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Jul 4

The Incomplete Wolverine – 1990

Posted on Sunday, July 4, 2021 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 | Part 10: The Silver Age
1974-1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 
1980 | 1981 | 1982
 | 1983 | 1984 1985
1986 | 1987 | 1988
 | 1989

Welcome to the nineties. But we haven’t reached Jim Lee quite yet – as we start off, the X-Men are still in Australia, and Wolverine has just taken a leave of absence to try and rescue Roughouse from captivity in Tierra Verde.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #19-23
“Heroes & Villains” / “Miracles” / “Battleground” / “Outburst!” / “Endings”
by Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, Klaus Janson, Michael Rockwitz & Glynis Oliver
December 1989 to April 1990

In Tierra Verde, Wolverine meets the local freedom-fighter and superhero La Bandera, and helps her fend off an assassination attempt by Tiger Shark (Todd Arliss). La Bandera’s mutant power is to inspire followers; she’s completely well intentioned, but Wolverine suspects that she’s too naive to get anywhere with her revolution. Meanwhile, further experiments have left the captive Roughouse covered in sores, and he is being cared for by Sister Salvation, a nun and healer who is also President Caridad’s ex-wife. Wolverine and La Bandera escape with Roughouse and Salvation, but Wolverine gets drugged with Tierra Verde’s weird tainted cocaine in the process. The cocaine turns out to be a vehicle for Spore, an ancient creation of the Deviants who was trapped in the ground after being destroyed by the Celestials, until someone started growing cocaine there. Since normal humans don’t survive very long, Spore wants a superhuman host, but Wolverine and Roughouse both manage to fight it off.

Salvation turns the escapees over to the authorities, out of concern for her son Palo Caridad. The President plans to dose Palo with the Spore cocaine, the idea being that Salvation will help Palo survive the side effects, and then he can become the national superhero. Caridad’s right hand man Geist twigs that this is all about to go disastrously wrong and makes a break for it, just as La Bandera shows up with a revolutionary force in tow. As a crazed villain, Caridad injects the cocaine into himself, and is promptly possessed by Spore – but since Spore is basically a giant infection, Salvation heals it away, burning out her healing powers in the process. Afterwards, Roughouse decides to stay behind with Sister Salvation; Bandera’s forces become the new government, and cynicism quickly sets in; and Wolverine tracks down Geist, defeats him, and hands him over to the revolutionaries, only for them to let him go due to realpolitik. (Magneto apparently kills him in an epilogue.)

In a second epilogue, Wolverine returns to Madripoor and takes revenge on Coy and Baran for bringing the tainted cocaine to the island, by chasing them through the sewers. Finally, Logan drives back to the X-Men’s desert town, expecting to find the X-Men waiting. But we’ll get back to that.

The short Goodwin/Byrne run is surprisingly good, especially when you consider that it involves a fungal monster, magic cocaine, and a healing nun called Sister Salvation. It’s well paced, the characters are decently rounded, and Byrne and Janson are an interesting combination on art, bringing out a looser side of Byrne’s style. Bandera firmly believes that she’s a heroic inspirer, and so she’s slow to pick up on the fact that she’s arguably mind-controlling people, and she’s certainly empowering herself by leading mobs of hapless civilians into danger. Salvation is a balanced religious character, and while the story is very clear that Wolverine doesn’t buy a word of it, the plot leaves it ambiguous whether she’s a mutant or a genuine religious healer. And Roughouse’s rehabilitation is convincingly done, though it’ll be completely ignored the next time we see him, years down the line.

Two issues of this arc are technically a tie-in to Acts of Vengeance, the crossover where the villains all swapped heroes and attacked someone they didn’t usually fight. Since the X-Men are believed dead at this point, it doesn’t make sense for anyone to be sent after Wolverine. The book gets round that problem by having Tiger Shark go after La Bandera. Frankly, it would have made no difference to the plot if Tiger Shark had just been hired as a mercenary by Geist, and one suspects that’s how the plot started out. Tiger Shark is a C-lister, but he makes sense as a Wolverine villain – he’s a tooth-and-claw type, and he also has a plausible route to victory by simply dragging Wolverine underwater and drowning him.

There’s a weird bit in the Madripoor epilogue where Wolverine drops his eyepatch in front of Coy and says that Patch is “gone – I’m here”. This reads as if it was meant to draw a line under the Patch thing, but if so, it’s ignored in future issues.

After this issue, Wolverine goes into a string of fill-in stories. But we’ll get to that in a while.

Unfortunately for Wolverine, while he was away, the X-Men have disbanded and the remaining team members have gone through the Siege Perilous to start new lives.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #251
“Fever Dream”
by Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, Dan Green & Glynis Oliver
Early November 1989

On arrival back in town, Wolverine is promptly captured by the new Reavers – Donald Pierce, Cole, Reese, Macon, Lady Deathstrike, Pretty Boy, Bonebreaker and Skullbuster. They crucify him on an X, and he has hallucinations in which Gateway shows him what happened to the X-Men. Then he sees various people – mostly women from his past, but Ogun and Sabretooth are in there too – pressing him to keep fighting. Basically, it’s a trippy version of one of those stories where all seems lost but the hero finds the strength to carry on. That makes more sense in the arc of Uncanny X-Men where the team has been collapsing in Wolverine’s absence for several issues, and is now reduced to just Wolverine, the heart and conscience of the team (who’s been absent while it was all falling apart). Finally, while the Reavers take shelter from a thunderstorm, Logan tears himself free from the cross – and calls for help to the nearby Jubilee (Jubilation Lee), the teenage runaway who’s been hiding in the town for a while now. This is the first time they meet, and she’s going to become his de facto sidekick for the next few years.

