RSS Feed
Feb 6

The Incomplete Wolverine – 1997

Posted on Sunday, February 6, 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 | 1996

Last time Wolverine turned into an animal and then Marvel backtracked from the whole plot at tremendous speed. And so the search is on for a new direction.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #110
“Lesser Beasts”
by Tom DeFalco, Joe Bennett, Joe Pimentel, Joe Andreani & Paul Becton
February 1997

The January 1997 issue was the end of a storyline, and we covered it last time. So we kick off with… a fill-in issue. Wolverine and Shaman team up to deal with a couple of murderous robbers who have accidentally released one of the Great Beasts.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #111
by Larry Hama, Anthony Winn, Dan Green & Dana Moreshead
March 1997

Logan returns home from his jaunt to Japan and Canada, in time for Iceman’s leaving party – though he leaves early to go and drink on his own and mourn his supporting cast. A package arrives for Logan from Zoe Culloden, asking him to look after an “artefact” whose “nature and origin are not necessary for you to know at the present time”. Zoe’s message says that a dark time is coming, and malevolent energies are converging on him. Seems like a bad idea to give him an important artefact to look after, then. It’s a box with something glowing inside, but we never find out what it is, beyond that it has some sort of connection with both Ogun and Lady Deathstrike.

Later on, Wolverine watches the dawn and takes it as a symbolic reminder that things are bound to improve. He returns to the Danger Room wearing his normal costume for the first time in ages. Other books take a while to catch up with this, hence the Wolverine Index being forced to suggest that he’s using his image inducer around the house, but as far as Wolverine itself is concerned, we’re back to his normal status quo and the “degeneration” arc lingers only as a new font for his dialogue.

The Danger Room session is interrupted by a demonic figure (obviously Ogun, though Wolverine somehow fails to recognise him), who offers to resurrect Mariko in exchange for a favour; then, Stick interrupts that and reiterates Zoe’s warning about the cryptic stakes.

There’s some nice character work in this issue. Wolverine thinks of the Mansion as his home, but Iceman regards it as just Wolverine’s latest address in his long life. We get the impression that Iceman doesn’t really like Wolverine much, and thinks Wolverine never made much of an effort to get to know him. Wolverine seems to be a bit hurt by that. He also doesn’t like parties generally, which he ascribes to “not being properly socialised”; and he dismisses the X-Men’s favourite bar, Harry’s Hideaway, as “a nice enough place if you like bad pub food served in a place where the quaintness is mostly made of plastic”. And Storm pretty much tells Logan that he’s a “hothouse flower” who can only survive in the weird environment of the X-Men.

This is all leading to the epilogue, where Logan decides to leave the Mansion for a while and move to New York to prove to himself that he can in fact live with normal people. That’s the new direction for 1997, and this is a good set-up issue for it. But there are a few other stories to shoehorn in before we get there.

“The Spoon Job”
by John Paul Leon
December 1996

A HYDRA chemist tests a special poison on Wolverine, designed to kill people with healing powers. But he leaves behind the crucial clue that will lead Wolverine first to the antidote, and then to the chemist. A simple anthology entry, notable mainly for the art.

“Devil’s Reign, part 4”
by Larry Hama, Joe Benitez, Aaron Sowd & Dean White
February 1997

“Devil’s Reign” was a crossover between Marvel and Top Cow. Responding to an urgent call from Zoe Culloden, Wolverine follows through a portal to the Top Cow Universe. He teams up with Ballistic (Cassandra Taylor). She’s looking for her missing teammate Heatwave (Dylan Cruise), who in turn has been installed by Mephisto as mayor of New York. They rescue Zoe, but can’t prevent everyone in Times Square from vanishing as the new year begins. (Wolverine’s entry into the story is also shown as a cameo in the previous chapter, Ghost Rider / Ballistic.)

“Devil’s Reign, part 5”
by David Wohl, Christina Z, Michael Turner, D-Tron & Jonathan D Smith
March 1997

Wolverine tracks down Mephisto, who is impersonating Ian Nottingham, and who is trying to convince Sara Pezzini that she imagined her superhero career as Witchblade. Then, Wolverine and Witchblade team up. It’s mostly an issue of Witchblade angst.

“Devil’s Reign, part 6”
by Christina Z, David Wohl, Michael Turner, David Finch, Joe Benitez, D-Tron, Joe Weems & Jonathan D Smith
March 1997

Elektra shows up. Logan is consumed by fire and plays no further part in the crossover, which continues into Elektra / Cyblade and Silver Surfer / Weapon Zero. Presumably he just gets restored at the end.

X-MEN vol 2 #61
by Scott Lobdell, Cedric Nocon, Dave Hunt, Mike Miller & Joe Rosas
February 1997

Wolverine, Cyclops and Phoenix arrive just in time for the tail end of a fight between Storm and Candra.

X-MEN ’97
“Not a Cloud in the Sky”
by John Francis Moore, Steve Epting, Dan Green & Brad Vancata

The Gamesmaster creates a small-scale paradise in Salem Center, where everything starts to go improbably well for the X-Men. Joseph figures it out, and the Gamesmaster is defeated without Wolverine having any direct involvement.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #112-114
“The Light at the End of the Day” / “The Wind from the East” / “The Snark was a Boojum, You See!”
#112 by Larry Hama, Anthony Winn, Dan Green & Joe Rosas
#113 by Larry Hama, Leinil Francis Yu, Edgar Tadeo & Joe Rosas
April to June 1997

Back to the main series, then. Logan arrives in the East Village, and immediately encounters Kirsten and her boyfriend Clive, two characters from Hama’s Venom run. They tell him about a vacant apartment. He settles in and, with some prompting from Kirsten, decides to get a job. He goes to work for a co-op construction site run by Helen Bach, and insists on not being paid. (Logan claims to be “independently lower middle-class”.) Helen is impressed by his work but understandably sceptical about his vague blather about running from something and trying to reconnect to the world.

