RSS Feed
Oct 25

The Incomplete Wolverine, part 10

Posted on Sunday, October 25, 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
Part 9: Department H

We’ve reached the Silver Age. Not that Wolverine’s going to interact all that closely with the major tropes – he spends this period in Department H, and few writers have felt tempted to send Wolverine to mess around with mainstream Silver Age stories. But there are exceptions.

FURY vol 1 #1
by Barry Dutter & M C Wyman
May 1994

Take this one-shot about the origins of SHIELD. The Silver Age heroes are active by this point. Logan guest stars in one chapter, teaming with CIA Colonel Rick Stoner to recover James Hudson’s stolen prototype armour from HYDRA. The incident prompts the formation of SHIELD, with Stoner as its short-lived initial Director, but Logan’s not involved in any of that.

by David Lapham, David Aja & Bettie Breitweiser
September 2011

Logan travels to Japan to help his old friend Superintendent General Kenichi Nakadai protect witnesses in the prosecution of Yakuza boss Hiroshi Murata. But by the time Logan arrives, Nakadai has been murdered by Murata’s men. It turns out that Murata’s men were actually trying to kill Nakadai’s son Kanaye, to cover up the fact that Kanaye had sold Nakadai’s old plans for kamikaze robots to the Yakuza in order to pay his gambling debts. Eventually Kanaye is killed by the robots. It’s much better than that makes it sound – this a David Lapham and David Aja story, after all, so it’s a solid affair that spins the tale out and somehow blends the sci-fi stuff to feel coherent with what’s basically a crime plot.

This is, er, a chronologically ambiguous story – the Wolverine Index has it in the modern age, but the 80s hairstyles and the presence of a character who fought as an adult in World War II seem to point to a much earlier placement. On the other hand, Nick Fury is in charge of SHIELD, so it can’t go any earlier than this. 

“Kingdom of No”
by Fred Van Lente & Gurihiru
May 2009

A surprisingly obscure comic, considering Marvel gave it away for free. It’s not on Unlimited, and when I first posted this article, it was almost impossible even to find a review of the thing, or even a summary beyond a short entry in the Wolverine Index. It has, however, recently been reprinted as part of the Marvel-Verse: Deadpool & Wolverine collection – an interesting place for it, because of the rest of the collection consists of reprints from the non-canon Marvel Adventures line.

If it’s canon – and the Index says it is – then this is Logan’s chronologically earliest appearance in superhero costume as Wolverine. He’s sent to deal with a cybernetic infestation overrunning a small town, which turns out to be the creation of a semi-conscious Madison Jeffries (later Box, and later still a member of X-Club). Wolverine recruits him into Department H. There’s an epilogue that’s supposed to lead directly into Wolverine’s debut in Incredible Hulk #180, but it’s manifestly impossible for Wolverine to go straight from his first costumed appearance into his first published appearances, because of … well, most of the stories listed below. If you squint a bit, though, it’s just about possible to take the final page as a separate scene set years later, which is how Marvel Index deals with it. The alternative is just to disqualify the thing as non-canon, which seems to be Marvel’s implication in publishing it in a Marvel Adventures collection.

The official chronologies have this story rather earlier, but if you’re willing to mess with the story enough to accommodate it in canon, there’s no obvious reason why it has to be Wolverine’s first Department H mission altogether, as opposed to his first costumed mission as the superhero Wolverine. I’ve dragged it forward to come after any earlier stories where you might have expected him to be in his costume, if he had it.

Flashbacks and references in WOLVERINE vol 2 #119-122
“Not Dead Yet”
by Warren Ellis & Leinil Francis Yu
December 1997 to March 1998

This is set nearly ten years before the publication era (which means early Silver Age). Spending three months in Hong Kong for a conference of the world’s top hitmen, Logan hangs out with acclaimed Scottish hitman McLeish. Over a series of drinks, Logan talks about his berserker rages, and McLeish contrasts himself as a classy, restrained killer. Meanwhile, Logan dates local girl Wong Ai-Chia. McLeish kills her father on behalf of the Triads, and Logan seemingly kills McLeish in revenge (though naturally he returns in the present day). When Ai-Chia asks Logan why he was hanging out with this serial killer, Logan concedes that he felt they had a lot in common, but offers a weak justification that he did kill McLeish in the end. That goes down about as well as you’d expect. Elsewhere in the story, Logan also suggests that he pitied McLeish (and by extension himself). It’s not an important story in terms of wider consequences, but it’s quite a good one.

