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Friday, July 17, 2020

X-amining Wolverine #98

"Fade to Black"
February 1996

In a Nutshell
Wolverine is framed for several deaths at the Princess Bar

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Ramon Bernado
Inkers: Napolitano, Milgrom, & Morales
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Joe Rosas
Separations: Malibu
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Wolverine awakens in the Princess Bar in Madripoor, surrounded by the bodies of his friends Archie Corrigan, O'Donnell, & Rose Wu, with no memory of how he got there or what happened to them. His last memory is of receiving a package from Zoe Culloden containing a key and a note he can't read in his memory. Stumbling out of the bar, Wolverine is confronted by Police Cheif Tai, who arrests him. Wolverine offers no resistance. Chained up in jail, Wolverine is visited by Dirt Nap, who taunts him with the fact that he's being setup by everyone. Shortly thereafter, Tyger Tiger strolls by the window of Wolverine's cell, and passes through a hacksaw and one of his yellow-and-blue uniforms. Later, Prince Baran & General Coy lead a group of thugs inside the prison to kill Wolverine, but when he learns a pair of the thugs are responsible for killing his friends and framing him, he snaps, breaking free of his restraint and slaughtering the thugs before turning towards Baran & Coy. Attempting to save himself, Coy kills Baran, but is killed in turn by a returning Tyger Tiger, who proceeds to accompany Wolverine to the damaged Landau, Luckman & Lake Madripoor office, where he uses the key Zoe gave him to open the office's warp chamber. Inside, he finds Zoe waiting, who promises to show him his fate.

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue features the deaths of several members of the series' recurring "Madripoor" supporting cast, including pilot Archie Corrigan, Princess Bar owners O'Donnell & Rose Wu, and the villainous Prince Baran & General Coy, Karma's evil uncle (though I believe Coy appears in a couple random Spider-Man issues after this; at any rate, he's presented as being dead and this is his last appearance in this series).

Both Police Chief Tai & co-crime lord Tyger Tiger, more Madripoorian mainstays, appear in this issue, but both survive.

Dirt Nap, the parasitic being who debuted in issue #95 and ended the issue in the body of rat, pops up in this one to taunt Wolverine about Dirt Nap's boss' plans for Wolverine, all of which will be revealed next issue (his boss is Genesis).

A Work in Progress
This issue reveals that the package Zoe Culloden gave Wolverine at the end of the last issue contained a note directing him to the LLL Madripoor office, and a key for the warp chamber door there.

Wolverine’s hearing has improved to the point that he can hear through walls.

Wolverine references the events of the Wolverine/Gambit: Victims miniseries (in which he was similarly framed for murders featuring claw-like wounds), saying he should have more faith in himself.

The Best There is at What He Does
Wolverine is able to free himself by essentially ripping his hand out of a man Le, shredding the skin.

Austin's Analysis
Though this issue ostensible kicks the "devolving Wolverine" story into its final gear (as it ends with Wolverine teleporting away to the setting of the story's climax over the next pair of issues), it also serves as a goodbye of sorts to the series' Madripoor setting & familiar trappings, as the Princess Bar is heavily damaged and several of the "usual suspects" who populated the series' earlier Madripoor-set tales are killed off or make their final appearances in the series. Certainly, Madripoor will continue to play a recurring role in both the series and the X-books after this, and characters like Tyger Tiger will appear again. But this is more or less the end of the line, at least for the foreseeable future, for nods to Wolverine's Patch identity and the Rick's Bar/Casablanca stylings of the Princess Bar and the Madripoorian supporting cast that was such a fixture of the book once upon a time. In that regard, it very much fits in with the larger "Wolverine is getting his affairs in order" vibe of the series post-"Age of Apocalypse", and therefore is effective at adding another ominous layer to the build-up to issue #100.

Next Issue
Next week, Archangel flies alone in Archangel #1!

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  1. I remember reading this issue and, having never read any early WOLVERINE, not realizing the significance of any of these characters. I remembered Corrigan from his brief appearance in “Phalanx Covenant”, but that was it (though I later realized I’d seen Rosie in issue 267 years earlier).

    So while the script made it evident they were all people Wolverine knew who had presumably appeared in prior stories, their deaths here really didn’t mean anything to me. Nowadays, though, it’s kind of sad to see the entire supporting cast from the early days of the series jettisoned so gruesomely and unceremoniously.

    And now, two notes on the artwork:

    1. When Tyger brings Wolverine an “old costume” he left in her care at some point in the past, I kind of suspect Hama’s intent was that should be the brown-and-tan outfit, to better recall the era Madripoor and all its characters represent for Wolverine. I could be totally wrong, but that’s just the feeling I get.

    2. Speaking of that classic Madripoor period, Ramon Bernardo appears to spend the first three or four pages doing his very best John Buscema impression. In particular, to my eye at least, Wolverine’s face on the first page, Corrigan’s face on the second page, and Wolverine’s body language and face on the fourth page just scream Buscema to me. This is a really nice and appropriate homage, if that was his intent.

    Both Police Chief Tai & co-crime lord Tyger Tiger, more Madripoorian mainstays, appear in this issue, but both survive.

    Tyger implies that she ran Tai down with her car while she was driving to Wolverine’s aid, though we don’t see the body so I guess his fate is up in the air (though Wolverine does note blood on Tyler’s hood, which is what prompts her to tell him about Tai in the first place).

    These WOLVERINE issues lately are really fast reads... I feel like they only take about five minutes!

  2. I cannot stress enough how dissapointed 13 year old me was every time I opened an issue of Wolverine to find Kubert wasnt doing the pencils. Was an emotional lottery which went on years (and not helped by Marvel not putting the creators names on the front of the books during this period)


  3. // the deaths of several members of the series' recurring "Madripoor" supporting cast //

    I was gobsmacked to realize that it was all “real” instead of a dream / hallucination / whatever in patented Wolverine (and more generally superhero comics) fashion. Not that his being set up for the murders isn’t also a familiar jawn.

    The art is obviously influenced by John Buscema in spots, as Matt notes, if not outright swiped; there’s some Barry Windsor-Smith in there as well.


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