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Thursday, September 23, 2021

X-amining Wolverine #108

"East is East..."
December 1996

In a Nutshell
Wolverine & Pale Flower escape from jail and team-up to rescue Yukio & Amiko! 

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Anthony Winn 
Inks: Dan Green & Vince Russell
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Kolja Fuchs
Colors: Joe Rosas
Editor: Bob Harras

As Wolverine and Pale Flower sit in jail, the Iron Monk attacks and proves difficult for the guards to stop given his invincibility against all mortal weapons. However, Yohei, an agent of Clan Yashida, arrives and gives Wolverine the Clan Yashida honor sword, a gift from Silver Samurai. Forged from a meteorite, Wolverine is able to kill the Iron Monk with it, and escape from jail along with Yohei and Pale Flower. Elsewhere, Akatora continues to brainwash Amiko while receiving news from the noodle vendor of the Iron Monk's failure. At the docks, Yohei reveals he is more than a simple courier by defeating a gang of thugs; Pale Flower, displaying some telepathic abilities, reveals that he is Clan Yashida's secret weapon. Meanwhile, Akatora learns the noodle vendor has been sharing information with the FBI; he sends his agents to kill him, but they fail. As Pale Flower and Yohei agree to help Wolverine rescue Yukio and Amiko, Akatora decides to send his cybernetic ninjas against both Wolverine and the noodle vendor. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue introduces a pair of characters, neither of whom have much of an impact on the series. The first is the Iron Monk, an assassin said to be impervious to all mortal weapons; he dies. 

The second is Yohei, a courier working for Clan Yashida who is also secretively one of their best enforcers. He will return next issue (where it will be revealed that he is a spy working for the Hand). 

Yohei delivers to Wolverine the Honor Sword of Clan Yashida, which Wolverine had given to Silver Samurai in issue #82. Being forged of a meteorite, Wolverine uses it to kill the Iron Monk. 

Akatora has a group of Cyber Ninjas in his employ and decides to set them against Wolverine, a few years before they branch out into election audits. 

A Work in Progress
After trying to kill him last issue, Pale Flower is impressed enough by, essentially, Wolverine's moxie that she decides to help him rescue Yukio and Amiko in this issue. She also seems to be a mutant. 

Austin's Analysis
Two thirds of the way in, it is now very clear this story is little more than a throwback to the early Larry Hama days, hitting a bunch of similar beats from those early noir "Wolverine in Japan/Madripoor" days, with the addition here of  Pale Flower, following her attempt to kill Wolverine last issue, as a sort of reluctant femme fatale ally in the mold of early Tyger Tiger and the diminutive Yohei, whose anachronistic Blues Brother appearance is of a piece with the more oddball/whackier elements Hama would often throw into his stories early in his run. As these things go, it's definitely all a bit warmed over, but it does gain a little something by being a palate cleanser: after a dozen or so issues of "Wolverine losing control of his humanity" stories followed by a half dozen "Wolverine is more beast than man, and has no nose" stories, seeing him traditionally-garbed fighting ninjas alongside dangerous women and wisecracking sidekicks has a certain charm, even if it plays more like a Greatest Hits album than something new. 

Next Issue
Next week: Madrox is back in X-Factor #129 and Cable and co. enter the Microverse in Cable #38! 

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  1. “ Akatora has a group of Cyber Ninjas in his employ and decides to set them against Wolverine, a few years before they branch out into election audits.” I missed the reference. Can anyone explain it?

    1. A security firm named "Cyber Ninjas" recently completed an audit of the election records in an Arizona county based on trumped up allegations of voter fraud, of which it found no evidence (and ended up finding more votes for the other guy). I was merely (attempting) to make a joke.

  2. I think the strain of constant crossovers is really showing here. It feels like Hama is trying to get Wolverine back to what worked when he took over. But the constant need to have Wolverine in different places the service the next crossover du jour makes it almost impossible to build any momentum.

    That's not to say that these issues aren't enjoyable, because they are, they just don't seem to really move anything forward or say anything new about Wolverine. Despite his current status quo.

    1. I'm actually amazed how little Wolverine still shows up in the main titles at this point. He's been back with the X-Men since just after "Age of Apocalypse", but he still seems like a recurring guest star, except when the crossovers roll around. It's remarkable, but at this point in the 90s, it feels like there's time for his solo adventures to be happening in relation to his participation in the core books.

      I don't know if it was their idea, but Lobdell and Nicieza both used him more as a utility player than a headliner, and I've always appreciated that. Unfortunately, I don't think this lasts much longer. Wolverine becomes a regular, month-in and month-out member of the cast again right after (or really just before) "O:ZT". And then by the 00s, he's ubiquitous across both the X-Men and Avengers lines!

    2. I find it surprising that Wolverine only had one regular ongoing title throughout the 90s. There was MCP, of course, but that very rarely had any impact on continuity. It's even more surprising, as you said, that he wasn't a focal characters in the X-Men during this time.

      The fact that he didn't have two ongoing titles simultaneously until 2006 shows great, if uncharacteristic, restraint on Marvel's part.


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