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Jul 12

The Incomplete Wolverine, Part 2

Posted on Sunday, July 12, 2020 by Paul in Wolverine

For part 1, see here.

In part 1, we were going through stories that were mostly designed to be read in sequence. We left off with Logan in New York in 1907, at the end of Origin II. Now we’re entering a rather more haywire phase, since writers tend to assume that Wolverine’s history between Origin and World War I is simply a bit of a blank. It isn’t, but it’s a scattershot period with a lot of travelling going on.

Flashback in WOLVERINE: WEAPON X #10
“Love and the Wolverine” by Jason Aaron & CP Smith
February 2010

Shortly after Origin II (“it wasn’t long after I first come down outta the wilderness”), Logan wanders to California and becomes an agricultural labourer, where he loses his virginity to a Mexican migrant worker (whose name he doesn’t know). And that’s the whole thing.

Flashbacks in WOLVERINE vol 3 #52-53
“Evolution, parts 3-4” by Jeph Loeb & Simone Bianchi
March-April 2007

Logan is in Tokyo, “running away from whatever personal demons I had on me at the time”. Ninjas from the Hand bring him before their leader, a shadow figure who is apparently Romulus – more, much more, of him later. Romulus sends Logan to deal with another superhuman westerner who has been killing prostitutes. This leads to Logan’s first fight with his arch enemy Victor Creed (later Sabretooth); Logan immediately senses a similarity between the two.

The flashback simply ends with someone interrupting the fight, and it’s never been revisited – most likely because “Evolution” was an incoherent mess that nobody really wants to go near. The story doesn’t give a precise date for the flashback, but if it’s Wolverine’s first encounter with Sabretooth, then it has to come before some other stories which are dated more precisely.

So, yes, believe it or not, for all the stories that have been written about Logan’s past, his first trip to Japan, his first encounter with Romulus and his first encounter with Sabretooth all remain sketchy territory at best. If someone’s casting about for material for Origin III, they’re not short of options.

Adding to this is the Chris Claremont story from the 2019 anthology Wolverine: Exit Wounds, which establishes that Logan married an unnamed Japanese woman around this time, and that her great-great-granddaughter Hoshiko is still running the Logan Noodle Bar in the present day. What’s more, Logan and his first wife have at least one child, leading to a whole Logan-descended dynasty in Japan. Clearly this marriage doesn’t last long, for reasons not explained, but Exit Wounds also tells us that Logan stays in touch with the family over the generations, and visits regularly.

by Frank Tieri, Angel Unzueta & Guillermo Sanna
January 2020

1909, and Logan is back in New York. Victor Creed finds him unconscious next to the body of someone who has been murdered by a serial killer (a plotline which doesn’t concern us), and carts him off to the Ravenscroft Institute for the Criminally Insane, where Mr Sinister resumes his experiments on Logan’s healing factor and has a stab at lobotomising him. It’s a rather nasty story. Logan is rescued by Claudia Russell, a Ravenscroft doctor who is also a werewolf.

Flashbacks in LOKI vol 3 #5
“The Man from Up North!” by Daniel Kibblesmith & Andy MacDonald
November 2019

“1911 or thereabouts”, and Logan has become a late-period western hero in Montana. He deals with a gang of murderous robbers, with the unlikely help of Loki. This is a very meta story; the idea is that Loki has gained the power to alter history by telling new stories about himself, and so this flashback becomes true by virtue of Loki narrating it. However, it’s also suggested that he’s muscling his way into a Wolverine story that would have played out just fine without his involvement – so apparently the broad thrust of history is unchanged by Loki’s intervention.

