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Aug 24

Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor

Posted on Friday, August 24, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

So Hunt for Wolverine saves the most important story for last.  Not the most important to the return of Wolverine, mind you.  From the look of it, this series plays into the return of Wolverine mainly by establishing that Soteira are baddies with an interest in Wolverine, which we’ve already established thrice over.  There’s also a plot about a satellite that does something as yet undivulged, but the big-deal-ness of that is as yet unestablished.

This week, instead, people will be talking about the fact that Psylocke is now back to her original body, which means she isn’t Asian any more.  That came out of nowhere – and that’s before you get to the surprise of having it happen in a Hunt for Wolverine mini.

There are wider issues to talk about here, of course, but let’s look at the story itself first.  Hunt for Wolverine picks a different side of Wolverine’s mythos for each miniseries, so naturally one of them has to go to Madripoor.  Our stars this time are the X-Men themselves – Kitty, Psylocke, Jubilee, Storm, and Rogue – plus Domino, for some reason.  The tenuous basis for going to Madripoor is that Magneto lives there now, and maybe he stole the body, because, hell, it sounds like the sort of thing he might do.

But this isn’t a Magneto story; instead the X-Men end up fighting Viper and the Femmes Fatales, a bunch of 90s Spider-Man villains who haven’t been seen in ages.  For added Wolverine content, they also now include Sapphire Styx, from the first Wolverine storyline in Marvel Comics Presents.  This isn’t as obscure as it might sound – the story in question was the lead-in to the first Wolverine ongoing, which established Madripoor as a core part of his mythology – but she’s only appeared once since then, so she’s far from a big name.  Anyhow, these baddies are all working for Soteira, who have a plan to launch a satellite for those Mysterious Reasons.

Sapphire’s thing was to stay young by absorbing other people’s life force, and since we last saw her, it seems she’s got a bit addicted.  She’s also being haunted by the ghosts of people from whom she absorbed energy in the past, including Logan, since apparently she gets a bit of their personality stuck inside her (similar to the stories that have been done with Rogue over the years).  So while she’s not actually trying to kill any of the prisoners, her overenthusiasm winds up inadvertently killing Psylocke.

All of which leads to issue #4, which opens with a lengthy sequence of Psylocke inside Sapphire’s mind, along with all the other people who’ve been absorbed by Sapphire over the years.  For whatever reason, this time her spirit appears in the form of her original body (which I don’t think has always been the case in the past, however much sense it makes).  She encounters the bit of Logan that’s stuck inside Sapphire, and somehow or other that results in her returning to the real world, back in her original body, because something something.  I mean, there is an explanation, but it involves the line “Instinctively, I used the soul power she left behind to create a new body, molecule by molecule”, so that’s, er… how it works, apparently.

The baddies are captured, the satellite makes it into space because it’s presumably a plot point for the next phase of this storyline, and that’s your lot.

So…  On the positives, it’s a fun little romp.  The Femme Fatales are colourful and underused villains, and it’s nice to see them getting an outing.  The pacing’s good, the dialogue’s punchy, the X-Men are in character, the Fatales get enough personality to make them more than just gimmicky names.  It’s a nicely upbeat book – maybe not something that particularly echoes the mock-noir of Wolverine’s Madripoor stories, but quite welcome nonetheless.  And most of the established Madripoor supporting cast are either not living there any more, or just plain not living, which doesn’t exactly help when you want to call back to old stories.

Artist Thony Silas is… let’s go with patchy.  There’s a minimally angular aspect to his work that at best has a fair amount of energy, and reminds me a bit of Geoff Senior.  At other times, it just looks unfinished.  Then again, the heavy shadow in the opening of issue #3 looks rather good.  Still, it’s hard to avoid noticing that the lynchpin sequence of the series – Psylocke inside Sapphire’s mind, in her transition back to her original body – is handed over to Leonard Kirk.  (Who does it very well, as you’d expect.)

Like some of the other minis, it’s not very clear what’s actually at stake, nor what it has to do with the return of Wolverine.  So it’s four issues of fighting over a threat which is at best hazy, at worst merely implicit.  And what’s more, the rest of the story doesn’t have a great deal to do with Psylocke’s identity, unless you count some brief comments in issue #1 where she notes how Logan always had such a clear idea of who he was.  The big talking point of the series is Psylocke, and while the first three issues set it up in terms of the plot mechanics, they don’t do so much in terms of the theme.

