In a Nutshell
In the wake of losing his adamantium, Wolverine discovers he has bone claws.
Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Adam Kubert
Inkers: Mark Farmer, Dan Green & Mark Pennington
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
As Professor X & Jean Grey work to keep Wolverine alive, the rest of Xavier's strike team and Bishop fight to bring the Blackbird safely back to Earth. Despite their efforts, Wolverine is fading fast, but when damage to the plane causes Jean to get sucked out the hatch, Wolverine regains consciousness long enough to pull her back inside. Two weeks later, Wolverine orders the X-Men out of the Danger Room, determined to test his mettle in the wake of Magneto's attack on him. As the X-Men look on in growing concern, Wolverine battles a pair of robots, and when he instinctively pops his claws, he is horrified to discover he has claws made of bone. A few days later, he and Jubilee have a heart-to-heart, as each attempts to deal with the recent changes they've experienced. That night, Wolverine leaves Jubilee and the rest of the X-Men letters, explaining his decision to leave the mansion, then rides off into the night as a saddened Jubilee watches from her window.
Firsts and Other Notables
The penultimate chapter of "Fatal Attractions", this issue reveals, in the wake of the loss of Wolverine's adamantium, that Wolverine has bone claws (and always has ie when the Weapon X project coated his bones in adamantium, they coated his claws as well, rather than adding them). Though eventually writers will get lazy and the distinction between his bone claws and his metal ones will blur (ie the character will do things with the bone claws he probably shouldn't be able to do, like drive them into rock), for the most part, Hama will do an effective job of showcasing the limitations of having bone claws, at least initially.
This issue of course also marks the beginning of Wolverine's "adamantium-less" period in this series, a period that will last an astonishing seventy issues (after a feint in issue #100, Wolverine will get re-bonded with adamantium in issue #145). For all the (entirely justified) talk of the 90s being the time for crass, commercially-driven and marketing-mandated creative decisions, this change to Wolverine is arguably as creatively-driven as it is commercially. Sure, curiosity will spike sales, for awhile, but ultimately, the questions of what Wolverine is without his adamantium, and how he deals with not being the toughest guy in any room, or how he handles the massive trauma he's experienced, seem like questions poised to pay out as many creative dividends as financial ones, if not more. And while Marvel could have easily brought back the adamantium a few months after this issue, once the curiousity-induced sales spike began to decrease, but to their credit, they left the change in place far longer than anyone would have expected.
This issue also marks Wolverine's departure from the team, as he rides off on his motorcyle (along with what is presumably the honor sword of Clan Yashida) after penning goodbye letters to Jubilee, Xavier, Scott & Jean. Like the lack of adamantium, Wolverine's absence from the X-Men will last far longer than anyone expected (though he'll return to the team well before he gets his adamantium back).
Adam Kubert debuts as the series' new regular artist this issue. Brother of Andy and son of Joe, like Andy, he came up through Marvel's "Midnight Sons" line. He'll remain on the book through issue #100 (including the series' "Age of Apocalypse" issues), albeit with fairly regular fill-ins (like most series artists of this era).
Wolverine gets the hologram treatment on this issue's cover.
A Work in Progress
When Xavier enters Wolverine's mind, he sees a montage of his worst memories, including Sabretooth & Lady Deathstrike.
There's a neat bit where Quicksilver is able to use his super-speed to make the necessary flight adjustments as the Blackbird reenters the atmosphere.
Xavier declares that if Wolverine dies while Xavier is in his mind, Xavier will die too.
In another clever bit, when Xavier tells Wolverine that by heading into the light, he'll die, Wolverine replies "don't you think I know that?"
The person beckoning Wolverine into said light is Illyana, which doesn't make much sense in terms of "people with personal significance to Wolverine", but works in terms of her being the character who most recently preceded Wolverine into death.
Hama, who struggled writing Rogue in issues #69-71, as her here uncharacteristically crying out "help me Remy!" as the hatch is blown off the Blackbird, apparently forgetting that she can fly and is largely invulnerable, thus making her the one person aboard the plane who should be least worried about the craft breaking down around her (it is, of course, entirely possible that Hama legitimately didn't know the full extent of Rogue's powers at this point, as it seemed in the earlier story).
