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Jan 2

The Incomplete Wolverine – 1996

Posted on Sunday, January 2, 2022 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 | 1990 | 1991
1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995

When we left off, Wolverine was reverting to a primal state of mind after losing his adamantium. But we’re building to issue #100, so… that’ll be the end of the story, right? Right?

“Clone Sagas”
by Christos Gage & Mario Alberti
March 2009

But first, time to check in again on this miniseries, where every issue took place at a different point in X-Men history. This time, the X-Men team up with Spider-Man (Ben Reilly, the clone of the original) to stop Mr Sinister getting hold of a DNA sample from Carnage (Cletus Kasady). Spider-Man asks Wolverine if his enhanced senses can tell whether he’s the original or the clone; Wolverine can’t, but says that Spider-Man’s performance in the fight showed that he’s the real thing in every way that matters. You know the routine.

Unfortunately, this issue creates a continuity error with Uncanny X-Men #339, where Ben meets the X-Men for the first time again. (Wolverine met him previously in Marvel vs DC.)

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #329-330
“Warriors of the Ebon Night” / “Quest for the Crimson Dawn”
by Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend & Steve Buccellato
February & March 1996

Psylocke has been mortally injured by Sabretooth (in Uncanny #328), so Wolverine takes her boyfriend Archangel to Chinatown in search of a mystical solution – a “pint of Crimson Dawn from the Ebon Vein”, which his never-before-mentioned old friend Gomurr the Ancient can help him get. Wolverine, Archangel and Doctor Strange fight their way past Tar and the Undercloaks to reach the Crimson Dawn, and Dr Strange uses Archangel’s love to link it to Psylocke, thus curing her. This kicks off a storyline where she gets new magical powers and a red mark on her face.

It’s an odd use of Wolverine. Of course, it gets to use the traditional feuding between Wolverine and Archangel. Archangel is also recovering from injuries inflicting by Sabretooth (in the Sabretooth one-shot), and Wolverine is privately impressed by his courage in showing up at all. But using Wolverine as the character who knows all about the worlds of magic is weird. Yes, it fits with Wolverine’s common role as the one who knows surprising amounts about surprising things… but it ignores his normal function as a sceptic in these sorts of things.

2-issue miniseries
by John Ostrander, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary & Joe Rosas
September & October 1996

A very belated sequel to 1988’s Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #232-234 – the one with the Brood mutants on Earth, which left a dangling subplot about Reverend William Conover’s wife Hannah being infected with a Brood egg. Hannah is now a Brood Queen and has been infecting the people she faith-heals, but has regained her free will through her love for her husband and through her faith. The Brood hive mind won’t stand for such free thinking, and send the Firstborn to Earth to kill her. The X-Men rescue her but debate what to do with her, since she’s still a Brood Queen. Eventually she’s put into suspended animation, and the Firstborn believe they’ve won and commit group suicide.

Wolverine’s degeneration is worked into the story – Hitch draws him practically foaming at the mouth – but mainly, he’s here to make the argument that Hannah is too dangerous to live. The twist is that Hannah agrees, and when it’s put to Wolverine that the same argument could be directed at him, he agrees too. X-Men vs Brood has a surprisingly high end creative team for a throwaway mini (though Hitch was still a rising star at this point), and it’s quite good.

“Star treX”
by Scott Lobdell, Marc Silvestri & various
December 1996

The X-Men travel to the Shi’ar Empire to investigate a mysterious psionic portal which turns out to lead to the universe of Star Trek. They team up with the crew of the USS Enterprise to battle Proteus and Gary Mitchell. Yes, this is canon. Really, it is.

X-MEN vol 2 #50
“Full Court Press”
by Scott Lobdell, Andy Kubert, Cam Smith & Joe Rosas
March 1996

Wolverine, Cyclops, Iceman and Storm are captured to a mysterious wasteland and forced to battle Post (Kevin Tremain), the herald of Onslaught, as part of a Danger Room-like test. The X-Men defeat Post and are returned to Westchester, where a mysterious psychic entity appears, berates Gateway for putting forward the X-Men as viable opponents for Onslaught, and warns that if they struggled that badly against Post, they have no chance against Onslaught himself. I’m not sure the psychic entity ever gets properly identified. Maybe it’s another side of Professor X? The “Onslaught” event was riddled with this sort of thing – the plot just wasn’t coherently worked out from issue to issue.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #97
“…Bump in the Night”
by Larry Hama, Adam Kubert, Dan Green & Joe Rosas
January 1996

Cyber escapes his cell at Edinburgh Castle, and Wolverine and Phoenix (Jean Grey) investigate. The trail leads them to Landau, Luckman & Lake, who are under attack from Chimera, a seemingly mad woman who fights using glove puppets made of energy. The heroes team up with office boy Emmet, who recognises Wolverine as someone that Zoe Culloden “is all het up about”. Wolverine catches up with Chimera as she’s viewing a computer projection of his own animalistic progression, and drives her off. Zoe then shows up, gives him a package which will supposedly explain everything, and sends the two X-Men back to Earth. She tells Emmet that (for unexplained reasons) she can’t tell Wolverine what Genesis has planned for him, but can at least give him a fighting chance.

