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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

X-amining Maverick #1

"The Sword Song On a Barren Heath"
January 1997

In a Nutshell
Maverick takes a break from dying to battle Omega Red!

Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: Wildred Santiago
Inkers: Tim Townsend
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Colors: Marie Javins
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras

Maverick, dying from the Legacy Virus, is visited by Elena Ivanova, a psychic who wants his help finding Sabretooth. Realizing he is being hunted by Omega Red, Maverick agrees to help Elena if she helps him with Omega Red. The pair head to a Canadian air force research base, followed by Omega Red. At the base, Canadian forces capture Omega Red but Maverick and Elena escape with the help of John Wraith, Maverick's old Team X compatriot. Omega Red manages to escape, however, by killing all the soldiers around him with his mutant death factor. Maverick, Elena and Wraith proceed to the old Weapon X facility, where Maverick has hidden the carbonadium synthesizer that Omega Red needs. With the help of Elena's telepathy, they lure Omega Red to the base and trap him in a containment chamber, then escape just as the Canadian air force bombs the facility. Maverick honors his promise to Elena and gives her a lead of Sabretooth, but she decides to stay with Maverick in order to be with him through his final days. 

Firsts and Other Notables
A special one-shot issue, this was presumably published as a way to test the waters for a potential Maverick ongoing series. In that regard, it was, again presumably, a success, as a Maverick solo series does (eventually) follow in its wake, one which picks up where this leaves off, with Elena tending to a dying Maverick (though the solo series has an entirely different creative team). 

Maverick, like Pyro before him, is (very) slowly dying of the Legacy Virus, a condition which will carry over to his ongoing series as well. 

Elena Ivanova is the daughter of Russian super-cosmonaut Epsilon Red; she first appeared in Wolverine #67 as part of the "Epsilon Red" story that also featured Maverick. Her backstory involving Sabretooth pettily killing her mother while Elena was in utero and her desire to find him in order to exact revenge (as well as her status as a telepath) was revealed in Wolverine #68. She will become a regular presence in the ongoing Maverick series. 

John Wraith (aka Kestrel), the teleporting member of the old Team X crew (who was, never forget, played by in the terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine film); this is his last appearance until his apparent death in Wolverine #166. 

Omega Red, last seen in Generation X #11, serves as the villain of the story, still hunting after the carbonadium synthesizer that would allow him to control his mutant death factor. 

Elena refers to Maverick by the name "Nord", which is the German version of his previously-stated surname "North"; later stories will reveal that "David North" is an alias and Maverick's real real name is "Christopher Nord". 

Creator Central
Wolverine writer Larry Hama (who didn't create Maverick but has used him the most) writes this issue. 

A Work in Progress
This issue opens by revisiting and expanding on the Team X sequence from X-Men (vol. 2) #5-7, in which Maverick, Sabretooth and Wolverine first tussled with Omega Red while working for the CIA. 

Omega Red's pre-super soldier origin is shown briefly; no mention is made of his time as a serial killer being hunted by Interpol agent Banshee. 

Birdy Sabretooth's telepathic Gal Friday introduced in X-Men (vol. 2) #6 and killed by Graydon Creed in the Sabretooth miniseries, gets an origin here as well. 

Maverick, Elena and Wraith escape the Weapon X facility in Wolverine's old car, first mentioned in Wolverine #48. 

Maverick tells Elena that Sabretooth is currently at Fall's Edge, Virginia, the headquarters of X-Factor. 

Austin's Analysis
Though it comes some eight months before it and features an entirely different creative team, this reads very much like the "pilot episode" of the ongoing Maverick solo series: it establishes a status quo for Maverick, introduces the beginnings of a supporting cast in Elena, recaps his backstory (what there is of it...), and sets up a plotline for future exploration. It's biggest problem in that regard is how much Maverick, the protagonist of the story, is overshadowed by everyone around him. He's dying and in great pain, but beyond that, there's not much for readers to latch onto. Meanwhile, Omega Red is running around maniacally shouting about his abilities as a super soldier, Elena is motivated by a very personal and specific goal, and John Wraith jumps in and out of the story repeatedly, cracking wise as a counterpart to the darkness in the rest of the story. All three pop on the page to a greater extent than Maverick himself. 

Removed from the knowledge of the forthcoming ongoing series, though, the issue is still a fun Larry Hama romp, revisiting the setting and trappings of his "Epsilon Red" story and giving Hama a chance to use Omega Red (a character with strong ties to many characters Hama has used often, but whom Hama himself hasn't had as many opportunities to write). The end result features all that we've come to expect from a Larry Hama story: bombastic villains, oddly-specific technical jargon randomly thrown in, misanthropic heroes succeeding despite the odds. The art - doing a sort of riff on Mark Texeira, who drew the "Epsilon Red" story - is perhaps a little too stylized for its own good, coming across as murky when its going for atmospheric, but it fits the overall tone of the story. This would be perfectly at home as a little two-parter in Wolverine's solo book, or as an annual or issue of X-Men Unlimited (and probably standout relative to the usual quality of such stories). No one is exactly swinging for the fences with this one, but there's also nothing wrong with a story that just steps to the plate looking to advance the runner, so to speak, and does. 