Ogun shows up, possessing a mime. He tries to steal the box that Logan got from Zoe – Logan now remembers having seen it before, when he first met Ogun decades ago. Remarkably, it still takes him a while to figure out that he’s fighting Ogun now. Storm and Phoenix show up for no particularly clear reason. Logan takes a knife meant for Storm, and Ogun is momentarily shocked into realising his own moral deterioration. That allows Jean to drive him away. Lady Deathstrike also show up to claim the box, which is, apparently, something to do with the legacy of her father. Oh, and Daimon Hellstrom shows up briefly, to emphasise how very, very important the box is. Shame we never found out why, really.

But… to all intents and purposes this is the end of the Hama run. He writes the next five issues – the Flashback Month story, and an “Operation: Zero Tolerance” crossover – but he never gets the chance to return to these storylines, and the issues that follow will instantly dismantle the East Village set-up.

The next issue box in issue #113 is telling: “Wolverine, back the way you like him!” Phoenix tells us outright that “Wolverine’s feral regression has pretty much halted itself… He’s more competent now than he ever was.” And his font has been toned down, too.

“Second Contact”
by Howard Mackie, Duncan Rouleau, Rob Hunter & Shannon Blanchard
June 1997

Wolverine and Iceman track down teenage Legacy Virus sufferer Chris Bradley, who has run off with Maverick. By the time they catch up to the two, Maverick has taken Chris under his wings, and Wolverine decides to let them go.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #342
“–Did I Miss Something?!”
by Scott Lobdell, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend & Steve Buccellato
March 1997

Wolverine is among the X-Men at the Mansion when Cannonball reports back that the other half of the team have been teleported off into Shi’ar space. Since Uncanny follows the spacebound half of the cast, Wolverine won’t appear in the book again until issue #350.

“Before the Break of Dawn”
by Ben Raab, Salvador Larroca and various
August 1997

Wolverine shows up briefly to check on Psylocke’s recovery, and to warn Archangel not to push her too hard. Wolverine and Archangel seem to be on relatively good terms here, for once.

by Dan Abnett, Ian Edginton, Cary Nord, Scott Koblish & John Kalisz
May 1998

The X-Men and Excalibur team up with the crew of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation to fight Kang and the Borg. Although it came out in 1998, it expressly precedes Operation: Zero Tolerance, so it’s placed here. Unusually, the book ends by leading into Star Trek: The Next Generation / X-Men: Planet X, which wasn’t a comic, but a licensed novel.

INCREDIBLE HULK vol 2 #454-455
“Best Intentions”
by Peter David, Adam Kubert, Mark Farmer, Dan Green & Lovern Kindzierski
June and August 1997

In the Savage Land, the Hulk sets himself up as the god of the Locot tribe, upsetting the balance of power in their feud with the rival Nowek tribe. Wolverine and Ka-Zar try to persuade him to leave the tribesmen alone, without success. When a giant monster attacks, the tribes team up to defeat it, leading to a celebratory dinner afterwards. Unaware that both tribes have actually poisoned each other, Wolverine mistakenly thinks the Hulk was planning to unite them against a common enemy all along – but the Hulk then collapses too. Wolverine brings him back to the Mansion, to the X-Men’s horror. Wolverine argues that the Hulk simply needs to be treated with respect, and that any attempts to control him are doomed to backfire. The rest of the X-Men don’t listen, try to trick the Hulk with the Danger Room, and wind up proving Wolverine right. At the end, the Hulk simply vanishes. (He’s teleported away by Apocalypse, to become the new War.) During this story, Wolverine also encounters Cary St Lawrence, leading US forces pursuing the Hulk.

July 1997 was “Flashback Month”, when most books shipped #-1 issues set before Fantastic Four #1. That’s why this two-issue arc covers three months, and why there’s no July 1997 issue of Wolverine in this post.

X-MEN vol 2 #62-64
“Games of Deceit & Death”
by Scott Lobdell, Ben Raab, Carlos Pacheco, Art Thibert & Chris Lichtner
March to May 1997

Following a lead from British secret service veteran Clive Reston, the X-Men team up with Shang-Chi to investigate Sebastian Shaw’s schemes in Hong Kong. Shaw is trying to get his hands on Fu Manchu’s Elixir Vitae as a potential cure for the Legacy Virus, which he intends to use as leverage to control other mutants. The X-Men fight Fu Manchu’s Si-Fan Ninja, including four Cyber-Ninjas, only three of whom get names: Bludgeon, Fist and Katana. It’s that sort of story. Shaw persuades the X-Men to steal the Elixir Vitae from Fujikawa Enterprises, currently under the control of the Kingpin, and eventually Storm destroys the thing rather than let either villain have it. Slight but pretty.

(Several earlier stories claim to lead into this story, but it can’t come any earlier because it leads directly into the next arc with no break in the action.)

On their way back to America, the X-Men’s jet is intercepted by the anti-mutant military outfit Operation: Zero Tolerance, who demand surrender.

X-MEN vol 2 #65
“First Blood”
by Scott Lobdell, Carlos Pacheco, Art Thibert, Chris Lichtner & Aron Lusen
June 1997

Operation: Zero Tolerance pursue the X-Men’s jet, shoot it down, and capture the whole team. It’s intercut with the public announcement of OZT, and various reactions, but that’s basically the plot. As already noted, July 1997 was Flashback Month, so the story picks up again in…

X-MEN vol 2 #66
“Start Spreadin’ The News”
by Scott Lobdell, Carlos Pacheco, Art Thibet & Liquid
August 1997

Wolverine appears in a single panel as a prisoner of Operation: Zero Tolerance.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #115-118
“Operation: Zero Tolerance”
by Larry Hama, Leinil Francis Yu, Edgar Tadeo & Joe Rosas
August to November 1997

These four issues, all part of the “Operation: Zero Tolerance” crossover, complete the Larry Hama run. The official timeline places another flashback in Wolverine vol 3 #58 of Wolverine fighting Lazaer right at the start. That’s fair enough, since issue #115 does indeed begin with Wolverine seeming to have died from his injuries.

