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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

X-amining Wolverine #110

"Lesser Beasts"
February 1997

In a Nutshell
Wolverine and Shaman battle a demonically possessed bear!

Script: Tom DeFalco
Pencils: Joe Bennet
Inks: Joe Pimentel 
Letters: Richard Starings & Comicraft's Emerson Miranda
Colors: Joe Andreani, Paul Becton, Graphic Colorworks 
Editor: Bob Harras

Inside a cave, a bear knocks over a clay pot, becoming possessed by an evil spirit. Elsewhere, two crooks rob a convenience store, then hide in a nature preserve. Canadian Mounties enlist the aid of Shaman and Wolverine to track them down. Shaman warns Wolverine that he senses the revival of a Great Beast having occurred nearby. When Mounties cordon off the preserve and blocks the Totebind family from conducting their camping trip, Catherine berates her meek husband Bob into sneaking onto the grounds. Inside, they encounter the crooks, who take them hostage. Wolverine intervenes, ordering the crooks to release the family, but just then the bear possessed by the Great Beast attacks. Catherine and the crooks flee, but Bob stays behind and helps Wolverine fight the creature. Doing his best to control his own animal instinct to kill, Wolverine knocks out the bear, after which Shaman exorcises it of the Great Beast's possession. Elsewhere, the crooks decide to kill Catherine, but Wolverine and Bob catch up to them. Wolverine knocks out one of the crooks and Bob, finding his courage, knocks out the other one. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Former Marvel editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco fills in on this issue, giving Larry Hama a break. It guest stars Shaman of Alpha Flight, who is mostly there to shepherd Wolverine into the story and then help exorcise the demon from the bear after Wolverine knocks it out. 

There's a subplot involving a family trying to camp in the same area where the convenience store robbers gone to ground that become about the father learning to stand up for his family, and it's weird in many ways, not the least of which is his wife's burning desire to camp despite the authorities telling them to stay away for their own safety

It is unclear which of the Great Beasts is meant to have possessed the bear in this issue, but it most closely resembles Ranaq the Great Devourer. 

A Work in Progress
Despite spending all of the previous story looking more or less like his old self (albeit under the guise of an image inducer, ostensibly), here Wolverine is back to his post-issue #100 look, with a bandana instead of a mask and fingerless gloves. 

The Best There is at What He Does
During the battle with the bear, Wolverine declares that he's conquered his animal side when he sheathes his claws and beats the bear with just his fists, as a man and not an animal.  

Austin's Analysis
This is a perfectly cromulent pure fill-in story (in which neither the writer nor the penciler are part of the regular creative team), the kind of inoffensive and easily forgettable fare featuring a superhero guest star that pays lip service to the book's thematic arc at the time (Wolverine's struggle to hold onto his newly reestablished humanity) but doesn't really try to do much else. But the subplot involving the emasculated, henpecked husband, Bob, is just bizarre. His wife gives him crap for obeying the orders of the Canadian Mounties ("listening to the cops" seems like a dumb thing to get mad at your husband about, in terms of being a role model to your kid), prompting Bob to go into the nature preserve anyway. There, his family gets kidnapped by two criminals, and while it seems like DeFalco is setting this up as a sort of comeuppance for the wife, it never goes that dark, and instead, the experience prompts Bob to find his courage, rescue his family, and become the kind of man his wife was nagging him to become. All because he disobeyed a direct order from the authorities intended to keep him safe. Given how vicious the wife is towards him, it just seems like an odd decision to end Bob's arc with "it turns out your monstrous wife was right all along, it's a good thing you endangered your family!" 

Next Issue
Next week, Havok returns in X-Factor #131 and Age of Apocalypse's Abyss makes his "regular universe" debut in Cable #40!

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  1. I can’t help thinking that Hama’s version of this issue would have included the other Great Beasts possessing a donkey, a tiger, a pig…

  2. Cover Notes: "Alpha Flight's Shaman" hasn't been in the disbanded Alpha Flight in over 3 yeas and Wolverine is drawn in the wrong costume in relation to the story. I hate those cheesy late 90s "GUEST STARRING" cover blurbs -- just let the art speak. Marvel really stretching the "GUEST STAR" limits here, lol.

    1. I'm actually a huge fan of the cover blurbs and kind of miss them. I know they made the comics generally look goofy but it was fun. Especially when they would kind of mock themselves. Things like: Featuring Wolverine in his most gratuitous cameo ever!

      But, I'm kind of weird like that.

    2. I'm with Drew on the cover blurbs. I loved them, especially the mid-late-90s ones by Comicraft. Corny as they sometimes were, they gave the covers so much more personality. I was really disappointed when Marvel dropped cover blurbs entirely after Quesada took over. I know they don't have a total ban on them anymore, because every so often you'll see one, but they're not as cool-looking as they were when Comicraft did them, or when they were hand-lettered prior to Comicraft.

      (But I'm a big Comicraft fanboy. I'm way into their aesthetic, especially from that 90s era.)

  3. But it's an Adam Kubert's cover. It means something, right?

  4. Why Joe Bennet didn’t become a popular artist at that time? I remember seeing him in an Age of Apocalypse special and liking his art. It’s not like as if the X-books had great artists. Joe Mad is about to depart, Andy and Adam Kubert have left. What happened? Bennet could keep up with a monthly schedule?

    1. Bennett did a lot of work for the Spider-Man office around this time. He was sort of the de facto "regular guest penciler" of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, both before Steve Skroce came aboard and after he abruptly bailed. Bennett drew issues 422 - 424, 429 - 431 and 435 - 437 of AMAZING. He also drew the quarterly SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED for several consecutive issues (13 - 20).

      Beyond that, he popped up all over the place at Marvel through the rest of the nineties, but usually on short-lived assignments. He was the regular penciler on the short-lived NOVA series written by Erik Larsen, drawing six out of its seven issues, and he drew all twelve issues of X-51 under the "M-Tech" imprint.

      I agree; I was consistently surprised at the time that, aside from AMAZING, he genrally only ever got second- or third-tier penciling assignments. He wasn't the greatest artist, but he was good and it seems he could keep to a monthly schedule when he was given one.

      I have always felt the same about Ron Lim. I thought he was a great artist in the early 90s; not on par with, say, Jim Lee, but from the same school and certainly better than many of the other Image guys. Yet his highest profile work was the "Infinity" stuff he did with Jim Starlin. Beyond that he was relegated to fill-ins or penciling lower-tier titles. To this day, I don't understand how he didn't become a much bigger deal in the 90s.

    2. I know it wasn't top tier but I enjoyed Ron Lim's run on the criminally underated X-Men 2099.

  5. Tom DeFalco is definitely an old school writer, even in the 90s. This would have been pretty standard fare in the early 80s. This comes across more as DeFalco writing in the mode of Hama without the flourishes that made Hama great on this book.

    The wife in this has always borhered me. I spent the entire issue wondering why anyone would put up with her. I also think that had they already been in the park and got harassed by the robbers it might have worked better.


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