“High Tide”
by James C Owsley & Mark Bright
February 1987

Despite Logan’s warnings, his “best friend”, a freelance agent called Charlemagne, accepts an assignment from the KGB. When they betray her, he travels to East Berlin to rescue her. He fights the KGB (in costume as Wolverine), but she escapes and disappears until the present day. Charlemagne’s gender is meant to be a plot twist, and the euphemestic “best friend” seems to be an awkward attempt to avoid spoiling it.

This is a tricky story for modern continuity, because both the flashback and the main story hinge on the Berlin Wall, which hasn’t existed for thirty years. On the other hand, it’s too important to Spider-Man continuity to simply ignore, because it killed off supporting character Ned Leeds. So presumably this story still happened in modern continuity, but in some massively modified form brought about by sliding time. Writer James Owsley is better known today for his work under his later name of Christopher Priest.

Flashbacks in ALPHA FLIGHT vol 1 #52-53
“Friends in High Places”
by Bill Mantlo, Jim Lee & Whilce Portacio
by Bill Mantlo, June Brigman & Whilce Portacio
November/December 1987

Funding for Department H is at risk unless James Hudson finds some superhumans soon. So he decides to create some. Predictably, Hudson’s experiments on convicted murderer William Nowlan go wrong, and turn him into Bedlam. Wolverine has to rescue Hudson from his creation. In the main story, Wolverine claims that this project was yet another of the things that ultimately drove him to leave Alpha Flight.

by Joe Casey & Stephen Platt
October 1999

“Not long ago”. Wolverine captures D’von Kray, a rampaging time-traveller from the far future who has been driven temporarily mad by a flaw in his time travel process. On gathering his senses, Kray escapes Department H and goes back to his original mission, which was to seek revenge on Cable (Nathan Summers, also newly arrived in this time period). Wolverine pursues Kray to New York and teams up with Cable to defeat him.

This ties up a loose end about how the two first met, but it holds little other interest.

“Birth of a Weapon”
by Chris Yost & Mark Texeira
April 2009

We’ve had several flashbacks from this issue, but we’ve finally caught up with the main narrative. (There’s one more flashback, actually – a single panel of Logan on a black ops mission, killing everyone in a lab – but it fits in happily in this slot too.)

Department H send Wolverine on a mission to deal with some sort of monstrous creature, but ultimately he refuses to kill it. Department H head Major Chasen (mis-spelled “Chasin”), shows up to yell at him about it. Later, the Hudsons invite Wolverine to meet some of the recruits for Alpha Flight, which is to be his team. The basic idea is that the Hudsons (or at least Heather) don’t know that Wolverine is also doing black ops missions alongside his superhero work, and that Heather is getting worried about the frequent, unexplained absences that result from those missions.

In a flashback in X-Men vol 3 #14, Magneto uses a stolen Cerebro to address mutants around the world; Wolverine cameos as one of the many mutants who receive the message.

In a flashback in Wolverine vol 4 #13, Logan singlehandedly defeats several Hand ninja. The survivors go home and commit ritual suicide; one of their daughters will go on to fight Logan herself as a Hand ninja, and eventually she winds up in the Red Right Hand. (Remember them? It’s been a while.)

“First Flight”
by Scott Lobdell, Simon Furman, Pat Broderick & Bruce Patterson
June 1992

If nothing else, this adds a lot of names to the list of people Wolverine has met.

Wolverine is now helping to train potential Alpha Flight members, including Snowbird (Narya), Saint Elmo, Smart Alec (Alec Thorne), Groundhog (Sean Bernard) and Stitch. The prototype Alpha Flight, simply called the Flight, go into action for the first time in order to save New York from being nuked by authentic Silver Age villains Egghead (Elihas Starr) and his Emissaries of Evil: the Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne), Power Man (Erik Josten), Solarr (Silas King), the Rhino (Alexei Sytsevich), the Eel (Leopold Stryke) and the Porcupine (Alexander Gentry). The Flight win, but Saint Elmo is killed in action, and Groundhog quits. Walter Langkowski and Michael Twoyoungmen (later Sasquatch and Shaman) are also working for Department H by this point, but neither has become a member of the team.