Of course, his healing factor kicks in eventually, and he frees his captive teammates. Escaping across the desert, they come upon a trailer park. A blind man called Mustang explains that the residents are all being treated by Prospero, a supposed doctor who is actually an OZT scientist. Investigating Prospero’s facility, the X-Men find that he’s turning his patients into Prime Sentinel cyborgs. OZT activate the Sentinels whose “treatment” is far enough along, but the X-Men defeat them. Mustang, who is still in the early stages, is naturally upset at the loss of his humanity, but Wolverine tells him that whether he is still a man depends on how he acts. When OZT try to activate Mustang, he resists and is shocked back into his senses.

OZT are defeated by other X-Men in other titles, but Cyclops is shot with some sort of nanotech implant that might be a bomb. The X-Men give Mustang a box of floppy discs with Prospero’s records before flying home in a stolen OZT ship.

It’s not the way you’d want Hama’s run to end, given that it started all the way back in issue #31. Issues #116-117 in particular are X-Men stories, not Wolverine stories. But at least Hama tries to give it some closure by using Mustang to remind us of Wolverine’s own journey, and the Prime Sentinels have some resonance with Wolverine’s back story. Bastion also gets to spell out that Wolverine “is a perfect symbol of what humanity fears in mutants.” And here end the Larry Hama years.

Well, mostly. There’s a coda, and we’ll come to that.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #350
“Trial & Errors”
by Steve Seagle, Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend & Steve Buccellato
December 1997

Wolverine’s group of X-Men appear in a single page subplot, still on their way home.

X-MEN vol 2 #70
by Joe Kelly, Carlos Pacheco, Art Thibert & Chris Lichtner
December 1997

The X-Men arrive back at the Mansion to find it stripped bare by OZT, meaning that there are no medical facilities to treat Cyclops. Iceman, Marrow and medic Cecilia Reyes (who debuted during OZT) are already there. Logan takes an immediate dislike to Cecilia, who doesn’t want to be there, and who’s trying to pull rank in the emergency without actually explaining who she is. Eventually she guides the X-Men in combining their powers to perform an operation that saves Cyclops’ life (with Wolverine acting as scalpel). The Juggernaut shows up halfway through, as do the rest of the X-Men, who now include Maggott (Japheth). But after taking a look round, Juggernaut just leaves, amused by the pathetic state that the X-Men have been reduced to. Later, Cyclops and Phoenix privately worry about whether this dysfunctional new line-up is remotely viable.

Trish Tilby is also there, so Wolverine gets to yell at her for breaking the Legacy Virus story, and accuse her of ignoring the consequences of her actions. She’s very upset, and Hank defends her, but Logan doesn’t back down.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #351
“Hours & Minutes”
by Steve Seagle, Ed Benes & Chris Sotomayor
January 1998

Cecilia decides to try and return to her day job. Logan discourages her, but gives her a lift into town afterwards, and gives her a fairly standard liberal pep talk about how to stand up for yourself. Cecilia promptly gets fired after an incident with Pyro and Daredevil, and when she arrives back at the Mansion, Logan is only surprised by how quick it was. Cecilia now accepts that it’s her best chance of doing good. At this point the X-Men are basically sleeping on mattresses in an empty building.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #352
“In Sin Air”
By Steve Seagle and various artists
February 1998

This is a Scott and Jean story with an absurd number of artists in completely clashing styles. In a subplot, Wolverine is irritated that Angel has only just got around to showing up; Marrow takes some comfort from seeing Wolverine behave just as aggressively towards a veteran.

GHOST RIDER vol 3 #88
“A Kind Face”
by Ivan Velez Jr, Josh Hood, Derek Fisher & Brian Buccellato
September 1997

Just a cameo as a pedestrian.

ELEKTRA vol 1 #10
“Flowers & Flamethrowers”
by Peter Milligan, Mike Deodato Jr, Scott Koblish & Christie Scheele
September 1997

Logan drops by once again, and has the obligatory fight with Elektra’s new boyfriend McKinley Stewart before she calms them both down. Logan is amused by the whole thing, and says that the guy seems okay.

“The Price”
by Tom DeFalco, Joe Bennett, Bud LaRosa, Al Milgrom & Bob Sharen
December 1997

A cameo by Beast and Wolverine, reading the newspaper.

X-MEN vol 2 #71
“A House in Order”
by Joe Kelly, Carlos Pacheco, Art Thibert, Chris Lichtner & Aron Lusen
January 1998

Logan discusses the newcomers with Ororo. He doesn’t trust Maggott, while she doesn’t want Marrow around. Scott makes the usual argument that the newcomers deserve the same chance that Logan got – only for Logan to point out that the last person to get the benefit of that argument was Sabretooth, and didn’t that turn out well? Kelly was good at inverting some of these tropes.

Eventually, Wolverine agrees to stay and help keep the team together while Scott and Jean recuperate. But he warns them to expect a different approach from him. Then, he promptly goes to confront Marrow (who is sulking in the basement) and tells her that if she’s going to stay, she’s got a lot to learn. The relationship between Wolverine and his brattish shadow Marrow is a key focus of Kelly’s early issues.

By this point the Mansion has been somewhat re-furnished – there are at least beds and a proper kitchen. Word also breaks during this issue that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four have returned from “Heroes Reborn”.

