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Friday, May 22, 2015

X-amining Wolverine #25

"Heir Aid"
June 1990

In a Nutshell 
A rare (possible) glimpse at Wolverine's early days.

Writer: Jo Duffy
Artist: John Buscema
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Chief: Tom DeFalco

A small time gangster named Morrow calls in a favor from Wolverine. He is preparing to launch a turf war with his rival Piggot, and fearing Piggot will attack through Morrow's son, Gabriel, tasks Wolverine with protecting the boy for the evening. When Gabriel asks for a bedtime story, Wolverine tells him of a small boy cast out for being weak, who is adopted by a pack of wolverines in the Canadian wilderness. Growing stronger and more feral, the boy is captured by fur traders, but the wolverines attempt to free him. When some are shot, the boy flies into a rage and kills the traders.

As the story ends, some of Piggot's men break into the house, targeting Gabriel, but Wolverine fights them off. Just then, Morrow and his men return home, followed by Piggot's forces. Piggot arrives as his men capture Morrow, and though Wolverine tries to intercede on his behalf, he's overwhelmed. However, just as Piggot is about to kill Morrow, Gabriel, inspired by Wolverine's story, runs a serving cart into Piggot, saving his father. The police arrive and a stalemate is declared, the Prince liking the current situation the way it is. But Wolverine's debt to Morrow is repaid, and Gabriel's actions give him hope for the future.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue is notable for the story at the center of it, which Wolverine tells Gabriel, as it can be read as a possible origin for Wolverine, representing one of the earliest (chronological) appearances of the character up to this point. For the most part, it fits with the later revelations of Origin, in that, while not cast out for being small and weak, Wolverine was a frail boy who lived in the Canadian wilderness amongst wolves (rather than wolverines) for a time after leaving his home.

Jo Duffy comes aboard as the new series writer this issue. I'm not sure if she's considered the regular writer during her run or just a long term fill-in, but she bridges the gap between the Goodwin/Byrne run and the upcoming Hama/Silvestri run with two standalone stories and a four-parter, "The Lazarus Project".

John Buscema, who launched the series with Chris Claremont, returns for this issue, though it's just a one-and-done fill-in return for him (he'll do one more such issue before leaving the series for good).

Jim Lee provides the cover.

A Work in Progress
Though Wolverine is drawn wearing his eye patch, he specifically says he has eschewed that identity in this issue, and comes to Morrow as Wolverine. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Wolverine is still openly smoking.

Teebore's Take
Jo Duffy comes aboard and John Buscema returns, and the result is a done-in-one that pleasantly harkens back to the more noir-ish, movie serial-inspired vibe of the book's early days. The centerpiece of this issue is Wolverine's tale to Gabriel, the Jungle Book-esque story of a boy raised by wolverines. In the days before Origin, this stood as one of the earliest (possible) looks at Wolverine's past, and I seem to remember this issue being something of a hot back issue once upon a time as a result (the Jim Lee cover, at a time when all things Jim Lee were hot, probably didn't hurt).

The tale still works, even after much of the mystique has been stripped from Wolverine's character, because, ultimately, it's a story he's telling, so any contradictions with later revelations can be chalked up to Wolverine being an unreliable narrator (either intentionally or due to memory issues). At a time when comics were really starting to embrace the whole "every 25 issues is a big deal" mentality, the (at the time) rare look at Wolverine's past (potentially) and the return of the series' original artist combine to make the series' 25th issue feel a little bit more momentous than the average done-in-one/fill-in issue, and it's one of the best issues of the series yet. 

Next Issue
Liefeld does Wolverine in Marvel Comics Presents #51-53.

Collected Editions


  1. Interesting that this was done by Jo Duffy, of all people. I wonder if she may have discussed this with CC or someone else.

    At the time, I'm sure it was rather significant, and was an interesting revelation into Logan's early life. Sadly, too many visits to the well and too many people have kind of diluted it all. And Origins, both the limited series and the ongoing by Daniel Way, were such pieces of shit, and added so much crap to Logan's history.

  2. @wwk5d: I'm not sure CC would have approved given his intent for Sabretooth to be Wolvie's dad!?

  3. @wwk5d: I wonder if she may have discussed this with CC or someone else.

    I feel like she must have - it seems odd, whether she came in knowing she was a short timer or just as a new writer, to come in and make such a big reveal on the character. Then again, maybe she figured she was safe thanks to the whole unreliable narrator thing.

    And Origins, both the limited series and the ongoing by Daniel Way, were such pieces of shit, and added so much crap to Logan's history.

    I kinda like ORIGIN (the limited series). At least the first half of it. The whole "Wolverine is the sickly kid" twist legitimately surprised me.

    Way's ongoing came about at a time when I'd pretty much washed my hand of Wolverine ongoings. From what I've gathered, I didn't miss much...

    @Nathan: I'm not sure CC would have approved given his intent for Sabretooth to be Wolvie's dad!?

    How so? I don't think there's anything in Wolverine's story that would contradict that, had Claremont ever been able to establish it, and frankly, Sabretooth seems like exactly the kind of dad who would cast out his son for being weak and cowardly.


  4. Another good done-in-one issue. That’s honestly all I’d ever want or need to see about Wolverine’s “origin” until the Hudsons find him. Nice work from Duffy and Buscema.

  5. @Blam: That’s honestly all I’d ever want or need to see about Wolverine’s “origin” until the Hudsons find him.

    I've never actually read Barry Windsor-Smith's "Weapon X", but I'm fine in principal with the idea of a story that goes into the adamantium bonding and shows him falling into the feral state he's in when the Hudson's find him, and that's about all the Wolverine origin stuff I really need.


  6. Y’know, Weapon X came to mind as soon as I posted the comment. I haven’t read it since it came out and didn’t recall whether it took place before or after the Hudsons found him — like maybe once Logan was (re)civilized, he thought he could be an asset to the program they worked for, and the Canadian government then put him through the adamantium bonding. Mac and Heather taking him in on the far side makes me even more interested in reading it again for the blog and also pretty skeptical about how Logan, in the wake of being driven wild by what he underwent as Weapon X, ends up stumbling upon of all people the lovely couple who founded Department H and so ends up Weapon X for what to him is the first time.

  7. This seemed crazy at the time to me, what with being all origin-revelatory and such.

    But a few months later in the letters page about the issue, the editors were all, "Settle down, people, it's just a story that Logan told some kid. We still don't know anything more about his origin than we did before, other than at some point in his past he's definitely read Kipling."

    Which is funny, but it angered me. Two years later it was all memory-implant ridiculousness ... but I think maybe this issue was my first experience of feeling kind of F'd with by the X-Office, re: Wolverine's past.

    Blam, I give you permission to make "F'd With by the X-Office" your new band name.

  8. If memory serves correctly, Logan was dishonorably discharged from military (after battering up some fellow militant or something) and then some men in black came to collect him from his home, unwillingly first and unconsciously afterwards, and then he was put through the adamantization process (all in BWS's Weapon X). He didn't sign up for it.

    All the secret agent stuff with Carol Danvers and co. happened before that, I gather, and he remembers that, and all the Ogun business too, and that's all Claremont. Stupid amnesia-implanters.


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