In a flashback in Marvel Comics Presents vol 1 #51, Wolverine trains alongside Wild Child (Kyle Gibney), who has become one of the junior trainees in Gamma Flight. Wild Child won’t take advice or direction. To similar effect, in a flashback in the back-up strip in Alpha Flight vol 1 #127, Wolverine has to restrain Wild Child after he attacks Stitch. Wolverine argues with Hudson about whether Wild Child should be kicked off the team. A recurring theme in Wolverine’s limited dealings with Wild Child is that Wolverine writes him off as completely untameable, without ever quite being able to explain to anyone else’s satisfaction what makes Kyle different from him.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #9
“Promises to Keep”
by Peter David & Gene Colan
July 1989

This is a fill-in issue set before Wolverine joined the X-Men (with a very token present-day framing sequence). Wolverine tracks down and kills the mercenaries whom he met at the Iraqi embassy incident five years previously. Before killing the last one, he explains that he’s taking revenge on behalf of the nun that they tormented. In Wolverine’s eyes, the worst thing they did was to destroy her spirit so that she had no more forgiveness for them.

In flashback in Marvel Graphic Novel: Wolverine / Nick Fury: Scorpio Connection, Wolverine is rescued from assassins by Australian secret agent David Nanjiwarra. He advises David to join SHIELD.

“A Stranger in my Mirror”
by John Byrne
April 1984

This is a back-up strip. Apparently by pure coincidence, Logan stumbles upon Jeanne-Marie Beaubier fighting off some muggers. He rescues her, realises that she has powers, and invites her back to Department H. She’ll go on to become Aurora and join Alpha Flight.

Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #228 has a single panel flashback of Wolverine fighting the mutant KGB assassin Vladimir Zaitsev.

X-Men Unlimited vol 2 #9 has a flashback in which Logan is out drinking with his friend Johnny and they get into an argument with some people about an allegedly fixed boxing match. Despite knowing about Logan’s powers, Johnny takes a bullet for him, and is injured for life. Placement of this scene is tricky, and the Chronology Project has it miles later. Logan does mention discussing his superhuman activities with Johnny, and he has his adamantium claws, but he also says that Johnny was trying to save his life “at a time when it wasn’t exactly worth saving.” I’m going to stick it here, at the very tail end of Romulus’ influence, which is as good as anything.

by Fred Van Lente & Clayton Henry
June 2008

Wolverine, Aurora, Snowbird and Michael Twoyoungmen – now Shaman – rescue the Governor General of Canada (and other less important hostages) from a group of villains led by Citadel. Citadel and his men turn out to be wounded Canadian soldiers who had adamantium grafted onto their bodies against their will by Canadian government scientists. Understandably, Wolverine wants to compare notes with Citadel about how he got his own adamantium, but Citadel is carted away before he can talk. You guessed it – this is yet another story that claims to be revealing the real reason that Wolverine quit Alpha Flight.

Flashbacks in WOLVERINE vol 2 #144
“First Cut!”
by Erik Larsen, Eric Stephenson, Mike Miller & Vince Russell
November 1999

This flashback opens with what’s obviously meant to be Wolverine getting his costume for the first time, but given what it leads into, that doesn’t work; if you squint a bit, maybe he’s just getting a replacement costume.

Anyway, Wolverine is sent to deal with some low-rent terrorists who’ve kidnapped the Minister of Defense’s daughter. But in mid-fight, he’s teleported away by the Leader (Samuel Sterns), who has also captured Hercules and the Deviant Karkas, and plans to use all them all against the Hulk. But they escape before that can go anywhere. Wolverine makes it back to Canada just as everyone is panicking about his absence… because they need him to fight the Hulk.

Next time, welcome to 1974, and Wolverine’s debut.

Edited on 12 November 2020 to revise the entry for Free Comic Book Day 2009: Wolverine.

Edited on 23 July 2021 to add the flashback from X-Men Unlimited #9.

Edited on 18 December 2021 to add Debt of Death.

Bring on the comments

  1. Omar Karindu says:

    Of all the retrofits to Wolverine over the years, the idea tat he had a kind of pseudo-superhero career prior to being int he X-Men — one in which he encounters many Marvel mainstay types and genre-typical supervillains — is maybe the weirdest one.

