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Oct 11

The Incomplete Wolverine, part 9

Posted on Sunday, October 11, 2020 by Paul in Wolverine

Part 1: Origin to Origin II | Part 2: 1907 to 1914
Part 3: 1914 to 1939 | Part 4: World War II
Part 5: The postwar era | Part 6: Team X
Part 7: Post Team X | Part 8: Weapon X

When we left Logan, he’d just escaped from Weapon X and was blankly stumbling naked through a blizzard. Things can only go up from here!

“Hunger” by Karl Bollers & Stephen Segovia
May 2010

This anthology entry is the only full story to take place in the post-“Weapon X” wilderness period, though it’s still little more than a vignette. Still trailing wires, the befuddled Logan struggles to catch food. He stumbles upon a happy family in a log cabin and steps in to save them from a pack of wolves. Understandably, the family are terrified, and Logan leaves in silence. There’s a strong implication that Logan toys with eating the kid, but thinks better of it.

There are a few more flashbacks in this period:

  • Wolverine vol 2 #118 has a single panel of Logan hunting a stag.
  • In Wolverine vol 2 #34, Logan stumbles upon the legendary Hunter in Darkness creature, which is caught in a bear trap. He frees the creature and drags the trap away, in order to draw the hunters off its tail. By sheer coincidence, one of them is Doolin, who met him back in World War II! Mistaking him for the Hunter, Doolin shoots at Logan, who escapes anyway. This one is moderately important, since it sets up a storyline in the Larry Hama run.
  • In Wolverine vol 2 #92, Logan is living wild in the woods, and takes on some hunters who outrage him by not eating their prey.
  • In Daredevil vol 2 #54, Logan tells a story about meeting a Cheyenne Chief during this period – he isn’t given a name –  who remains calm and talks Logan down. (This wise old man is also a family friend of little Maya Lopez, the future Echo.) 

And then we get the big turning point, in a scene which is shown in flashback in Alpha Flight vol 1 #33, Alpha Flight #-1, Wolverine #-1 and X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, all building on a reference in X-Men vol 1 #140. Once again, Logan attacks two hunters – but this time it’s honeymooners James and Heather Hudson, who work for the Canadian government’s Department H. Heather shoots Logan in self-defence, but the Hudsons take him back to their cabin and tie him up. (X-Men #140 just says that Logan was found near death – the shooting is a later addition.) Unable to raise Department H by radio, James sets off to the nearest town to arrange an air ambulance, leaving poor Heather to babysit the murderously violent stranger. Predictably, Logan wakes up and escapes his bonds, but has a panic attack at the sight of his own claws and cowers on the floor. Heather comforts him.

This important flashback begins Logan’s time with Department H, which will span the entire Silver Age (though we still haven’t quite reached the Silver Age proper). But the flashback also invites a few questions. It’s an astonishing coincidence that the guy who retrieves Weapon X from the wilderness just so happens to be a scientist already working for a secret Canadian government body, who then sets Logan to work as the secret weapon he was always meant to be. How convenient.

Alpha Flight vol 1 #34 reveals that James was reading about adamantium bonding projects a year before he found Logan. It strongly implies that he knew about the Weapon X Project, and deliberately set out to find Logan. Wolverine: Origins also repeatedly suggests that Hudson’s family has a connection with Romulus. That said, I don’t think anyone’s ever been absolutely definitive about this. Maybe James just found out about Weapon X through his classified sources, and was trying to find him in order to offer help.

X-Men vol 1 #140 tells us that the Hudsons nurse Logan back to health and accept him into their family (which is a bit weird, considering the “family” is just their marriage). In Alpha Flight vol 1 #17, Logan makes some enigmatic comments about hating the world and hating himself at this point in his line, and says that the Hudsons’ love and support – especially Heather’s – is what brought him through it. Heather, for her part, views him as like a child. Logan doesn’t see the relationship in quite those terms. In Alpha Flight vol 1 #33, he says that he fell in love with her, and eventually left because he knew she would never leave James for him. This doesn’t really fit with any other account of the circumstances in which he joined the X-Men… but okay. As you might imagine, there are several stories which try to give Logan extra motivations for leaving Department H.

None of Logan’s relationship with the Hudsons during this period is covered explicitly in flashbacks. There’s a brief flashback in X-Men vol 1 #140, where Logan tells them that he’s always been dangerous, but his adamantium upgrade has changed everything, and he doesn’t like it. This scene no longer really works, considering all the adventures that have since been grafted into his past.

“A Whiff of Sartre’s Madeline!” by Larry Hama & Card Nord
July 1997

This is the Flashback Month issue, still set before the dawn of the Silver Age. It’s a bit of a mess.

