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Mar 5

Weapon X #12-14 – “Nuke-Clear War”

Posted on Monday, March 5, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Wordplay isn’t what it used to be.  Still, with this arc, Weapon X finally leaves the Weapon X Project behind and turns its attention to something else: Nuke.

Weapon X doesn’t exist to be a subtle comic, and Nuke is not a subtle character.  He’s a pill-popping patriotic maniac with the US flag tattooed on his face who runs around killing everything in a patriotic frenzy.  His tenuous connection with the X-books comes from the Grant Morrison era, which decided that his version of the Super-Soldier Programme was actually the Weapon VII Program, forerunner of Weapon X.

But when he debuted in Daredevil #232, he was presented as a debased Reaganite version of Captain America, an easily manipulated hyper-patriot, struggling to grasp simple facts like “this isn’t Vietnam”, who would be a total buffoon if he wasn’t also a dangerous lunatic.  He represents a toxic version of patriotism open to taking orders from anyone with the right flag, and he’s a ludicrous parody of Rambo.

It’s a very, very simple story.  Nuke, and a bunch of other American soldiers, have been trying to knock off the President of Santo Marco, and they’ve all failed spectacularly.  That leads to them being locked in jail while the locals reverse engineer Nuke’s pills and turn the other soldiers into extra Nukes, complete with the US flag tattoos.  (The idea seems to be that this is a co-opting of the American flag to mock the US.)  Since the Nuke Platoon will cheerfully follow anyone who has the pills available, the government then sends them after mutants, which leads to somebody calling Warpath to ask for help.

Warpath duly brings the Weapon X team to help, and at first they do some straightforward superheroing.  But at that point the locals try to enlist their help in overthrowing the government, which Warpath, at least, is quite happy to sign up for.  Meanwhile, Sabretooth winds up releasing the original Nuke – who was a little too uncontrollable even for this purpose – and all hell breaks loose, leading to the big set piece finale where Weapon X wind up taking the red pills themselves in order to get a temporary power up and fight the Nuke Platoon.  This is all completely nuts, but the government does indeed get overthrown – with the big dilemma being resolved when Nuke conveniently kills the president anyway, as per his original instructions.

Some of this is quite silly, and there are a couple of plot holes to boot – how the hell did these guys capture Nuke in the first place?  And Acero, the guy who calls Warpath for help, seems to suddenly switch from persecuted innocent to established revolutionary somewhere between parts 1 and 2.

But as with earlier issues of this series, Greg Pak has a little more going on beneath the surface.  This is really a story about what principles, if any, are actually holding this team together beyond dealing with the problems immediately in front of them.  They can all agree on shutting down the Nuke project, but what then?

Warpath, who didn’t get much to do in earlier issues, starts to come into his own here as the team conscience – of a sort, anyway.  He’s angry and willing to turn a blind eye while Nuke charges in the direction of taking out the baddies, but he’s basically here to help people, and he wants to help overthrow an abusive government, practicalities be damned.  Logan is broadly sympathetic with all that, but much more concerned about the bigger picture of the X-Men – or something that looks like them – overthrowing a government.  He wants to deal with the immediate problem and leave the politics to somebody else.

None of the others really qualify as convincingly heroic at all.  Domino is just a flippant thrill-seeker who’s mainly here for fun and shows worrying signs of viewing the whole “helping people” thing as a convenient distraction that might let her rob a bank.  She’s chaotic neutral at best.  And Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike almost seem to be playing along to have an outlet for their violent tendencies.  Sabretooth is not exactly insubordinate, but certainly impulsively disruptive here.  There’s a sequence in part one where Logan claims that Sabretooth has enjoyed fighting the bad guys even if he denies it, to which Sabretooth responds by claiming that he’s there to keep the superheroes off his back, and that he’s only really interested in hunting down monstrous villains if he gets to kill them afterwards.  In that scene, it’s played as if Logan’s right, but by the end of the story there’s a definite sense that Sabretooth was telling the truth about his motives all along.

Sabretooth has been a confused character ever since the misconceived decision to randomly make him into a goodie during Axis.  Since his change of heart never had any real character component to begin with, it’s hard to know what to make of his recent reversion to type, unless of course we’re just meant to take it that Axis is wearing off and his normal personality is reasserting itself.  It’s probably as well to just let it fade out like this, and at least try to make the exit from this storyline feel organic.

Yildiray Cinar is a solid storyteller who does decent character work here.  He’s not the most distinctive artist in the world – the backgrounds are a bit generic, the whole thing has a bit of a house style vibe – but he’s good at body language, which helps flesh out and define the characters.  He does a good Nuke, too, selling the guy’s mania rather effectively – and the cliffhanger splash in part two is a nice piece of work, foregrounding the primary coloured pills.

This is the sort of arc that grows on me with re-reading.  There’s more to it than just flagging up the team members’ confused motivations; the book is playing them off against Nuke, a character who knows precisely what he stands for – but who winds up as an agent of chaos anyway because his agenda is completely mad.  He’s a parody of the patriotic hero against which even the dodgier members of Weapon X seem almost reasonable by comparison, since Sabretooth and Yuriko at least have the self-awareness not to believe in such nonsense.  The book seems to have the most sympathy for Logan’s non-ideological pragmatism – but perhaps it’s a little too non-ideological if he’s still trying to corral these guys to do the right thing.

Bring on the comments

  1. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Following this week’s podcast, I have to ask, does Santo Marco still look like Switzerland?

  2. Joe S. Walker says:

    I think it was San Diablo (!) that had the Kirby middle-Europeans and castle.

  3. Al says:

    Santo Rico!

  4. Si says:

    Santo Vaccarro?

  5. Chris V says:

    Uhh….Yeah, Santo Marco was drawn looking quite “Bavarian” in (Uncanny) X-Men #4, when Kirby first drew it.

  6. wwk5d says:

    “But when he debuted in Daredevil #232, he was presented as a debased Reaganite version of Captain America”

    With Marvel’s sliding timelime, I guess he’d now be a debased post-September 11 version of Captain America?

  7. Walter Lawson says:

    I think by now Nuke is a parody of Frank Miller.

  8. Pete Wiggins says:

    “Walter Lawson says:
    March 7, 2018 at 3:46 AM
    I think by now Nuke is a parody of Frank Miller.”

    I think by now Frank Miller is a parody of Frank Miller.

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