Now. From here through to the end of his run on Uncanny, Chris Claremont writes Wolverine as badly injured and on the verge of collapse. For the most part, nobody else pays any attention to this storyline. But a lot of the other stories published during this period are somewhat evergreen, I’m going to depart somewhat from the official timelines and shift as many of those stories as possible further down the line, to a point where Wolverine is feeling a little healthier. One side effect of this is that we’re basically going to follow the Claremont run through into 1991 (along with some stories that are directly tied to those events) before doubling back to the remainder of 1990.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #252
“Where’s Wolverine?!?”
by Chris Claremont, Rick Leonardi, Kent Williams & Glynis Oliver
Mid November 1989

Jubilee hides Wolverine away and takes care of him as best she can while scavenging for food. Wolverine continues to hallucinate, and believes he’s talking to Carol Danvers and Nick Fury – they’ll stick around as invisible friends until issue #261 before being quietly dropped. When he actually notices Jubilee, Logan nearly attacks her, before “Carol” and “Nick” calm him down. Finally, with some intervention from Gateway, Logan comes to his senses enough to fight off the Reavers’ cyborg dingos and escape with Jubilee. During all that, Lady Deathstrike finds Jubilee’s room and deliberately leaves the Clan Yashida Honor Sword there for Wolverine to collect. Revenge on Wolverine may be her central motive, but she clearly wants it to be more honourable than this.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #253
“Storm Warnings!”
by Chris Claremont, Marc Silvesti, Steve Leialoha & Glynis Oliver
Late November 1989

In a brief subplot, Wolverine and Jubilee cross the desert to safety. Lady Deathstrike spots them but, again, decides that it would be dishonourable to simply shoot them. So she lets them go, and covers for them to Pierce.

Wolverine doesn’t appear in Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #254-255, in which the Reavers attack Muir Isle and Destiny dies. Nor is he in Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #256, which is the first part of the Psylocke / Hand arc.

Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #257-258
by Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Josef Rubinstein & Glynis Oliver
January & February 1990

Well… officially this is an “Acts of Vengeance” crossover, anyway. In reality, it has absolutely nothing to do with the main arc. But the sales pitch of “Acts of Vengeance” was to have the heroes fight villains from other books, and it does give you  that.

Logan and Jubilee arrive in Hong Kong. Logan is still desperately ill, and still hallucinating about Nick and Carol – but even so, he blags his way past the harbour patrol as “Patch”. Unfortunately, “Patch”‘s arrival in Hong Kong draws the attention of the Mandarin, who is in the middle of taking over the local underworld in alliance with the Hand, led by the debuting Matsuo Tsurayaba. The villains jump to the conclusion that Patch is here to meddle on behalf of Tyger Tiger, and send Lady Mandarin to deal with him. Lady Mandarin is actually a brainwashed Psylocke, in a new ninja body (later explained as a body swap with Kwannon). Since Logan is at death’s door and Jubilee has no idea what she’s doing, both get captured pretty easily.

The Hand enthusiastically set about trying to brainwash Wolverine in revenge for their past encounters with him. Lady Mandarin offers him an illusory amalgam of Jean Grey, Mariko Yashida and Yukio – described as “all the women Wolverine’s truly loved”. But Wolverine lures her into using her new psychic knife on him, and he’s so insane that the experience shocks her out of her brainwashing instead. What’s more, everyone in the room can now see “Nick” and “Carol”. The non-existent duo merrily start gunning down the ninjas, who obligingly fall over anyway. It’s a cute idea. Wolverine and Psylocke defeat the Mandarin and escape with Jubilee. Jubilee doesn’t trust Psylocke an inch, and Psylocke is racked with self-doubt too; Logan basically replies that he has no choice but to trust her, and that this is her chance to atone for making the X-Men go through the Siege Perilous

From this point, Wolverine, Psylocke and Jubilee form a team based in Madripoor, though they don’t bill themselves as the X-Men.

ALPHA FLIGHT vol 1 #87-90
“Building Blocks”
by Fabian Nicieza, Michael Bair, Mike Manley & Bob Sharen
August to November 1990

A rare example of a story that actually acknowledges Wolverine’s health problems. It comes here, months out of publication order, because Forge hasn’t yet left Muir Isle. That forces it to take place between Uncanny #258-259.

Wolverine travels to Canada to set matters straight with Alpha Flight, in case he dies soon. He helps to catch Wildchild, who has flown into a rage on learning that the current version of Gamma Flight are being disbanded. Aside from Persuasion (formerly the Purple Girl), he also meets the rest of Gamma Flight: Nemesis (Jane Thorne), Witchfire (Ananym), Silver (Jimon Tang) and Auric (Zhao Tang). Vindicator is understandably furious that Logan let her think he was dead, and he offers no real explanation beyond saying that it seemed like a good idea at the time. The other members of Gamma Flight break Wildchild free in a “we look after our own” deal, but Wolverine and Vindicator talk them down. This is just one of several plot threads running through the “Building Blocks” arc, which had an awful lot going on.

Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #260 is a Dazzler story, and Wolverine doesn’t appear.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #261
“Harriers Hunt”
by Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, Dan Green & Michael Rockwitz
May 1990

Logan hires the Harriers – Hardcase, Battleaxe, Shotgun, Longbow (Amelia Greer), Ranger (Jesus Suarez), Warhawk (Tom Nakada), Lifeline, Blindside (Bobbi Chase), Piston (Andrei Rostov) and Timebomb (Louis Joubert) – to test them against himself, Jubilee and Psylocke.

Basically a whole issue of putting over the Harriers as a big deal, but nothing will come of it. The Nick and Carol hallucinations stop after this.