X-MEN vol 2 #72
“Life Lessons”
by Joe Kelly, Carlos Pacheco, Art Thibert & Liquid!
February 1998

Wolverine tries to connect with Marrow. He brushes aside her nihilist ramblings and tells her that if she’s going to stay with the X-Men, she needs to live by their rules. She responds by fighting him, and he seems quite enamoured of that side of her. When Marrow rants about the Morlocks’ treatment by humanity, Wolverine replies that the Morlocks may have had it tough, but at least they had dignity – while Marrow, apparently, is a “disgrace to [her] people”. Wolverine defeats Marrow and tells her that she doesn’t understand her cause, hasn’t earned her hate, and isn’t even a good enough soldier to die at his hands – rather, her recent actions show that she knows she needs to improve herself, and he’s offering her the chance to join the X-Men and learn.

At which point, Marrow rejects the offer and stabs him in the throat. Wolverine flies into a berserker rage, and Cannonball has to step in to save her life. It’s a nice little inversion of the usual trope.

“Alone in his Head”
by Terry Kavanagh, Tom Lyle, various inkers & Ariane Lenshoek
December 1997

To clear his head, Logan takes a skiing break in Aspen. Really, he does.

It’s a mind-swap story, as Sebastian Shaw gets his mind-swapping aide Ms Hoo to swap Wolverine’s mind with Sabretooth’s. “Wolverine” then tries to get Angel to let him into a Worthington Industries factory which, apparently, is trying to reverse-engineer Forge’s Neutralizer. The real Wolverine catches up with him and of course the minds get swapped back in the end, though the plotting on that bit is seriously ropey and drags the issue down. Otherwise, it’s a sound fill-in story based on a neat idea that Sabretooth and Wolverine both have similar feelings about Angel.

“Heart of the Beast”
by John Ostrander, Joe Edkin, Leonardo Manco & Shannon Blanchard

Former Russian agent Volk is hired to kill Wolverine; the two crossed paths years ago when Volk stopped Logan from rescuing defector Smitri Suhkarov, but allowed him to escape with Dmitri’s daughter Viktoria. Meanwhile, Viktoria tells Logan that she has finally tracked down Volk, and that Volk is now a werewolf. This all leads to Volk taking Viktoria hostage and leading Wolverine back to the site of their previous encounter. During their fight, Wolverine continues to resist his animal rages and retains his humanity, while Volk willingly succumbs to his rage and turns permanently into a wolf, at which point he just leaves, because he’s a wolf and doesn’t care about his mission any more. Wolverine concludes that all Volk really wanted was to lose his humanity; Viktoria is furious that Volk survived the encounter and remains determined to hunt him down and kill him. The idea is that maybe Wolverine’s anger and rage are his human traits, not his animal ones. It’s quite a good story, with some lovely art.

3-issue miniseries
by Larry Hama, Jesus Redondo, Sergio Melia & Glynis Oliver
December 1997 to February 1998

This is the aforementioned coda to Hama’s run. Ogun seizes control of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier – he  apparently got techno-powers by briefly possessing Lady Deathstrike in Wolverine #114 – and poses as Kitty Pryde to lure Wolverine to the Brooklyn Bridge. Seeing the Helicarrier behave erratically, and improbably picking up Kitty’s scent on board, Logan uses the bridge as a ramp with which to jump his bike onto the Helicarrier. He can do all that. It’s canon.

Once on board, he meets Kitty and S.H.I.E.L.D. intern Rigby Fallon, a potential rival for Pete Wisdom in Kitty’s affections. Ogun possesses Rigby, but Kitty defeats him on the astral plane. Once again, Ogun is shaken by the realisation of what he has become, and leaves. It’s an amateurish looking book but actually more fun than I remember it being.

By Tom DeFalco, Stan Lee, John Romita, Dan Green & Steve Oliff

The X-Men have a one-panel cameo pursuing Spider-Man, who’s been framed for murder.

ELEKTRA vol 1 #14
“A Hand Raised Against Her!”
by Larry Hama, Mike Deodato Jr, Scott Koblish & Christie Scheele
January 1998

Wolverine helps Elektra to hunt down the Hand, and gives her the usual sage advice on her problems – mainly, to try to move on with life.

“Found and Lost”
by Jorge Gonzalez, Jim Cheung & Andrew Pepoy
December 1997

In the East Village, Logan stumbles upon a fight between the Friends of Humanity and a group comprising  Maverick, Chris Bradley (now calling himself Brian Johnson), Elena Ivanova and Donna Funaro. Maverick’s condition has improved, and he’s got his powers back. Elena, Maverick and Brian/Chris cover their escape when Elena uses a psychic illusion to make everyone think they’ve died – including Donna, who is left behind. Afterwards, Logan tells Elena that this is cruel but necessary. Maverick admits to Wolverine that he hasn’t revealed his remission to Brian, who believes they’re both dealing with the Legacy Virus together; Maverick doesn’t want to take that emotional support away from him. Not an issue that really needs Wolverine, but he serves as a sounding board from outside the regular cast for a lot of their emotional baggage.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #119-122
“Not Dead Yet”
by Warren Ellis, Leinil Francis Yu, Edgar Tadeo & Jason Wright
December 1997 to March 1998

After Larry Hama departs, Wolverine enters another phase of rotating writers which will last until issue #133. We kick off with a very good and well remembered fill-in arc by Warren Ellis. It has little impact on continuity, except for the fact it blows up the East Village flat – you suspect Ellis had a remit to dismantle that status quo and chose to dispose of it in passing rather than try to tell a story about it. Ellis isn’t exactly a superhero enthusiast, but he seems comfortable on Wolverine, probably because the character can be written without much stretching into the ex-spy genre where Ellis is more at home.

Logan is stalked by McLeish, a mercenary assassin who he met and seemingly killed many years ago (as documented in extensive flashbacks). McLeish is back for revenge. An extended chase sequence has McLeish anticipating Logan’s every move and manipulating Logan in an attempt to prove his superiority; eventually Logan prevails with mindgames of his own. McLeish takes great pride in the supposedly small number of people he’s killed, and part of his point seems to be to provoke Wolverine into killing a load of henchmen in order to prove his lack of discrimination. But Logan has no real view on whether he’s ultimately a better person than McLeish.

