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Apr 3

The Incomplete Wolverine – 1999

Posted on Sunday, April 3, 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 | 1997

Last  year was mostly random fill-ins and abortive stories. But as we go into 1999, Wolverine finally has a regular creative team again. Will this bring us direction? Will it heck.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #133-138
“The Great Escape”
by Erik Larsen, Jeff Matsuda, Jonothan Sibal & Jason Wright
January to June 1999

No, we’re not in the trade paperback era just yet. This arc is just very long. Take a deep breath…

Wolverine is out drinking with Carol Danvers – she’s going by Warbird at this point, she’s drinking heavily, and she’s just been kicked out of the Avengers. They wind up fighting Powerhouse (a rabidly anti-human mutant from Larsen’s Amazing Spider-Man), who Wolverine defeats despite Warbird’s drunkenly inept “assistance”. None of this has anything to do with the rest of the arc, in which Wolverine’s body is possessed by alien Aria. She spends an issue testing her new body by fighting assorted minor superheroes who have come to investigate – Wolverine ticks Solo (James Bourne) and Cardiac (Elias Wirtham) off his list here, and also meets Vance Astro as Justice. Eventually Aria explains that she’s escaped from “Prison World”, which supposedly holds thousands of innocent people. She wants help from the legendary X-Men, and Wolverine in particular.

Despite there being no evidence for anything Aria has said, and despite her having just wasted an issue making him fight other superheroes, Wolverine agrees to go. Remarkably, Aria is actually telling the truth, but as soon as they arrive on Prison World, she bounces off to possess someone else, leaving Wolverine with no clue what the plan is meant to be.

The prison turns out to belong to the Collector, whose robot henchman Torgo is in charge; the prisoners include a D’Bari child, Vuk and Uroc (an obscure Thor villain), among countless others. The Starjammers show up to explain that Prison World is actually a project to shield the last survivors of endangered species from Galactus, who for some reason will turn up to kill them all he finds the place. Maybe he just likes tidying up loose ends. Aria’s prison break shuts off the cloaking device, and Galactus does indeed show up to eat the place; Wolverine fights him ineffectively, before being forced to flee with thousands of survivors. Many others die, including Aria.

This is not good at all. The plot hinges on multiple characters doing arbitrary things, and in particular on Aria and the Collector both failing to explain their plans for no apparent reason. The story would fall apart if the Collector had just told all the inmates that he was protecting them from Galactus, and in fact Torgo behaves as if it’s not meant to be a secret. Yet the prisoners don’t seem to know why they’re there. On top of all that, it’s not a Wolverine story; you could do this exact plot with Spider-Man or Daredevil (and they’d be just as out of place). It feels like Larsen just wanted to explore the backwaters of the Marvel Universe and was going to do it with pretty much whatever book he was offered.

It’s meant to be a story of hubris, with Wolverine thinking he can handle a situation completely out of his league and getting it wrong, but it just doesn’t work.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #139
“The Freaks Come Out at Night”
by Erik Larsen, Leinil Francis Yu, Dexter Vines & Joe Rosas
July 1999

Logan catches up with Hardcase of the Harriers, who now runs a bar (we also saw it in issue #133). His teammate Longbow shows up, with Arnim ZolaPrimusDoughboy and some animalistic creatures all in pursuit. Wolverine and Cable team up to defeat them. Afterwards, Cable tells Logan he did the right thing on Prison World. Right, so … what was the point of it, then? Oh, and Logan also briefly crosses paths with Cable‘s current love interest, Stacey Kramer.

Like a lot of the Larsen run, this is foreshadowing stories that never happened. Zola’s creatures are involved in a series of kidnappings; Viper is apparently one of the victims. None of that goes anywhere.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #365
“Ghost of X-Mas Past!”
by Steve Seagle, Chris Bachalo and various
February 1999

Christmas Eve. Logan hosts Gambit and Puck in his log cabin. In the morning, the X-Men celebrate Christmas, and Marrow gives the team a story that she’s written about one of Colossus’ paintings. It’s mainly a Colossus story.

GAMBIT vol 3 #1
“The Man of Steal”
by Fabian Nicieza, Steve Skroce, Rob Hunter & Shannon Blanchard
February 1999

The X-Men appear briefly so that Gambit can do a few practical jokes with time delay explosions. He gives Wolverine an exploding cigar.

X-MEN vol 2 #85
“A Tale of Two Mutants”
by Joe Kelly, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Liquid! Graphics
February 1999

This is a transitional issue serving as a prologue to Magneto War, and a handover between the outgoing Joe Kelly and incoming Alan Davis.

The X-Men rescue premature infants from a burning hospital – it’s incredibly sentimental, but played absolutely straight. In parallel with that, Magneto speaks to an ordinary man in order to “test” his views on mutants – but when the guy turns out to be perfectly nice, Magneto just keeps pushing until he gets the reaction he expected all along. That part’s pretty good.

