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Friday, February 5, 2021

X-amining Wolverine #103

"Top of the World, Ma!"
July 1996

In a Nutshell
Elektra begins training Wolverine in the hopes of restoring his humanity

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Val Semeiks
Inks: Chad Hunt
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Joe Rosas & Malibu's Hues
Editor: Bob Harras

Wolverine climbs to the top of the World Trade Center, the first task set to him by his new sensei, Elektra, who is working to restore his humanity. Inside, she sets up a dojo inside an abandoned restaurant, hanging a scroll on the wall which seems familiar to Wolverine. She proceeds to train with him relentlessly, believing that if he regains his reasoning skills & mental conditioning, the rest of his humanity will follow. Later, Wolverine is meditating calmly, but Elektra still likens him to an unsheathed sword. She proceeds to lock him inside a refrigerator as a test. Inside, he realizes he saw the scroll Elektra hung in their makeshift dojo inside Ogun's dojo years ago, and summons the wherewithal to escape. He grabs the unsheathed sword Elektra left behind and tracks her to a nearby rooftop, where they spar. Elektra seems to win, but his defeat is jut a ruse for Wolverine to get close enough to sheath the sword in the scabbard Elektra is carrying, thereby completing the test. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Between issue #102 and the end of this one, Wolverine has regained a significant amount of his verbal ability, able to talk in full sentences and with most of his full vocabulary, though his word balloons are still lettered in the jagged font that first used for his dialogue in issue #100 (after he rejected the adamantium), suggesting there's still some animalistic/primal sound to his speaking voice. 

The Chronology Corner
All of Wolverine's recent appearances, including Wolverine #102.5, when he's been seen in the company of the X-Men (including Uncanny X-Men #333-334 and X-Men #54), as well as his appearances in the early chapters of "Onslaught", occur after this issue. 

A Work in Progress
Continuing the efforts to integrate her into the book, Elektra receives a couple pages' worth of flashbacks this issue, outlining the broad strokes of her history. 

A pair of previous Wolverine foes are referenced in this issue, first when Elektra name checks Shingen, Mariko's father and the villain of the first Wolverine limited series. 

Later, Wolverine realizes the scroll Elektra has hung is the same as the one used by Ogun, the demon-samurai who trained Wolverine in martial arts and later possessed Kitty Pryde (in the Kitty Pryde & Wolverine limited series), though presumably, the idea is that the scroll contains the same wording and isn't the exact same scroll somehow retrieved by Elektra. 

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Much of this issue takes place inside a closed up restaurant in the World Trade Center, a setting which is much more notable now than it was then. 

Austin's Analysis
This is a very workmanlike issue, doing the sort of things that are entirely necessary for a serialized narrative but which are nevertheless not terribly exciting or interesting in their own right. Unless the plan is to leave Wolverine a barely-verbal animal-man indefinitely, the path back to his humanity has to start somewhere, and this issue is that beginning. And if Elektra is going to become a supporting character in the series for the time being (if not functionally a co-lead), then her character needs to at least be introduced more fully to anyone who isn't already familiar with her. And thus, we get a few pages devoted to recapping Elektra's history, and even more pages of her forcing Wolverine through various martial arts and philosophical challenges in order to help him once more contain the beast that is more in control than ever before. It's all perfectly fine stuff, and gets the job done: the broad strokes of Elektra's history are laid out, and while various warrior-based platitudes aren't going to immediately snap Wolverine back to normal, this is as good a first step on that journey as any. But for as much as this issue does the necessary work it sets out to do, it's doesn't really do it in any fun or surprising ways, which makes it hard to get too excited about much of any of it.  

Next Issue
Next week, Cyclops & Phoenix get pulled into another time travel adventure as the origin of Mister Sinister is revealed in The Further Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix #1-4!

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  1. I owned an issue of Elektra: Assassin but these issues were my first real exposure to the character. I found myself more invested in her than Wolverine during this time.

    I absolutely hated the color wash for the flashbacks in this issue. I understood the artistic reasons but the effect for me was that it felt like unfinished art.

    Larry Hama was usually pretty solid but the run from about #95 to #105 felt like he was at the mercy of editorial mandates and couldn't really do anything interesting for fear of contradicting the whims of Lobdell and Harras. The fact that this issue has any entertainment value at all speaks highly of Hama's skill.

  2. This period of Wolverine has always bugged me. I think its two things.

    Number one, Larry Hama had a story he wanted to tell about Wolverine. The character's worst nightmare is realized, and he has to fight to regain the very humanity he doubted WAAAY back in the original miniseries, with Mariko doubting his worth.

    But then they rush it. I presume for Onslaught, a linewide crossover featuring a bunch of X-Men. Can't have your most merchandisable character changed TOO much for the big event. Get him back to humanity PRONTO.

    Number two is the art. Val Semeiks is good. In fact when he does JLA/ WildCATs and DC One Million I'll love his stuff. But Silvestri, Texteira and Kubert could DO gritty, hard-boiled action stories. Semeiks is a good SUPERHERO penciller, but not so good on Wolverine. The fact that he's between Kubert and then Yu and Larson shoukd speak for itself.

    Case in point: Semeiks was among the first to pencil Solaris. That was a tyrant sun that became a threatening and lasting character, and Semeiks made it believable. Yet I cannot imagine him drawing the tree from Wolverine's dreams.

    I blame all of this on editorial. Why put a good Superhero artist on Wolverine while Mike Deodato and Steve Epting were trying to make the Avengers more like the X-Men? I mean, they give the Avengers to the Image guys in a couple of months anyway. It just seems so uncoordinated to me.

    Lastly, why Elektra? Should have been Psylocke instead. Logan and Betsy have a history of being with each other through transformations and doubt (and, during the 80s as with Onslaught, without Professor X!). Heck Elektra and Psylocke wear roughly the same outfit.

    1. "Heck Elektra and Psylocke wear roughly the same outfit."

      I chuckled a bit at this, because within just a few years of this story, Toy Biz would release a straight repaint of their Psylocke action figure as Elektra!

    2. Including the same accessory, which was bizarre.


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