With that, we enter 1998, in which confusion reigns.

Bring on the comments

  1. Dave says:

    One of the dropped plot set-ups I always remember from these issues is from X-Men #71.
    From “In Venice, Sebastian Shaw is met by a being, who hands Shaw an envelope bearing an emblem of Apocalypse”.
    So were Kelly & Seagle planning something that would have come earlier than The Twelve eventually did?

  2. Dave says:

    Just looked at previous page again –
    Yeah, a tpb of the start of the Kelly/Seagle run only care out, like…last year?

  3. Chris V says:

    Dave-It sounds like that was a plot taken up by James Robinson during his brief run on Cable (circa issue #50), which would have been published around the time Seagle was on Uncanny.

    Yes, it took Marvel a long time to publish a Trade of those issues. I wonder if it’s based on Marvel feeling that there was little interest in seeing that period reprinted due to Marvel’s feelings that the Seagle/Kelly issues suffered from poor sales. Maybe just that there were so many unresolved plot points though.

  4. Allan M says:

    The Davis run isn’t totally awful, it’s just boring and doesn’t feel like an Alan Davis comic. None of his playfulness or whimsy comes across. And ending with the Twelve, which flat-out sucks, doesn’t help. There are far worse X-book runs, but I’m not aware of anything Davis has done before or since that’s less interesting. And its creative conservatism just reinforced the perception (spurred by Kelly/Seagle bailing out) that the X-books were being directed by forces that aren’t the writers. The subsequent Revolution era is way worse, but there’s no question that those are Claremont comics.

  5. Uncanny X-Ben says:

    Revolution it least feels like an attempt to do things a bit differently and move the story forward.

  6. Mike Loughlin says:

    When I think of Revolutions, I think of Claremont and the artists introducing a whole bunch of new villains, all of whom were boring. I bailed after maybe 4 issues of each, they were such a chore to get through. The Warren Ellis books weren’t good either, with the possible exception of X-Man. I haven’t read the Steven Grant/Ariel Olivetti issues in years, but I liked it at the time and it was the only X-title of the era I stuck with.

  7. Chris V says:

    Ellis’ X-Man was the only of the three books which was above average. Brian Wood taking over Generation X was excellent though. Unfortunately, X-Force was a barely passable StormWatch imitation. I read all three of the titles and enjoyed them more than Claremont’s books. “Revolution” X-Force did evolve in to Milligan’s X-Force revamp, which was one of my favourite comics of the time. Darko Macan on Cable was somewhere in that time-period also, and that was another of my favourite comics.
    I definitely found the X-books to be improving during the “Revolution” period, even if Claremont’s return was a huge disappointment.

  8. Josie says:

    “Kelly weirdly ended up being the bright spot in the later Brand New Day Spider-books”

    You sure you aren’t thinking of Zeb Wells? Kelly’s Hammerhead and Rhino issues were good, but American Son and Grim Hunt? Nah.

    Plus, as excited as I was to see the original Deadpool team reunited, Spider-man/Deadpool was godawful.

    I appreciate the fact that Joe Kelly never tries to be mundane or repetitive in his stories, but he ends up trying to be too idiosyncratic and it often fails to land.

  9. Josie says:

    Oh yeah, Joe Kelly’s Spider-man and Deadpool (first time?) meeting during the Gauntlet storyline was pretty meh as well.

  10. wwk5d says:

    “I think we’ll discover upon reread that the following Davis period was over over panned.”

    I agree. It’s not groundbreaking or doing anything new, but it’s good solid story telling that builds from one arc to the next quite nicely. And for me, between Davis and Adam Kubert on art, it was the best art team the two books had for me in the 90s.

    I do think had the Twelve storyline and it’s resolution been better,the run as a whole might be looked at more fondly.

    “doesn’t feel like an Alan Davis comic. None of his playfulness or whimsy comes across”

    I mean, there is a character called Oktid…

    “The Warren Ellis books weren’t good either”

    Once you get past the intial storyline, it actually becomes quite good. X-man, on the other hand, I always felt was overpraied.

  11. Josie says:

    “between Davis and Adam Kubert on art, it was the best art team the two books had for me in the 90s.”

    Nah, dude. Kubert was barely averaging every other issue, and Davis was a bit more consistent. Tom Raney was pencilling an issue almost every other month, and you had Roger Cruz and Jim Cheung before he became good.

    This has been helpful to discuss, because I’d been thinking that expecting consistently good art on monthly comics was only a recent failed expectation, but in truth it’s been standard for the past 25 years. It’s hard to get excited about Adam Kubert on art when he shows up only 5 months of the year.

  12. wwk5d says:

    Nah, girl. He was doing more than every other issue. And besides, most of the artits in the 90s had fill-in artists. Overall, it was one of the better looking eras for me.

  13. Josie says:

    I for one would love to have a Kubert brother’s work schedule. More time off than a university professor!

  14. Andrew says:

    Alan Davis as I recall was reasonably open, even at the time, that his late 90s X-men run was more or less a work-for-hire arrangement in which he didn’t have anything going on at the time and took the gig because it would give him a project for 12-18 months.

    It’s not a bad run, but it’s not a personal project in any way – He was basically scripting and pencilling plots given to him by committee.

    And right the tail end, Claremont was ghost-writing the issues himself.

    The 2000 Revolution period is really strange – it’s a clear attempt at rebooting the books for the 21st century and trying to do something different but it didn’t work overall, though Robert Weinberg’s Cable run was really great.

    The Morrison/Casey/Claremont/Milligan reboot was far more successful because Marvel at least let them off the leash and do some interesting things.