X-Men: The Magneto War #1 by Alan Davis, Fabian Nicieza, Lee Weeks & Dan Green
Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #366-367 by Alan Davis, Fabian Nicieza, Leinil Francis Yu & various
X-Men vol 2 #86-87 by Alan Davis, Fabian Nicieza, Mark Farmer & various
February to April 1999

The Acolytes – now including Spoor (Andrew Graves), Projector (Zachary Williams), Rem-Ram (Marcus Andrews), Static (Gianna Esperanza) and Barnacle (Mortimer Everett) – attack the X-Men through their dreams, but get defeated. In Wolverine’s dream, Magneto tells him that he’s trapped between man and animal, succeeding at neither. Wolverine insists that he’s completed the long journey to balancing his two sides, but “Magneto” easily beats him. So at least that’s a restatement of where the character’s meant to be. His room is back in the Mansion, and back to featuring minimalist Japanese furniture with empty drink bottles everywhere.

Once the Acolytes are defeated, they ask for asylum, but Professor X sends them away, hoping that they’ll lead the X-Men to Magneto. (And that’s simpler than just reading their minds… how?) Soon enough, the X-Men wind up fighting another bunch of Acolytes in Hudson Bay – Wolverine meets Kamal el Alaoui and Seamus Mellancamp here, and it’s also the debut of the deeply regrettable Vindaloo (Venkat Katregadda). The X-Men pursue the Acolytes to the Arctic Circle, where the Blackbird is downed by Magneto. Professor X wants to stick where they are and figure out a plan, while Wolverine (and Marrow) want to charge ahead into the wilderness. Wolverine starts off making the grown-up, pragmatic case for action until it becomes apparent that he’s losing the argument, at which point he drops the act and starts yelling about what Magneto did to him. There’s some nice little character bits like that in the Davis run.

The X-Men eventually make it to Magneto’s base, where he’s planning to wreak havoc to Earth’s atmosphere. By the time the heroes arrive, Magneto is already locked in battle with his clone Joseph, and Joseph’s creator Astra. Wolverine (and Rogue, interestingly) both fly into a rage when faced with Magneto. Wolverine also accuses Magneto of wanting to get rid of Joseph for reminding him of the man he could have been, and claims that all Magneto’s big picture stuff is for show. The X-Men do stop Magneto before the UN surrender to his demands, but Dr Alda Huxley stops the UN finding out – and so she shows up at the end, with Magneto’s robot ambassador Ferris, and announces that Magneto is being given the whole island of Genosha. Yes, this is where Genosha becomes a mutant nation. Wolverine is absolutely furious about the whole thing, and Professor X has to put him to sleep.

This is actually pretty good. Alan Davis’s X-Men run is not his most personal work, shall we say, but it’s often extremely well executed, and this is a perfectly solid plot enlivened with decent pacing and character work. For Wolverine, it builds surprisingly coherently on what had been done over the last few years.

“Beneath It All”
by Howard Mackie, Bart Sears, Scott Hanna and Mark Bernardo
April 1999

Marrow guest stars; Wolverine has a one-panel cameo at the Mansion.

DEADPOOL vol 3 #27
“It’s a Barbarian Bunny – Busty Broad Bonanza in my Brainpan – and I’m the Only One Invited!”
by Joe Kelly, Walter McDaniel, Whitney McFarland & Kevin Somers
April 1999

I think that first dash in the title is meant to be a /, but that’s how it’s shown on the page.

Logan and Kitty are visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown when Deadpool shows up looking for a fight. Literally – Deadpool is currently hallucinating after a recent trauma, and has become convinced that a fight with Logan will help him clear his head. In tow are his psychiatrist Doctor Bong (Lester Verde) and his pilot Ilaney Bruckner.

It’s a parody of the usual trope of Wolverine as the man of violence and wisdom – an interesting angle from a writer who had just left X-Men. Deadpool is expecting monologues of deep insight during the battle, and is desperately disappointed when Wolverine just fighthim instead. Eventually, Wolverine tells Deadpool that his problem is that he has no sense of honour or penance, ignores responsibility and compassion and doesn’t grasp that his past will eventually catch up to him.

“Crying Wolf!”
by Marc Andreyko, Walter McDaniel, Walden Wong, Scott Koblish & Gina Going
March 1999

Logan goes to a reading by pretentious fantasy novelist Duncan Vess in order to get a signed book as a present for Kitty. Vess is an actual werewolf who has forsaken his heritage to live among humans, and has breached werewolf law by writing autobiographic novels under the guise of fantasy. Logan helps him fend off werewolf attackers until the night ends, at which point Vess will have to relocate and start a new life. Deadpool’s in it, but the story really doesn’t need him. A generic and eminently skippable fantasy story.