By this point in the Hama run, things are starting to get a little incoherent. Emmet is a bit too wacky for his own good; Chimera is a great character design but not much of an actual character. And Zoe has become a character who does arbitrary things to advance the plot while insisting that there are excellent reasons that she isn’t able to disclose just now.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #98
“Fade to Black”
by Larry Hama, Ramon Bernado, three inkers & Joe Rosas
February 1996

The package contains a key and a note. Wolverine reads the note, and the story then cuts to him waking up in a wrecked Princess Bar after a blackout. Many dead people lie on the floor, cut apart by claws, including O’Donnell, Archie Corrigan and Rose Wu. Tai and the Madripoor police arrest Logan, who plays along, partly because he’s worried that he might actually be the killer. But once in jail, he overhears Tai arranging to leave the station unattended so that he can be killed. Dirt Nap also appears in the cell (still in rat form) and tells Logan that his boss (Cable’s son Genesis) will have the last laugh. Finally, Wolverine decides to have faith in himself and concludes that he has indeed been set up. He escapes just as Prince Baran and General Coy show up leading a death squad. In the ensuing chaos, Coy shoots Baran, and Tyger Tiger shoots Coy (she also runs down Tai, but he’ll show up alive and well in issue #127). The note simply leads Logan back to the local Landau Luckman & Lake office, where Logan passes through another warp chamber door and is met by Zoe.

This is an absolute mess. It’s full of weird teases that never pay off, and it’s a senseless slaughter of perfectly good supporting characters. The story suggests that everyone is unusually bloodthirsty because they’re under some sort of outside influence, but Hama never gets around to explaining this – the Wolverine Index shrugs its shoulders and suggests it’s something to do with Genesis. There are worse Wolverine stories, but this one commits the cardinal sin of actively damaging the book, by dismantling an entirely workable set-up and removing viable characters from circulation for absolutely no upside.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #99
“Of Mythic Metal Forged”
by Larry Hama, Val Semeiks, Dan Green, Dan Panosian, Chad Hunt & Joe Rosas
March 1996

Zoe takes Wolverine to see the ruined town of Akkaba (Genesis slaughtered the population in Cable #17) and gives us more hazy blather about manipulative forces and events spiralling out of control. Then she heads off to deal with Chimera, telling Wolverine to find “the Citadel”. Wolverine soon meets Genesis’s acolyte Jamil, who views Akkaba as a majestic display of power; Wolverine is unimpressed, saying that “a true master doesn’t do stuff like this, cause he needs to prove nothing.” Jamil leads Wolverine to the Citadel, where he breaks in to find the Dark Riders (now including Deadbolt, Spyne, Hurricane and Lifeforce) shepherding Egyptian prisoners. Finally, he is captured by Genesis (Tyler Dayspring) himself, who plans to give Wolverine fresh psi-implants and restored adamantium (taken from Cyber) and make him the new leader of the Dark Riders.

Jamil’s involvement in this story is retconned in X-Men vol 2 #61, which establishes that he’s actually a psychic projection of Karima.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #100
“Furnace of his Brain, Anvil of his Heart”
by Larry Hama, Adam Kubert, Dan Green & Joe Rosas
April 1996

Genesis tries to restore Wolverine’s adamantium, intending to make him into a soldier – despite the Dark Riders’ open scepticism that this is remotely achievable. Genesis also plans to sacrifice his civilian prisoners, and use their life force to resurrect Apocalypse, who is supposedly lying within a sarcophagus. Cannonball interrupts (he was brought to the scene by Zoe), and Wolverine expels his new adamantium before degenerating into an even more bestial form, much to Cannonball’s horror.

Wolverine then kills the Dark Riders (except for Dirt Nap, who escapes), and kills Genesis. In his last moments, Genesis realises that he devoted his life to pursuing the “survival of the fittest”, but the “fittest” turned out to be a degenerate, animalistic version of Wolverine. The sarcophagus turns out to be empty, so either Genesis was deluded about Apocalypse being there, or he somehow escaped anyway. Speaking in a bestial voice (i.e., an exciting new font), Wolverine tells Cannonball to pass on his apologies to Cable, and says he had no choice but to kill Genesis. Then he leaves, and Cannonball reflects that he is gone “in more ways than one.”

This is the start of the notorious “dog Wolverine” arc, which – as we’ll see – doesn’t actually last all that long. That’s possibly because of the backlash. The idea seems to be to set up “trad Wolverine” as the scheme of a backwards-looking Apocalypse knock-off and to double down on taking the character in a different direction. But it came across at the time as bait-and-switch. More to the point, the character design for the animalistic Wolverine is very badly misjudged and simply makes him look stupid. As we’ll see, if you focus on what actually happens in the next few issues, and ignore the way he looks, they’re not so bad; if they’d just gone for more animalistic behaviour and a slightly wilder look, and sold it mainly with body language, it might have worked.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #332 / WOLVERINE vol 2 #101
“The Road to Casabalanca” / “The Helix of an Age Foretold”
UX #332 by Scott Lobdell, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend & Steve Buccellato
W #101 by Larry Hama, Val Semeiks, Chad Hunt & Joe Rosas
May 1996