In his first trip away from Department H, Logan travels to New York to speak to the inventor of adamantium, Myron Maclain, and see if he knows anything. (As tends to happen in this sort of story, Logan’s pilot for the trip is Ben Grimm – not yet the Thing – who contributes nothing to the plot.) Maclain does indeed know about a covert project which is trying to bond adamantium to skeletons. But before he can say much more, total chaos ensues as a whole bunch of people show up trying to get their hands on Logan: Victor Creed, a bunch of HYDRA gunmen (in what’s said to be their first open mission in North America), Nick Fury, Carol Danvers, and Natasha Romanova, who is now going by the name Black Widow.

Logan doesn’t recognise any of these people; we have to assume he gets his memories back later as his healing continues. But Creed recognises Logan, and is bemused by his lack of reaction. Nick Fury recognises him too. Unfortunately, Carol Danvers, who’s supposed to have known him for years per Shadow Society, shows no signs of having met him before. The problem is really her appearance in Shadow Society, but she’s too prominent in that story to be ignored. If you’re feeling charitable, maybe she’s been told something about his condition and she’s playing along here for some reason. As for Logan’s conversation with Myron Maclain, either he never goes back to finish it, or Maclain just didn’t know anything more. *shrug*

Following this, per [Uncanny] X-Men vol 1 #140 and #147, Logan officially joins the Canadian Secret Service. Alongside his work with Department H’s nascent superhero programme, he’s assigned to various dodgy black ops work, and comes to resent it. Wolverine: Origins naturally shows that Logan is also under the influence of Romulus for at least some of this period, either running side missions for him, or simply being given missions through the regular channels thanks to Romulus’ minions higher in the chain.

A flashback in Alpha Flight vol 1 #47 probably takes place here. It shows Logan with Heather and James when Heather’s parents Ramsey & Claire McNeil show up objecting to James’s bad influence on her; Logan threatens them with his claws and makes them go away. Heather’s narration describes Logan as “one of Mac’s dirty, dangerous government proteges” at this stage.

A brief flashback in Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #147 shows Logan – now in a Canadian military uniform – attacking James Hudson after being triggered by something or other. James calms Logan down and reminds him that he’s a rational man. (This is the exact opposite of how Romulus tries to mould Logan, which would support the theory that James isn’t simply a pawn of Romulus, even if he knows something about the conspiracy.)

Logan apologises, laments that he’s behaving in this way towards his beloved friends, and once again protests that he’s far too uncontrollable and dangerous to be used in the field. James insists that Logan just needs treatment for his mental health problems. Over time, we’re told, James does indeed help Logan to gain control of his berserker spells – they don’t stop, but they do become less frequent, and they don’t seem to interfere with his work.

As you’d imagine, there are reams of passing references about stuff Logan did while at Department H. A very much non-exhaustive list of things that aren’t even flashbacks:

