RSS Feed
Aug 13

Wolverine & Captain America: Weapon Plus: “The Last Best Hope of Earth”

Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

From one prologue issue to another.  Solicited as a one-shot – albeit with a “begins here” tag – Ethan Sacks and Diogenes Neves’ story turns out at the end to be a lead-in to something that appears to be called Weapon Plus: Weapons Free.  Alright then.

The solicitations also lead with “The secret history behind their origins revealed!”  And… not so much, really.  If you bought this looking for major revelations about Captain America or Wolverine as individuals, you’d have been rather disappointed.  Instead, the idea is more about trying to set up a unifying behind-the-scenes force for the various dodgy super-soldier projects.  Mercifully, this doesn’t change anything of substance for either character; it just gives them links to others.

The plot pretty much boils down to “hey, here’s the basic idea, and we’re going to be doing some stories about this.”  Fantomex, who was effectively killed off in Charles Soule’s Astonishing X-Men, has left behind a typically rambling message for Captain America and Wolverine to tell them about his investigations into Weapon Plus and all that he has discovered.  This immediately prompts a bunch of generic lab-grown henchthugs to show up and stop them.

Much of the issue actually features flashbacks to the life of Billy Junger, who started life as a junior Captain America fan in World War II.  The key idea here is that Junger was inspired by Cap in the wrong way, and after Cap disappears at the end of World War II, Junger winds up devoting his life to making new super soldiers for the good old USA.  He’s intended as a mirror of Steve Rogers, physically frail but desperate to play what he sees as his role.  There are some parallels with the retconning of the 50s Captain America into an anticommunist maniac.

The idea of Captain America as Weapon I dates back to the Grant Morrison run, but if anything this story seems to be downgrading him back into a retrospective Weapon I, with later incarnations of the Weapon Plus project deeming themselves to be following in his footsteps.  I can see at least two good reasons for doing it that way: it insulates Steve Rogers and his origin story, and it avoids the potential awkwardness of having to explain why Isaiah Bradley doesn’t count, considering some of the people who do make the list.

There’s some stuff here which you can see going somewhere in due course.  Junger makes decent sense as an inversion of Captain America, and his latest creation keeps up the theme of Captain America inspiring people in all the wrong directions.  It seems to be setting up a story about the destructive side of patriotism and nationalism – generally, all of this is much more tailored to a Captain America story than a Wolverine one, though in the long run I suppose Wolverine brings the victim’s perspective to bear on the whole thing.

But at this stage, it’s a reasonable prologue issue which consists of the two star characters running around encountering bits of plot that will mean more down the line.  Diogenes Neves is an entirely solid artist, and does his best work on the Junger flashback sequences, which humanise the rather simple character.

Beyond that… the central set piece is a long-abandoned lab (nicely enough drawn) with a big board full of vaguely cryptic allusions to other stories, all of which are now retroactively Weapons II, IV, V, VI, VII and IX.  (Weapons III and VIII are presumably to follow in later stories.)  Most of these are fairly obvious candidates.  Weapon IV is the project that Ted Sallis was working on before he wound up as Man-Thing, which was indeed already established as a super-soldier affair.  Weapon V appears to be the symbiote thing from recent issues of Venom.  Weapon VI is the experiments that gave Luke Cage his powers.  Weapon VII is Nuke.  Weapon IX is more obscurely clued, but it’s Typhoid Mary.

And Weapon II is… Brute Force.  Yes, the animal cyborg thing from 1990 that was obviously intended to tie in to a line of toys that never happened.  We even get a poor cyborg bear to show up here with a battered arm.  And… that seems a dubious choice.  It’s not that they ought to be taking Brute Force more seriously.  It’s no lost classic.  The team had a blocky cyborg kangaroo called Hip-Hop.  It was the sort of book where police officers said “Saints preserve us!  How’m I supposed to explain this one to the commissioner?”  There was an evil corporation called Multicorp.  But while Weapon Plus isn’t played for darkness, it’s not really played as a comedy book either, so the reference comes across as a tone clash.  Sure, there’s a certain logic in Weapon Plus’s first real try being an animal experiment – but if you’re going to go down that line and play it straight, you want We3, not Brute Force.  Maybe they’re the closest the Marvel Universe has to offer, but they’re not a good fit.

Still, it’s a prologue and teaser issue, and it does set up a couple of ideas that could go somewhere.  It’s modestly successful on those terms.

Bring on the comments

  1. Ben says:

    Disagree actually, I think the Brute Force stuff was cool.

    They just took an odd old idea that had been mothballed and recontextualized it.

  2. Alex Hill says:

    Weapon II was already established as being based around animals in the Squirrel Girl/Howard the Duck crossover (which had a Wolverine-esque squirrel), so presumably this is just riffing off of that.

  3. Ben says:

    If memory serves, all the Morrison Weapon Plus stuff set up that Weapon II was animal based.

    And We3 was actually based on that idea.

  4. Nick Hill says:

    Weapon III is the Skinless Man from Remender’s Uncanny X-Force.

  5. Jpw says:

    It’s been years since I read Morrison’s Weapon Plus story, but I thought most of the Weapon Plus programs were identified in that story.

Leave a Reply