“Black Shadow! White Shadow!”
by Marv Wolfman, John Buscema & Nel Yomtov
January to April 1990

This one ignores Wolverine’s health problems entirely, but it expressly takes place while he’s hunting for the X-Men. In Hong Kong, he investigates Black Shadow and White Shadow, two entities that periodically appear, fight destructively and then vanish. They’ve been tailing three people – Mai, Hsiao and Ch’un – and so Wolverine tags along with them back to mainland China. Hsiao soon gets killed while fighting the Black Shadow, but the others make it to a decaying mental hospital, where they find an obese man with multiple personality disorder who is apparently projecting both Shadows. (The story says “schizophrenia”, but it’s clearly meant to be multiple personalities.) Vaguely aware of what is happening, the man commits suicide by impaling himself on Wolverine’s claws.

It’s a bit of a mess, this. Buscema’s art is nowhere close to his work on the Wolverine solo title. There’s some heavy handed stuff about the importance of family and community, and Wolverine’s feelings that he’s become disconnected from both. Which doesn’t really work, because he’s got Psylocke and Jubilee – something that Wolfman didn’t seem to be aware of.

“Life’s End”
by Erik Larsen, Joe Rubinstein & Gregory Wright
April & May 1990

Wolverine teams up with Spider-Man (who is surprised to learn that the X-Men are alive) to rescue Mary, a potentially powerful mutant, from Critical Mass (Arnie Gunderson) and his Band of Baddies – Bloodlust (Beatta Dubiel), Whiplash (Leann Foreman), the Savage Fin and another guy who is apparently Peter Parker’s dentist. The fight takes place in the warehouse where Uncle Ben died, and bizarre connections to Peter’s life abound. There’s a slight implication that this is something to do with Mary’s powers, but mostly the story is a parody of the contrived nature of Spider-Man soap opera.

Mary seemingly defeats the villains singlehandedly, Spider-Man is left with no evidence of any of the weirdness, and Logan returns Mary to her father, who is apparently a former superhero; he sets them up with new identities as the Becks. Apparently this was meant to be a tribute to CC Beck, the creator of Captain Marvel, who died in 1989, but how anyone was meant to work that out from the page is beyond me.

“On the Road”
by Michael Higgins, David Ross, Dan Day & Brad Vancata
July to October 1990

While hunting for the X-Men in the Carolinas, Logan stumbles upon Bruce Banner, and then comes upon a town where everyone seems to think he’s a murderer. The murderer turns out to be Calvin Rankin (the Mimic). He happened to be in the area when Wolverine and the Hulk first fought, and his out-of-control powers combined with Wolverine’s healing factor to turn him into a copy of Wolverine. Rankin accuses Wolverine of ruining his life, and vows to kill him. The Hulk  leads them to a hidden laboratory where Calvin’s father has left a message about how to control his powers. Eventually Calvin accepts Logan’s recommendation to head to the far east and try meditating. Pretty forgettable aside from getting the Mimic back into circulation. Its most notable feature about this is how un-1990s it feels – it’s more of a 70s throwback.

“Rites and Wrongs”
by David Michelinie, Erik Larsen, Terry Austin & Bob Sharen
Late August 1990

This is a one-panel easter egg cameo. He’s walking down a New York street. (This story could go anywhere, really, but it might as well go near a visit to the USA.)

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #268
“Madripoor Knights”
by Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Glynis Oliver
Late September 1990

Back in Madripoor, Wolverine, Psylocke and Jubilee team up with the Black Widow to fight Fenris and the Hand, who are in town for a meeting. They break up the meeting, but the main villains get away. This is a framing sequence for flashbacks to Wolverine’s first meeting with Captain America in 1941, which we covered long ago.

The dialogue continues to insist that Wolverine is badly ill. But he still beats a bunch of ninja. He’s also now openly operating in costume in Madripoor, and he’s lost all apparent concern about people seeing his claws. Maybe he’s just assuming that Psylocke will mind-wipe everyone, or maybe he’s just given up pretending to be dead.

NEW MUTANTS vol 1 #93-94
“Madripoor” / “Lethal Weapons”
by Louise Simonson, Rob Liefeld, Hilary Barta & Brad Vancata
September & October 1990

Cable and the New Mutants come to Madripoor to stop Stryfe and his Mutant Liberation Front from releasing a dangerous chemical weapon. Wolverine and Cable attack each other on sight and are presented as old rivals, though they immediately calm down and claim to be just sparring when the New Mutants challenge them on it.

The idea of a rivalry between Wolverine and Cable never really went anywhere interesting, and gets quietly dropped after “X-Cutioner’s Song” in a few years time. A one-shot about their first meeting – Wolverine / Cable: Guts & Glory – will come out in 1999, and doesn’t really shed much light on matters either.

The MLF members present in this story are Sumo (Jun Tenta), Dragoness (Tamara Kurtz) and Kamikaze (Haruo Tsubaraya). This is also where Wolverine meets Rictor (Julio Richter) and Boom-Boom (Tabitha-Smith).

by Peter David, Andy Kubert & Sherilyn van Valkenburgh
August 1991

Geshem is an alternate Earth in the sword-and-sorcery genre, and Princess Rain (the Wolfsbane counterpart) is prophesied to be killed on her sixteenth birthday by a mysterious “Beast”. Evil sorcerer Magnus (the Magneto counterpart) brings Wolverine to Geshem and drugs him, hoping that he will fulfil the prophecy, kill Rain, and clear the way for him to take power. Meanwhile, the Mage (Cable) swaps Rain for Wolfsbane, hoping to at least save his own princess. Wolverine eventually defeats Magnus and everyone goes home. Later, Wolverine shows up at the New Mutants’ base to return a pendant that returned to Earth with him.