But let’s turn to the bigger picture.  This is a plot development from 1989.  It’s stood for nearly thirty years.  Jim Lee’s redesign of the character was a big hit.  So if it’s an outright reversal then that’s a big deal – though a coda suggests the Lee design is sticking around too in some form, which might imply she’s been divided or something.  We’ll see.

Times have changed since 1989 and it’s hardly surprising that if you go back thirty years you’re going to hit things which have not aged well.  The X-Men in the 80s did okay on gender balance, but their ethnic diversity hasn’t aged so well, particularly when you consider that the premise ought to lead to mutants coming from all over the world, let alone all walks of life.  (New Mutants did somewhat better.)  Chris Claremont was very keen on Japan, but tended to treat it as a collection of genre tropes more than an actual place, or at best a fascinatingly exotic place full of people who felt honour-bound to advance the plot.

That’s very much how Psylocke’s transformation was played at the time, and I suspect how it was taken by many readers – it wasn’t so much that she’d become Asian as that she’d become a ninja, and being Asian was more a genre convention of that character type than anything else.  I was going to say that, even at the time, it’s unlikely that someone would have done this story with a white character becoming black, since that would have been read by American audiences of the time as primarily a story about race and identity, and it would have seemed horrifically crass.  Then I remembered that Marvel did that story with the Punisher in 1991.  But it lasted three issues, and the writer quit, and it was regarded as a fiasco almost instantly…

And yet nearly thirty years later, ninja Psylocke is (or was) still around.  On that side of things, Marvel are probably quitting while they’re still ahead.

But even aside from that, there have always been problems with this version of Psylocke as a character.  The accompanying personality change made Psylocke feel like a pod person, with a questionable sense of identity and a lack of organic connection to her own back story.  She never entirely felt like a transformed version of the earlier character so much as a different character entirely who’d been swapped in; viewed the other way round, her British backstory and link to Captain Britain had become bizarrely irrelevant to the character as now portrayed.  The early nineties Revanche storyline attempted to make some sense of it all by claiming that she’d actually been mentally mixed up with Kwannon, the original owner of her new body, but that didn’t really solve the problem so much as reinforce the idea that Psylocke was a character who had been ground zeroed in 1989.  In recent years she’s had a lot of stories bemoaning her confused sense of identity and general lack of direction, surely a warning sign that most writers are struggling to make her work, or to find a hook beyond trying to turn “character makes no sense” into a virtue.

So Psylocke has been in something of a dead end for a while now, and a hard reset is no bad thing as a way of clearing out the clutter and paring her back to something more coherent as a character.  On top of that, the whole concept of ninja Psylocke is… well, you know.

Issue #4 of this series handles the reset itself pretty well from a character standpoint, even if the mechanics of it are obscure in the extreme, and its connection with the rest of the series isn’t as strong as you might want.  The mini as a whole is mixed stuff, but hey, we get a big event at the end, even if it does come out of the blue.

Bring on the comments

  1. Thom H. says:

    @Nu-D: I totally forgot about Magma — good catch. But even she’s not a straightforward flame-thrower like Sunfire or the Human Torch.

    I think the key is giving characters exploitable weaknesses, like you mentioned. Magma couldn’t let loose without potentially causing serious property damage with an earthquake or a volcano, so she fits right into that category.

    I don’t know how I feel about the theory that Claremont was just getting rid of characters he didn’t create. It’s not like he created any of the all-new X-Men, but he kept most of them around and then just wrote them in directions he found interesting.

    Sunfire had appeared in the book previously, but it’s not like he was so established that Claremont couldn’t have taken him in any direction he wanted. And CC clearly had an affection for Japan, so it’s strange he didn’t keep Sunfire for that reason (or even bring him back when the X-Men were in Japan, as far as I recall).

    It makes more sense to me that a straightforward flame-thrower breaks the character mold CC had in mind. All of his mutants had powers with interesting consequences when they went out of control. Potentially burning someone or giving them radiation poisoning doesn’t have the same impact as causing a hurricane (visually) or teleporting into a solid object (viscerally). I guess Firestar could have gone around setting the mansion and her teammates on fire, but that doesn’t strike me as the kind of self-limiting, flawed power that Claremont was into.

