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Oct 6

Marvel Comics Presents #1-9: “The Vigil”

Posted on Sunday, October 6, 2019 by Paul in x-axis

Well, this went wrong. Marvel Comics Presents was a format that worked in the eighties and nineties – the original run made it to issue #175 – but the market is no longer so friendly to anthologies. Marvel put some well known creators on this book, and put a Wolverine story in the lead slot – at a time when the character had only just returned from a lengthy (if largely notional) absence. But here we are, cancelled after issue #9.

That’s particularly awkward since Soule’s original announcement of this storyline described it as a twelve-parter. The final issue is extended, but it still seems to have lost some pages along the way.

Charles Soule really likes a high concept, and this certainly qualifies – to the point where it’s not altogether easy to tell whether it’s supposed to be in continuity.

It starts in World War II, with soldier Logan happening to stumble by as a witch called Marie summons up a demon to fight the Nazis. This turns out to be a very bad idea, as the demon in question is the Truth, who is emphatically stated to be a world-ending threat. His name also justifies all sorts of “the Truth wants to be free” and “the Truth cannot be killed” dialogue. Logan helps send it back, but the Truth is going to come back every ten years, and Logan needs to team up with the witch’s daughter Sylvie to help her banish it each time.

Cue a string of stories of Logan fighting the Truth in different decades. There’s also a theme in here about the Truth always appearing in “the worst place of the world”, which doesn’t work out so well; it limits the scope for variation between the different settings and tends to flatten everything out. For some reason the 80s and 90s sequences are set amongst X-Men stories published at that time, without regard to the sliding timeline, which really just confuses matters for no obvious reason.

But this isn’t quite as repetitive as it sounds, since the focus is less on the local colour and more on the long-term development of the relationship between the functionally-immortal Wolverine and Sylvie, who starts as a five year old and ages through to adulthood. Eventually that leads to Sylvie’s daughter Rien in turn showing up to take her place, and Sylvie’s clan taking an interest in all this – there’s a very contrived attempt to suggest that this might all have something to do with Agatha Harkness, which really adds not a great deal to the story. All this eventually leads to an attempt by Wolverine and Rien to break out of the cycle.

Paolo Sequeira’s art is solid in terms of the shifting settings, and selling the melodrama of it all. But it’s all a bit of a mess. The finale relies on the idea that the Truth’s truth is that everything dies, except the Truth itself, making the Truth an internal contradiction that it can’t tolerate. This idea is nowhere near as interesting as the story wants it to be – it comes off as just a trite idea and a bit of wordplay, which falls very short of the sense of scale it seems to be gunning for. And yes, sure, the story gives Wolverine a new relative… but it’s (a) from a self-cancelling timeline, (b) in Marvel Comics Presents, and (c) from the writer who gave you hot claws, and whatever happened to them?

I like the idea of this story a lot more than the reality. The Marvel Comics Presents format of short chapters is unavoidably episodic, and this sets itself up to use that format as a way of jumping through history on a grand scale, before swerving to take the story in a different direction instead. But that’s the formal stuff; the story itself hasn’t got much going on.

Bring on the comments

  1. Ben (Fake Brent) says:

    I had already forgotten hot claws were a thing, and they really blew the return of Wolverine.

  2. Loz says:

    Oh man, the hot claws… Were they always just going to be a thing in the return storyline and then disappear or where they supposed to be a permanent addition?

  3. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    They barely were a thing in the return storyline, though. They help the still amnesiac Logan defeat Iceman (…mostly off-panel, I think?) and… that’s about it?

    And yeah, the return storyline was definitely not helped by relying on the ridiculous ‘Wolverine’s so badass, he can defeat the X-Men singlehandedly’ trope.

    Also, for the weirdest publishing decision award of the year – putting Betsy’s return to her original body* in one of the four Hunt for Wolverine miniseries. Just to make sure the least possible amount of readers actually read about it.

    *- or a psionic copy of it. Whatever.

  4. JD says:

    I’m not sure how this iteration of MCP was supposed to have lasted for 12 issues originally anyway. There was clearly a high concept of “each issue covers a particular decade of Marvel’s publishing history” (with the ongoing Wolverine strip playing with that gimmick). Which is fine, but what were they going to do for issues #9-12 ? (The Weapon_EXE backup story that did make it into #9, set in “the future”, is probably a good indication that it was a good idea to cut the whole thing short.)

  5. CJ says:

    I don’t know why anyone thought Wolverine, already possessing near-immortal levels of healing and unbreakable, untouchable claws…needed really hot ones.

  6. Luis Dantas says:

    Sigh. They decided to give one of the most overexposed, least qualified to be a parent figure characters around yet _another_ relative? It is not like he did not have enough already.

  7. Luis Dantas says:

    Could this storyline be meant as a plan B of sorts? An alternate timeline ready to be risen into the new default continuity in case Hickman’s series proved not to attain good acceptance?