  • According to Wolverine vol 1 #1, Logan runs a number of “dirty” missions (whatever that means) with Japanese spy Asano Kimura.
  • In Marvel Fanfare vol 1 #24, we’re told that Logan and Nick Fury had an encounter in Vladivostok, apparently on good terms, “just before [Fury] got tapped to take over SHIELD.”
  • Alpha Flight vol 1 #16-17 claim that Logan and Eugene Judd (later Puck) crossed paths on opposite sides several times during their spy career, including “that time in Maracaibo”, without actually meeting. Unfortunately, they’re supposed to be meeting for the first time in the main story, which is no longer possible – they meet on panel in Alpha Flight #-1, and the plot of Wolverine vol 2 #35-37 depends on them spending time together during the Spanish Civil War.
  • According to Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #228, Logan’s CIA liaison during this period is Henry Peter Gyrich, the government jobsworth from Avengers who’ll later show up on the fringes of the Sentinel programme.
  • In Marvel Comics Presents vol 1 #52, Logan mentions being patched up once or twice during this period by Dr Giloski, a “discreet” Ottawan physician.
  • In Alpha Flight vol 1 #87, Logan shares the vital information that while working at Department H, he enjoyed relaxing in Gatineau Park. Look, it was relevant to the plot of that issue, okay?
  • According to Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #261, Logan meets Harry “Hardcase” Malone, later the leader of the Harriers, at some point before joining the X-Men.
  • In Wolverine vol 2 #24, Logan mentions learning about the mutant assassin Snow Queen during his time as a Canadian agent.
  • In Wolverine vol 2 #25, Logan mentions spending some time in Tehran where he comes to owe a favour to someone who later becomes Madripoor crimelord “Morrow”. This isn’t expressly placed during the Department H period, but Morrow claims that when he knew Logan, he was a murderer who claimed to have principles, which seems to fit best in this phase.
  • According to Wolverine: First Class #7, Logan learns “a little something about nuclear incident protocol”.
  • According to Wolverine: First Class #14, at some point before joining the X-Men, Logan crosses paths for the first time with the assassin Elektra.
  • According to Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #154, Logan goes on several “pretty hairy capers” with Carol Danvers and her partner Colonel Mike Rossi, at which point Logan is in the Canadian Secret Service and Carol’s in US Air Force Intelligence. We’ll see one of them below, but there are apparently more. In Uncanny #237, Logan says that he and Carol used to be a team during this period, so apparently they worked together in a string of unpublished stories. In Wolverine vol 2 #133, he mentions breaking Carol out of a Moscow prison.
  • According to Marvel Graphic Novel #5 (“God Loves, Man Kills”), Logan stages a number of “accidents” to cover for assassinations during this period.
  • In Wolverine / Nick Fury: Scorpio Rising, Wolverine says that he learned Russian while working for Canadian intelligence.
  • In X-Men vol 2 #62, Logan reveals that he knew Clive Reston (a supporting character from Master of Kung Fu) during this period.
  • In X-Men vol 2 #70, Logan tells us that he learned about nanotech bombs during this period.
  • According to Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #362, Logan spends “some down time … with some Forest Service smoke jumpers”, and learns about fire fighting.
  • In X-Men Unlimited vol 2 #9, Logan mentions meeting Johnny, an American in the merchant marines, when “I wasn’t much more than a wild animal walking upright” – which presumably places it soon after leaving Weapon X.
  • In Black Panther vol 3 #42, Logan mentions encountering a CIA agent called Jeffrey Sutter who “worked that thing in Malaysia in 1993” (which was nine years earlier). 
  • In Daredevil vol 2 #54-55, Logan mentions that the Cheyenne Chief he met as an “animal” also “once put me on my own vision quest”. That can’t possibly happen before the Hudsons find him, so presumably he goes back to meet up with this guy during his Department H period. Logan also recounts a story called “Two Dogs Fighting” that the Chief told him.

There will doubtless be many, many more.

But back to the on-panel material. If it’s canon, the flashback in Wolverine: First Class #17 has to come very early in the Department H period (because a child in the flashback has to grown to adulthood by the main story). It shows Logan, as “Patch”, apparently killing Madripoor crimelord Mr Wong while his son Benjamin Wong watches. Logan claims that Mr Wong Sr was involved in particularly despicable crimes even by the standards of Madripoor crimelords, and has also “hurt friends of mine”. Both Wongs will return in the main story (which is dreadful, but that’s for another day).

In a flashback in Wolverine vol 2 #9, the US Embassy in Iraq is held hostage by a group of Iraqi mutants and some unnamed American mercenaries. With some Canadian nationals also in the embassy, Logan is sent to help. During the mission, he’s appalled by the mercenaries’ torture and abuse of their hostages, in particular a Canadian nun. He kills one of the mercenaries, and will keep returning over the years to go after the others. (All this is just the back story to a fill-in issue.)

The back-up strip in Alpha Flight vol 1 #3 has a one-panel cameo by Logan, out of costume, but referred to by the codename “Wolverine”.

And from here… things settle down a bit. There’s a lot less in the way of random short flashbacks, and a lot more actual stories.

“Vows” by Steve Seagle, Anthony Winn et al
July 1997

When a new Cosmic Ray Collector energy plant goes wrong, Logan and James Hudson are sent to help. Logan isn’t in costume yet; Hudson wears a very early version of his battlesuit to make his debut as Weapon Alpha. Eugene Judd (later Puck) also shows up to help – as does ageing Golden Age superhero Chinook, who promptly gets turned into a monster. The other three subdue him, and kind-of-sort-of become the core of Department H’s superhero project. At any rate, that’s the story that Seagle is trying to tell, but it doesn’t really fit with other stories about how Alpha Flight was assembled. Later, Logan attends James and Heather’s church wedding (the legal wedding was in a registry office before he met them).

by Larry Hama & Kaare Andrews
July to September 2000

This was one of a number of Before the Fantastic Four miniseries set before the FF got their powers, though only the Thing was forced to share space with a costar. On loan to the USA, Logan joins Ben Grimm and Carol Danvers on a mission to Russia, ostensibly to scout some mystery radio transmitters, but in reality to steal a special strongbox. And after assorted shenanigans, they do. It’s basically just a throwaway romp. (The strongbox contains Russia’s only stock of a rare metal which is vital to a military experiment, if you were wondering.)