    The reason I’d guess Marvel didn’t collect the Kelly/Seagle stuff until quite recently was that there was essentially no demand for it. The people who were strongly in favour of that run dropped off by the mid-2000s so it’s not like there was a big audience out there campaigning for them to come out.

  15. Moo says:

    “The Morrison/Casey/Claremont/Milligan reboot was far more successful because Marvel at least let them off the leash and do some interesting things.”

    Only two of those guys did interesting things.

  16. wwk5d says:

    “I for one would love to have a Kubert brother’s work schedule. More time off than a university professor!”

    Which puts them in line with the majority of comic book artists over the last few decades.

  17. Andrew says:


    That’s true – Morrison and Milligan’s runs were the two standouts and genuinely did groundbreaking stuff.

    I’ve got a soft spot for Casey’s run – it’s one that I didn’t particularly enjoy at the time but re-reading it again a few years later (particularly in the light of Austen’s terrible run) and reading it again last year, it’s better than I gave it credit for at the time.

    It’s not outstanding but It’s got its moments. Had Casey stayed on longer, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened, particular with things like Warren’s business plots.

    We’ll never know though.

    I’ve never re-read Claremont’s X-Treme X-men though I remember mostly enjoying the first 18 or so months of it. Larocca’s pencils were fantastic, especially with that interesting colouring technique Liquid! did on the book. I don’t recall much about the writing beyond thinking it was much better than the Revolution stuff.

    I dropped it in mid-late 2003 as I recall after Igor Korday took over as penciller.

  18. Josie says:

    “I’ve got a soft spot for Casey’s run”

    I don’t, but I do give him credit for the momentum of that line. His comics didn’t live up to his hype, but his hype fed the general excitement for the revitalized line.

    Let’s not forget Judd Winick’s Exiles. Also not too fondly remembered, but arguably he began the trend of mix-and-match teams that Marvel dove headlong into a decade later.

  19. Chris V says:

    In hindsight, getting more Joe Casey rather than Chuck Austen would have been ideal. Also, just about any writer other than Mackie would have been ideal compared to Austen. Casey’s run was starting to look more promising at the tail-end, but Casey also admitted that he didn’t have any fondness for the X-Men, so he probably wanted to move on from Uncanny anyway.

    I read most of X-Treme X-Men because of completist mentality. The writing was, overall, better than the “Revolution” stuff, but when I look back all I remember are the worst and most embarrassing moments.
    -The early story-arc featuring the invasion from an alien dimension (was the one-dimensional alien warlord even called “Khan”?) which felt like it lasted for three years. I don’t even know what that was, but I had no interest in reading it.
    -The surfing mutant twins.
    -Hinting that Gateway was Bishop’s father.

  20. Mike Loughlin says:

    Casey’s X-Men had some really interesting ideas. The intersection of pop stardom and mutancy, a mutant sex worker, a mutant paramilitary organization made up of mutants from X-Men teams and “villains,” competition between companies owned by mutants… the execution never matched the ideas (probably because, as noted above, Casey wasn’t feeling it).

    I loved the Milligan/ Allred X-Force and Morrison’s X-Men, as was very much into Exiles. The latter was Winnick’s best super-hero title, and mixed the fun of a good What If…? with soapy character drama. I think Macan & Kordey’s Cable came out around the same time, another good series.

    There was also the excitement around the Ultimate line, an intriguing new direction for the Hulk, JMS/JRJr and Paul Jenkins & Mark Buckingham on Spider-Man, the Bendis/ Maleev Daredevil, Priest/Velluto/Almond Black Panther, Busiek/Perez/et al Avengers… the early days of the Quezada & Jemas regime are among my favorite periods of Marvel ever. Too bad that Austen’s X-Men & Avengers, “The Other,” “Sins Past” & “One More Day,” the decline of most of the Ultimate line, Jones’s Hulk starting to suck, Marville, and several more missteps happened almost immediately.

  21. Chris V says:

    Yeah, the Jemas regime was a stand-out period in Marvel history. He was drawing a lot of the top writers who had made DC the bigger critical success over Marvel. There was a lot of freedom and creativity, but a lot of missteps along the way also.
    It’s too bad that the indy-scene wasn’t as strong yet during the early-2000s. Imagine if Marvel had the acclaimed writers they attracted along with the newer indy-talent (like Kieron Gillen) instead of so many of Jemas and Quesada’s pet writers…Austen, Frank Tieri, Daniel Way.

    I forget when Darko Macan was writing Cable/Soldier X. I was thinking it was around the period when Wood was writing Generation X, but now it seems more like it was contemporary with Morrison and Milligan on X-Force.
    Whenever it was, it was one of my favourite comics from the period too.

  22. Paul says:

    Even Joe Casey isn’t that keen on his X-Men run. He did an introduction for a book of X-Men interviews a while ago where he basically says he had no ideas but it was the biggest book he’d ever been offered and he didn’t feel he could turn it down – and he figured inspiration would strike sooner or later. And the way he tells it, it never really did – he describes ideas like the X-Ranch and the X-Corps as if he thinks they were desperately obvious.

  23. Thom H. says:

    It could be that Casey was developing some of the same ideas for his concurrent Wildcats run and didn’t think he was being very creative by porting that into his X-Men treatment.

    I know all the “corporate superheroes” stuff (Angel in X-Men, Spartan in Wildcats) seemed very similar to me at the time. But I’m just speculating.

  24. Maxwell's Hammer says:

    Austin, Daniel Way, Frank Tieri, Victor Gischler…as muddled as the X-line had been for the previous several years, it took this four-way tag team of talentless buffoonery to actually get me to start dropping books. They were next-level bad.

  25. Stuart says:

    “I forget when Darko Macan was writing Cable/Soldier X. I was thinking it was around the period when Wood was writing Generation X, but now it seems more like it was contemporary with Morrison and Milligan on X-Force.”

