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Sep 6

iWolverine 2020

Posted on Sunday, September 6, 2020 by Paul in reviews

iWOLVERINE 2020 #1-2
Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: Roland Boschi
Colourist: Andres Mossa
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Editor: Darren Shan

There’s no point being a completist if you’re not going to be a completist. So… iWolverine 2020. Or at least, that’s what the logo says. The Comixology listing says it’s called 2020 iWolverine. And the event checklist says it’s just called iWolverine (though on every other book, it agrees that the “2020” comes at the end). Let’s go with what it says on the cover, and resign ourselves to the fact that when this thing finally appears on Marvel Unlimited, nobody will ever be able to find it.

It’s a curious commission. It’s part of the Iron Man 2020 event, which basically consists of six issues of Iron Man plus a bunch of tie-in issues. The broad plot of the event involves artificial intelligences around the world rising up in a rebellion against the humans who want to use them as simple tools. But unless I’m missing something, iWolverine 2020 has nothing to do with that storyline whatsoever. There’s a passing mention of the fact that Albert and Elsie-Dee are technically Donald Pierce’s property, but it’s really a red-skies crossover. This story would have worked just as well whether or not the rest of the crossover existed.

Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Not many comics really benefit from being nailed onto the side of a crossover event. So if it’s not really an Iron Man 2020 tie-in, what is it? At root, it’s really just a chance for Larry Hama to reprise his 1990s Wolverine run by revisiting Albert and Elsie-Dee, the dodgy robot duplicate of Wolverine and his over-the-top, saccharine, little-girl robot partner.

And the Larry Hama run is absolutely worth revisiting. It tails off towards the end, but there’s a good solid run of years in there, particularly with Marc Silvestri, that made Hama the first writer other than Chris Claremont to really leave his mark on the character – partly in the voice he gave the character, but also in giving him a mythos of supporting characters and ideas to call his own. Part of that let to convoluted revelations about Wolverine’s past, but part of it was just about having fun with weird concepts like this – two robots who were intended by Donald Pierce to sucker Logan in and blow him up, but who were accidentally made clever enough to break their programming and go their own way.

They’re an outrageously silly idea, and Elsie-Dee in particular could easily have been insufferable, but they worked – not least because they had strong personalities underneath their gimmicks. Mind you, Elsie-Dee was always the lead, so building a two-issue mini around Albert is a challenge.

Hama has no obvious agenda here beyond delivering a romp around the streets of Madripoor. In the first issue, Albert shows up in Madripoor, looking for the missing Elsie-Dee. (This isn’t a new plot – he was doing the same thing in the Hunt for Wolverine minis. Perhaps this mini was originally meant to tie in to something else.) Naturally, he gets mistaken for Patch, and so some of the more obscure baddies set out after him.

The first issue is all about rescuing Elsie’s component parts and reassembling her, while getting the various bad guys in place to chase her. And the second issue is… pretty much an issue long fight scene as the two robots get to the airport and escape. And that’s basically the whole thing.

It’s not subtle. It’s the sort of book where a robot copy of Wolverine throws a little girl with a chainsaw at gaudy mobsters. There’s a monkey with a sword, and it doesn’t even seem to be Hit-Monkey. It’s not a comic about big ideas. Honestly, it’s barely about anything, beyond “weren’t these two a fun concept?”

And they are, even if that would have played better in the fringes of a stronger story. They’re characters who remind us not to take Wolverine too seriously, and stop his book veering too far into grimdark; they can’t really serve that function in their own story, and they were never designed to bear the weight of playing the lead. But they are fun, certainly for those of us who enjoyed their stories the first time round.

It’s a very good looking comic, as well. Boschi’s art is suitably bold and angular, but also does an impressive job of selling the car-chase set pieces, which can often be a struggle. There’s some lovely pink neon-style colouring that sets the mood of nighttime Madripoor very neatly. The hordes of mobsters have quirkily memorable character designs that help the bit players stand out. And there’s a nicely escalating sense of chaos to the second issue.

If there’s an issue with the art, it’s that Boschi doesn’t particularly do cute, which is kind of Elsie-Dee’s thing. The redesign to get rid of her frilly pink dress and replace it with anime schoolwear is a good idea – the dress was always pushing it, and it’s a dated reference point now. But she looks a little bit too hard. And she should act hard, but she shouldn’t look it – that’s her whole thing.