With that, we come to more familiar territory, and the string of flashbacks that cover Logan’s time with Silver Fox. There are a lot of minor flashbacks and references here, and we can skip over some of them in short order:

  • We’ve never seen Logan’s first meeting with Silver Fox, but according to Wolverine: Origins #5, he was already living in a mountain cabin when they met. She was a Blackfoot woman whose husband had died three years previously, and they fell in love. There’s a Silver Fox story in the 2020 one-shot Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices which appears to show the death of her husband and where she got her pet dog – however, it has continuity problems, because the plot is tied to historical events that seem far too early to fit with Wolverine’s post-Origins timeline.
  • Wolverine: Origins #49 has a single panel of Logan, in frontier gear, standing with Silver Fox.
  • Wolverine vol 2 #49 has a single panel of Logan carving a heart and the words “Logan + Silver Fox” into the door of their log cabin.
  • Wolverine vol 2 #65 has a flashback of Logan telling her that he could live like this forever; she tells him nothing lasts forever.
  • X-Men Origins: Sabretooth has a flashback where Logan gets into a bar fight after someone insults Silver Fox. Victor Creed, just back in town, shows up and joins in. Either Logan and Creed become friends here, or they’d done so already – Logan shows no sign of recognising Creed from their previous encounters, which I suppose we have to blame on the old traumatic-memory excuse. This is supposed to be a few months before Silver Fox dies.
  • Wolverine vol 2 #47 shows Logan and Silver Fox’s dog getting rabies. Logan can’t bring himself to shoot the dog, so she does it.
  • Wolverine vol 3 #50 shows Creed watching Logan and Silver Fox in their log cabin.

Flashbacks in WOLVERINE vol 2 #10
“24 Hours” by Chris Claremont, John Buscema & Bill Sienkiewicz
August 1989

Now things get confusing. The original story is very straightforward: Creed murders Silver Fox on Logan’s birthday, supposedly because she refused to sleep with him. (As we’ll see, various other stories go on to suggest that Creed’s actual motivation is to torment Logan for the hell of it, or to further Romulus’ conspiracy, or both.) Logan fights Creed, but has no formal training at this point in his career, and so is hopelessly outmatched despite his berserker rage. An epic battle ends with Logan hurling them both over a cliff, but Creed gets up first and walks away. This becomes the starting point for the idea that Creed hunts down and torments Logan on his birthday every year.

The flashback builds on an earlier reference in Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #213, where Psylocke sees some out of context images vaguely from the battle (though Wolverine is shown in his costume). More embellishments can be found in Wolverine vol 2 #41, Wolverine vol 3 #50, Wolverine: Origins #5 and #33 and X-Men Origins: Sabretooth, none of which add very much.

But… if you know your 90s Wolverine, you’ll know that Silver Fox survives, and shows up again in Larry Hama’s run. This has never been very clearly explained. Wolverine vol 2 #50 shows that Weapon X’s brainwashing unit has standing sets of the bar from this issue, but that probably just means that they deliberately replicated an event they knew was important to Logan. More significant is Wolverine: Origins #5, which continues the flashback: after the fight, Creed tortures Logan and convinces him that the townsfolk killed Silver Fox in order to drive him out of town. Logan believes this, apparently because he’s delirious and his healing factor is already obscuring the traumatic memory. So he goes on a rampage and kills several of the townsfolk.

Wolverine: Origins #15 goes further, and has Cyber suggest that Silver Fox was working for Romulus all along. Romulus’s plan is basically to turn Logan into a living weapon by breaking his spirit and making him into an animal, so throughout Daniel Way’s stories, Romulus keeps killing off women to whom Logan becomes attached. Many of these women are apparently agents of Romulus who are put in that position specifically to torment Logan, so Silver Fox’s survival might imply that their deaths were also faked as part of the ongoing brainwashing plan. (That might also explain why other flashbacks, outside Way’s orbit, show Logan having extended relationships with women who seem to survive just fine – and why Romulus seems so cavalier about killing off useful agents.)

The thing about all this is: it makes a certain degree of sense, but it isn’t very satisfying. We’ll see much more of this later, but Daniel Way’s basic agenda with Romulus is to make him a unifying figure that ties together vast swathes of Wolverine’s back story. His established history already involved various iterations of “secret organisation exploits Wolverine and undermines his humanity”, and putting Romulus behind it all makes him a personification of Wolverine’s exploitation that he can ultimately confront and defeat. The trouble is that Romulus’ scheme has no real substance to it beyond tying together a recurring theme in Wolverine’s back story. Arguably that’s the point – Romulus’s conspiracy has no purpose beyond preserving his personal power, and everything else is just noise and distraction tactics – but it makes for a one-dimensional villain.

