RSS Feed
Jul 13

Weapon X #17-19: “Sabretooth’s In Charge”

Posted on Friday, July 13, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Here we have a classic example of that Marvel curio, the three part story which is blatantly just the first half of a six part story, but gets a separate title for no discernible reason beyond the possibility that it might justify the drastic change of art style in what would otherwise have been part four.

So while issue #20 – which is already out, because I’m hopelessly behind – has the cartooning of Ricardo López Ortiz, these three issues have Yildiray Cinar, who is more of a conservative house-style artist, and plays it all pretty straight.  The ideal tone for Weapon X‘s stories would probably be somewhere in between, since they’re gleefully over the top but played fairly deadpan.  But Cinar is solid, and helpfully for this story, he can do some good night time snow.

As the title would suggest, Old Man Logan is not feeling too good, and decides to put Sabretooth in charge of his oddball team.  Both this book and Old Man Logan are playing up the idea that his ageing body is finally on the verge of collapse, which sure looks like the groundwork is being laid to get rid of him.  Come to think of it, Old Man Logan has a storyline where he has special healing injections that he can use to power himself up for brief periods, so I guess we’d better brace ourselves for him to go out fighting in a blaze of movie re-enactment.

But anyway!  Logan decides to appoint Sabretooth as team leader in his absence, ostensibly on the basis that Sabretooth has the same powers so he’s the natural choice.  This is transparently absurd, but the idea seems to be that Logan is trying to play up to Sabretooth’s sense of rivalry and position this as a chance to prove he can do what Wolverine does better.  We get the general impression that everyone else on the team is only playing along with the whole thing because they’re convinced that Logan must have an ulterior motive here.  In fact, the idea seems to be that Logan is expecting to be out of the picture soon, and wants to force Sabretooth into a position where the others might keep him on track.  Sabretooth himself seems to take it as a genuine endorsement of his alpha male status, and evidence that he proved some sort of point to Logan in issue #16.

So Logan packs off Weapon X to deal with Omega Red, who has broken out of a Russian prison again.  Given his usual alpha male tendencies, Sabretooth’s first reaction is to decide that he doesn’t need a team to take down one guy, so they can tag along if he wants but he’s not going to make much use of them.  That goes predictably badly, so Omega drags Sabretooth out into the Siberian wilderness while the rest of the team show no particular urgency in trying to rescue him.

This is where things get a little more interesting, as we get an extended head to head with Sabretooth and Omega Red.  Since we’re clearly in a phase of Sabretooth reverting to his original personality, he’s vaguely conscious that something’s not right with him – not his moral axis, which he seems to have forgotten about entirely, but just a lack of planning and self-discipline when it ought to matter.  Without anyone around to bluster in front of, Sabretooth finally does calm down and start thinking properly, and makes a decent fist of reasoning with Omega Red from the standpoint of somebody who can understand him.

Omega Red is generally a horrendously one-dimensional character – a psychopathic serial killer with overcomplicated powers – but this story does find an angle on him.  He’s taking orders from his brother, who turns out to be the Russian equivalent of Nick Fury, and wants him to kill off an inconvenient general.  The common thread with Sabretooth is that both are quietly aware that despite their self-image as alpha males, they’ve basically fallen into henchman status.  Sabretooth is being given the opportunity to take the role he thinks he deserves as along as he plays the hero; Omega Red just doesn’t see a way out, and he’s simply defeatist and bitter.

None of this is subtle, and some bits are pushing it even for Weapon X.  There’s some really heavy handed stuff with Omega Red and a pet tiger cub.  There’s a downright silly bit of Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike removing nanites from Omega Red’s bloodstream by hand, which makes me wonder what Pak and Van Lente think nanites are.  But despite it all, there’s enough substance that it somehow plays out alright.  Sabretooth’s is still a bit incoherent as a character, but that feels enough like a deliberate choice to make it interesting rather than annoying.

Even though this is clearly the latest incarnation of the X-Force-style hit-squad book, and it’s built from elements that ought to annoy me, I keep liking Weapon X more than I expect to.  It’s too tongue in cheek to be grim, and it’s got some heart under the surface.

Bring on the comments

  1. Chris says:

    Villain decay

    And a constant editorial indecision as to how Wolverine’s healing factor functions and to what extent.

  2. Si says:

    Remember when Sabretooth was a psychopathic serial killer with overcomplicated powers? Back when there was only one Wolverine, and Venom hadn’t been invented yet, it was really weird that this other guy had exactly the same incongruous power set as Wolverine, except he was bigger. And he was literally a psychopath, originally. He went about slashing up women in New York for the thrill of it. That’s a long way from just “having red in your ledger”, but I suppose he’s a good guy now anyway.