The book ends on an anticlimax, too, since it can’t quite get away from the fact that the story wasn’t really about anything much. If the characters were being reintroduced with a view to using them somewhere else, that wouldn’t be much of a problem, but otherwise it feels weak.

But I enjoyed it. It’s silly, it hits the tone it’s going for, and it’s a fun piece of nostalgia for those of us who read Albert and Elsie-Dee’s stories the first time round.

Bring on the comments

  1. SanityOrMadness says:

    The first thing that leaps to mind about Albert & Elsie-Dee is how they were last seen in Hama’s run searching for Wolverine and just… completely disappearing, notwithstanding a tag set in an alternate future.

    Wonder what happened there for the plot just to get cut off like that.

  2. Luis Dantas says:

    What was Elsie’s pink dress referencing?

  3. Paul says:

    Nothing specific – it’s just a generic, slightly over the top “cute little girl” design that’s now a quarter century out of date.

  4. The Other Michael says:

    This was entertainingly pointless.

    Iron Man 2020, like Empyre, really suffered bigtime from the delays and whatnot caused by the pandemic, to the point where as an event, it pretty much fizzled, and will undoubtedly be regarded, down the road in a pair of trade paperbacks (one for the main series, one for the tie-ins) as a thing which happened to capstone the previous Iron Man run. Which is a shame, but that’s life. None of the tie-in minis were all that essential, of course.

    It’s a shame that 2020 really fucked over so many storylines and series, including this one.

  5. Ben says:

    Catching up on comics from the past couple weeks.

    I highly recommend the last issue of Deadpool. Not only is it a good read, he goes to Krakoa and calls the X-Men out a bit on their shitty superiority complex.

    Also, Jeff is adorable.

  6. sagatwarrior says:

    Just a little reminder of how comics used to be, where it could blend fun and pleasure with a little darkness and edge every once and awhile. No one has to wonder will this offend someone or if everything is checked off.

  7. Ben says:

    “The good old days, when you could have a creepy little girl robot and not have to worry about all the minorities complaining.”

    Fuck you buddy!

  8. Josie says:

    Hey sagatwarrior, if politics in comics offends you so much, wait until you find out what the X-Men are a metaphor for.

  9. SanityOrMadness says:

    And it’s not as if Stan ran a race-hate group story in Avengers in 1966 or anything…

  10. Josie says:

    The Hate-Monger in FF #21 (1963), whose costume is basically a Klan hood, was literally Hitler.

  11. Chris V says:

    It’s true. Stan Lee didn’t let worry that the story would offend someone stop him.
    Lee was worried that some of his stories would offend readers in the southern US, yet he still published those stories.

  12. Chris says:

    Chris V got sagatwarrior’s intended point better than the people who called him a racist, or accused him of hating “POLITICS in comics”, methinks

  13. Chris V says:

    I don’t know.
    Hama’s Wolverine was one of the least offensive comics I can think of though, so it’s easy to not offend anyone.

  14. Chris V says:

    Another thing to remember is that Jim Shooter decided to not allow Hydra to really be used anymore during the 1980s, because a couple of parents wrote to Marvel complaining that they didn’t want to have to explain to their kids what Nazis were.
    We didn’t really see Hydra used again until the Nick Fury series got relaunched after Shooter had left Marvel.

    I suppose we could bring up Lee wanting Englehart to issue an apology and retraction to the awesome Sise-Neg story-arc in 1970s Dr. Strange, because Lee was worried it would upset Christian readers.
    Englehart and Starlin decided to write a long letter praising the theological arguments in the story and sent it to Lee signed by a fictitious priest. That made Lee change his mind.

  15. Josie says:

    Chris (not Chris V), you think the issue isn’t the inclusion of politics but rather ignoring political correctness? I mean, have you heard of the Comics Code? The thing that Marvel and DC adhered to for decades that prevented their material from explicitly exploring any real political issues head-on?

  16. Dimitri says:

    I’m pretty sure Chris said nothing of the sort.

  17. Andrew says:

    Larry Hama’s Wolverine Run is pretty good for the first several years. His Weapon X follow-up, plus Mariko’s death, both during the Silvestri run are fantastic.

    It’s such a shame that his last year or two on the book included the awful feral Wolverine story and a bunch of other absolute crap that came from editorial mandate, plus constantly having his book dragged into the various line-wide crossovers.

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