The Romulus storyline also limits the stories you can tell in Wolverine’s past, unless you’re willing to ignore the idea that Romulus persistently intervenes to stop him forming human relationships. Most writers since Way have done exactly that – Romulus is notionally important to Wolverine’s history, but writers don’t seem to go near him. Daniel Way’s lasting contribution to the Wolverine mythos turns out to be not Romulus, but Daken.

The best way to square Romulus with the rest of Wolverine’s history (and preserve the integrity of stories in which he doesn’t feature) is to say that he’s pulling the strings in all Logan’s various black ops / secret agents roles down the years, and he’s a persistent influence on Logan’s life, but ultimately he’s exaggerating his influence to build up his mystique, he’s not involved on a day-to-day basis, and long stretches go by in which he’s virtually absent from Logan’s life.

Returning to the narrative: according to Wolverine: Origins #33, having killed the townsfolk, Logan begins working for the Hudson Bay Company, which in the Marvel Universe is a front for Romulus. (In reality, it’s called the “Hudson’s Bay Company”, and it now runs Canadian department stores.)

Flashbacks in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS vol 1 #93-98
“Wild Frontier” by Timothy Truman, Todd Foxx & Gary Kwapisz
January to March 1992


This oddity has always had a shaky place in continuity. It shows Logan as a fur trapper for the Hudson Bay Company. He saves a young Blackfoot Indian from a demonically-possessed bear, but the boy loses his sight and Logan is badly injured. The tribe take Logan in for several months while he rehabs, and outfit him with clothes that bear a suspicious resemblance to his later costume, until he eventually he sets off to fight the evil presence, Uncegila. Uncegila is a genuine creature from Lakota mythology, and the sight of it is supposed to drive people insane, so Logan is accompanied by the blind kid. Together they kill Uncegila, and before Logan leaves, the tribe christen him “wolverine” – well, “skunk-bear”, but it’s the same creature. (You won’t be surprised to hear that this is not the only story in which people independently come up with the nickname “Wolverine” or some variation of it.)

“Wild Frontier” is an extended flashback with a present-day framing sequence, but it keeps insisting that the flashback is unreliable – it’s “not a memory”, it’s some sort of dream, and our attention is repeatedly drawn to the fact that Logan is confusing his nurse Sparrow Hawk with Silver Fox. Uncegila seems to serve as a metaphor for the demise of traditional tribal culture in the face of modernity and colonisation. But the framing sequence shows Uncegila’s corpse in the present day, which seems intended to indicate that the story happened more or less as depicted – and Marvel Index treats it as canon.

That gives us an issue of time frame, because “Wild Frontier” is manifestly intended to happen way back in the 19th century. The precise date isn’t given, but there are pilgrims wandering around, and Logan claims to have got his knives from “a little gambler from Natchez” who “made ’em himself” and “last I heard, he was holed up in some godforsaken mission down in Texas with the whole blamed Mexican Army after him.” That’s Jim Bowie, inventor of the Bowie knife – and he died in 1836. Still, if you’re willing to play the “unreliable narrator” card, the story can be canon in its broad strokes. Most timelines have it almost immediately after Origin II, but once you’ve yanked it that far from its intended timeframe, it might as well go next to his other Hudson Bay Company stories. Besides, Wolverine: Origins #5 says that Silver Fox taught Logan how to trap, so he can’t have been a fur trapper before he met her.

“Wild Frontier” is not available on Unlimited, though if money really is no object, you can buy it as part of “Wolverine: Prehistory”, a collection of miscellanea.

Finally for this batch, flashbacks in Wolverine: Origins #12, #15 and #17 show Logan being brutalised in a Hudson Bay Company training facility where selected men are being turned into a private army (to channel them into Romulus’s other operations). The sadistic trainer is Silas Burr, who’ll go on to become Cyber. Once again, Logan becomes attached to a woman, she gets brutally killed on Romulus’s orders, Logan reverts to a state of nature for a while, and then he gets brainwashed by giving him false information about who was really responsible. There’s a lot of this stuff in the Daniel Way stories, unfortunately.

Next time: World War I and the inter-war period.

Edited on 5 December 2020 to add the reference to Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices.