Now acting purely like an animal, Wolverine explores a temple out of curiosity. He meets Ozymandias, a petrified pharoah who now serves Apocalypse as a prophet. The X-Men come looking for Wolverine, and  fight Ozymandias and his animated statues. During the battle, Wolverine saves Cyclops from a fall, and they see Ozymandias’s prophetic carvings of Professor X. Wolverine no longer recognises their significance, but still rescues Cyclops and carries him back to the rest of the team. Finally Jean manages to calm him down, and he returns home with the X-Men. We’re told that he’s now working purely on instinct and has essentially lost the power of reason; at this point he’s barely a functioning a character.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #102
“Unspoken Promises”
by Larry Hama, Adam Kubert, Dan Green & Joe Rosas
June 1996

Feral Logan hitches a train ride into New York. A passing woman, shocked by his appearance, takes him for a beggar and gives him money – which he doesn’t understand. Later, Logan saves the woman’s gangster son from a gunfight, and rescues him from an oncoming train, but then passes out from gunshot wounds. A rival nearly kills the boy, but is stopped by Elektra (who has been tailing Logan for a couple of issues). She takes Logan into her care, and Logan gives the boy the coin that he got at the start of the issue.

All that plays out in silence, while Elektra’s narration relates an entirely different story. Her family gardener Stavros was once a resistance fighter, and when he saved her from two would-be assassins, she persuaded him to spare the younger one. That younger assassin went on to repay Stavros by supporting him in his old age. Stavros tells Elektra that redemption must be paid for in time, by repaying the universe. These characters go on to appear on panel in issue #106, and the story is retold in a conventional flashback in Elektra vol 1 #18.

In theory these two stories dovetail; in practice they kind of don’t, and it’s an odd way for Adam Kubert’s run on the book to end. But it’s a more unusual and ambitious issue than people associate with this period. We’re also now stuck with fill-in art for the rest of the year, mostly by Val Semeiks, who had been filling in already on the issues when Kubert wasn’t available.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #103
“Top of the World, Ma!”
by Larry Hama, Val Semeiks, Chad Hunt & Joe Rosas
July 1996

Elektra’s mentor Stick has told her to set Wolverine “back on the path again”, without giving her any direction as to how. So she takes him to a makeshift dojo at the top of a skyscraper and tells him that she will bring him back to the path of the righteous warrior, who has honour because he recognises and fulfils his obligations and duties. She shows him a scroll, and he recognises the ideograms for forest and wind, but feels something is missing. Since a zen martial artist trains his body to be one with his mind, Elektra spars with Wolverine, hoping that if she can bring back his martial arts instincts, the rest of his personality will follow. Finally, she tests Wolverine by locking him in a freezer; after an initial tantrum, he regains his composure and reasons his way out. He also remembers that the missing ideogram is a mountain, which leads him to Elektra. When they spar again, Wolverine fakes fighting like an animal in order to lure her in; in fact, he grabs a sword and (apparently – the art is unclear) symbolically defeats her by spearing the space behind her.

This is another strange and cryptic issue, not helped by the art – which isn’t so bad, but it’s saddled with the feral design. It’s basically about Wolverine re-learning self-control, and three issues into this arc, we’re already back to a relatively recognisable character. He’s speaking in proper sentences, albeit with the feral font, and stumbling over words like “ideogram”.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #102.5
by Dan Slott, Mark Buckingham & Paul Mounts
June 1996

Logan and Elektra are in the wilderness, “regaining his centre while relearning his humanity”. Spiral and the Warwolves abduct Wolverine to the Mojoverse, where Mojo II makes him fight all his old enemies at once in the hope of generating ratings that (somehow) will let him seize control of the dimension. Eventually the viewers get bored of the one-sided fight, and Wolverine is rescued by Longshot, Dazzler and the X-Babies (Cyke, Shower, Sugah, Ice-Baby and the X-Baby versions of Archangel, Bishop and Gambit). A confused Wolverine is returned home.

This was a tie-in to Fleer trading cards, and yes, it’s numbered #102.5 even though it can’t possibly take place until after issue #103. The issue has no cover date, but I’m going with the dates listed on Unlimited. (That’ll be my standard once we get into the era where nothing has a cover date.)

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #333
“The Other Shoe”
By Scott Lobdell, Pascual Ferry and various others
June 1996

Just a cameo of Wolverine hanging around in the background in the Mansion, not contributing much. The narrator says that “As of late, any interaction between himself and his friends has been difficult.” By this point, the Dark Beast has secretly replaced the Beast, but nobody has noticed yet.

Flashbacks in Wolverine vol 2 #175 and Wolverine / Hercules: Myths, Monsters & Mutants #1 are placed here in the official timeline, with Wolverine making his annual attack on Matsuo Tsurayaba, and cutting off his right ear. Wolverine is only shown in silhouette or obscurely in these flashbacks, which is probably why it’s been selected to go here.

STORM vol 1 #1 and #4
4 issue miniseries
by Warren Ellis, Terry Dodson, Karl Story & Ariane Lenshoek
February to May 1996

Wolverine does some sounding board stuff for Storm in issue #1, and shows up briefly with the other X-Men in issue #4. Wolverine is plainly meant to be in his “roughing it in the grounds” status quo in issue #1, but that doesn’t fit with Storm changing costume at the end of issue #4, so you just have to squint a bit.

by Mort Todd, Gene Simmons, Stan Lee, David Chlystek, Scott Elmer, Eric Lusk, Nate Palant,  John Bligh, Ed Lazellari, Paul Becton, Joe Andreani & Michael Kraiger
January 1996

Hopelessly incoherent pseudo-meta story in which Wolverine and Psylocke meet the Marvel Universe versions of Kiss – Demon, Starchild, Cat and Space Ace – as well as their real world counterparts. Or rather, the line-up of Kiss from the time when the story was being produced. It’s terrible, anyway.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #334
“Dark Horizon”
by Scott Lobdell, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend & Steve Buccellato
July 1996

The “Beast” runs some tests on Wolverine, who grumbles that he isn’t a mindless animal, and is “not without his own resources” – meaning his relationship with Elektra.