    That’s exactly right. Ellis’ Counter-X reboots (X-Force, Gen X, X-Man) continued the numberings of each of these titles and coincided with Revolution in the UXM/XM and other x-books. All of those creative teams ended around the same time a year later.

    Afterward, X-Force continued its numbering but functionally rebooted into X-Statix, and at the same time Cable (not a part of Counter X) was rebooted in both number and title into Soldier X. The Deadpool -> Agent X relaunch/rebrand is concurrent with this as well. X-Man and Generation X of course just ended. (The latter at least partly so Morrison could use Emma over in New X-Men.)

    You can even tell from the cover design this was a concerted collective marketing effort: at the beginning of the Morrison/Casey runs they had a black stripe on the side that Marvel also gave to some (Soldier X, Agent X) but not all (X-Force, Wolverine) of the other X books.


  26. Ben says:

    I guess my take on Kelley/Seagle is that they finally seemed to be doing something new and not Lobdellish, even though it wound up being a false start. There’s also the urge to root for the underdog writers against the evil, meddling, editorial interference. In hindsight that period was just one of many where they shook things up by taking away the mansion, Professor X, etc, but at the time it was refreshing.

    The highlight was the Marrow/Cannonball interactions, and am I crazy or was there an issue when Scott and Jean fight a flock of crows in Alaska and it’s implied that the Phoenix force is returning and it was never mentioned again? Gotta love the X-Men

  27. Allan M says:

    Yeah, Seagle’s pre-derail run is Scott and Jean in Alaska versus crows (Bachalo at full tilt going hogwild on crow imagery), hints at a Phoenix story, reuniting the original five X-Men and hints that Scott now has a dream for mutants of his own. None of this goes anywhere. Rogue has a story where she considers getting her powers cured, which basically resolves. There’s an artist jam issue that doesn’t work. And there’s a one-off with Bishop and Deathbird in space which I like. They’re cute together, wish that went somewhere.

    I also like the Macan/Kordey Soldier X run, happy to see others agree, but man, if you think about it, Cable’s track record as a solo book makes no sense at all. The early Nicieza through Loeb stuff is credibly connected to his X-Force roots but the Weinberg run is full-tilt sci-fi, Casey goes Kirby pastiche, Tischmann does realpolitik a la Chaykin, Macan pushes into the weird, Cable/Deadpool was a buddy comedy, and then the recent run was basically a sitcom. What an odd, odd published life.

  28. Josie says:

    “Seagle’s pre-derail run is Scott and Jean in Alaska versus crows (Bachalo at full tilt going hogwild on crow imagery)”

    I’m pretty sure Bachalo didn’t even draw the crow-iest issue, #357.

    “there’s a one-off with Bishop and Deathbird in space which I like. They’re cute together, wish that went somewhere.”

    It did. It was a Team-X 2000 one-shot, I think the title was. That didn’t go anywhere, though.

  29. Josie says:

    Since we’re talking about the 2001 X-Men reshuffle, let’s not forget Brian K Vaughan raising his profile slightly with the Cyclops and Chamber miniseries, and Geoff Johns doing some of his rare Marvel work on a Morlocks miniseries of all things.

  30. Omar Karindu says:

    The Jemas era also gave us Brian K. Vaughn and Sean McKeever writing a Mystique series as a sort of spy thriller, and had that odd little “paranormal investigators” version of X-Factor that no one remembers.
    Similarly, the series Muties had little slice-of-life stories about mutants, and, amazingly, predates Biran Wood’s Demo, which did a similar concept much, much better.

    And there was, more famously, the bizarre Skins-meets-the-New Mutants series NYX, which is significant only for introducing X-23 to comics in the skeeziest way possible.

    For a little blip there, Marvel was playing with the “mutants among us” concept through a variety of genres and perspectives. I man, a lot of it wasn’t good, exactly, but it was potentially interesting and represented a real break from the franchise’s continual efforts to recapture or update the 1980s glory days.

  31. Omar Karindu says:

    Huh! Skins didn’t start until 2007. So I guess NYX was actually more of a Marvelized take on the 1995 movie Kids.

  32. Mike Loughlin says:

    Even if it didn’t all work, I was happy to see mutants being treated as a sub-culture in and around Morrison’s X-Men. The X-Factor series of the early ’00s was by Jeff Jensen (a writer for Entertainment Weekly) and beautifully drawn by Arthur Ransom (a British artist with a handful of American credits). It was “X-Files meets X-Men,” and I wish it had lasted beyond the original 5-issue mini-series. I also liked District X, which dealt with a human cop working in “Mutant Town.” Bishop co-starred as his partner. It wasn’t exceptional, but it was a different take on a familiar set of topics.

  33. wwk5d says:

    Ah, the Jemas era…the best of times, the worst of times.

  34. Chris V says:

    Muties was sad. It was an interesting premise and it’s a crime Marvel wasn’t able to get Brian Wood on that title (he was doing something similar on Generation X). Anyone with writing ability, really. Muties writing was so embarrassingly stereotypical with its characters and plot that I couldn’t properly credit it as one of the hits of the Jemas era. A missed opportunity of the era.

  35. Taibak says:

    And just think how much better the Jemas era could have been if the books actually came out on time.

  36. Moo says:

    Ah, good times. Reminds me of the day I chased Howard Mackie around a convention demanding that he sign my copy of Brotherhood #1 while he repeatedly insisted that he didn’t write the thing and threatened to call security on me. What a ham!

  37. Josie says:

    “And just think how much better the Jemas era could have been if the books actually came out on time.”

    It’s not as big a deal years later when you’ve got the collected editions, like my very real copy of the complete Daredevil: Target series.

  38. Andrew says:

    This is bringing back so many memories

    The 2002 X-Factor series was excellent. A absolute gem of a series which tells a great story, beginning to end. Top art and writing.

