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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Marvel Comics Presents #117-122: Claws & Webs

Dream a Little Dream… of Me” / “Dream are Made of This?” / “Dreams Can’t Kill You… But They Can Sure Try!” / “Dreaming with the Enemy” / “Dreams Scars” / “Nightmare’s End”December 1992 - February 1993

In a Nutshell
Wolverine & Venom team-up against Nightmare.

Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Sam Keith
Inker: Dwayne Turner (#120-121)
Letterer: Janice Chiang, Albers/Babcock (#119), Steve Dutro (#120-121), Babcokc/Sharpe (#122)
Colorist: Mike Thomas
Editor: Terry Kavanagh
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Suffering from recurring nightmares and suspecting Nightmare as the culprit, Wolverine enlists the aid of Professor X, who puts Wolverine's consciousness onto the Astral Plane, where he comes face to face with Venom. The pair fight, with Venom insisting he's the hero of his dream, which means Wolverine must be the villain, but eventually, they put aside their differences to attack Nightmare together. But upon reaching him, Nightmare laughs, saying that Wolverine has been a pawn all along, that Nightmare wanted Wolverine to turn to Professor X for help so Nightmare could access Xavier's mind through Wolverine's, thus escaping the astral plane. However, Xavier suspected as much, so as Wolverine & Venom attack Nightmare on the astral plane, Xavier does so telepathically as well, and when Wolverine stabs Nightmare in the head with his claws, the villain disappears, and both Wolverine & Venom are returned to their bodies.

Firsts and Other Notables
Sam Keith is back to draw this story, following his work on the introductory Cyber story and issue #100.

The big selling point of this story, at least in 1993 (aside from the Keith art) is that it puts Wolverine & Venom against each other, then teams them up. This story comes as Venom's profile is being raised and he's transitioning away from being a full-on villain and more of a violent anti-hero, with the first issue of his Lethal Protector miniseries going on sale the same month this story ends.

The plot of this issue follows on from events in issues #99-100, which featured Nightmare menacing first Wolverine (in #99) and then an assortment of frequent MCP players (in #100, the rare issue which told one single, full length story). I didn't review either because the Wolverine portion is fairly minimal, and isn't terribly important outside of setting up this story (also, frankly, because I didn't need to slot that story in for whatever reason, whereas this story is getting reviewed because I needed something to pair with one of Excalibur's rando bi-weekly issues and the timing of its on-sale date worked out for that).

Aside from Wolverine, Venom, and Nightmare, Professor X makes a couple appearances at the beginning and end of the story.

Starting with issue #119, Joe Madureira starts drawing one of the issues' two covers. The upcoming Deadpool limited series (which he will draw) is also mentioned in the letters page.

Madureira also draws a Mirage story in issue #121, marking the characters only appearance between her departure from the New Mutants in New Mutants #87 and her return in X-Force #27. It's a fairly straightforward story involving a Cheyenne deity trying to force her out of Asgard, saying she's denied her heritage by becoming a Valkyrie, with Dani ultimately declaring she's of both worlds now and needs to remain in Asgard for the time being. Nothing terribly consequential, but still nice to see the character again.

Issue #119 has a Wonder Man/Mojo story in it, an odd fit on one hand, but given Wonder Man's acting history, also not an odd fit.

The Chronology Corner
Wolverine appears in this story between issues #65 and #66 of his regular series, between issues #11 and #12 of X-Men, and after his appearances in "Infinity War" and a bunch of other stuff I'm not reviewing.

Professor X appears here after Uncanny X-Men #293, and before X-Men #12.

A Work in Progress
In issue #118, Wolverine talks like he's familiar with Venom, but as far as I can tell, the characters have never met prior to this story (and it's not like Spider-Man is regularly feeding info on his foes to other heroes).

Dani uses her spirit lance in the Mirage story, which is, I believe, its last appearance (when she nexts appears, her powers will manifest differently, and the whole "wish things into being" element will, thankfully, be gone).

She also acknowledges that while she needs to remain in Asgard now, she will eventually return home (which proves to be true).

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Ravage 2099 is one of the four story installments in issue #117, and Doom 2099 gets a preview story in issue #118.