X-MEN vol 2 #54
“Inquiring Minds”
by Mark Waid, Andy Kubert, Dan Panosian & Joe Rosas
July 1996

The X-Men respond to a sighting on Juggernaut on campus, but Professor X calls off the hunt without explanation, and calls the team to him. This leads in to…

by Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Adam Kubert, Dan Green & Steve Buccellato
August 1996

Professor X reveals himself as Onslaught, and claims to be a persona created by the Professor’s fear, frustration and rage, to do the things he couldn’t otherwise do. The X-Men quickly figure out that he also seems a lot like Magneto, but Onslaught seems unwilling to acknowledge that. Onslaught’s erratic behaviour is apparently to do with Professor X being conflicted, and Wolverine gives the usual speech about never giving up on the Professor, because the Professor never gave up on him. Onslaught knocks out all the X-Men and leaves with Dark Beast by his side. Oh, and by this point Wolverine’s started wearing a bandana mask, which is… I mean, it’s better than the dog look, but it’s still a bandana mask.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #335
“Apocalypse Lives!”
by Scott Lobdell, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend & Steve Buccellato
August 1996

The “Onslaught” crossover continues, with the Avengers and X-Man (Nate Grey) showing up to help. Wolverine isn’t going to play a major part in this crossover, so he decides to go and ask Gateway if he knows anything useful. At least, that’s what it says here. In Wolverine #104 it says that Scott and Jean sent him. It’s far from the biggest plot problem with “Onslaught”, but fortunately we won’t have to pay much attention to the others.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #104
“The Emperor of the Realm of Grief”
by Larry Hama, Val Semeiks, Chad Hunt & Joe Rosas
August 1996

Wolverine and Elektra ask Gateway about Onslaught, and he responds by showing them traumatic memories from their pasts. Apparently this is some sort of warning because the truth about Onslaught is even more painful… or something? Anyway, Gateway finally shows them a flashback to X-Men vol 2 #25, which reveals how Onslaught was formed when part of Magneto’s persona infected Professor X. The idea is meant to be that Professor X was lashing out at Magneto in such an uncharacteristically violent way that he was left open to attack, which means that Onslaught only came about because Professor X was avenging Wolverine, which means it’s all Wolverine’s fault… somehow? It’s a fairly desperate attempt to find a Wolverine angle on a story whose actual remit is an Onslaught plot point that should have been in a more central book.

By this point Wolverine still has his feral font and a modified character design, but his first person narration has returned, and he’s speaking completely normally. He tells us that he’s “in recovery” and “clawing my way back, one day at a time.”

WOLVERINE vol 2 #105
“Faces in the Fire”
by Larry Hama, Val Semeiks, Chad Hunt, Chris Lichtner & Joe Andreani
September 1996

Technically this is an “Onslaught” tie-in, but in reality it’s a story set in a burning building. It happens to have been set on fire by Onslaught’s Sentinels, but it could just as well have been an electrical fault for all the difference it makes to the plot.

So. Wolverine rescues a boy from a fire, and Elektra’s mentor Stick shows up to lead them through the flames to safety. Mistaking Stick for a civilian, Wolverine goes back in to rescue him. When he realises who he’s talking to, he thinks that Stick must be there to complete Elektra’s work and make him fully human again. But Stick says that all a teacher can do is tell Wolverine that there is a path back to humanity, and let him find it for himself. He argues that when Wolverine lost his adamantium, he gave up on keeping himself together, and allowed himself to slip back into animalism, instead of resisting that urge as we all must do. As long as Wolverine strives to be better, he won’t be an animal. Oh, and the Human Torch shows up at the end to collect Wolverine for the crossover finale.

This is pretty much Hama drawing a line under the regression storyline and moving on, though Stick’s attempt to rationalise the character arc feels unconvincing. The modified character design sticks around for a while, the font for rather longer, but the storyline is pretty much finished.

by Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Adam Kubert, Dan Green & Steve Buccellato
October 1996

Wolverine is a face in the crowd as the assembled heroes fight Onslaught, and the Avengers, Fantastic Four and a few other non-mutant heroes sacrifice themselves to defeat him. It’s set up to look like the X-Men have killed the other heroes, but that idea never really goes anywhere. This is the justification for the “Heroes Reborn” reboot, which lasted a year. It’s tempting to say that it derails “Onslaught” by enlisting it in the service of Avengers and Fantastic Four storylines, but that would imply that “Onslaught” ever had much of a plan to start with.

Wolverine meets Joseph here, though at this point everyone still thinks he’s a de-aged Magneto.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #337
“Know Thy Enemy”
by Scott Lobdell, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend, Vince Russell & Steve Buccellato
October 1996

Wolverine tries to console Professor X, and doesn’t get very far. The art is noticeably toning down the “dog” design by this point, and Wolverine is written completely normally.