    Geoff Johns’ Marvel period was brief but not all that good – his Avengers run was very average and his handful of other books were all fine.

    I remember those X-men Icons mini-series well. Most were very inessential but generally had good art at least. The Rogue one was crap though as I recall

    David Tischman’s Cable was a great book. He only stuck around for eight or nine issues but they were really interesting and underrated.

  39. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I came upon the Icons: Chamber miniseries rather randomly back when I was first getting seriously into Marvel comics and Jono has been one of my favourite mutants ever since.

    I haven’t reread it in years, though. I’m a bit worried I’ll load it up on Unlimited to find out it’s mediocre and not the hidden gem I think it is.

  40. Ben says:

    Aren’t 60% of X-Men comics simultaneously mediocre and hidden gems

  41. Omar Karindu says:

    Aren’t 60% of X-Men comics simultaneously mediocre and hidden gems.

    An interesting question! Are you suggesting that each comic is, on average, 60% mediocre, but 40% hidden gem? Or that 60% of them occupy a kind of superpositional state in which they are simultaneously obvious mediocrities and also hidden gems?

  42. Ben says:

    The latter. I mean, let’s be honest here, some of what I consider the highlights of the Marvel canon would be considered complete dreck by an objective reviewer who has never read a comic book.

    Remember that issue of New Mutants where they go to a local high school dance and meet an outcast kid who tells them he hates mutants because he thinks it’s expected of him based on the zeitgeist, then commits suicide when they reject him? I cried when I bought that out of a dollar bin, but I imagine it wouldn’t hit as much with the average pop culture consumer who doesn’t know the history of mutants in Marvel.

    In the grand scheme of things, X-Men comics are kind of mediocre if you’re comparing them with Maus, Watchmen, Carl Barks, Finder, Michel Rabagliatti, etc etc forever, BUT clearly people get something enjoyable out of the forgettable X-Men runs or we wouldn’t be talking about it 20 years later

  43. Mark Coale says:

    That probably falls into the category of “every character is probably somebody’s favorite somewhere.”

    – said the guy who collects Paste Pot Pete and Psycho Pirate sketches.

  44. Josie says:

    “an objective reviewer who has never read a comic book.”

    Ignoring the fact that literally no reviewer is objective, a lack of familiarity with comic books would not be a form of objectivity. Rather, there is likely a strong bias behind their choice to have never read a comic book before.

  45. Nu-D says:

    I left comics in 1995 and didn’t return until ten years later. I got the Seagle/Kelly X-Men issues out of the 3 for a dollar bin, ten years after they were published, read them once and never looked at them again. In the years since I’ve heard the occasional fan praise them, but I never understood the praise.

    In my mind, 1997 represents the nadir of X-Men comics, not because it’s worse than the two years before or after, but because it falls right in the middle of their time in the wilderness. There’s simply nothing from 1995-2000 that I have ever found to be worth reading.

  46. Nu-D says:

    And I hate the art. I just hate it. Over the years the adolescent boy who loved Lee and Leifield has had the veil lifted, and now I appreciate the work that Kubert and Bachalo did in the first half of the decade. But I’ve never come around on this era. Beginning with Joe Mad and the AoA story, I just think it’s all ugly as hell.

  47. Mike Loughlin says:

    I agree with anyone that says the writing in most super-hero comics is mediocre. I love love love comics, but the quality of dialogue and plots usually mirror the tv writing of the time. Obviously, there are exceptions, but I’m not going to give a person who doesn’t read comics something scripted by (picking a couple random modern examples) Cullen Bunn or Donny Cates in order to show them why I love the medium. Come to think of it, the writing in modern manga I’ve read was nothing to write home about, but most manga has a different pacing and less continuity than American super-hero comics.

    I’d like to indoctrinate people into some older favorites, but can modern readers see the good in Claremont or Kirby without getting turned off by the dated elements? I honestly don’t know. Does anyone know any younger readers who like American super-hero comics, or see younger people buying them at the LCBS? If I was going to introduce a new reader of any age to comics, I’d start with indie, YA, or licensed books.

  48. Unfortunately, X-Force was a barely passable StormWatch imitation

    I said that in a review for Comics International at the time and got literal threats of bodily harm as a response.

    Not from fans, either.

  49. Josie says:

    “I agree with anyone that says the writing in most super-hero comics is mediocre.”

    I recently read Kurt Vonnegut’s Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons, specifically his interview with Playboy at the end, and he talks about the origins of the scifi publishing industry and, of all things, the electric typewriter.

    Basically, the electric typewriter was being introduced at a time when science fiction magazines were becoming popular and . . . not “lucrative” so much as easy for anyone to break into. The marketers of the electric typewriter sold it most easily to aspiring science fiction writers so they could put out scifi stories much faster and make more money. This increased speed and output meant that they were pretty much submitting first drafts that rushed through a hackneyed plot and gave little to no thought for dialogue or characterization.

    You can see the parallels with comics. That’s why a Grant Morrison Multiversity takes literally almost a decade to come together, while Dan Slott can poop out three issues of Spider-man a month.

  50. Thom H. says:

    “I’d like to indoctrinate people into some older favorites, but can modern readers see the good in Claremont or Kirby without getting turned off by the dated elements?”

    I’m a long-time reader of superhero comics, and even I have a hard time getting past some of the dated elements of 70s and 80s comics. So much exposition (Claremont), so many exclamation points (Kirby). Most of my re-reading from that era is actually skimming.

    But maybe new readers find those aspects interesting or campy or endearing in some way. To them, thought bubbles and repetitive character introductions might be fresh new storytelling devices.

    In All of the Marvels, Douglas Wolk talks about how his son got interested in reading Marvel comics from all eras. They started reading them together, and then his son got hooked on understanding the larger continuity between books. He can’t be the only new reader who’s found a way to appreciate older books.

Leave a Reply