    There’s perhaps some mileage in showing how different Wolverine is from the kinds of costumed heroes of those past decades, but adding to his backstory just makes it sillier when we get to all the “contemporary” non-flashback stories where the gap is played up.

    In particular, it really undermines the way Wolverine was played for nearly the first ten years of his actual appearances, where he’s the guy who has to adjust to the way the X-Men do things, even as the X-Men’s world gets grimmer and direr and Wolverine’s methods start to make more sense to his teammates.

    But when you add in that he was running around tangling with the Leader and Egghead and the Porcupine for years before he joined the X-Men, those stories get harder to justify. It starts to seem more like Wolverine should’ve been pretty practiced at dealing with conventions superheroics, or at least at getting around more conventional types like Claremont-era Cyclops.

    It’s no accident that Wolverine continuity inserts work best when they either keep him in low-key, non-costumed action in a pulpy or conspiracy-thriller vein.

    More broadly, all of this makes me realize what a truly weird character Wolverine has become, a character with so many pasts and so many clashing genres bolted on to him that what he does or thinks in any given story seems essentially arbitrary.

  2. Luis Dantas says:

    @Omar Karindu: I would say so. One of the reasons why I don’t get Wolverine is precisely how arbitrary he is.

    I don’t think that is a recent development, though. I suspect that much of his popularity derives in some way precisely of how hollow a character he is, and how tender to a wide variety of projections from readership he has become.

  3. Luis Dantas says:

    Wolverine Vol. 2 #144 does not fit well with the Leader’s continuity either.

    His recovery from the paralysis and the explosion of Kurrgo’s ship in 1973’s Marvel Feature #11 was explained in some detail in Incredible Hulk #224-225 (1978) in a way that can’t really be reconciled with Erik Larsen’s retcon.

  4. Luis Dantas says:

    The Alpha Flight Special also offers significant continuity challenges.

    It seems to happen at a time when the Fantastic Four were not particularly well known.

    Yet it features the Porcupine, whose first appearance was also its origin, published in late 1963 (same cover date as Fantastic Four #19), which is pushing it significantly. Then there is the Rhino, from 1966.

    Solarr is even more difficult to explain. His first appearance was in 1973’s Captain America #160, same cover date as Fantastic Four #133. It is not a full contradiction to have his origin (told in flashback) happen years previously and have him participate in this pre-Alpha Flight story in the meantime, but it is a very noticeable continuity implant.

  5. CHRISTOPHER J says:

    This week’s Daredevil mentioned the plot of Spider-Man versus Wolverine, so it’s still considered in-continuity. For me it was an important book, I got it as a back issue after reading comics for about a year. It was expensive and had adult themes. Still have fond memories of it.

  6. Allan M says:

    Of course Spider-Man vs. Wolverine is still in continuity! Who among us does not remember the fall of the Sin-Cong Wall?

  7. Si says:

    It warms my heart that it isn’t until part 11 of this thing that his actual first appearance comes around. It says it all really.

  8. Luis Dantas says:

    Yeah, that is some measure of having a mysterious past. Or at least an often revisited one.

  9. Zoomy says:

    It’s an unavoidable law of nature that flashback stories will make a mess of minor characters’ continuity. “Let’s throw in some silver age bad guys, like Porcupine and Eel, I always liked them!” Untangling Wolverine’s history is a piece of cake compared to characters like that!

    It affects minor heroes too. Gamma Flight (Jeffries, Smart Alec, Diamond Lil and Wild Child) are first seen in Alpha Flight #1 (set after X-Men #140), and James Hudson thinks of them as “raw recruits, I barely even know them”. The flashbacks documented in this post show that three of them had been around Department H and Wolverine long before that point! 🙂

  10. Luis Dantas says:

    It affects them, but only as an artifact from all the retrofitting going on around Wolverine. There was never much of any intent of building their past specifically.

    Come to think of it, this is a bit of an issue with Puck. A line about a Brass Bishop in one of Byrne’s issues of Alpha Flight was developed independently twice in different ways.

    I guess I should accept that characters with mysterious pasts in corporate-owned companies are bound to develop continuity problems, which is pretty much what you just said.