  8. SanityOrMadness says:

    Re: #hotclaws

    Soule said in an inteview at the time: “I thought this was a real opportunity to do things that would make [Wolverine] feel new and fresh in a way; if you come back from the dead, it should mean something. One of the outwardly physical manifestations of that is that now, from time to time, his claws—once they’re popped—they can heat up. They can get really hot.

    “The way I think of it in my head and the way I’ve described it in scripts to Steve is you’ve got a blacksmith who is working with metal on his or her anvil and it can be red hot, yellow hot, white hot, all of that stuff and Logan can do that now. If Logan comes at you and his claws are heated up and blazing you’re in big trouble.”

    CJ> I’m not sure how this iteration of MCP was supposed to have lasted for 12 issues originally anyway. There was clearly a high concept of “each issue covers a particular decade of Marvel’s publishing history” (with the ongoing Wolverine strip playing with that gimmick). Which is fine, but what were they going to do for issues #9-12 ?

    That was my thinking too. I mean, the Wolverine strip stops in the 2000s, but what would have happened to delay the Rien/Hell stuff into the 2010s – a strip where Logan “just misses” her? That would just have been filler, and you would still have needed an extra strip (allowing that the actual finale was two-thirds rather than one-third of an issue, and assuming that would have been across two issues in the twelve issue counterfactual) to stretch it out on top of that.

    > Sigh. They decided to give one of the most overexposed, least qualified to be a parent figure characters around yet _another_ relative? It is not like he did not have enough already.

    Well, what you do with her from here is… not obvious. I mean, she was dumped in 1939 at the end of the issue. Even allowing that one of the in-story reasons for her conception was that the witch clan wanted to breed in Wolverine’s longevity, so she could still be hale & hearty in the present day… that’s still 80+ years of Stuff, so you could hardly pick her up in the present from where this left off.

  9. Speculators (I didn’t realise they even still existed) went nuts for MCP #6, you couldn’t get the first printing for love nor money in London the day after it came out. I only started buying the series because I missed one issue of the original series and that was the first part of Weapon X. Copies went up on Ebay with ridiculous prices – $30-$50. That didn’t last very long! (I bought the second printing and it was meh!)

  10. Chris V says:

    What happened in that issue that drove up the price?
    I never did figure it out.
    Something to do with Danny Ketch, I heard.

    I was buying the series sporadically, for some of the back-up stories, but that issue didn’t appeal to me.

  11. Chris V says:

    Re:The Soule quote.

    “Oh, thank goodness. It’s just well-nigh unbreakable adamantium metal on three long, sharp claws. For a minute, I was afraid that they were going to be hot!”

  12. SanityOrMadness says:

    Luis> Could this storyline be meant as a plan B of sorts? An alternate timeline ready to be risen into the new default continuity in case Hickman’s series proved not to attain good acceptance?

    Imma gonna go with “no, never intended as such.” Even if it wasn’t for things like killing off major X-Men in the 90s issue to show things going wrong, you don’t do that sort of thing in a minor side book.

    If Hickman had crashed & burned, the same thing would have happened as with other “failed” directions like the Terrigen thing. It would have been shut down, and then shoved in the And Let Us Never Speak Of It Again pile.

    Chris V> What happened in that issue that drove up the price?

    Rien’s first on-panel appearance. People seemingly lost their crap over Wolverine’s New Daughter.

    I don’t get the speculating from the POV of the people who are paying these ludicrous prices. I mean, the scalpers are unscrupulous, but logical – they’re getting in and cashing out while the getting is good (unlike 90s speculators). Bad for the publishers & comic shops beyond the extreme short term (since it makes it harder to retain regular purchasers), but you can see why they do it. But who really needs to have one issue for more than the cost of the TPB?

  13. SanityOrMadness says:

    @Chris V

    Hey, I posted the Soule quote to answer the “what was he thinking” question. I didn’t say it was a logical line of thought

  14. Dave says:

    “or a psionic copy of it. Whatever.”

    And she’d been something like a psionic copy for over a decade already.

    Is there anyone in this story who Can’t Handle the Truth?

  15. wwk5d says:

    “I don’t know why anyone thought Wolverine, already possessing near-immortal levels of healing and unbreakable, untouchable claws…needed really hot ones.”

    Probably the same people who thought Wolverine needed an unbreakable-and-can-cut-through-anything samurai sword…remember that era?

    “Soule said in an inteview at the time”

    Sounds like Soule is an idiot.

  16. YLu says:

    I have no use for hot claws but I also don’t see what’s particularly wrong with them.

    The character’s already a clumsy accumulation of traits — healing, senses, the martial arts, adamantium — making his claws also hot seems no big deal. I’d argue it only seems iffy because we’re not used to it. If Len Wein had given him heated claws in his first appearance and he’d had them all these years, nobody would be saying “You know what would make the character more interesting? If his claws were only indestructible and not hot too.”

