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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

X-amining Wolverine #111

March 1997

In a Nutshell
Wolverine returns to the X-Mansion, finds himself out of place, and sets out on his own again. 

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Anthony Winn
Inks: Dan Green
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors: Dana Moreshead
Separations: Graphic Colorworks
Editor: Bob Harras

Wolverine returns to the X-Mansion. He checks in with Cannonball, who has been maintaining his motorcycle, and learns Iceman is leaving the team following the attack on his father. Wolverine receives a mysterious package in the mail with a message from Zoe Culloden, entrusting it to him for safe keeping. Storm gives Iceman a unique mutant flower as a going-away-present, saying it has a hard time surviving in a standard environment — seemingly like a lot of the X-Men. Later, the team visits Harry's Hideaway, but Wolverine finds himself disconnected from the group. He goes to Auger Inn, and drinks a toast to his dead Madripoorian friends. He then returns home alone and depressed, and goes into the Danger Room. There, he is attacked by a evil spirit which raises Mariko's soul and offers to restore her to life. Wolverine rejects the offer, and drives off the spirit, at which point Stick appears and puts Mariko back to rest. He explains that the evil spirit is the enemy he and Elektra have been preparing Wolverine to fight. The next day, Wolverine gives Cannonball a new motorcycle, then rides off on his own, determined to prove he can survive in the real world on his own. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue introduces a mysterious box that will serve as a MacGuffin of sorts for the remainder of Larry Hama's run. As detailed here, the contents of the box will never be revealed, and in true Larry Hama fashion, he introduced it with no idea what it would ultimately contain. He then left the series without ever coming up with an explanation. 

Similarly, Wolverine is attacked in the Danger Room by a "new evil", which claims to have the power to raise the dead (or, at least, Wolverine's former fiancĂ©e, Mariko). He manages to fight it off, with the help of Stick, who explains that the reason he and Elektra helped pulled Wolverine back towards humanity was to combat this evil. Eventually, Hama will establish that this evil is Wolverine's former ninja master Ogun (whom he last encountered in issue #89), but it sure seems like he was setting this villain up to be a new character at this point (for one thing, Wolverine has fought — and defeated — Ogun before, so he seems like an odd figure for Stick and Elektra to get worked up enough about to make a point of helping Wolverine to fight him yet never name him as such). 

As a result of finding it hard to fit back in at the X-Mansion following his brief stay in Japan over the previous issues and the changes wrought in the team, Wolverine ends the issue determined to make a life for himself away from the mansion, beginning a brief run in which he will live out of an apartment in New York City (he remains a member of the X-Men, though). 

This issue constitutes Iceman's going away party, following his announcement to leave the team to help his dad recuperate in Uncanny X-Men #340. It's noted that Wolverine and Iceman have never been terribly close. 

The Chronology Corner
Wolverine's appearance in Uncanny X-Men #342 and the Shang-Chi/Hong Kong story which begins in X-Men (vol. 2) #62 both take place after this issue (specifically, after issue #114). 

A Work in Progress
It's noted that the X-Men are using a hologram to make the X-Mansion appear normal while they work to repair the damage caused by Onslaught. 

Iceman has a copy of the Portacio-drawn picture of the original X-Men first seen in Uncanny X-Men #289

The story of Storm sharing with Wolverine a similarly-unique flower as the one she gives Iceman in this issue was recounted in Wolverine #96.

Cannonball has been looking after Wolverine's bike while he's been away, and gets his own bike from Wolverine in exchange. 

In her message, Zoe Culloden notes that Landau, Luckman and Lake have shifted their focus from Wolverine elsewhere, a reference to their involvement in the Deadpool series. 

The X-Men head to local watering hole Harry's Hideaway to send Iceman off; Wolverine feels isolated, noting that he misses the absent Kitty, Nightcrawler, and Jubilee. 

He then goes by himself to another bar, where he toasts the memories of the book's Madripoor supporting cast who were killed in issue #98

The Best There is at What He Does
Wolverine is still somewhat hunched over in this issue, but otherwise looks "normal", suggesting he's continuing to use the Image Inducer used in the previous story to mask his more animalistic appearance. 

Also, Wolverine goes back to wearing his regular cowl after this (though he'll still pop up wearing the bandana in a few places outside this book after this)

For Sale
This issue features a three page promotion for the new Ka-Zar series by Mark Waid and Andy Kubert. 
Bullpen Bulletins

Austin's Analysis
I tend to think of the waning of Larry Hama's run, from post-#100 to his "Zero Tolerance" swansong, as having little to recommend it (especially once Adam Kubert departs for good). Revisiting this issue, then, was a pleasant surprise. Plot-wise, it's a pretty standard "between stories" check-in issue, allowing the character to acknowledge recent events (in this book and elsewhere), and the writer to setup the next story. Not a lot happens. Anthony Winn's art continues to suffer in comparison to the memory of the more dynamic Kubert, but it gets the job done. But what really sells the issue is the tone of melancholy that permeates it. 

This is a story all about Wolverine coming home and discovering he doesn't really fit in there anymore, both because he's changed and because the home has changed. Wolverine's closest non-X-Men friends are dead, Xavier is gone, steadfast X-Men are moving or have moved on, leaving him behind. Reading it with the benefit of hindsight, knowing Hama is eight months way from his last issue (and four months away from the start of his final story), it almost feels like Hama is saying his goodbyes to the series he's written since issue #31, or at least preparing to say goodbye. Hindsight takes away even as it gives, of course — knowing nothing is really going to come of the big villain setup here, or that the change in status quo will be shortly disrupted by a crossover, takes something away from it. But that aside, I remain surprised at how effective I found this issue at depicting Wolverine struggling to fit in and feeling the loss prompted by recent events. A real diamond in the rough of this era of the series. 