X-MEN vol 2 #57
by Scott Lobdell, Andy Kubert, Art Thibert & Joe Rosas
October 1996

Valerie Cooper shows up at the Mansion to take Professor X into protective custody. Wolverine wants to fight to defend him, but the X-Men wind up having a debate about it until Professor X voluntarily surrenders himself, taking responsibility for Onslaught’s actions.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #106
“Openings and Closures”
by Larry Hama, Val Semeiks, Chad Hunt & Derek Bellman
October 1996

Logan takes Elektra with him on his annual pilgrimage to Silver Fox’s grave (late, for obvious reasons). There’s some communing with wolves to show that Logan still has animal tendencies, but really, that’s the sort of thing he always did. Logan declares himself ready to move on and love again.

He and Elektra then head to Greece, and she introduces him to her family… or rather, her servants. In particular, we meet Stavros, the family gardener; Theo, his adopted son; and Athos, once the family bodyguard, who failed to save Elektra’s father. By the wonders of Marvel Universe coincidence, Stavros met Logan during World War II, but they don’t recognise one another. (Another 25 years of the sliding timeline will have messed with this by now.) Stavros reveals that one of the killers of Elektra’s father, Sawyer, has been found, and offers her revenge, but she isn’t interested and wants to move on. This is unfortunate, because Sawyer is actually being held on the grounds. In deference to Elektra’s wishes, the servants release him. Wolverine threatens Sawyer, to make sure he keeps quiet about what happened, and covers for the servants in front of Elektra.

Not a bad issue, though it presents Elektra as an ingenue, which feels off. Logan still looks animalistic, but his design is much closer to normal, and he’s shown taking a regular commercial flight to Greece, wearing normal clothes and apparently being accepted by everyone around him as a regular passenger.

ELEKTRA vol 1 #1 and #3
“Afraid of the Dark” / “I Know How You Feel”
by Peter Milligan, Mike Deodato Jr, Deodato Studios & Christie Scheele
November 1996 & January 1997

Ah, Peter Milligan’s Elektra. This was… not entirely successful. In issue #1, Logan drops by to give Elektra a ride on his bike, and she tells him about her planned one-woman contemporary dance show. Can you see why this take on Elektra didn’t stick? In issue #3, Logan shows up for three panels for a bit more exposition, and to answer questions about the Architect.

Elektra’s recent appearances in Wolverine are acknowledged, and Wolverine mentions that he owes her in a big way, but he’s drawn completely normally. (He doesn’t have the feral font either, but it’s a hand lettered book.)

“The Last Ronin”
by Jeph Loeb, Ralph Macchio, Ed McGuinness, Nathan Massengill & Gloria Vasquez

The Silver Samurai enlists Wolverine and Sunfire (whose powers are currently on the fritz) to stop the Japanese government from reprogramming Red Ronin (a giant robot from Godzilla) into an anti-mutant weapon, and to stop the Hand from stealing it for themselves. Oh, and Yukio wants to steal it too. Lightweight stuff. The story acts as if Wolverine is meeting the Hand for the first time… which would be a weird continuity error at the best of times, but in a story where Yukio appears prominently? Really? Lip service is paid to Wolverine’s regression storyline, which Yukio apparently finds very sexy.

WOLVERINE ’96 (backup strip)
“The Golden Temple”
by Joe Kelly, Tommy Lee Edwards, Rich Case & Paul Becton

Amiko runs away from her babysitters – the Kuans, who look after her while Yukio is on missions – to search for “the Good Samurai” (Wolverine). A homeless man offers to guide her to a “Golden Temple” that she remembers from her mother’s stories, but it turns out to be just an ordinary dilapidated temple. The man reveals himself as a disguised Wolverine and explains that Amiko is learning an important lesson that life can change for the worse – but also that her own belief can make the world magical. Amiko comes across as a bit dim, but it’s a nice little story in its way.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #338
“A Hope Reborn, a Past Reclaimed”
by Scott Lobdell, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend & Steve Buccellato
November 1996

Pyro tries to warn the X-Men about something, but gets dragged away by Avalanche before he can explain it. It was meant to be Mystique’s plan to kill Graydon Creed, but that’s completely dropped in his next appearance, when he’s just working with Mystique again.

X-MEN vol 2 #58
by Scott Lobdell, Ralph Macchio, Bernard Chang, Jon Holdredge & Joe Rosas
November 1996

Logan talks to Bishop about finding a new direction in his life now that the X-traitor storyline is finally over. Although the jagged feral font is still here, the art has reverted to showing Wolverine in his normal design.

by Tom DeFalco, Josh Hood, Andrew Pepoy & Joe Andreani
December 1996

Cynical Wolverine hates the holidays because he can’t buy into the happy and cosy feelings, but wishes he could. Fine for what it is. It has continuity problems nowadays because Logan claims to remember his childhood and says he “rarely found presents tucked under the tree”, which obviously contradicts Origin.