  3. Voord 99 says:

    “Sabretooth’s In Charge”

    I think we have a viable contender for Most On The Nose Title of 2018. There was a time when this would have been called something like “I am the CLAW!”

    But on Si’s point, I’ve quite liked the way in which the Iron Fist story that’s currently running on Unlimited plays on Sabretooth’s original conception as an Iron Fist antagonist.

    Especially the notion that the character that Claremont later reworked as the unstoppable terrifying sadistic force of nature who completely overturns Wolverine’s world is, from Danny Rand’s perspective, someone he’s beaten a lot and is really not that big a deal. That’s a lot of fun.

  4. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @Si ‘He went about slashing up women in New York for the thrill of it. That’s a long way from just “having red in your ledger”, but I suppose he’s a good guy now anyway.’

    Well, it’s literally a case of ‘a wizard did it’.

  5. Will Cooling says:

    Si – that’s why the original idea of Claremont’s that he was Logan’s father was so inspired. It explains the overlap in their powers, explains the psychological power Sabretooth has over Logan and explains why Logan is so concerned that he will end up like Sabretooth.

  6. Chris says:

    “Especially the notion that the character that Claremont later reworked as the unstoppable terrifying sadistic force of nature who completely overturns Wolverine’s world is, from Danny Rand’s perspective, someone he’s beaten a lot and is really not that big a deal. That’s a lot of fun.”

    I love this

  7. Chris V says:

    Considering that the Black Cat (from the Spider Man books) once beat Sabretooth, yeah, I’d say Danny Rand’s perspective makes a lot more sense.

  8. Luis Dantas' says:

    It does indeed.

    But Sabretooth has been established for a long time as being a lot like Wolverine. The flaw is in presenting Wolverine as such an unbeatable character when it makes no sense. But sales won’t allow that to be corrected.

  9. Voord 99 says:

    I think it’s a lot like when Claremont shoehorned Jessica Drew into Wolverine, because no-one was using her much any more. He sometimes liked to look after characters he’d written in his non-X-book work.

    So you’ve got a point at which Power Man and Iron Fist has ended, and Danny Rand is even dead — Sabretooth’s not going to get much use in the context for which he was created.

    He pops up as a Spider-Man villain, and, really, if Claremont hadn’t picked him up again, chances are Sabretooth would have become one of those jobbing “can appear in any book” sort of antagonists. You can see him fighting Daredevil, Moon Knight, Darkhawk… Any time a writer needs a reasonably colorful antagonist with an OK character design, and isn’t feeling inspired, hey, Sabretooth is doing the drug smuggling/kidnapping/whatever.

    What’s interesting to me, though, is how little Claremont actually did with Sabretooth in page count. It’s in big, “iconic,” stories: the Mutant Massacre and the “Wolverine’s birthday” story. And, between them, those two stories absolutely do establish the critical elements of Sabretooth Mk 2 (especially the second story). But Sabretooth isn’t all over the place in late Claremont UXM. It’s not, for instance, as if Claremont had him pop up as Wolverine’s defining opponent at the beginning of Wolverine’s solo series.

    I think you could absolutely envisage that all of this might have ended up as just another dropped plot thread once Claremont left the X-Men. (The specifics, with Sabretooth being Wolverine’s dad, obviously were dropped.) Instead, Sabretooth has come to be treated as an absolutely essential part of Logan’s character.

  10. wwk5d says:

    Wasn’t Sabretooth in Mutant Massacre originally supposed to be a clone, while the one in “Wolverine’s birthday” supposed to be the real one?

  11. Voord 99 says:

    I believe so, but I’m pretty sure that was a retcon, and not the original intent.

    Part of the motivation, I imagine, was because Sabretooth in the MM is in some ways just another Marauder. He’s a scary and colorful one, he’s Wolverine’s Designated Antagonist with (because it’s Wolverine) a connection to Logan’s mysterious past, and he gets elevated to top billing (esp.#213) as the story goes on. But he’s still a henchman in ways that don’t suit the “real” Sabretooth (who of course wasn’t entirely there yet).

    Claremont feeling his way into what he wants the character to be in this revamped version, I think.

  12. Omar Karindu says:

    Isn’t John Byrne on record that ZSabretooth was always meant ot be connected to Wolverine?

    Sabretooth’s face is apparently Byrne’s unused design for an unmasked Wolverine,and Byrne and Claremont apparently co-plotted a story that would have the final battle between Sabretooth and
    Wolverine, including the then-intended reveal that Sabretooth was Logan’s father.

    It’s not as if Iron Fist wasn’t informally crossing over with X-Men quite a bit by that point; Misty Knight was Jean Grey’s roommate!