Next Issue
X-Factor goes underground in X-Factor #132! 

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  1. Great review, Austin. I'm a long-time reader and occasional commenter, and I wanted to say that your commitment to reviewing the X-line is incredible!
    The late 90s was a rough time for the X-books, but there are a few unpolished gems coming up like Generation X #25. What I mean is that it's a intense and exciting issue with the debut of a frenetic new art style from Chris Bachalo that is and it features the Mondo traitor reveal and Jubilee's capture by Bastion, but so much happens and both the story and art ends up being pretty messy. As a big fan of the Lobdell/Bachalo Gen X run, it's still an issue I enjoy, even if marks the beginning of the end of their tenure on the book. I'm very excited to read your review whenever you get to it.
    I miss the Power Rankings/Upcoming Review Schedule posts that you used to do because they made me excited for what's coming and when. Any chance you'll bring those back?

  2. I'm wondering how much of this story is Hama changing his mind and how much is being mandated. It seems like he was trying to go to some new places in this series and just wasn't allowed to? I know that Harras liked to keep as close to the School status quo as possible and the fact that both Hama and Lobdell are leaving post-O:ZT seems a little too coincidental. Especially given what Lobdell wanted to do.

    As to the issue at hand? It's entertaining even if it ultimately doesn't amount to much. It's especially interesting to see this take on Logan who typically prefers to be alone and live in the moment. And while the art serves it seems pretty week for one of Marvel's best-sellers at the time.

    And though I doubt you'll ever get to it, the recent Wolverine: Patch and 3 issue arc in X-Men Legends are a return to greatness for Hama in my eyes.

  3. @Drew:

    “ Especially given what Lobdell wanted to do.”

    What stories did Lobdell intend to tell, but didn’t get to?

    1. Lobdell wanted to continue to rip-off Claremont’s leftover plots from the time he left the X-Men. As if using Claremont’s intention for the “Mutant Wars” as the bases for Age of Apocalypse wasn’t enough, Lobdell wanted to end Operation: Zero Tolerance with Magneto declaring war on humanity. Bastion would take over SHIELD to lead the human forces against Magneto and his “evil mutants”. The X-Men would be caught in the middle. Lobdell also wanted to continue the status quo post-O:ZT of the X-Nen having lost almost everything…the mansion, their technology, the jet, etc. They’d be underdogs on the run, opposed to both Magneto as well as Bastion and SHIELD.
      Lobdell quit the X-titles after turning in a plot (minus script) for Uncanny #350, with Marvel replacing him with Joe Kelley and Steven Seagle.

      It’s kind of ironic. Lobdell was hired as the guy to take over from Claremont. Someone who would take orders from editorial and not make waves. A writer who would keep the X-Men franchise as close to the classic Lee/Kirby and Claremont/Byrne eras, as Harras wanted to see.
      Then, there was Lobdell in the same position as Claremont, quitting after editorial interference. Complaining that Marvel wanted to keep the X-Men stuck in the 1970s, under the shadow of Claremont/Byrne, instead of moving the books in a new direction.

    2. Yeah, that.

      I was unaware that Mutant Wars was going to be anything like Age of Apocalypse. I've looked into the Mutant Wars a few times over the years and was never able to find any substantial information outside of the structure, issue numbers and promises it would shake up the X-Titles as much as Dark Phoenix did.

      I also doubt that was Lobdell on his own. Harras was more privy to that information than Lobdell would have been and he worked with Lobdell to initiate that particular story. So I would say it was both of them.

    3. Yes, it's fairly well documented that Bob Harras came up with the Age of Apocalypse, or at least was involved in its creation. There's a column in one of the "X-Facts" pages during AoA, talking about Harras was in California for meetings with the X-Men animated series producers in his capacity as a creative advisor, and an idea they discussed there got him thinking during his flight back to the East Coast, and he fleshed the idea out into the "Age of Apocalypse".

      Subsequent retellings (and you'll forgive me if I can't recall exactly where I read this) went on to detail that at those meetings for the show, one of the ideas the group came up with was this kernel about Professor X being assassinated in the past. The cartoon people ran with that and it eventually became the 2-part episode "One Man's Worth" (which, coincidentally, I believe Austin just reviewed for Patreon), while Harras turned it into "Age of Apocalypse".

      But in any case, it's pretty widely accepted that Bob Harras brought the AoA concept to the series writers, rather than the other way around.

  4. I remember solicits and such really hyping up this "new direction" for Wolverine. A new apartment! New supporting cast! Etc., etc. But it gets quickly derailed by O:ZT, and then Hama leaves, so it doesn't go anywhere. Plus Wolverine stays with the X-Men the whole time, so it's not really that big of a change in the first place.

    It occurred to me reading this issue that WOLVERINE was occasionally used as a spot for developments that didn't make it into the core books. Like this is where everyone says goodbye to Iceman, for example. Back during the build-up to "Onslaught", it was in WOLVERINE that Juggernaut woke up from his coma and left the X-Mansion. I think there are a handful of other such occurrences too. Like when there wasn't room in X-MEN or UNCANNY, they shunted these little bits over to WOLVERINE.

  5. I know we left the original status quo of this series long, long ago, but crossover events aside it’s still rather odd to be in a period where it features the kind of expressly X-Men material like Bobby’s departure that Matt points out. Then again, I suppose if you think of everyone in the Marvel Universe going about their lives whether we see them or not, well, the Madripoor stuff in the early days of Wolverine is no different than the Westchester stuff here, except that we don’t get scenes of the Princess Bar or Tyger Tiger anywhere else.

    1. I mean to say that if it’s part of Wolverine’s life then it’s fair game.


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