Despite the title, this is basically a Wolfsbane story. For our purposes, it’s eminently forgettable (but it still gets a sequel, Knight of Terra, down the line). It has to take place miles out of publication order because Wolfsbane will leave the New Mutants and undergo a drastic status quo change in “X-Tinction Agenda”.

X-MEN ANNUAL vol 1 #14
“The Fundamental Things”
by Chris Claremont, Mark Heike, Geof Isherwood & Nelson Yomtov

This is a back-up strip, although it ties in to the main story. In Madripoor, Logan is explaining the basic concept of the X-Men to Jubilee when Rachel Summers suddenly shows up, along with Days of Futures Past Franklin Richards. (He eventually turns out to be a ghost.) They talk about the time that Logan stabbed her, and he has a go at explaining it. He claims here that the message is that the stronger you are, the more power you possess, and so the more you need limits. So, he says, he couldn’t let her to go down the path of deciding who lives and dies. The claim here, in other words, is that Rachel is so powerful that she had to be held to a higher standard. Franklin is alarmed by Psylocke and Jubilee, who don’t match his version of history, so he makes them vanish; Wolverine repeats the point about the dangers of power, and Rachel gets Franklin to bring them back. Rachel and Franklin leave together and Wolverine (for some reason) regards the whole incident as a win.

This is a weird story. It’s of some interest because Claremont uses it to try and explain a notoriously confusing plot point, and also lets Wolverine set out his stall about the concept of the X-Men. Wolverine tells Jubilee here that Professor X chose teenagers for the original X-Men because they’re flexible, they respond to authority, they commit to the right cause, and have no real concept of mortality. He compares it to the use of teenagers in the military, and does acknowledge that they were “simpler times”. He also suggests that his team had a fundamentally different attitude because they lost Thunderbird so early. This stuff is reasonably interesting, but the plot is barely there.

Wolverine is feeling somewhat better here, but still has coughing fits when he tries to smoke. We’re also now at a stage where it makes little sense for Wolverine to still be searching for the X-Men. He’s already made contact with the New Mutants, and by this point Storm, Gambit, Banshee and Forge are all back at the Mansion sub-basement. The X-Men have effectively reformed, and they’re exactly where you’d expect them to be. Fortunately, this is about to stop being a problem.

But first, let’s chuck in the flashback in Warheads #1 in which Logan duly completes the time paradox by meeting Colonel Liger in Madripoor, beating him up, and scarring him (thus preserving history). The flashback says it takes place in 1990, and the book takes the unusual route of using publication dates, so… here it is.

Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #270 is the start of the “X-Tinction Agenda” crossver, but Wolverine doesn’t appear until part 4. By the time he enters the scene, the Genoshans have abducted Storm (now a child), Boom-Boom, Wolfsbane, Warlock and Rictor, and announced their intention to put them on trial.

Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #271-272
by Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Glynis Oliver
New Mutants vol 1 #96-97
by Louise Simonson, Rob Liefeld, Guang Yap, Joe Rubinstein, Art Thibert & Steve Buccellato
X-Factor vol 1 #61-62
by Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove, Al Milgrom, Mike Rockwitz & Glynis Oliver
December 1990 and January 1991

Wolverine, Psylocke and Jubilee arrive in Genosha to try and rescue the prisoners. Jubilee remains worried that Wolverine is in no fit state for this, but he insists that she respect his decisions. The basic idea here is meant to be that Wolverine believes he’s dying and wants to repay his debts while he still can; obviously, it would work better if other books had paid the slightest attention to it. It’s very obviously a Claremont storyline that nobody else was joining in. We also see Wolverine taking the mentor role with Jubilee, congratulating her on her successes and trying to get her dial back her show-off tendencies.

While Jubilee helps escapees Rictor and Boom-Boom, Wolverine and Psylocke break into the Magistrates’ Citadel and get swiftly captured by Havok (reincarnated as a Magistrate) and Cameron Hodge, the power behind the Genoshan throne. Wolverine winds up in a cell with Jean Grey, which Hodge hopes will lead to tension between her and Scott. They do indeed kiss, but Jean pulls away, realising that he is dying.

The Genoshans duly put the captured heroes on public trial, thus ending the phase where people believe the X-Men are dead. (This is where Wolverine first meets Gambit, although if you count Weapon X: First Class as canon, they crossed paths years ago.) Hodge has a go at making Archangel and Wolverine fight, which leads to Wolverine getting injured further; Hodge suggests that Warren’s dislike of Wolverine was to do with his own unrequited love for Jean Grey, which is certainly a view. Wolverine has relatively little to do in the climax, where Storm is restored to adulthood and Hodge is defeated; he does get to argue with Cyclops and have Jean tell them both to shut up. Hodge is finally defeated by Cyclops and Havok, a fight which Wolverine and Jean watch with their arms around one another. Honestly, Logan gets much further with Jean in this arc than he ever did in the original issues.

Once Hodge is defeated, Chief Magistrate Andersen declares martial law and publicly claims that the President has had a nervous breakdown. Wolverine, Psylocke and Jubilee all return to the X-Men Mansion and rejoin the team.

X-MEN ANNUAL vol 1 #15
“The Enemy Within”
by Len Kaminski, Kirk Jarvinin & Brad Vancata

Wolverine has a recurring nightmare in which he is hunted by his own disembodied adamantium skeleton. On waking, he meditates in a renewed attempt to come to terms with the monster inside him. This is a back-up strip; he doesn’t appear in the main story, which features the Muir Island X-Men.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #273
“Too Many Mutants!, or Whose House Is This, Anyway?”
by Chris Claremont, various pencillers, Scott Williams & Joe Rosas
February 1991

An artist jam issue in which everyone takes stock after “X-Tinction Agenda.” The X-Men, X-Factor and the New Mutants are all now living in the sub-basement of the former X-Men Mansion (the building itself having been destroyed in Inferno), and it’s getting a bit cramped. Claremont sets up a rivalry between Wolverine and Gambit, who do some sparring together; Gambit wins by using a Lady Deathstrike programme as a distraction, and then does the “I could have killed you easily, you know” schtick that Wolverine used to do to other people. Basically, the whole vibe is that Gambit is the cocky future and Wolverine is a bit past it – as Wolverine privately recognises. Jubilee continues to fret about Wolverine’s health, and also puts out a theory that Wolverine is jealous of Gambit’s close relationship with Storm. (At this point, just after he’d debuted, Storm was the X-Man that Remy was closest to.) Jubilee, for her part, is put out by the fact that Wolverine cares more about Storm than he does about her.