Bring on the comments

  1. Taibak says:

    FWIW, if Wolverine was working for Hudson’s Bay Company, “Wild Frontier” probably takes place before 1870. That’s when the company relinquished control over Rupert’s Land and ended its monopoly on the Canadian fur trade. So while it’s certainly possible it takes place after that, as I understand it HBC’s involvement in fur trapping declined pretty rapidly after that.

  2. Paul says:

    Well, “Wild Frontier” really can’t take place as depicted, because Origin drove a coach and horses through it. It’s only the unreliable narrator aspect that allows it to stay in continuity. But Daniel Way has Wolverine with some sort of quasi-militarised version of the Hudson’s Bay Company immediately before World War I, however ahistorical that may be, so we may as well go with it being the same organisation that he’s working for in “Wild Frontier”, after he gets singled out for further training. Once you’ve dragged “Wild Frontier” decades from its intended timeframe, what’s another few years?

  3. Ben says:

    Romulus is just… terrible.

    Loeb/Bianchi’s run was a catastrophe.

  4. Chris V says:

    I’m surprised that the Tim Truman story was kept as canon. It was based on an actual Lakota myth.
    Considering that the timeline is completely wrong for Logan, it would have been a simple matter to decide the story was just Wolverine retelling a legend he was told using himself as a main character.

  5. maxwell's hammer says:

    There was this really rough patch where we got awful stupid stories from Chuck Austin, Victor Gischler, and Daniel Way, and honestly, I thank them, because after years as a committed X-Men collector, they made it much easier when I finally went cold turkey.

    Vampire Jubilee? Romulus and Daken? Every single word written by Austin? Jesus, talk about testing a completionist’s completionism.

    (Jeph Loeb’s Ultimates also helped…credit where credit is due.)

  6. Thom H. says:

    For a guy who’s what, 140 years old now?, Logan does find himself embroiled in the same or similar situations quite frequently.

    I guess writers can’t stray too far afield from stories that work for the character, but the dead love interest / work with secret organizations / rivalry with Sabretooth / foggy memory well isn’t that deep. Or that interesting. It makes the guy look like he can’t learn a lesson or solve his own problems.

    I guess creating a villain to tie everything together is one way out of that problem, but Romulus didn’t do the trick in an effective way.

    Writers could try, you know, writing something different instead.

  7. Mark Coale says:

    presumably,Claudia Russell is an ancestor of Jack Russell aka Werewolf by Night.

  8. Col_Fury says:

    Wolverine: Origins #12, 15 & 17’s flashbacks are based on the poison-induced hallucination from Marvel Comics Presents #87-88. Logan likes Janet, has a confrontation with Cyber, Janet dies.

    Of course, the M/CP 87-88 hallucination was set in the 1950s, Logan’s in high school already with Adamantium claws, Cyber is the coach (already with Adamantium skin) who steals Logan’s girl, Janet. They have a race with hot dog cars and Janet dies in the crash. Sam Keith was the artist, so there you go.

    But yeah, that was one of the few things I actually enjoyed about Daniel Way’s run; he somehow found a way to make that Sam Keith story “fit.”

  9. Paul says:

    Daniel Way certainly did his research, you can’t really fault him on that score. There are a whole range of reasons why I think Wolverine: Origins doesn’t work – it’s simultaneously too silly and too serious, for a start – but it’s been thoroughly researched.

  10. Rob says:

    I’ve always treated the “Evolution” story as an extended fever dream brought on by Pixie spraying Logan with her pixie dust, which happened in the background of an issue of New X-Men that was published around the same time.

  11. Ben says:

    Goofy tattoos and terrible mullethawk aside, I’ve come to like Daken.

    Immortal Wolverine having an asshole adult kid works.

    Him having a bunch of them per Jason Aaron’s run is even better.

  12. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    It would help if the editorial was clear on whether Daken is just an asshole, a sociopath or a full-blown psychotic supervillain, because he kind of pinballs between those and they’re not really compatible.

    There was a point where he was basically a typical antihero (with a surprisingly normal relationship with X-23, for example), who was only a vicious asshole towards Logan and perfectly able to get along with others – which was honestly my favourite take on the character.

  13. Evilgus says:

    Didn’t realise that the Claremont-penned issue where Silver Fox is killed is titled ’24 hours’. Was the End of Grey’s arc where Rachel Summer’s entire family is killed called ’24 seconds’ (also Claremont) a deliberate throwback?

