverine's throat, but Wolverine manages to throw them both off the cliff. In the present, Wolverine and Jessica emerge from the water unharmed, and they realize somebody else has taken out their attackers. In the past, Sabretooth regains consciousness, impressed that Wolverine nearly took him out. In the present, Wolverine returns to the Princess Bar to find the two bruisers dead and gift wrapped for him, with a card attached saying "Nobody kills you but me - especially today!"
Firsts and Other Notables
Sabretooth makes his first appearance in this series with this issue, appearing in the flashbacks and, off-panel, in the present, as he stalks Wolverine on his birthday (a tradition first established in the backup story to Classic X-Men #10).
Via the flashback, Silver Fox makes her first appearance, though only as a dead body. A Native American woman whom Wolverine loved, she is killed by Sabretooth on Wolverine's birthday, an event loosely adapted in the Wolverine: Origins film, where Silver Fox is played by Lynn Collins. This being comics, Silver Fox will turn up alive and well, during Larry Hama's run on the title, as part of a larger story examining Wolverine's time with Weapon X and suggesting parts of the flashback in this issue (specifically, Silver Fox's death) is the result of memory implants.
This is Chris Claremont's final issue writing this series (at least until he returns, much later, for a brief run in the 90s). I've never seen a direct quote explaining why he left, but given that he only started writing the series to prevent someone else from doing it, it's probably safe to assume he left it to focus more on X-Men & Excalibur.
His absence will lead to a rotating series of writers, usually lasting only one or two stories, before Larry Hama finally comes aboard and begins his lengthy run on the series.
A Work in Progress
The flashback occurs at a time before Wolverine received his adamantium skeleton (and, he says, his claws, because at this time neither he nor the readers are aware that he had bone claws prior to the adamantium).
Wolverine says prior to his encounter with Sabretooth, he'd never fought anyone who was a match for him.
Madame Joy's, a brothel in Lowtown, and its eponymous proprietor, pop up, previously seen in Wolverine's initial Marvel Comics Presents story, and we learn that Jessica Drew and Lindsay McCabe have setup a PI office above the Brothel.
It's confirmed that Prince Baran's chancellor, killed in issue #4, was killed for supporting Tyger against Coy.
The Reference Section
Wolverine and Jessica battle two brothers named Daryl, presumably a reference to Newhart.
The Best There is at What He Does
In the flashback, Wolverine notes that Sabretooth is faster and tougher than he is.
In retrospect, this is easily the most significant issue of this series yet, and arguably the most important Wolverine story since the original Claremont/Miller limited series. On the surface, it's just a self-contained story set on Wolverine's birthday, adding a bit to the expanding setting of the series, inter cut with flashbacks to a previous birthday. But via that story, this issue introduces Sabretooth to the series, and makes it clear just how much of a disadvantage Wolverine is at relative to his foe. Thus, even though Sabretooth has battled Wolverine previously, this issue essentially serves as the introduction to the series of Wolverine's Magneto or Dr. Doom.
It also presents us with one of our first concrete looks at Wolverine's mysterious past, beyond vague asides and brief flash backs, showing us the character at his youngest point yet, chronologically. Silver Fox, here, is just a dead body, cheap motivation for Wolverine's rage, but she'll be back again later, and in the meantime, her death gives Wolverine's feud with Sabretooth an additional level of complexity, showing us a specific example of how it got personal, making the rivalry that much more intense not just because Sabretooth killed a woman Wolverine loved, but because Wolverine, despite his best efforts, was unable to avenge her.
It will be some time before the Wolverine/Sabretooth relationship becomes a central fixture of this series, but when it does, much of it will grow out of what's presented here, the first time all the vague comments and hinted-at interactions are given a specific, concrete context. Their relationship is one of the defining elements of Wolverine's character, and much of that comes from this issue.
Next week, Uncanny X-Men #248, New Mutants #79 and X-Factor #44.