It’s possible that this story was intended as an expansion of a throwaway line in Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #236, which mentions Logan smuggling Carol out of Russia once upon a time. Being a flashback story, there are some gratuitous cameos – not only does the Black Widow show up as a Soviet fighter pilot (??!!), but the heroes’ initial briefing is delivered by Nick Fury alongside weapons designer Tony Stark (who isn’t yet Iron Man).

With that, we reach a milestone in Marvel Universe history: the Fantastic Four debut. Of course, that was in 1961, and Wolverine doesn’t make his debut until 1974… so next time, it’s going to be Wolverine in the Silver Age.

Edited on 23 July 2021 to add Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #362, Wolverine vol 2 #133 and X-Men Unlimited vol 2 #9.

Edited on 10 October 2021 to add the flashback from Alpha Flight vol 1 #47 and the reference to Jeffrey Sutter.

Edited on 31 October 2021 to add the references to Daredevil vol 2 #54-55.

Bring on the comments

  1. Luis Dantas says:

    Alpha Flight Vol 1 #3 backup origin story does indeed say that Logan is codenamed Wolverine, but since it is an omniscient narrator saying so about a flashback panel, it is not clear that the codename applied to the time of that panel.

    The backups of issues #5-8 of the same series also establish that Heather’s parents had many other children (she is implied to be the eldest or at least among them) and confortable enough with parental duties to actually propose taking over the responsibility for raising ELizabeth (the future Talisman) from her recently widowed father Michael (not yet Shaman). We may interpret that as Heather having been given a solid example of extended families and often being in the role of elder sibling.

    The scene of Wolverine being scared by his own claws does not IMO age well, since later stories establish that so much time has passed between the adamantium implant and he being found by the Hudsons. I wonder if we can reinterpret it as being shocked by how poorly his instinctual reactions at this time fit with being among civilized, non-hostile people – or with being alone with a woman, even.

  2. Mark Coale says:

    I wonder if Logan falling for Heather is meant to show that he has a yhing for redheads, tying into / ffireshadowing the stuff w jean.

  3. Luis Dantas says:

    I am getting a bit of a Total Recall vibe from Wolverine’s story so far. The narrative is just too busy. I am having a particularly hard time trying to understand why Romulus would spend so many years and resources attempting to shape Wolverine into fulfilling what looks like a rather redundant role.

    Granted, he seems to be uninvolved in large segments of that period, but that only makes it slightly more puzzling that he keeps coming back to pointlessly making Wolverine into a slightly less willing and more inhuman version of Sabretooth and himself. Too much trouble for too little return, unless it turns out that Romulus is a particularly sick sadist that decided to make Wolverine is prime showcase. Maybe that has been established and I just don’t know.

  4. Chris V says:

    I don’t think Logan even cared about Romulus anymore.
    Romulus would show up and Logan would say, “Oh geez. Not him again. So annoying.”
    I can see Canadian Thanksgiving (known as Thanksgiving in Canada) at Wolverine’s house. Romulus is sitting at the table when Logan shows up with a turkey.
    “Oh no. Who would invite him?”.

    “Don’t you want to know what evil part of my plan I am here for, Logan?”
    “No. No. I really don’t care anymore. This has just gotten really stupid.”

    Then he reveals that there is a prophecy about the Alpha male wolf pack leader who will always fall in love with the red-headed woman. It’s been going on since 1 million B.C.

    “Look, how many times do I have to explain to you that a wolverine is not a canine. Neither is a sabretooth, for that matter, which is a feline. Besides which, I have never been an actual wolverine. It’s just a codename.”

  5. Walter Lawson says:

    I don’t have the books in front of me but I always got a very sex-in-the-‘70s impression from the way Wolverine’s time with Heather and Mac was described, as if Claremont was hinting at a ménage-a-trois but obviously couldn’t say it in a Code book. Claremont’s brief description of Xavier’s time on the island of Kirinos after his breakup with Moira has always seemed similarly suggestive, but maybe my mind is in the gutter.

  6. Daniel says:

    Could totally see that with Xavier, he was a hound.

  7. Tom Shapira says:

    Re-Before the Fantastic Four:
    Wolverine was a member of ‘The New Fantastic Four’ (alongside Hulk, Ghost Rider and Spider-man), so I guess technically both main characters fit the banner.