  14. Jerry Ray says:

    My favorite take on Daken was when he was dead. Too bad it didn’t stick.

  15. The original Matt says:

    My head cannon surrounding Romulus is that he was willed into existence by Scarlett Witch and the House of M. What Wolverine always wanted wasn’t to remember everything, it was to find out he has a scapegoat and wasn’t just a savage asshole, and that’s why Romulus is involved in all sorts of random events that are now part of some ridiculous conspiracy that was set up to achieve not much. He never existed prior to House of M in an in-universe sense as well as a literal sense.

  16. Andrew says:

    Fuck that Romulus plot was terrible. Just an awful, awful period.

  17. Ken Robinson says:

    I was always under the impression that Hama’s intent with having Silver Fox be alive and showing the bar and cabin sets was to establish all of the events that occurred there (and Logan’s relationship with Silver Fox) as memory implants from Weapon X. Silver Fox was still alive because she was never actually killed, she just played a part in a false memory. Of course,whether Hama intended that or not isn’t really relevent now with how later writers have treated things, but it makes an already confusing time period in Wolverine’s history even harder to follow.

  18. Chris says:

    Hama intentionally avoided long term plotting plans.

  19. Paul says:

    Hama eventually does establish that Logan’s time with Silver Fox happened in some form, by showing the cabin itself in Wolverine vol 2 #65.

  20. Ryan says:

    I like Matt’s supposition of Romulus as a Wanda created implant to continuity. Perhaps Logan’s greatest wish, really, was for everything to make sense, moreso than to remember everything? And Romulus was her way of doing that?

  21. Paul says:

    That would certainly be a viable way of booting Wolverine: Origins’ conspiracy theory elements out of continuity, if you were minded to do that. I think the current philosophy on these things is that it isn’t worth revisiting bad stories just to eviscerate them. So I don’t think we’ll see Marvel delete Romulus from continuity unless it’s in order to replace him with something else. The most likely scenario would be to bring Wolverine’s history into line with whatever they end up doing in movies.

  22. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    So, knowing the MCU… Howard Stark gave him the adamantium skeleton, right?

  23. Ken Robinson says:

    “Hama eventually does establish that Logan’s time with Silver Fox happened in some form, by showing the cabin itself in Wolverine vol 2 #65.”

    Oh right, I’d completely forgotten about that.

  24. Chris says:

    Krzysiek … MCU Logan is probably a Winter Soldier

  25. Arrowhead says:

    Matt’s take on Romulus is uncannily similar to my personal explanation for the Xorn mess. Wanda conjured up a real person based on her father’s fake identity to serve as a scapegoat for his actions.

    …hey, has Marvel done anything to sort out Xorn’s origin? Last I remember, the explanation was that there were actually twin brothers, and the character in New X-Men was the evil brother impersonating his good brother and then later Magneto. Somehow. For some reason.

    That’s pretty godawful, as far as retcons go, simultaneously undercutting the reveal at the end of Morrison’s run AND damaging both Xorns as workable characters for future stories. It’s so bad and so deliberately vague that I’m surprised Hickman (or another writer with similar priorities) hasn’t tried to rework it.

  26. Chris V says:

    I think it works better that there was actually a distinct character of Xorn.
    The earliest New X-Men appearances featured the actual Xorn, and Magneto then found out about the character Xorn and then took on that identity for his plan.

    It explains certain events better. Why did Magneto just happen to be in a Chinese prison? Especially when the last we saw of Magneto, his spine had been severed on Genosha. Why choose to pretend to be a Chinese mutant in the first place?
    It almost seemed like Morrison wanted to create a new character named Xorn, but then quickly decided he’d use it as a way to reintroduce Magneto instead.

    I didn’t mind it ruining the reveal at the end of Morrison’s run, since Morrison bringing back loony-Silver Age Magneto was one of the few things I hated about Morrison’s X-Men.

    I liked the usage of the Xorn twins in the Ultimate Universe though. Characters which Hickman is quite familiar.

