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Wednesday, August 2, 2023

X-amining Wolverine #112

"The Light at the End of the Day"
April 1997

In a Nutshell
Wolverine fights an evil mime. 

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Anthony Winn
Inks: Dan Green 
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Colors: Joe Rosas & Graphic Colorworks
Editor: Mark Powers

Wolverine arrives in the East Village, where he stops two thugs from hassling a woman and a man. The woman, Kirsten, offers to help Wolverine get an apartment in her building. Meanwhile, a passing street mime is lured into a basement by an evil spirit. Later, Wolverine calls Jean and explains that he's attempting to prove he can live in the real world. But over the next few days, as he explores his new neighborhood, Wolverine finds it difficult to not blame himself for the damage caused by Professor Xavier's transformation into Onslaught. Seeking a job, Kirsten directs him towards a construction crew rebuilding in the wake of Onslaught. The foreman, Helen, makes it clear she abhors violence but brings Wolverine aboard. But when she and Wolverine later come across the thugs destroying Wolverine's motorcycle, she snaps and attacks them, helping Wolverine chase them off. With Helen offering no explanation, Wolverine enters his apartment, where the mime, now wearing a sinister smile, is waiting for him.

Firsts and Other Notables
Wolverine goes about setting up a new status quo for himself in this issue, moving into an apartment in the East Village, befriending some neighbors, and getting a construction job. Between Larry Hama's upcoming departure from the series and the looming crossover, none of this really goes anywhere. 

Running as a subplot throughout the issue is the story of a neighborhood mime who gets possessed by an evil spirit, then shows up threateningly in Wolverine's apartment at the end. It's not clear here, but eventually this will be revealed to be Ogun, who takes control of the mime to attack Wolverine. 

Chronology Corner
This story is set before Wolverine's trip to Hong Kong with the rest of the X-Men in X-Men (vol. 2) #62-64.

A Work in Progress
The final panel of this issue occurs after the first panel of the next issue. 

The Reference Section
Artist Anthony Winn, an alumnus of Image's Top Cow studio (formed by former Wolverine artist Marc Silvestri) peppers the backgrounds of this issue with references to Top Cow comics and artists, including The Darkness and Eric Basaldua.  

The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
When talking to Wolverine, Jean is drawn with low-rise pants and a high-rise thong. 

There's a Pulp Fiction poster on the wall of the diner Wolverine begins frequenting in this issue.

It's in the Mail
The letter's page in Wolverine #112 appears to have been intended to run in issue #113; it references an appearance by Storm in the issue (which occurs next issue) and teases an appearance by Lady Deathstrike in the next issue (she actually appears in #114). 

Austin's Analysis
The main takeaway from Wolverine #112 seems to be "Mimes sure can be creepy", which is certainly true, if not exactly groundbreaking, stuff. Beyond that, this is a "setting up the new status quo" issue, introducing a new home base for Wolverine, a new day job, and the beginnings of a new supporting cast. It's a pretty standard superhero comic book trope (Nate Grey experienced it recently, and Cable will have his turn in the not-too-distant future). The problem with it here is two-fold. Reading this retroactively, we know that nothing much comes of this new status quo — Kirsten doesn't become a steadfast supporting character going forward, the mystery surrounding Helen never really gets resolved. It's only a matter of issues before Hama is gone and a new creative team takes the series in a new direction, and even before that, we get "Operation: Zero Tolerance" interrupting what Hama is building here.

But even taken on its own merits, free of knowledge of what's to come, Wolverine #112 doesn't work terribly well. Things seem rushed and underdeveloped (perhaps because Hama knows the "Zero Tolerance" clock is ticking). He just happens across some thugs harassing people who just happen to be able to indirectly help him get an apartment and a job. The idea of a Wolverine who is feeling responsible for the damage wrought by Onslaught taking a job literally repairing that damage is a smart one, but he just kind of stumbles into it. Hama is clearly setting up a mystery with Helen, but it feels tacked on, one more new element in an issue crammed with them. And the notion that the mime is being possessed by Ogun is only clear with the benefit of hindsight; as is, it just feels weird and random. It also doesn't help that artist Anthony Winn isn't great at these kinds of quieter, more character-focused stories. Ultimately, while it's hard not to appreciate what Hama is trying to do here, it's equally hard to argue that he pulls it off. 

Next Issue
X-Factor heads underground in X-Factor #133!

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  1. It's so odd, but refreshing, to see Logan trying to live an everyday life; No X-Men, no Avengers, no mutants. Wonderful entry as always, Austin. :)

  2. This is reminds me of Fabian Nicieza and his attempt to set up an interesting status quo for X-Force just before the Age of Apocalypse cross-over. There's also Scott Lobdell attempting a new status quo post-Zero Tolerance just before he leaves. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that Bob Harras didn't like any changes to the status quo.

    1. Also, I love this cover. It wasn't as striking as the Kubert black, white and red covers from a year or so earlier but it as its own charms.


  3. I was going to add the abandoned X-Force reset that Drew mentioned to your list. And it’s hilarious to me that I even know about it, purely due to this re/read.

    Not on the order of either the Pulp Fiction or Top Cow references — unless they’re characters from the latter I don’t know about thrown in by Hama — but a couple of the harassers appear to be named Sturm and Drang, which to me at least was just distracting rather than amusing.

  4. Much like with X-Force, this did seem like a new status quo with potential. It would have been interesting to see what Hama could have done with this had he stayed on the title longer, or if the next creative team went along with it.

    Also interesting that Adam Kubert was still doing covers for this title despite being long gone at this point (I'm assuming that's him on the cover).

  5. I remember the "X-Facts" page (or whatever they were running at this time) really hyping up the new status quo. I actually considered picking up WOLVERINE based on that, but ultimately passed. I did wind up reading a few issues in a row as part of "Zero Tolerance", but I didn't start WOLVERINE regularly until a year or so later when Chris Claremont did a four-issue arc.


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