Later, the new X-Men gather in team uniforms: Storm, Wolverine, Psylocke, Jubilee, Gambit, Banshee and Forge are the new roster. Lila Cheney shows up, with her bodyguard Guido Carosella in tow (the future Strong Guy), and teleports them all away to the Shi’ar Empire.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #274
by Chris Claremont, Jim Lee and Scott Williams
March 1991

This is a Rogue and Magneto story. The X-Men only appear in a brief subplot: Lila has blundered into teleporting the X-Men into a trap by Deathbird, who holds them in her organic cell creature thingy, Manacle.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #275-277
“The Path Not Taken!” / “Double Death” / “Free Charley”
by Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Joe Rosas
April to June 1991

Even though we’re still assured that he’s at death’s door – “his flesh has all but failed him, and his life-force remains sustained solely by an indomitable will” – Wolverine escapes with Jubilee’s help, defeats Deathbird, and reinstalls Lilandra on the Shi’ar throne. During the celebrations on Chandilar, Logan realises that Lilandra’s consort is not the real Professor X, but a WarSkrull impostor. Logan being Logan, he kills the Professor without explanation and is instantly knocked out by Psylocke (also an impostor by this stage). Wolverine spends most of the rest of the story as a prisoner, while the rest of the X-Men defeat the WarSkrulls. Deathbird decides to let Lilandra keep the throne. Professor X learns from reading Storm’s memories that the Shadow King has returned, and urgently returns to Earth with the X-Men.

Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #278-280
#278 by Chris Claremont, Paul Smith, Hilary Barta & Joe Rosas
#279 by Chris Claremont, Fabian Nicieza, Andy Kubert, Scott Williams & Glynis Oliver
#280 by Fabian Nicieza, Andy Kubert & various
X-Factor vol 1 #69
by Fabian Nicieza, Whilce Portacio & Dana Moreshead
July to September 1991

The abrupt, mid-storyline departure of Chris Claremont, though he’ll be back for the opening issues of X-Men vol 2.

The X-Men return to Muir Isle, which has fallen under the control of the Shadow King. Wolverine and Jubilee become part of the Shadow King’s gladiatorial community, though Wolverine remains somewhat protective of her even in this form. He claims to be too intelligent to entirely succumb to the Shadow King, the idea presumably being that he’s got plenty of experience keeping these urges under control. Wolverine also continues to butt heads with young upstart Gambit. That aside, he’s not very central to the plot. The Shadow King is defeated, but Professor X is back in a wheelchair (the first obvious reset button of the post-Claremont era), and his son Legion (David Haller) is comatose. Afterwards, Wolverine comforts Jubilee over seeing her dark side, and tells her to let it go. (“It’s not a pretty sight, I know.”)

X-FACTOR vol 1 #70
“Ends and Odds”
by Peter David, Kirk Jarvinen, Joe Rubinstein, Glynis Oliver & Steve Buccellato
September 1991

This is the epilogue to the Muir Island Saga. While Professor X desperately tries to make contact with Legion, Wolverine is in full blown macho mode. He claims that Charlie is “a tough old bird” who doesn’t care if he can walk or not (Moira berates this nonsense), and then he swallows a lit cigar for the hell of it. Jean helpfully spells out Peter David’s interpretation of the character: Logan does things like this in order to keep everyone else off balance so that he can give himself a feeling of control over events. Logan does continue to act protectively to Jubilee, and breaks the news to her that she isn’t going to be on the regular team roster.

DEATHLOK vol 2 #4-5
“The Souls of Cyber-Folk, parts 3 & 4”
by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Mike Manley & Gregory Wright
October & November 1991

The only 1991 story where the X-Men are actually wearing their generic costumes from the Muir Island Saga, which is why it’s placed here. When the rogue AI Mechadoom captures various cyborgs, Wolverine is among the heroes who join the rescue mission. Naturally, Mechadoom is defeated by Deathlok (Michael Collins), because it’s his book. Among the captives is one villain that Wolverine hasn’t encountered before – Ruby Thursday from the Headmen.

And now, we jump back to 1990, and the stories that completely ignored Claremont’s storylines…

WOLVERINE vol 2 #24
“Snow Blind”
by Peter David, Gene Colan, Jim Novak & Mark Chiarello
May 1990

Madripoor. Wolverine encounters the Snow Queen, a mutant assassin who has the power to blank out senses with static. He saves a street urchin from her, and she gets blown up by her own bomb. It’s a very old school fill-in story, and of no wider importance at all, but it’s a good read. Wolverine was in many ways a surprisingly uncommercial book throughout the 1990s, though you suspect it was more by accident than design.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #25
“Heir Aid”
by Jo Duffy, John Buscema & Glynis Oliver
June 1990

This begins a short run by Jo Duffy. Her first two issues are effectively fill-ins. In this one, Logan repays a favour to Madripoor crimelord Morrow by guarding his six-year-old son Gabriel. Logan stays out of the gang fighting until they go after Gabriel, and is quietly impressed by Gabriel’s performance. Amidst all this, Logan tells Gabriel a bedtime story about a child abandoned in the wilderness and raised by wolverines. The obvious implication is that it’s his origin story, but the idea that something so important would be revealed in a fill-in issue is just weird. At any rate, the whole thing was dropped and never mentioned again.