  27. Dimitri says:

    Speaking of head canon and Morrison’s take on Magneto, I always figured that the reason Magneto regressed to his boring Silver Age persona in that run, abandoning decades of character growth, is because he was under the influence of Sublime, who, as a super amoeba who opposes all forms of evolution, would have made it a point to undo Magneto’s own character evolution over the years.

    It’s a bit meta as an explanation, I suppose, but it does fit the recurrent theme in Morrison’s run of expanding the notion of the X-Men as “the next step in human evolution” to include the evolution of ideas.

    Plus, I find it a more pleasant read to bemoan what Sublime did to Magneto rather than what Morrison did to Magneto, if you know what I mean.

  28. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @Chris V
    That’s my take as well, though there are early Morrison concept pitches floating around where – if I recall correctly – it is already stated that the ‘Man in Room X’ will turn out to be Magneto.

    The way it’s presented in the actual comic makes little sense, so I always read it as ‘Morrison made it up halfway through the run’, but apparently that’s not the case.

    As long as we’re going back to the Silver Age version of the character, the explanation for it all can just as well be ‘he did it with the power of magnetism’. ‘Pretending to be a Chinese prisoner and having an actual Chinese general go along with the scheme? Magnetism!’.

    Anyway, that early concept pitch also includes killing Rogue and introducing a new, teen, goth Rogue, which I’m just endlessly fascinated by. Was that supposed to be a reincarnation or a completely new character? Also, at that point Morrison still wanted to include Gambit in the book, which… I’m not that big a fan of his New X-Men, but I would love to know what he wanted to do with Gambit.

    Unlesss it was to reveal him as Weapon XIII and all the Fantomex stuff is word for word what he would’ve done with Gambit, in which case I’m glad that didn’t happen.

  29. Arrowhead says:

    @Chris V
    I think the implication is that Magneto rebuilt his own spine with nano-sentinels, just like he did for Charles. But yeah, the idea that he staged the whole Chinese prison scenario as part of the deception requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief.

    I’m pretty sure “Sublime ruined Magneto” is the intended reading of the actual story. Both future Beast and Quentin Quire behave the same way under the influence of Sublime. With Morrison, the story and the “meta” reading are often one and the same. Sublime is literally a prehistoric, mind-altering parasite that makes you regress into tribalistic violence; Sublime is metaphorically the instinctive Darwinian aggression that opposes diversity and progress.

    Ah guar-un-tee that Morrison created Fantomex as a riff on Gambit. His original proposal outlines the Hellfire Club issue, but with Gambit in the roles of both Cyclops and Fantomex.

  30. Chris V says:

    Arrowhead-That reading about Magneto’s regression makes a lot of sense.
    It’s the conclusion I would have come to about Magneto, if I hadn’t read Morrison’s interviews, talking about how he saw Magneto a symbolic of terrorism.
    Which could be read in the sense of Magneto representing concepts such as nationalism or racism, with his “mutant supremacy” ideology.

    However, Morrison also went on to say that Magneto used his past as an excuse for his actions, and that he wasn’t really a revolutionary, he was just a violent terrorist. That his time had past, and he was more useful dead at this point.
    It seemed like Morrison completely ignored Claremont’s characterization of Magneto.
    Although, to be fair, there were certainly instances of Magneto still being portrayed as psychotic and genocidal after Claremont left X-Men too, so I guess that Morrison can’t be completely faulted.

  31. Dimitri says:

    Thank you. It’s going to sound weird, but after years of people saying (sometimes screaming) I’m just a Morrison apologist whenever I bring this take on Magneto, it feels surprisingly good to have someone validate it as a fairly natural reading.

    @Chris V:
    I remember reading those interviews as well.

    I wonder how much of Morrison’s take on Magneto was influenced by the zeitgeist following 9/11. He seemed to have most of his run mapped out before the terrorist attacks, but the final product and his interviews mostly took place after.

    Like, presuming most of the run would have unfolded similarly if the 9/11 attacks had not happened, would it still have ended with Magneto getting his head chopped off unceremoniously because he’s a terrorist and terrorists are subhuman garbage that need to wiped off the face of the Earth, or would have Charles instead reached out to his friend one last time and successfully freed him of Kick as an ultimate representation of the X-Men’s superpowered progressivism?