  2. wwk5d says:

    “It’s not like he created any of the all-new X-Men, but he kept most of them around and then just wrote them in directions he found interesting.”

    Well, don’t most creators keep the characters they like and dump the ones they don’t?

    “so it’s strange he didn’t keep Sunfire for that reason (or even bring him back when the X-Men were in Japan, as far as I recall)”

    During the CC/Byrne era? Sunfire did show up.

  3. Thom H. says:

    “Well, don’t most creators keep the characters they like and dump the ones they don’t?”

    Of course. But it does beg the question why Claremont kept certain characters and not others, which is my point.

    “During the CC/Byrne era? Sunfire did show up.”

    Whoops — you’re right. I wasn’t thinking back that far. But it doesn’t change my basic argument. I think it’s Sunfire’s (and other flame-throwers’) powers that weren’t of interest or use to Claremont. Not that Claremont wanted to get rid of characters he didn’t create.

  4. mark coale says:

    Always like it when a post here gets to a second page.

  5. Moo says:

    The decision to write out both Sunfire and Thunderbird had already been made before X-Men was handed off to Claremont. Wein was initially supposed to write the series and in fact, he plotted issue 94 and 95 and is credited as plotter in both of these issues. Claremont, it seems, just went along with the already established plan.

    Maybe Claremont just didn’t feel strongly enough about Sunfire to object, or maybe he did object but felt he shouldn’t rewrite Wein’s plot on the grounds that he wasn’t “Chris Claremont: Legendary X-Men Writer” at the time. He was “Chris Claremont: Relative newcomer given some work”.

    I know Cockrum didn’t like Sunfire (he said so in an interview) and he was more involved in the plotting back then.

  6. Thom H. says:

    @Moo: I didn’t realize those decisions had already been made. Thanks for the info!

  7. Moo says:

    Yeah, Wein’s original plan was that some of the new X-Men would “flunk” and not make the team (there was going to be try-outs). It was supposed to be just Sunfire and Banshee who wouldn’t make the cut. But then they felt that it wasn’t fair that all of the brand new characters (Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus) would make the cut and preexisting characters like Sunfire and Banshee would flunk. So, they created Thunderbird just for that reason– to not make the cut. He was doomed from the start.

    But then they decided to keep Banshee because Cockrum and Claremont both liked him (though I think it was Cockrum’s opinion that mattered more at this stage) and they had second thoughts about Thunderbird going into issue 95 but they couldn’t figure out how to make him work and just wrote him out by killing him off (the whole try-out thing had been dropped by this point).

    It was something that Claremont and Cockrum both regretted later and the idea to introduce a younger Proudstar brother came up a few years before he was actually introduced. Cockrum had mentioned the idea in an interview some time after he returned for his second tenure.

    But he also said that “nobody liked Sunfire” and that no second thoughts were given to writing him out. It wouldn’t surprise me, honestly, if some of that in-house dislike for Sunfire maybe had something to do with racism. Just to be clear, I have no evidence for this, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Claremont was pretty liberal and obviously proved later to be fond of Japan but… you know, all of these guys– Wein, Cockrum, etc grew up in the 40s. Pearl Harbor was still relatively recent when these guys were wee lads. You have to figure that there was still a lot of anti-Japanese sentiment around them when they were growing up and maybe some of it rubbed off on someone. Not Claremont, obviously, but maybe someone or another wasn’t keen on having Sunfire on the team for that reason. Again, that’s pure speculation on my part, though.

    Banshee was eventually written out of the series at Byrne’s request. He felt that having two characters on the team with a projectile attack (Cyclops being the other) was redundant.

  8. Taibak says:

    I’m also skeptical about the whole “powers with consequences” idea. There didn’t seem to be too much of a drawback to Rachel, Kitty, Dazzler, and Psylocke using their powers and Longshot’s drawback – that his motives had to be pure – was pretty insubstantial.

    Same thing with the New Mutants which, correct me if I’m wrong, were largely his creation. Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Mirage, and Karma could use their powers just fine and Cannonball got over his drawback – being unable to stop – pretty quickly.

  9. wwk5d says:

    “So, they created Thunderbird just for that reason– to not make the cut. He was doomed from the start.”