3-issue miniseries
by Larry Hama, Joe St Pierre, Al Milgrom & Tom Smith
November 1996 to January 1997

Venom in 1996/7 was essentially an ongoing title presented as a series of minis. In this one, Wolverine visits Landau, Luckman & Lake and is attacked by Venom, who is possessed by Dirt Nap. Dirt Nap is actually looking for Chimera, but she’s tricked him into fighting Wolverine instead. Once Venom frees himself, much of the tension is that Wolverine still wants to free all the other people who Dirt Nap has absorbed over the years, but Venom just wants to kill Dirt Nap in revenge (which will kill his prisoners too). A convoluted chase ensues, involving a shrunken spaceship, two kids who have randomly sneaked aboard (Jerry and Rocky) and Scream (Donna Diego). Dirt Nap is eventually forced to free all of his prisoners (revealing his base form to be an old man), and Chimera sends everyone home.

Because this ties up the Dirt Nap storyline, it’s effectively part of Hama’s Wolverine series. But it’s pretty terrible, and leans into the wackiest aspects of Hama’s LLL stories.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #339
“Fight and Flight!”
by Scott Lobdell, Adam Kubert, Cedric Nocon, Jesse Delperdang, Scott Hanna & Steve Buccellato
December 1996

Spider-Man drops by the Mansion to tell the X-Men that the Daily Bugle is investigating a major scandal about anti-mutant presidential candidate Graydon Creed. (The scandal is that Creed’s parents are Mystique and Sabretooth, but the Bugle’s journalist gets assassinated before he can write up the story.)

X-MEN vol 2 #59
by Scott Lobdell, Ralph Macchio, Andy Kubert, Art Thibert & Joe Rosas
December 1996

Wolverine tries to encourage Quicksilver to rebuild his life after Crystal’s death, if only for his daughter’s sake; Quicksilver runs off rather than have that conversation. Wolverine’s perched in a tree here wearing a slightly tattered version of his costume, but otherwise looks fairly normal. If the whole “feral” run had looked like this, it would have worked a lot better.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #340
by Scott Lobdell, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend & Steve Buccellato
January 1997

Wolverine helps to defend Iceman’s hospitalised father from the Friends of Humanity. The artists still don’t seem to have any clear direction about how to draw Logan – this time, he has jagged teeth, white eyes and extra hair, but he’s dressed in ordinary clothes.

by Joe Kelly, Pop Mhan, Mike Witherby & Brian Buccellato
October 1996

When some cryptozoologists go missing while hunting a sasquatch, Wolverine identifies a new Wendigo as the culprit. Wolverine gives chase. He’s followed by Jonas Fleet, a cryptozoologist who escaped capture; and Fleet, in turn, is followed by his wife Tamara Fleet and Heather Hudson. Wolverine catches up with the Wendigo in the middle of a battle with the Hulk, who at this point lacks Bruce Banner’s personality and doesn’t care about collateral damage. Wolverine is driven into a berserker rage during the fight, and the Hulk derides him for his lack of self control before defeating him. Once he calms down, Wolverine accepts the point.

The Wendigo storyline continues into the next issue, where Wolverine doesn’t appear.

“Two Sides of the Same Coin”
by Ron Marz, Jackson Guice, Joe Rubinstein & Lee Loughridge
January 1997

Just a single panel cameo, as part of a montage of Marvel and DC heroes going about their regular business.

X-MEN ’96
“One Day at the Mansion”
by Larry Hama, Roberto Flores, Anthony Castillo, Nathan Massengill, Al Milgrom & Paul Becton

The X-Men, X-Force and Generation X play baseball. A Sentinel which gained sentience during “Onslaught” shows up and tries to warn them about an existential threat to humanity before dying. Wolverine is among the X-Men who show sympathy for the dying Sentinel (possibly because he’s done this story once before, in Wolverine #72), and he argues with Cable over the point. This leads to a much delayed argument over Wolverine’s killing of Cable’s son in issue #100, and the two bury the hatchet. The story seems intended to try and draw a line under their feud once and for all.

by Ben Raab, Joe Phillips, Mark Lipka & Don Skinner
June 1997

Placed here because… well, it’s basically the same story. Logan and Cable go for a drink together, talk about how Logan killed Genesis, and bury the hatchet. Let’s pretend this is all part of the same sequence of events and not the same thing happening twice in two different stories published less than a year apart.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #107-109
“Once upon a Time in Little Tokyo” / “East is East…”
by Larry Hama, Anthony Winn, Dan Green and various
November 1996 to January 1997

There are only two story titles because issue #109 has no title or credits.

The Hand kidnap Yukio and Amiko and frame Wolverine. He seeks sanctuary from the Yakuza’s Double Jade Clan, whose leader Pale Flower (Shirohana) agrees to let him in while she checks his credentials. Unfortunately, she’s the daughter of Dai-Kumo, who died way back in issue #33. She wants revenge on Wolverine and tries to assassinate him with blowfish toxin. Thanks to his healing factor, it has absolutely no effect, and as the authorities show up at her door, poor Flower realises that Wolverine is about to ruin everything for her family again. That’s the best bit of the arc.

Logan and Flower play along with going to jail, hoping to draw the Hand out. The Silver Samurai’s messenger Yohei provides them with the Clan Yashida Honor Sword as a token of support. Flower somehow knows that Yohei is actually a major Yashida Clan enforcer, and it’s suggested that she might be a mutant without knowing it, but that doesn’t go anywhere. She decides that she’s fulfilled her family duty by making a sincere attempt at killing Wolverine, and switches sides to help him. Logan, Yohei and Flower follow Yukio’s trail to Akatora, a movie director who secretly leads a Hand cult. There’s a fight with cyborg ninjas in monster costumes, and Yohei is exposed as a traitor. Amiko and Yukio are rescued, but nobody realises that Amiko has been brainwashed while in captivity.