    I mean, the X-Men rehabilitated Cassandra Nova by allowing her to grow up as Ernst, for goodness’ sake, and she was responsible for the Genoshan genocide! But somehow, both in the interviews and the story, Magneto’s the one beyond redemption? It seems to me the only reason Magneto is worse than Cassandra Nova is because he’s been long identified as a mutant terrorist, and that latter word suddenly carried very heavy connotations in the early 2000s.

    On a related note, presuming again that most of the run was mapped out before the terrorist attacks, is it fair to expect the intent behind a story Morrison wrote before 9/11 to match his perception of it when giving interviews after 9/11? Especially in regard to a high-profile terrorist character?

    I mean, either way, we got the product we got, and stories are never published in a vacuum, but I’ve often wondered about that.

  32. Chris V says:

    Dmitri-I remember reading an interview where Morrison did admit that the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks certainly did effect his mood while writing the second half of his run on X-Men.

    It’s hard to read Morrison’s depiction of Magneto without the running meta-commentary with Chris Claremont’s run that makes up a large portion of his work on X-Men.
    Morrison puts the line under Claremont concepts like Days of Future Past and the Scott/Jean/Logan triangle.
    So, it’s hard to read Morrison’s deconstruction of Magneto outside the lens of a meta-commentary on Claremont’s work with Magneto.

    I, personally, always liked the “E is for Extinction” mini-series that was part of the Secret Wars event, with its revision of Morrison’s version of Magneto.
    I always sort of read that as how Morrison’s run might have ended (as regards Magneto) had Morrison not felt influenced by the events of 9/11/01 with his portrayal of Magneto.
    I mean the first part of the mini-series (particularly its anti-reactionary portrayal of Magneto), before it turned in to a mishmash mess.

    Although, I also can’t help but think of Alan Moore’s much more nuanced commentary on Claremont’s Magneto in the Heroes for Hunger one-shot.
    Magneto felt his new order was based on benevolence, only to find himself shocked to discover that his own “master race” propaganda had recreated the same Nazi nightmare that he felt he had been fighting to prevent.

  33. Thom H. says:

    It’s pretty obvious Morrison’s mood changed during the course of the book. New X-Men started with the promise that everything was going to be different now, and then ended with the disheartening message that nothing can ever really change.

    For some reason, I feel like that had something to do with Marvel editorial interference? But maybe it was 9/11 all along. Or both?

    In any case, maybe Magneto ended up beheaded because Morrison wad sick of the state of the world and/or the state of his working conditions.

  34. Chris V says:

    I didn’t get the message that Morrison was saying that nothing could ever change.
    Morrison upended then old message from X-Men starting with Chris Claremont, that mutants future was always going to lead to the Days of Future Past.
    Instead, Morrison turned Days of Future Past on its head, reversing the prior trope.

    Then, Morrison ended with a happy note by saying that with Jean staying dead and with Scott/Emma in charge of the school that the future had hope.

  35. Daniel says:

    Morrison said that “loved ones were dropping like flies” during his run which no doubt influenced his take on Magneto. And, as another poster said, Morrison had his own take on Magneto; he described him as a “mean old terrorist twat”, someone whose ideals and methods were tired and hopelessly out of date with those of the next generation of mutants. Even Charles, during their final confrontation, admitted that they were not the future and that it was time for them to “just listen for a while”.

    It’s an interesting take, but I’m not even sure lunatic Silver Age Magneto would have gone as far as sending humans off to the crematoriums.

  36. Daniel says:

    Also, Magneto did say he constructed the Feng Tu prison, for what that’s worth.

    There was some odd dialogue after he revealed himself to Charles. Magneto said something to the effect of, “a star for a brain. A Chinese prison. I almost thought it was too obvious.” I remember thinking, how the hell is that too obvious?

  37. Thom H. says:

    I remember that “obvious” line, too. And also thinking “huh?”

    As for nothing ever changing: the new voice of hope and peace in the X-Men (Xorn) ends up being a raving old man (Magneto) who is possessed by the embodiment of long-term resistance to change (Sublime). The mansion is destroyed again, New York City is trashed again, and Jean is dead again. Magneto dies, which returns him exactly to his (presumed) status quo before the whole mess started.