    There is also the matter of excessive expectation. I stand reminded of a bit of retroactive continuity where Firestar was foretold to eventually become a member of a group that would make a difference for the whole world. Time of publication made it clear that this was meant to be the New Warriors, who IMO easily qualify. But when she joined Kurt Busiek’s Avengers people kept expecting “fulfillment” of that prophecy even while they readily admitted that it was never meant to point out to anything but the New Warriors.

    That may apply to Wolverine as well. So many people have held so many expectations for so many decades about his origins and past, not necessarily in ways that could be satisfied at the same time, that it may be inevitable to leave many unsatisfied and hoping for a revisitation that sets things right. But that very action will make the backstory more complicated and potentially more contradictory and controversial, compounding the problem.

    If I have a point here, it probably is that comics are at their best when faced as source of entertainment focused at the here and now. There isn’t really any way of building up a backstory (or a future story) that won’t eventually disappoint.

  11. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    ‘There isn’t really any way of building up a […] future story […] that won’t eventually disappoint.’

    Don’t say that, I’m sure Dan Slott will make The Reckoning War happen anytime now!

  12. Thom H. says:

    I, for one, am looking forward to the Smart Alec miniseries that fills in his continuity between the Alpha Flight Special and Alpha Flight #1. Four issues of an annoying guy in tweed eating lunch. Because you demanded it!

    Also, if you create a hundred-year gap in a popular character’s past and hand it to a dozen work-for-hire writers, you’re going to get a crazy quilt of a back story. Fun to look at until it gives you a headache.

  13. Zoomy says:

    As a general rule, I think Simon Furman’s awesome and Steve Seagle pretty terrible, but the Brass Bishop stories are an exception. The first one, by Furman, was so lame that you can understand Seagle ignoring it completely to produce the only issue of his Alpha Flight I really liked!

    Also, I’d buy that Smart Alec series – there’s great potential in a story about a guy who’s hopeless as a superhero but nonetheless thinks he’s better than everyone else. Just so long as the writer didn’t treat it as a comedy…

  14. SanityOrMadness says:

    Luis Dantas> Wolverine Vol. 2 #144 does not fit well with the Leader’s continuity either. His recovery from the paralysis and the explosion of Kurrgo’s ship in 1973’s Marvel Feature #11 was explained in some detail in Incredible Hulk #224-225 (1978) in a way that can’t really be reconciled with Erik Larsen’s retcon.

    Wasn’t that one of the cases Al Ewing retconned into an actual death for the Leader in Immortal Hulk #34, and that he was just in denial about the whole death/rebirth thing at the time?

  15. Luis Dantas says:


    The actual panels skip over that whole period of time, but Immortal Hulk #34 certainly allows for such a reading.

    And it is canon that the Leader was left for dead very often. Never before we had a proper explanation for how he survived several of the apparent deaths shown in that story.

  16. SanityOrMadness says:

    The “important” thing about FCBD09: Wolverine is that it’s another story that tries to lead directly into Hulk #180.

  17. Chris says:

    It’s a lot simpler if just imagine that Apocalypse is behind Weapon X in association with the Canadian government.

  18. Paul says:

    The official chronologies have the final page of FCBD09: Wolverine as an epilogue which is separated from the rest of the issue (because, obviously, the alternative is to declare the whole thing non-canon).

  19. SanityOrMadness says:

    I figgered, but still.

    There’s also an “is this meant to be amusing?” part where Mac repeatedly calls him “Weapon X” while saying they don’t know who gave him the adamantium. I mean, strictly, I know that’s the canon, but highlighting it like that…

  20. […] House to Astonish sees Paul O’Brien’s thorough chronicling of the life and times of one Mr Wolverine T. Logan continue, and Mr Pointy Hands is now bothering the Silver Age, as if they didn’t have enough to […]

  21. […] Part 1: Origin to Origin II | Part 2: 1907 to 1914Part 3: 1914 to 1939 | 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 Age […]

  22. […] 5: The postwar era | Part 6: Team XPart 7: Post Team X | Part 8: Weapon XPart 9: Department H | Part 10: The Silver Age […]

  23. […] 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 | […]

  24. […] 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 | 1982 | […]

  25. […] 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 | 1982 | […]

  26. […] 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 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 […]

  27. […] 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 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | […]

Leave a Reply