Wolverine is drawn normally in this story, which the narration explains as him using an image inducer. This doesn’t really make any sense given that he wasn’t wearing one on a commercial airliner a few issues earlier, but okay. From here on, Wolverine is increasingly just drawn normally, and they stop giving any explanation for it. Quite simply, he gets better without anyone feeling the need to mention it.

The brainwashing subplot is mentioned once more (in Elektra #15) and then vanishes without resolution. The Wolverine Index suggests that the effect just wore off, which is as good an answer as any. As for the story… it has its moments, but when you’re doing cyborg ninjas dressed as Godzilla, it’s maybe time to move on.

And next time, in 1997, Larry Hama will do just that as we reach the end of his run.

Bring on the comments

  1. Peter Singer says:

    These were the stories I read when I got back into comics…

    I really don’t understand how I stayed. These are (mostly) all dreadful.

  2. Bengt Strand says:

    Elektras dad was shot by cops. Matt knocks a kidnapper out the window at which point the cops gathered outside unloaded into the building killing him. It’s in Daredevil 168, Elektras first appearance. So is the Sawyer character supposed to be one of the kidnappers or something?

  3. Daibhid C says:

    “I say, I say, I say, my Wolverine has no nose.”

    “Realy? How does he smell?”

    “Somehow, more keenly than ever!”

    Thank you, I’m here all week.

  4. SanityOrMadness says:

    Here’s the thing about the whole “noseless Pirate Wolverine” arc (as someone of my acquantince was wont to call what you describe as the “dog Wolverine” look) – it actually parallels Hulk in the run-up to and immediately after Incredible Hulk #300 in many ways. First, you have the character being rendered more human in some respect (Banner taking over the Hulk’s body; Wolverine losing his adamantium & healing factor) for a bit. Then normal service is apparently resumed to some extent (Hulk personality returning, Wolverine’s healing factor “kicking back in”), only for things to go too far in the other direction, leading to a complete loss of personality/”mindless” animal state.

    And, character design notwithstanding, they could have gone for a similar direction for Wolverine post-#100. It would never have been a tenable long-term status quo, but they could have got away with half a year or so of Man-Thing stories, with Wolverine as an object which the stories revolve around rather than a genuine protagonist, before the march back toward the mean. As it is, #102 is the only story that leans in any way in that direction.

    I do suspect that the rapid move back to the character being “a relatively recognisable character” can’t have been due to external feedback. It’s too quick. Either there was an *internal* backlash, or they wanted Wolverine to be acting like Wolverine for the big Onslaught crossover and everything else got trumped.

    (And even the return to him looking human is unexplained in the end – the Japan story has him drawn normally, but the narration notes he’s using an image inducer, and he’s still full-feral design in the X-Men story early the next year that leads into Zero Tolerance… but then he’s suddenly and permanently back to normal when the crossover-proper starts.)

    PS: Without checking #109, wasn’t it *Amiko* that was brainwashed in the stinger, not Yukio?

  5. Paul says:

    Yes, it’s Amiko who gets brainwashed. I’ve fixed that.

  6. the new kid says:

    I remember the times. I was still 16. The X-books cruised on a lot of good will following the fan pleasing Age of Apocalypse. I was nuts about that arc.

    Had to admit things were going off the rails a bit when no-nose Wolverine showed up. Fans were also turning on the Spider-Man clone saga. The hand full of people reading Avengers were getting the Crossing. We are not in Marvel’s finest hour here.

  7. Mark Coale says:

    Speaking of Access, will the Amalgam books be on the list, given Dark Claw was probably in a bunch of books?

  8. Thom H. says:

    So many aborted storylines and cryptic secrets that will sadly never be shockingly revealed. The end product really betrays the absolute chaos of Marvel corporate at the time.

    This Wolverine timeline fills in so many gaps in my comics knowledge and serves as a reminder of the other comics I was reading at the time (1996: JLA, Flex Mentallo, Black Hole, From Hell). Good times.

    Thanks and Happy New Year!

  9. CJ says:

    Yeah, this is about when I started collecting comics. I was 15. Age of Apocalypse (and Phalanx Covenant immediately preceding) drew me in. I stayed for the Adam Kubert, Joe Mad, and Chris Bachalo art for a few years.

    Whatever holofoil-ish coloring they were using for Wolverine #100 was so cool to me; I remember Hurricane faceplanting with an adamantium-scle stuck in the back of his head. And despite it heralding Dog Wolvie, it really did feel like something new was happening.

    I’m also guessing the popularity of classic Wolverine from the concurrently-running animated series was a factor in the backlash. Long-term comic fans AND neophytes from the cartoon weren’t happy with it.

  10. Josie says:

    Arguably his run on Wolverine was when Adam Kubert became ADAM KUBERT.

    He didn’t introduce and/or perfect all his fancy techniques on this run (he’s nifty pencils-on-cardboard seems to have come up with during his Hulk run), but it feels like the Adam Kubert who moved on from Wolverine hasn’t changed a lot compared to his progression over the course of that run. (But I mean, I don’t need him to change further, I love what he became.)

  11. Dave says:

    I’d completely forgotten the Firstborn Brood existed. As did Marvel.