  8. Nu-D says:

    Wolverine was a member of ‘The New Fantastic Four’ (alongside Hulk, Ghost Rider and Spider-man)

    It never ceases to amaze me how much of an impression that two-issue story made on people. It wasn’t anything more than a routine story, yet fans often refer back to it as though it was some seminal moment where the FF were replaced by a whole new team. Don’t get me wrong, I remember being excited to buy it (based on the cover) and I wasn’t a FF reader. But as stories go, it seems to occupy an outsized space in our collective memory.

  9. neutrino says:

    Is the “What are people saying?” function disabled?

  10. The original Matt says:

    Random question…

    When was the first time the actual words “Weapon X” appeared on the page in terms of publication?

    (While I’ve been following and enjoying this blog series, I can’t recall if this has been mentioned.)

  11. Nu-D says:

    I haven’t looked back, but I’m pretty sure the “Weapon X” term was used as far back as the introduction of Alpha Flight, in the first 1-2 years of Claremont’s run.

  12. Nu-D says:

    Confirmed. In Uncanny #109, John Byrne’s first issue, Jim Hudson calls himself “ Weapon Alpha“, and calls Logan “Weapon X.” Not sure if it goes back to GSXM #1.

  13. Daniel says:

    Wolverine is referred to as “Weapon X” in the buildup to his introduction in Incredible Hulk #180.

  14. Luis Dantas says:

    That reminds me… the second appearance of James Hudson, and the first of Alpha Flight, was in Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1 #120.

    IIRC the very first panel has Pierre Trudeau talk with the then-Vindicator about “Weapon X, that you call Wolverine”. Jimmy would have heard the name from other X-Men in #109 if nowhere else, but I think that the name was already established before his second appearance, even if only off-panel.

    Was Logan called Wolverine in Hulk #180? I am positive that Professor X called him by that name in Giant Size X-Men #1.

  15. Nu-D says:

    He was called The Wolverine in GSXM #1 by the narrator, but in the recruiting scene the Canadian officials called him Weapon X.

  16. Paul says:

    As others have said, the name “Weapon X” dates back to Wolverine’s first appearance in Incredible Hulk #180 – he only appears in the last panel, but the Canadian military call him “Weapon X” earlier in the issue (and the narrator uses the term too).

    Originally it was an alternative codename used by Department H. I don’t think it gets attached to the people who gave Wolverine his skeleton until Barry Windsor-Smith’s “Weapon X” story. In the story itself, the scientists refer to him as “Experiment X” at first, but they do start calling him Weapon X by issue #77.

    This creates an implication that Department H know something about the adamantium skeleton (and Wolverine doesn’t realise they’re reusing the name), but that’s a connection that other stories have drawn anyway.

  17. Si says:

    @Walter Lawson

    I can just imagine the Hudsons reminiscing, “Hey remember the time I shot that homeless guy and we ended up having a threesome?”
    “Oh yeah that was hot. To be honest I think about it every time I see a dirty hermit have a psychotic break in my house.”

    It’s definitely within Claremont’s kinks to have had that in mind.

  18. ASV says:

    I wonder if part of the New FF thing is that it’s a relatively rare Art Adams interior art story (putting aside that it’s a fun story in the midst of Walt Simonson’s short but great FF run).

  19. Luis Dantas says:

    It was a surprise, that is for certain. And it had great storytelling, particularly for the time period. Wolverine taking the elevator still brings a smile to me. Reed and Ghost Rider were also written very well. And it had lots of promissing hints for future stories, such as the connection among deviants, skrulls and the monsters of Monsters’ Island.

  20. […] still happening? Cha-boi Wolverine’s journey through time and space and participation in any historical event that was of import in the last century or so, including […]

  21. Daibhid C says:

    Another thing I’d say about the “All New FF” is that the central joke actually worked as a joke. Too often, when the Big Two say “Haha, here’s a parody of a thing we do the fans find annoying” (in this case pushing their most popular characters into everything), it comes across as “We’re doing the thing, but we’re saying it’s a parody so that’s okay”.

    But by first making the gag as clear as possible (“World’s Most Commercial Comics Magazine”) and then not relying on it in text, but actually telling a proper story based on that premise, it works.

  22. […] | Part 4: World War IIPart 5: The postwar era | Part 6: Team XPart 7: Post Team X | Part 8: Weapon XPart 9: Department H | Part 10: The Silver Age1974-1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | […]

  23. […] Part 4: World War II Part 5: The postwar era | Part 6: Team XPart 7: Post Team X | Part 8: Weapon X Part 9: Department H | Part 10: The Silver Age1974-1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | […]

  24. […] 4: World War II Part 5: The postwar era | Part 6: Team X Part 7: Post Team X | Part 8: Weapon X Part 9: Department H | Part 10: The Silver Age 1974-1975  1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | […]

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