It’s also a rare example of a story where Logan actively avoids using the “Patch” identity in Madripoor, on the grounds that Patch’s reputation is too high for what he’s trying to do.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #26
“Memory of Peace”
by Jo Duffy, Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer & Glynis Oliver
Early July 1990

Logan’s old mentor Bando Saburo is murdered by his heir Masaki Weston, who wants to get hold of an antique bowl and sell it for profit. By the time Logan catches up to him, Weston is about to commit suicide anyway. Logan reveals that Saburo was terminally ill, so that the murder was completely pointless. Then he kills Weston and his guard. Logan considers destroying the bowl as a symbol of futility, but decides to leave it on Saburo’s grave. It’s a better issue than I’m making it sound, and Weston is quite an interesting character, with conflicting motivations about heritage and profit. Again, it’s not the sort of story you’d expect to see Wolverine publishing in the age of Lee and Liefeld.

Saburo remains a one-off character for many years before being dusted off for Wolverine: Origins, where he’s the pacifist mentor during Logan’s time in Jasmine Falls.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #27-30
“The Lazarus Project”
by Jo Duffy, Bill Jaaska, Joe Rubinstein & various colourists
Late July to early September 1990

We’re still in Madripoor, and this arc opens with Jessica Drew getting beaten up by the bad guys. She and Lindsay McCabe are then summarily written out of the series. It comes out of nowhere, and presumably there was some editorial edict to free up the characters.

With that, we move to the main story. Brace yourself, because this one is weird.

Still in Madripoor, Logan learns that Prince Baran may be mixed up in  mysterious plans to attack the island of Rumika. Investigating, Logan encounters evil scientist Dr Page and her robot Pinocchio, only to wind up drugged and dumped on Rumika as an amnesiac. The villagers take him in, but aren’t sure what to do with him – he seems nice enough, but they’ve been given a “sacred trust” to protect the “Master Form”, and wonder if he’s one of the enemies they were told to look out for. Meanwhile, Logan gets to spend some time in blissful back-to-nature tribal existence.

One day, soldiers attack the village in order to recover the Master Form. Logan is shot down early in the fight, and thus can’t prevent the villagers from dying. But he recovers in time to kill most of the attackers in a berserker rage. Afterwards, Karma (who has been investigating the plan herself) shows up in the village, as does mercenary Captain Merrick. Merrick claims that he assigned the villagers to protect the Master Form, and that he was coming to warn them about the attack. But Wolverine realises by scent that Merrick was behind the attackers too. Merrick’s sidekick Target, who was taken in by Merrick after his family were wiped out in similar circumstances, realises he’s been had, turns on Merrick and kills him.

Wolverine, Karma and Target then hold a funeral for the people of Rumika before exchanging notes on the plot. General Coy and someone called the Broker are working on something called the Lazarus Project, and the Master Form is supposedly essential to it. More soldiers come looking for the Master Form, but the heroes kill them all – before simply abandoning the Master Form in Rumika. (“There’s no place it would be safer,” apparently.) Back in Madripoor, Wolverine defeat Page and Pinocchio, who turns out to be a  cyborg and a childhood friend of Target, also lured in Merrick’s schemes. Karma stops Wolverine from killing Coy, and declares her debt to Coy discharged – thus allowing Karma to leave the series too. The Broker escapes. Wolverine is left to take comfort in the thought that he helped some people, and put a stop to the bloody pursuit of the Master Form, “whatever [people] think it represents.”

And that’s it. The story never explains what the Master Form is – the art shows it as a sort of small modern sculpture of the sort you might put in a garden pond, with no discernible purpose or function. Nor does the story ever explain what the villains are trying to achieve. There are broadly two theories about what was going on here. One is that it’s a conspiracy story in which the Master Form is a mere decoy, designed to engineer a string of traumatic battles that will leave orphans who can be raised as soldiers – though that still wouldn’t explain why that’s a simpler option than just hiring a few mercenaries. The other is that it’s an unfinished story, and Duffy was planning to come back to the plot in the aborted second Fallen Angels miniseries. Either way, as published, it’s just baffling.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #31-33
“Killing Zone” / “Terminal Trauma” / “Grave Undertakings”
by Larry Hama, Marc Silvestri, Dan Green & Glynis Oliver
Late September to November 1990

We’ve reached the start of Larry Hama’s run (which, in publication terms, overlaps by a year or so with the tail end of Claremont’s X-Men). Hama is the main Wolverine writer for the 1990s, and is responsible for vast swathes of back story material that stuck. But we’ll get to that soon enough. This first arc is pretty straightforward, and more about setting the tone of the run, as tongue-in-cheek machismo, hearts of gold and action romps abound. It’s low-stakes stuff by the standards of some later stories – 1990 is about as late as it gets for a Wolverine story where the Yakuza are portrayed as a serious threat – but it’s good fun, and Silvestri’s run on this book is underrated. From this point on, Wolverine stops being a sideshow of fill-in stories, and truly becomes Wolverine’s main book.

Baran and Coy have made a deal with Yakuza boss Dai-Kumo, who is working with scientist Dr Malheur to create a drug called Raiden (or Thunderbolt). Raiden is made from the brains of endangered Madripoorian spider-monkeys. Ostensibly Raiden is a cure for cancer, but in fact it just turns you into a berserker warrior and kills you. Figuring that Patch might be a problem due to his strong views on monkey slaughter, the Yakuza make a pre-emptive attack on the Princess Bar, but he defeats them – bringing down the ceiling in the process. Literally destroying the Princess Bar in the first issue is certainly a statement of intent, and Hama’s run will get out of Madripoor pretty sharpish. Hama also writes Lowtown as less glamorous than other writers – Tyger claims here that it was always this bad, and Logan just never noticed.