    Without Kubert on art, I dropped Wolverine when Onslaught finished. I think I buyback on for OZT.

  12. Dave says:

    * got back on

  13. Mike Loughlin says:

    During the mid-’90s, Wolverine’s main writers were Larry Hama and Scott Lobdell. Both of those writers have stated that they don’t usually plot stories in the long-term. Add to the mix Bob Harras, whose main editorial direction was to keep adding mysteries and spinning narrative plates, but don’t resolve anything, and you get the storytelling chaos that is ’90s X-Men. “Heroes Reborn” looming certainly didn’t help.
    I was reading Wolverine and some of the other X-books during this era, but dropped them after Onslaught because of the things Paul recounted above.

    It wasn’t all bad – I liked most of Hama’s writing, especially Wolverine 102, and some of the Onslaught crossover- but it wasn’t fun or terribly interesting.

    You could see the same storytelling problems in DC’s new 52, which was during Bob Harras’s reign as Editor-in-Chief and featured the work of a lot of ’90s creators who had worked under Harras. Dan Didio’s influence didn’t seem to help.

  14. Chris says:

    Paul overlooked the mention of the Image Inducer.

  15. Paul says:

    I meant to mention the image inducer (in a couple of places), and it evidently got cut somewhere in the final draft by mistake. I’ll put it back in, because it does matter.

  16. Daibhid C says:

    @Mark Coale: Looking at Marvel vs DC in the last entry, Paul mentions Dark Claw’s creation, but doesn’t list the character’s other appearances in the first batch of Amalgam Comics, presumably because he’s not actually Wolverine at this point. (I assume the same will go for Diamond Patch if and when we get that far.)

    Dark Claw’s appearances in the 1997 Amalgam run are even less Actual Wolverine, since they probably feature the duplicate Amalgam Universe created in the All Access miniseries (and if they don’t, they must also take place between DC vs Marvel #s 3 and 4, since that’s when the actual amalgamated Amalgam Universe existed.)

    In fact, now I think about it, ISTR that the main Dark Claw comic in the second run was a pastiche of Batman: The Animated Series, and so probably isn’t even the Actual Dark Claw.

  17. Si says:

    It’s a shame Wolverine never had much to do with the Thunderbolts, or Incomplete Wolverine would shortly cross over with Lightning Round, in what I’m sure would be an event spectacular.

  18. Dave says:

    Huh? There was an image inducer mentioned here before I first posted.

  19. Andrew says:

    “This is an absolute mess. It’s full of weird teases that never pay off”

    This is the big problem with most of the X-men stuff during the tail end of the Scott Lobdell era and the the entire Seagle/Kelly era. There’s endless set up or teases for storylines that never saw print or were drastically re-written later to the point where the earlier hints couldn’t possibly make sense.

    It makes re-reading the late 90s really hard going because it’s just incoherent and doesn’t go anywhere.

  20. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Ah yes, my origin story is here.

    My mom got a job at a drug store and in an attempt to get tween me to care about something let me buy all the comics I wanted from the spinner rack.

    I had read a few comics here or there and had like so many gotten into the characters from the 90s cartoon shows.

    But this was when I became a proper monthly comic reader.

    Uncanny X-Men #335 and Wolverine #106 were my first X-issues, not counting a Pizza Hut cartoon tie in.

    I had no idea what was going on and absolutely loved it!

    I also got to go to a real comic shop and buy a t-shirt. Feral bandana Wolverine that a kid at school called an “ugly ninja turtle.” The nerve!

  21. Daniel D says:

    I just wanted to +1 the commentary on Wolverine #98. It’s always bothered me that most of the Madripoor supporting cast was abruptly killed off for shock value and nothing positive came from it.

  22. Nu-D says:

    When this is all done, I’d like to see a tally of issues-per-year. Before these columns I would have pegged a year between 1989-1993 as the apotheosis of overexposure for Logan, but 1996 is seems like it might be a contender.

  23. Chris V says:

    I don’t think that’s accurate.
    He was still hardly appearing in the X-Men comics, and wasn’t appearing in every random Marvel UK and C-list series Marvel was publishing.
    1996 seems like a pretty sober year for Wolverine appearances.

    Wolverine will eventually join the Avengers while also being a X-Man and having his own series.
    That may end up challenging the early-‘90s.
    I’m not sure, but I would have to go with 1992 or 1993 being the height of Wolvie-mania.

  24. Si says:

    It would be difficult to quantify. His appearances were very different in different periods. In the late 80s he was only one one team, but had two books and constant guest appearances. In the 00s he had only a few guest appearances but was on at least two teams and a fixture in four or five different books.

  25. Daniel D says:

    Somewhere around 06-07 he’ll be appearing in multiple X-Men and Avengers books while Wolverine and Wolverine: Origins are running simultaneously…

  26. Chris says:

    There is a discrepancy between the Hulk/Wolverine confrontation in MARVEL FANFARE and the fight they had in the Savage Land over in THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

  27. Brendan says:

    My first comic was Wolverine #99. The art team did some gorgeous work. The plot, well, with hindsight it goes nowhere. But at the time I definitely thought it had promise.

    As I’d come in via the X-Men cartoon;I was pretty gutted we got dog Wolverine by the end of #100 and I didn’t hang around much after that.

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