Next Issue
Next week, Longshot returns in Marvel Fanfare (vol. 2) #4-5!

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  1. Interesting. From a thematic stand point, this doesn't sound terribly different from Wildstorm's Deathblow.

    I have never come across this issue (or the ongoing for that matter) so I have no opinion on actual content from what is offered here. Though, given how much previous material it covers, this sounds more like a primer for the ongoing. Though, given how far apart these are it's a strange aporoach to take.

    I've never heard of Santiago before but his art is a strong selling point for me. I might have to finally track this down on ebay.

    Has any of the Maverick stuff ever been collected?

    1. This reads so much like a primer ahead of the solo series launch it makes the gap between the two mystifying. That and the absence of Hama on the ongoing makes me wonder if there was some bts stuff that increased that gap.

      Has any of the Maverick stuff ever been collected?

      I don't think so - it's not even on Marvel Unlimited. Which is a bit odd, since the ongoing features some Jim Cheung art. Young Jim Cheung, but still.

  2. Huh, I totally forgot this existed. I do remember it now, though -- or at least, I remember seeing ads for it, I think on the "X-Facts" page for whatever month it came out. I didn't read it, though -- I think I probably passed because I thought the artwork was ugly.

    I did read Maverick's ongoing, however. As I recall, it was hyped as being something like "James Bond in the Marvel Universe", which piqued my interest. But it really wasn't that. I think I was expecting Maverick to start wearing tuxedos and romancing women everywhere, and when that didn't happen, I was a bit disappointed over what I perceived as false advertising.

    That said, in the end it didn't matter. I actually really liked the ongoing for what it was, even if it wasn't what I had expected it to be! I was surprisingly disappointed when it was cancelled after a dozen issues. MAVERICK was right up there with THUNDERBOLTS and HEROES FOR HIRE as my favorites of all those new series that launched in the wake of "Onslaught" and "Heroes Reborn".

    Side-note: it's weird to me how long some of those books took to start. I have a vivid recollection of this house ad Marvel ran in 1997 showing off all their new #1 issues: T-BOLTS, MAVERICK, HEROES FOR HIRE, DEADPOOL, KA-ZAR, ALPHA FLIGHT, MARVEL TEAM-UP, STRANGE TALES, and one or two more. So in my head, they all launched at the same time, spinning out of "Onslaught" to "replace" AVENGERS, FANTASTIC FOUR, etc. But in reality, "Onslaught" ended in October '96, and those books were staggered over the subsequent year -- DEADPOOL started in January '97, THUNDERBOLTS in April (nearly halfway through the run of "Heroes Reborn"!!) and MAVERICK, as you note above, was in September '97 one month shy of a year after "Onslaught" ended. The others all started at various points in between.

    And yeah, this all really needs to be collected. They probably just don't have anything to tie it in with; Maverick (as far as I know) hasn't had any high-profile comic appearances in a very long time, and he obviously isn't lighting up the silver screen (yet?). But this one-shot, the full ongoing, and his various earlier appearances would make a for a pretty good "Complete Collection" trade.

    1. I have similar recolletions of all that just coming out together at once, as opposed to sprinkled throughout the year. It's pretty wild, especially since it wasn't too deep into "Heroes Reborn" that they knew it wasn't going to last much more than that one year.

  3. Loved this issue when it came out. The art is just amazing and I wanted more. The regular series came out and I hard passed. I picked them up in the mid 00's for cheap and got rid of them in my comics purge and then picked them all up again last month, all around 2.00 or less with and a few from a local quarter bin. So it's still cheap to get all of his series.

    Maverick was in Wolverine issues around 6 months ago or so and the few books were really good. I loved the Weapon X series that dealt with Maverick early on in it.


  4. // Maverick takes a break from dying // X^D

    I have questions:
    — When did “Christopher” become German for “David”?
    — How did we not get a Silver Age Jimmy Olsen homage/parody in X-Men Unlimited featuring ”Sabretooth’s Telepathic Gal Friday, Birdy”?
    — Is there an Overstreet entry for Wolverine #48 that reads “Wolverine’s old car first mentioned”?

  5. When did “Christopher” become German for “David”?

    It would have been pretty funny if he just went from "David Nord" to "David North" and no one figured it out.

    Is there an Overstreet entry for Wolverine #48 that reads “Wolverine’s old car first mentioned”?

    If there had been, I might have spent less time clicking through my old reviews going "I know that damn car got mentioned earlier, was it in this issue? Or this one? Maybe this one..." :)


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