Dai-Kumo’s henchmen Goro and Reiko seemingly defeat Logan by impaling him with a sword, but they don’t know about his healing factor, so they leave him for dead. After the obligatory hallucination about Jean Grey, Logan recovers and follows them to Japan, where he survives getting immersed in the drug – which can’t affect him because he’s already so insanely mean and ornery, or something like that. At the same time, Logan refuses to indulge Goro’s desire to die in battle, leaving him to die from his Raiden dose instead. Reiko, always a reluctant villain, kills Dai-Kumo and escapes. We’ll see her again.

“Sign of the Beast”
by Dwight Zimmerman, Paul Ryan, Harry Candelario & Nelson Yomtov
November 1990

A perfunctory two-parter in which Wolverine rescues Tyger Tiger and Archie Corrigan from a group of hijackers – Sheik, Rhys, Scarface, Stump, Napoleon Dumas and Barrett – all of whom work for the unseen Abdul Alhazred. The angle is that Tyger is unsure whether Logan is toying with the bad guys, or just so dangerously berserk that he might kill her too. Alhazred is an HP Lovecraft villain, whom Marvel had previously used in Tarzan – he used to be called “the Mad Arab”, but mercifully that name isn’t used here.

Astoundingly, this story gets a sequel in 1994, where Alhazred actually shows up.

MARVEL FANFARE vol 1 #54-55
“One Life to Die”
by Richard Howell
December 1990 to February 1991

This two-part back-up strip must be one of the most obscure Wolverine stories ever published. It’s not a hidden gem. Our hero is kidnapped by mad scientist Dr Ted LeSeig, who believes that he can conquer the world with human/animal hybrids, and that studying Wolverine will help him make more. Wolverine defeats him. Le Seig’s other prisoners tell Wolverine that he’s just as human as they are, but he says they’re wrong. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.

“Acts of Vengeance”
by Howard Mackie, Mark Texeira, Harry Candelario & Gregory Wright
December 1990 to March 1991

Despite the name, this has nothing to do with the “Acts of Vengeance” crossover. After being attacked by men working for Deathwatch, Wolverine heads to New York to confront Deathwatch himself. Instead, he winds up meeting the new Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch) and Brass (Sean Watanabe), plus Brass’s father Yuji Watanabe and sister Brigitte Watanabe. There are also villains running around after Brass, including the Triad Brothers. Brigitte and Jack D’Auria are kidnapped by Deathwatch’s men, but it turns out that Deathwatch himself knows nothing about any of this; one of his men, Langley, has been using his organisation to carry out side jobs. The heroes rescue the Watanabe families and escape.

This is a Ghost Rider story, by Ghost Rider‘s regular creative team, and with Wolverine contributing nothing beyond star power. All he does it clutter it up, and it would be a better story without him – though still quite a bad one.

FANTASTIC FOUR vol 1 #347-349
“Big Trouble on Little Earth!” / “Where Monsters Dwell!” / “Eggs Got Legs!”
by Walter Simonson, Art Adams, Art Thibert & Steve Buccellato
December 1990 to February 1991

This is the “New Fantastic Four” arc, in which Spider-Man, Hulk, Ghost Rider and Wolverine are enlisted as a makeshift FF by “Sue Richards” – actually a Skrull rebel, De’lila. “Sue” claims that her teammates have been killed by villains who plan to unleash the monsters of Monster Island on mankind – in fact, the monsters have been enlisted by the Skrull authorities who are pursuing her. It’s all a convoluted plan in which De’lila hopes to get a monster egg to hatch next to her, so that the baby monster will imprint on her and follow her bidding. The real FF (including Ms Marvel (Sharon Ventura)) show up in time to help sort everything out.

It’s a fun Fantastic Four story where the guest stars are actually less significant to the plot than you might think – the idea is to parody the gratuitous guest appearances by hot characters, hence the strapline “The World’s Most Commercialest Comic Magazine” on issue #348. The whole thing is massively above Wolverine’s power grade, and he’s there mostly to make the joke work. And by this point, you can see why the over exposure of hot characters has become something to make jokes about.

“Bizarre Love Triangle”
by Christos Gage & Mario Alberti
November 2010

A continuity-implant coda to the “new FF” arc, in which De’lila briefly escapes and gets recaptured. She mentally enthrals Wolverine, but Ghost Rider breaks him free by using his penance stare to show Wolverine the agony he caused on a single day in World War I. Logan insists that he’s fine afterwards – “nothing I don’t live with every day.”

WOLVERINE vol 2 #34
“The Hunter in Darkness”
by Larry Hama, Marc Silvestri, Dan Green & Glynis Oliver
December 1990

To get back to his roots, Logan returns to Wood Buffalo State Park, where the Hudsons first found him. Local police officer Doolin vaguely recognises Logan but can’t pin him down – in fact, they crossed paths in World War II. (Or, given sliding time, probably something later now.)

Doolin warns Logan that escaped murderer Athabasca Ike is on the loose, with a hostage. Naturally, Logan helps track him down. As they drive, Doolin reveals that he believes in the legendary Hunter in Darkness, a yeti-like monster that believes he once encountered in the wilderness – in fact, that was Logan too. This time, though, Logan and Doolin encounter the real Hunter in Darkness. When Doolin ignores Logan’s warnings and uses his flashlight to try and help, he promptly gets killed by Ike and his sniper rifle. The Hunter kills Ike, and Wolverine saves the hostage. As he dies, Doolin belatedly recognises Logan, but Logan still has no idea who Doolin is.