    As far as power-ups go, I’d say upgrading healing factor into instant regeneration instead of just vaguely better healing (was that an influence of the movie?) was a far more damaging change.

  17. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Wasn’t it an earlier, 90s thing? Wasn’t it established at that point that adamantium is toxic, so Wolverine’s healing factor went into overdrive after he lost the adamantium, and then didn’t go down after he regained it?

    (I didn’t actually read 90s Wolverine books, so this is pure conjecture.)

  18. SanityOrMadness says:

    @Krzysiek

    …kinda. For about a year after Fatal Attractions, Wolverine’s healing factor was gone (there’s even a spot a few issues afterward where Wolverine speculates that it *needed* the adamantium, and a series of issues where he thinks he’s dying and is going around not-quite sayibg goodbye). Then, it kicks back in a couple of issues before the AoA interregnum.

    Post-AoA, it DOES start to go into overdrive – there’s a bit where Guardian & Vindicator are remote-monitoring him when he gets run over by a car and heals almost instantly – BUT that’s tied up in the “feral Wolverine” plot.

    After that fizzles out, I don’t remember much in the way of crazy healing (after the Wolverine In Space arc, where his claws get broken, they take a few months to grow back to full length) until Morrison flays all the flesh from his arm. In earlier times, that would have been “bye bye arm”, but in having that regenerate, THAT seems to have been what opens the floodgates, since it’s the early 2000s where unlimited regeneration became the norm for him.

  19. Chris V says:

    If Len Wein had given the world hot adamantium claws, then someone would have had to create hot adamantium claws that spit acid.

  20. Dazzler says:

    The simpler a character is, generally, the better. Virtually every secondary mutation is 100% idiotic and makes the character worse. Every time you kill a character and bring him or her back, it makes the character a bit worse. Hot claws is the ultimate example of this. Possibly the dumbest thing ever.

  21. CJ says:

    The hot claws will go in the Quietly Forgotten Powers bin, next to Gambit’s charm and blind vision powers, Bishop’s…um, ability to know where he is at all times, and Psylocke shadow-teleport.

  22. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Wasn’t Psylocke’s shadow teleport connected to the face tatoo she got… I think in Claremont’s first unsuccessful return to the X-Men? If I’m right, it makes sense she doesn’t have the power, since she lost the tatoo after being resurrected.

    (‘Makes sense’).

    Honestly, the one power in the QFP bin I’m sad to see there is Nightcrawler’s being invisible in shadows.

  23. CJ says:

    I think the shadow teleport is just after the Crimson Dawn storyline between AoA and Onslaught.

    And yeah, I only remember that power of Nightcrawler’s being used once or twice in…Phoenix Saga I think.

    Has there ever been given an explanation for why the X-Men are visible to cameras after going through the Siege Perilous (besides being unworkable in the long-term)? That’s a team-wide QFP!

  24. Dave says:

    I only even realised in the last few weeks that Nightcrawler’s shadow cloaking had been outright retconned by Classic X-Men changes to the original issues.

  25. Andrew says:

    It’s really funny to think about those weird dead-ends that occured in the 1990s.

    I remember reading Paul’s indexes and around the point of the lead-up to Onslaught there was almost reliably a note in each issue with “This storyline/hint goes absolutely nowhere/This never comes up again etc”.

    I think it reaches its peak with the incoherent nonsense of the post-Onslaught period and the Seagle/Kelly run which was clearly setting up some long-term storylines but got knee-capped after six months, hence why those runs are full of things that just don’t go anywhere or pay off in any way.

  26. Chris V says:

    I always sort of assumed that when the X-Men used Roma’s gift of the Siege Perilous, it just negated the earlier gift of being invisible to technology.
    Otherwise, it was never explicated upon, no.

    It might somehow figure in with Hickman’s run, in some way. Percival seemed to hint at it, maybe.

    If not, just assume that Roma’s magical gifts are only good one at a time.
    I’m pretty sure nothing ever contradicted that idea.

  27. Taibak says:

    Chris: The problem with that argument is that Storm, Wolverine, and Longshot never passed through the Siege Perilous. They should still be invisible to technology.

    Come to think of it, that would actually open up some interesting stories for Longshot.

  28. Jason says:

    “he problem with that argument is that Storm, Wolverine, and Longshot never passed through the Siege Perilous. They should still be invisible to technology.”

    The other problem is that the X-Men who *did* pass through the Siege remained invisible to technology after doing so.

    There was never an explanation in-story, although I’ve seen it suggested online (probably by Paul O’Brien himself) that the destruction of Roma’s tower in Excalibur 50 negated the “invisibility” spell. That’s what’s been my head-canon ever since.

  29. Michael says:

    I rather liked Kurt’s shadow-blending power when it was brought up in Excalibur at one point. Shame it’s been forgotten and/or removed.

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