Young Love
In issue #118, Wolverine is fooled by someone who looks like Mariko.

And in issue #121, he mentions that her death is still fresh in his mind, robbing that moment of the power Nightmare hoped it would provide.

Austin's Analysis
Like the Peter David-penned Marvel Comics Presents story which introduced Cyber, this is another story that ultimately exists as a vehicle for Sam Keith to do wild and crazy stuff in the art. Unlike that earlier story, it offers nothing in the way of character development for Wolverine or makes any contribution to the larger X-narrative. The use of Nightmare, while following up on an earlier MCP story, is ultimately just a vehicle for Keith to not have to operate within any semblance of reality, and the pairing of Wolverine with Venom, while certainly commercially viable at this point in the 90s, offers up very little as well: the two characters don't really have much of a connection, either in terms of in-universe history or thematic similarities, before or after this story. The Keith art helps this rise above the usual Marvel Comics Presents dreck, in that it's at least fun to look at, but there's barely any story here at all, and what there is, is of little note or consequence.


  1. I'm not sure if he tweaked his style somehow or what, but this Sam Keith artwork is way more appealing to me than his last story. I really like his Venom, in particular.

    "In issue #118, Wolverine talks like he's familiar with Venom, but as far as I can tell, the characters have never met prior to this story (and it's not like Spider-Man is regularly feeding info on his foes to other heroes)."

    Does he specifically state that he's familiar with Venom, or could it just be that he's familiar with the symbiote costume? He was there when Spider-Man got it, after all.

  2. Does he specifically state that he's familiar with Venom, or could it just be that he's familiar with the symbiote costume? He was there when Spider-Man got it, after all.

    I don't think it's anything specific, just a general reaction to Venom that suggested familiarity. And yeah, he was there when Spider-Man got the symbiote (well, sort of; weren't the X-Men off on their own by then?), but even Spider-Man wasn't familiar with the symbiote when he got it, and I have no idea how common knowledge the fact that Venom is that costume is amongst the superhero crowd. The FF know, of course, and presumably the Avengers (since Spidey had technically been a member at that point, not that very many people remember that), but the X-Men are usually more out of that shared loop.

    1. No, the X-Men had re-joined the heroes at that point and had been scoring for themselves some sweet JRjr costumes when Spidey came asking after where everyone got the fancy new costumes.

    2. Plus Wolverine has been with Spider-Man a zillion times since and sometimes he's in black and sometimes in red-blue and Spidey has obviously told him off-panel a one-sencence version with a retort at Wolverine's own costume change in Canada during the Wendigo shenanigans.

    3. I love the scene with the costume machine because of Spider-Man's line, "Hey, Thor -- you got your cape back! And your hat!" Calling Thor's helmet a hat is such a Spidey thing to do.

      Anyway, Spider-Man and Wolverine did have many run-ins subsequent to SECRET WARS, and Wolverine even learned Spidey's secret identity in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #29. So it's possible they chatted about the symbiote off-panel at some point or another.

    4. A detraction: the X-Men weren't with the heroes at the time Spider-Man got his symbiote costume in SECRET WARS #8, but they were keeping eye on Galactus and the issue ended with Xavier's warning to the heroes that Galactus has started devouring the Battleworld. I had mistaken it with the scenes in #12 where the X-Men got the new outfit and Spider-Man finds it suspicious that no one else's costume is thought-controlled. Johnny Storm's answer to Spidey, "No... they are -- just clothes" sounds ominously hilarious until you remember the truth was already out in the Spidey-books at this point.

      On the other note, that's some goddamn competent superhero comics they did in SW #8 (and every issue), and nowadays it's hard to not compare to those installments of superhero flicks that the audience/critics felt they bombed because of too many characters.

  3. A Howard Mackie story that is low on character development and plot? Humbug!


  4. It’s Sam Kieth, not Keith.

    // a Cheyenne deity trying to force her out of Asgard, saying she's denied her heritage by becoming a Valkyrie //

    The story is hardly even a trifle but at least it’s an interesting concept — a logical one even, in a universe where separate cultural pantheons exist.


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