    The one thing that does seem to have changed is Scott and Jean’s relationship, as she gives it up in order to ensure a) Scott is happy with Emma and b) the future in which Sublime wins is sealed off and can’t come to pass.

    So I agree that New X-Men ends on a somewhat hopeful note — at least they won their fight with Sublime. But all of the ideals that are espoused at the beginning of the book are abandoned, and there’s basically nothing left to take their place. Except for a cynical former villain and a para-military combat leader reopening a school.

    Personal relationships may have changed, but the X-Men’s circumstances and methods remain exactly the same. Because superhero comics. Huge bummer.

    If I recall correctly, Morrison’s The Filth was also being published around this time. He did not seem to be in a good mood in the early 2000s.

  38. Chris V says:

    The ideals of the school still did change. It was open to both humans and mutants. The school didn’t revert to being Xavier’s secret para-military training centre in order to fight (operative word) for coexistence, somehow.

    It’s true that Morrison put his toys back in the box and that later writers just ignored Morrison’s promise for change.
    I would argue that Morrison’s run was more about endings than beginnings.
    However, the chance for change and hope was there at the end of Morrison’s run.

    The X-Men were no longer operating in secret. The school was supposed to now actually be about achieving Xavier’s dream, instead of just a base for superheroes. A better future had been opened by Morrison, but then Marvel decided that a return to “doom and gloom” was a better option.

  39. Thom H. says:

    I see your point, Chris V., and I certainly agree about the post-Morrison era. But we’re going to have to agree to disagree about the meaning of his run in general. When I look at it, I mostly see wasted potential. He went so far as to redefine Jean’s experience with the Phoenix force, just to take her off the board again. Ugh. Just thinking about Planet X makes me sad.

  40. Daniel says:

    What’s odd is that Wolverine killed Jean only for her to come back as Phoenix, who was powerful enough to pull them out of the freaking sun. Then a couple issues later Magneto kills her by giving her a stroke. I think she said something about not being able to come back this time as she was dying, and I remember thinking, why not? Is there a one resurrection per day limit?

    As cool as I thought Here Comes Tomorrow was, I feel that it didn’t really serve his run as a proper epilogue. His entire run explored new themes and takes on the C-Men and introduced several new characters. It ends with a completely isolated Wolverine / Cyclops / Fantomex story, then a story about Hitler Magneto going batshit, then a future epilogue. When we finally get back to the present, we just get Cyclops telling Emma, sure, let’s reopen, and also let’s make out. Very abrupt ending.

  41. Chris V says:

    I agree that “Planet X” is such a huge letdown.

    It would have been better to let Magneto stay dead, as Morrison in an interview said he was better that way anyway, especially considering he was already supposed to be dead after Genosha.
    Then, he could have used that penultimate story-arc to show some of that potential he seemed to be building towards in the first half of his run.
    Instead, Morrison felt the need for a meta-critique with Claremont, having to hit the “greatest hits” tropes (Magneto as arch-nemesis, Phoenix, a neo-“Days of Future Past”).

    If he was writing The Filth at the same time, perhaps he lost interest in X-Men around “Planet X”.

  42. Thom H. says:

    @Daniel: Totally agree. Morrison positioned the Phoenix as an amazing force for hope and progress only to send all of its hosts off to who-knows-where in the end.

    Oh, this unbelievably powerful entity that can do almost anything and transform human consciousness? It’s leaving now. Good luck rebuilding New York and getting everyone not to hate you! See you in 100 years!

    @Chris V: I like your idea that Morrison was responding to Claremont. In so many ways, New X-Men was about improving on Claremont-ian concepts. Which I think is why the tone of Planet X is so jarring.

    Are we really supposed to be rooting *against* Magneto when we grew up seeing him change and improve in the 80s/90s? *And* while he’s obviously being possessed by an evil, sentient spore? Where’s his redemption a la Jean or Emma or Scott? Such a downer way to end the main team’s story.

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    Wait, Cyber’s real name is Si Burr? Ugh, that’s 60s DC level cringe.

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    @Mark Coale: “presumably,Claudia Russell is an ancestor of Jack Russell aka Werewolf by Night.”

    Which, it has just occurred to me, is odd, because Jack was born Jacob Russov.

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