    I read that the reason they killed off Thunderbird was that they realized he was redundant to the team, both in powers (Colossus) and in attitude (Wolverine).

  10. wwk5d says:

    Also, if some people at Marvel didn’t want Sunfire on the team due to leftover WWII feelings, I imagine they would have applied the same thinking to Nightcrawler.

  11. Moo says:


    T-Bird was specifically created just so there’d be a new character who wouldn’t make the team along with Sunfire and Banshee (the latter of whom they ended up keeping).

    Later, Cockrum and Claremont had second thoughts about getting rid of T-Bird and discussed keeping him around but ultimately conceded defeat on the character. Partly for the reasons you mentioned (redundant powers) so yes, that’s true. But he was created to be discarded in the first place.

    And anti-Japanese sentiment in the US was higher than anti-German. There were millions of people of German ancestry living in the US post-wartime and most Americans could distinguish between “German” and “Nazi”. But if you even had a smattering of Japanese ancestry, you were subject to executive order 9066 (internment).

    Again, I’m not claiming for fact that Sunfire was shown the door due to lingering anti-Japanese sentiment, but if that actually turned out to be the case wouldn’t surprise me.

  12. Moo says:

    Sorry, meant to write “during wartime” not “post-wartime” above.

  13. wwk5d says:

    According to Claremont, it was Wein’s decision to kill off Thunderbird. From this website (

    “Thunderbird’s character was problematic going forward. Creators David Cockrum and Len Wein liked the design of his character, and decided not to write him off immediately. However, his demeanor was already covered in the character of Wolverine, always bickering with Cyclops. So Cockrum says of the character:

    “…we created him as an obnoxious loudmouth, and we already had an obnoxious loudmouth in Wolverine. So one of us decided to kill him off after all, just for shock value.”

    Chris Claremont scripted the story for X-Men #94-95, and confirmed it was Wein who decided to kill the character off, just for shock value. They had the option of developing Proudstar and having the audience build a relationship with him over a certain length of time. Then in killing him, the readers would feel devastated. They decided to just rip the band-aid off and do it right off the bat, “when no one was expecting it.””

    With regards to Sunfire, Cockrum was born in 1943, while Wein was born in 1948, too young to probably understand about the war (and Wein was born years after it ended). Not sure how Americans felt about the Japanese during the mid to late 1970s, but I imagine for men Wein and Cockrum’s age, it might not have been something they thought about that way. Not to mention Cockrum had a fondness for the LSH’s Karate Kid, who was also Japanese. Well, half-Japanese, at any rate.

  14. Moo says:


    Um… maybe you could just tell me what it is I said about Thunderbird that you disagree with? Because now I’m confused as to where the disagreement (if there is one) lies. You quoted me on the part where I talked about why he was created in the first place. I said he was created to be a new character who would flunk the try-out for the team. This is actually true. Below is taken from Thunderbird’s wiki entry. This isn’t where I first read the information (I read it in a Peter Sanderson interview) but it says basically the same thing….

    “Writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum created Thunderbird for the new X-Men, **specifically to be a member of the team who would fail the entrance exam**. Having already decided that the previously introduced characters Sunfire and Banshee would fail the exam, Wein and Cockrum felt it would be unrealistic for only older characters to “flunk out”, and set about creating a new character to fit this role. After developing Thunderbird, however, they decided that they liked the character — his costume in particular — too much to write him off after only one issue, and decided to keep him on.”

  15. wwk5d says:

    I wasn’t disagreeing with you, or disputing the part about Thunderbird failing joining the X-men. Just pointing out it seems Wein was the one who who decided to get rid of Thunderbird by killing him off, with CC not having much involvement (if any) in that decision. And that his similarity to Wolverine in terms of their demeanor was one of the main reasons for doing so.

  16. wwk5d says:

    It seems the whole decision-making process by Wein and Cockrum regarding Thunderbird was as follows:

    Lets have him flunk out of the team by failing his entrance exam.
    No, actually, lets keep him around because we like his costume.
    No, actually, Wolverine and Colossus make him redundant, so lets just kill him off to shock the fans.

  17. Moo says:


  18. Nightcrawler’s not “German”, he grew up amongst Gypsies and was persecuted by horror movie torch-wielding Germans.

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