Jubilee is able use one of her fireworks to light Wolverine's cigar, display an increased control of her power in the wake of previous issues.
As Wolverine leaves the X-mansion, we see his room contains a picture of (presumably) he and Mariko, as well as the medicine pouch that represents his relationship with Silver Fox.
Jubilee is shown sleeping with Illyana's Bamf doll (or one like it). And Wolverine leaves her his cowboy hat.
The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
With his healing factor still overtaxed, Wolverine gives up smoking. I don't recall if this sticks; I know Quesada banned any Marvel characters from smoking on panel during his tenure as Editor-in-Chief, but I'm not sure if it was something Wolverine was still regularly doing at the time.
The Best There is at What He Does
In the wake of Magneto's attack, Wolverine's healing factor is overtaxed that it heals his wounds, but is unable to keep them healed.
To Hama's credit, immediately after the bone claw revelation, he has Wolverine wondering why he never knew he had bone claws, hanging a lampshade on the whole retcon.
Wolverine declares it hurts every time he pops his claws, which is, I *think*, the first time that particular detail is established (the idea that extending his claws essentially creates wounds that his healing factor later heals).
Like a Phoenix, From the Ashes
Listening in as the strike team attempts to get back to Earth, Cyclops notes the parallels to the events that led to the creation of Phoenix.
Ultimately, it is Jean being in danger that pulls Wolverine back from the brink of death, and while I'm not the biggest fan of the Wolverine/Jean ship, I do like the moment where he wakes up and grabs her, especially the way Kubert frames it (going from the closeup on Jean to the full page splash revealing Wolverine as having saved her).
In terms of "Fatal Attractions", this issue serves as a relatively quiet denouement to the story. Whereas previous chapters focused on big moments (the return of Cable and debut of Avalon, the return of Magneto, the joint maiming of Wolverine & Magneto), this is focused narrowly on the immedite aftermath of Magneto's attack on Wolverine in the previous chapter, with the first half of the issue handed over to, essentially, a disaster narrative, as the X-Men frantically work to both keep Wolverine alive and arrive safely back on Earth. Hama manages to wring a fair amount of tension from the scenario, with one thing after another going wrong, even though readers know full well everyone is going to survive (after all, just because you know the astronauts in Apollo 13 survive doesn't mean the story of their attempt to do so can't still be tense).
The second half of the issue is where the big revelation comes along, the second half of the one-two punch that is the changes wrought on Wolverine by this crossover. The Bone Claws retcon is rather fiendishly clever in its simplicity - whereas most retcons unnecessarily complicate readers' understanding of past events, this almost simplifies things. Wolverine was a character who had adamantium bonded to his bones, and also got claws as part of the process. Now, he's just a character who had adamantium bonded to his bones, because his bones happen to have included his claws as well. It even fits with the little detail from "Weapon X" in which Dr. Cornelius seemed surprised that adamantium was pooling around Wolverine's hands/forearms (while Barry Windsor-Smith didn't intend for that to be hint at the existence of the bone claws, it works to strengthen Hama's retcon nonetheless). And, of course, Wolverine, with his now-established history of mental implants and memory issues, is perfectly positioned for this kind of "everything you knew was wrong!" retcon.
But even in the wake of that revelation, Hama keeps the focus quiet, on the interaction between Wolverine & Jubilee, which has been the central relationship of this series for much of Hama's run. Wolverine leaving the X-Men is a big deal, especially considering the commercial implications of both him and the X-Men at this point in time, but it's his goodbye to Jubilee that carries the most emotional weight, as he admits to leaving despite her needing his help processing the recent revelations about her parents, but also believing she's better off without him as he deals with his own traumas. The end result is an issue which, as much as it is the latest chapter in a big crossover event with a hologram on its cover, and for all it does to completely rewrite our understanding of Wolverine while setting up a rather bold new status quo for the series, still presents its big, "nothing will ever be the same!" developments within the context of the makeshift father/daughter relationship between Wolverine & Jubilee that has become the heart of the series.
Next week, Sabretooth gets the miniseries treatment. Sabretooth 1-4.