  13. Voord 99 says:

    Interesting. I can certainly see that being the case: Claremont and Byrne introduce Sabretooth in Iron Fist just before Byrne replaces Cockrum on UXM. And the dialogue that Claremont gives Sabretooth in Iron Fist #14 (just glanced at it) is definitely Loganesque, right down to “…, bub.”

    I suppose my question would be, why in that case does it take almost 10 years for Sabretooth actually to show up in UXM (and never during the period when Byrne is drawing the comic)?

  14. Luis Dantas says:

    A partial explanation, Voord 99, is the way as Marvel distributed characters among its books in those days. Sabretooth was created as an Iron Fist character, and was therefore under the jurisdiction of the Power Man/Iron Fist editors. Claremont would have to okay any uses of the character with those editors (as well as with his own). That would certainly limit a lot of his creative freedom and therefore hold limited appeal.

  15. Thom H. says:

    Also, weren’t Claremont and Byrne gradually falling out during the last part of their run (at least)? It’s entirely possible they never got to the Sabretooth-is-Wolverine’s-dad story before Byrne quit in disgust. And then Claremont moved on to other ideas because of the personnel change.

  16. Si says:

    I just realised that the comics use the British spelling of Sabretooth, instead of the American Sabertooth. Any ideas why?

  17. Chris V says:

    Just a guess, but perhaps simply due to Claremont’s British heritage.
    Chris Claremont was born in England.

  18. Luis Dantas says:

    Maybe that is the Canadian spelling as well? It just came to me that Sabretooth is probably meant to be Canadian.

  19. Moo says:

    Power Man & Iron Fist was canceled the same year Sabretooth first appeared in X-Men so maybe it’s true that the PM/IF creators had jurisdiction.

    That seems strange though given that you’d think the popularity and sales of X-Men as compared to the low-selling and bi-monthly PM/IF would overrule that sort of thing.

  20. Voord 99 says:

    I think that makes sense in the abstract, but I think when you see it in the context of how things like the resurrection of Jean Grey and the creation of X-Factor went down, one can see how it’s entirely possible that the success of UXM and New Mutants might make it more likely, not less. In Shooter’s Marvel, the office politics were more exciting than the superhero battles on the page. :).

    Although of course this is speculation and we don’t know the relationships between the relevant individuals — there may be some other explanation.

  21. Luis Dantas says:

    Shooter’s regime was quite bland when it comes to office politics, at least when compared with what came before and after.

    Nor do I think this subject matter is very speculative at all. I seem to recall reading a statement from Claremont, although I can’t pinpoint it.

    It certainly does not sound like too esoteric or secret a matter. It stands to reason that plenty of people would be well aware of the particulars and not very motivated to hide the general gist.

  22. Voord 99 says:

    The account of office politics in the Shooter era in Sean Howe’s <Marvel Comics: The Untold Story certainly doesn’t make it sound “bland.” It’s not the merry-go-round of EiC’s that they had before, but that doesn’t make it unacrimonious. Quite the reverse: the fact that no-one was really in charge in the pre-Shooter era – going on my memory of Howe’s book, which I admittedly haven’t read in a while – meant that creators were being allowed to do their own thing, pretty much.

    As for the other point, if Claremont did say this, that does make it less speculative.

    But it’s still an area in which to be cautious. One is in effect making a statement that Claremont asked the editor of PM&IF (and was this the same person thoughout that period?) could he use Sabretooth, and that editor, or those editors, said, “No, he’s ours.”

    I’d want to hear the other side’s version of how that went down – were they actually asked, and if so, why did they say “No” – before I was prepared to say that there wasn’t still a significant element of speculation here. It’s plausible – the chronology fits – but it’s still a plausible speculation.

  23. Moo says:

    Cautious? Why do we need to be cautious? I doubt Marvel’s history is going to be rewritten by HtA readers posting theories.

    Screw it. I’ve just decided that the reason Claremont didn’t use Sabretooth in X-Men for so long was because he was having an affair with Mary Jo Duffy who threatened to blackmail him should he make a play for one of her book’s villains. But then she got removed from PM/IF so it no longer mattered.

    That’s how it happened. Yes, yes it did. Spread the word.

  24. Luis Dantas says:

    For what it is worth, the Editor of the Power Man/Iron Fist book at the time of its cancellation was Bob Harras, while the X-Men’s was Ann Nocenti.

    Harras was also the editor of X-Factor #10, the first X-books appearance of Sabretooth.

    Harras was the editor of X-Men as well during Inferno, when Sabretooth made a lot of his early X-book appearances.

  25. […] a two-part story, this is actually just the conclusion of “Sabretooth’s In Charge”, the ostensible three parter that I reviewed last month.  In that story, the ailing Logan […]

Leave a Reply