This is another good issue, which is just over-the-top enough – the tone that the best Hama issues hit. The Hunter in Darkness is a major element of Hama’s run, even though he’s barely been mentioned since. This is also the point where Wolverine starts talking in a big way about huge gaps in his memory – something that Hama will absolutely cement as a core feature of Wolverine’s mythos.

Issue #46 reveals that because of Logan’s involvement, the details of Doolin’s death are covered up, presumably by SHIELD. This will prompt Doolin’s daughter to attempt a revenge attack on the Hunter, but we’ll get to that.

by Alan Davis, Paul Neary & Bernie Jaye
December 1990

Wolverine encounters the Neuri, a splinter group of humanity who built a subterranean Arctic utopia, only for it to be destroyed by human industrialisation. A splinter group have turned to violence in revenge, unleashing a mystical bloodlust. Unable to fight them directly without succumbing to the same bloodlust, the Neuri enlist Wolverine to do the job for them. According to them, while most humans can no longer reach the Neuri’s spirit plane, he can – presumably because of his animalistic qualities. That connection, tempered by the corruption of his adamantium skeleton, apparently makes him a suitable bridge between the Neuri and humanity. Wolverine kills the splinter group, and the Neuri heal him and go home. Logan doubts that he would really want to ascend to a higher plane and leave earthly pleasures like beer behind. It’s a very pretty issue, but Davis doesn’t really click as a Wolverine writer.

Next time, it’s 1991, and the new X-Men series is here.

Bring on the comments

  1. James Moar says:

    “ Apparently this was meant to be a tribute to CC Beck, the creator of Captain Marvel, who died in 1989, but how anyone was meant to work that out from the page is beyond me.”

    I got it when I read it. The Captain’s got the face of Beck’s Captain Marvel, which is fairly distinctive even under the different hair and glasses, and drops a couple of references.

    Refreshed my memory with the page here:

  2. SanityOrMadness says:

    @James Moar – yeah, I was going to say the same thing.

  3. Nu-D says:

    That New FF story really captured the zeitgeist and made a lasting impact on fans. To this day lots of fans credit Logan as a “member” of the FF based on that story alone.

  4. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    It’s not just fans – or rather, the fans now write this stuff. Wolverine was recently filling out the FF roster in an Empyre tie-in.

    It also reminds me of an episode of the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated show where the Avengers are temporarily unavailable (…due to temporal shenanigans of Kang) and Wolverine and a bunch of others, including Spider-Man, become temporary Avengers. In what is clearly an homage to the New FF story, except it’s played completely straight in the cartoon.

  5. Si says:

    “Dr Ted LeSeig”, that’s very close to “Theo LeSieg”, a pen name used by Theodore Geisel, aka Dr Seuss. And of course his books are full of anthropomorphic animals.

    I have good memories of the Wolverine story with Tiger Shark. It’s the only time I’ve really gotten the feeling that he was fighting a guy who was way out of his league, and the cliffhanger where he was left at the bottom of the sea with his claws jammed into coral was a threat beyond the regular torture porn the character faces. I don’t know if the story would hold up if I read it again, but it had more substance than the regular fare.

  6. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Fungus cocaine demons are something we need more of.

    Actually now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder when the last Marvel comic that dealt heavily with real drugs was?

    I can’t think of the last time I read a book that said cocaine or heroin or whatever.

    It’s mostly MGH and vague “drugs” now.

    Personal note- I always get Cameron Hodge and Donald Pierce confused.

  7. Luis Dantas says:

    CC Beck’s Captain Marvel has a very recognizable face. Anyone who had read his stories from the 1940s to the 1970s would indeed recognize the homage by Larsen at a glance. All the more easily with the “Holy Moley” line.

    Of course, there were probably not too many people with that background reading Erik Larsen comics of 1990.

  8. Mark Coale says:

    Based on Fred MacMurray, of My Three Sons and Double Indemnity fame.

  9. Andrew says:

    Some of my favourite comics from my teen years in this bunch – the Acts of Vengeance and X-Tinction Agenda.

    It’s really interesting, I’d never thought about the Wolverine book as basically being a bunch of fill-in runs through until Hama’s arrival until now but yeah that’s totally true.

  10. Daibhid C says:

    I didn’t read the Mary Beck story, but I found her Dad’s appearance on Marvel Wiki, and yep. I think Mary herself is meant to look like Mary Marvel, although not so much the way Beck drew her.

    Talking of references in that story by Erik Larsen, I notice the Savage Fin is exactly what he sounds like.

    @Krzysiek Ceran: The new team in the EMH episode are basically the post-Dark Reign New Avengers, so it was probably more based on that. Whether Bendis was referencing the New FF when he decided Wolvie and Spidey were Avengers now, I don’t know.

  11. Dave says:

    I never realised I was missing stories from those Days of Future Present annuals in the tpb I have.
    The Cap & Black Widow Madripoor issue has extra bits around it in Way’s Wolverine: Origins.

  12. […] • 1990. Comics are about to be shaken to their very core. First though? Wolverine’s got scores to settle. […]

  13. […] 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 | Part 10: The Silver Age 1974-1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979  1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1990 […]

  14. Rob says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the two other continuity takeaways from that MCP Mimic story: 1) mimic is able to create a version of Wolverine’s claws, foreshadowing that they are part of his mutant power and not just implants, 2) the strange insinuation that Mimic’s father was involved in the weapon x program and the adamantium bonding process to wolverine in particular.

    Why did you skip MCP 51-53?

  15. Paul says:

    Marvel Comics Presents #51-53 are missing because Alpha Flight #90 (November 1990) refers to that story and says it happened a year ago. It’s in the timeline under 1988.

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