A footnote says this story takes place before X-Men #90 but the Official Index has it later for reasons I don’t really understand. So I’ve put it back here.

WOLVERINE ANNUAL 1999 (backup strip)
“Beer Run”
by Marc Andreyko & Massimiliano Frezzato
March 1999

Logan pops out of a superhero poker game to buy beer, and winds up fighting a mugger, the Hand and a giant dragon before he can get back again. It’s a throwaway comedy story but the art is beautiful.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #368
“Mansions in Heaven”
by Alan Davis, Joe Casey, Adam Kubert, Tim Townsend & Liquid!
May 1999

Wolverine starts obsessively running Danger Room scenarios where he sneaks into Genosha and murders Magneto. He insists that this is all about preparing for what needs to be done, and nothing to do with hating Magneto, heavens no. Deep in a sulk over the fact that no one else agrees with him, he refuses to attend Joseph’s funeral – but does take a private moment of silence.

After the funeral, the X-Men are about to confront Wolverine about his self-destructive behaviour when an alien, Ejulp, appears out nowhere, announces that he has mere moments to collect the champions it needs, and teleports them all away to his world.

X-MEN vol 2 #88 / UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #369
“A World Apart” / “Collision Course”
X-Men by Alan Davis, Joe Casey, Mark Farmer & Marie Javins
Uncanny by Alan Davis, Terry Kavanagh, Adam Kubert, Tim Townsend & Liquid!
May and June 1999

Ejulp has brought the X-Men to his dimension so that they can protect his people, the Oktid, and their gods, the Trion, from a rampaging, mindless Juggernaut. The Oktid’s world is a homage to the weird landscapes of Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange (hence “Oktid” and “Ejulp”, which is “Ditko” with all the letters advanced one place in the alphabet). Everyone’s powers are a bit screwy here, and Wolverine is especially disoriented by it.

Professor X’s astral form gets temporarily stuck inside Wolverine, forcing the two of them to work together. At first the Professor tries to stop Wolverine from using lethal force against the local monsters, but soon he realises that he’s only obstructing Wolverine and putting him in danger. So he has to relent and accept the “harrowing” experience of fighting as Wolverine. Eventually Professor X helps Cain to regain control, and Ejulp tries to send everyone home.

We’re now in a phase where X-Men and Uncanny are in permanent crossover, with Davis writing both books and drawing one of them. This is quite a good arc on the relationship between Wolverine and Professor X – granted, it’s going back to themes from some time in the past, but it does them well.

X-MEN vol 2 #89-90 / UNCANNY X-MEN vol 2 #370
“Yesterday’s News” / “History Repeats” / “Eve of Destruction”
X-Men by Alan Davis, Terry Kavanagh, Mark Farmer & Marie Javins
Uncanny by Alan Davis, Terry Kavanagh, Adam Kubert, Tim Townsend & Liquid!
June & July 1999

Instead of being returned to Earth, the X-Men find themselves in a duplicate New York on an alien world. It turns out to be a training facility where Skrulls are training to impersonate superheroes. But all the impostors are a bit rubbish and are trying to impersonate heroes based on what they’ve read in the press.

What’s worse, the X-Men have gone back in time, and are on a Skrull moon which is just about to be eaten by Galactus. The X-Men manage to escape, with the help of beleaguered Skrull duplicates of dead superheroes who have nothing to do all day. It’s a fun story, probably the most Excalibur-like of Davis’s X-Men stories, and actually works as subtle foreshadowing for what’s about to happen. (During this arc, Marrow also gets turned into her “pretty” form, but that doesn’t really affect us.)

The stolen Skrull spaceship puts the X-Men into suspended animation for the long trip back to Earth. They arrive back just in time for the climax of the Magneto War storyline – and Wolverine immediately sees the opportunity to change history and prevent Magneto from getting Genosha. But just then, something blasts into the ship, sending them all flying.

flashback in Wolverine vol 2 #145 explains what happens next. With the X-Men unconscious, the ship is boarded by a group of Skrulls, who take Wolverine away and replace him with a Skrull impostor Wolverine. Thanks to modern Skrull technology, this guy has undergone thorough psychiatric conditioning and months of training. His deep cover transformation means he can no longer change shape.

Meanwhile, the Skrulls take Wolverine to their master, Apocalypse. As a prisoner, Wolverine meditates, and tries to prepare himself for whatever is coming next. Apocalypse makes Wolverine and Sabretooth battle for the right to become one of his Horsemen as the new Death; Wolverine decides to fight, reasoning that if he wins, at least he’ll try to break the brainwashing, when Sabretooth would just embrace it. That kind of works, I guess.

Wolverine does indeed win, and Apocalypse then restores his adamantium skeleton, by taking the metal out of Sabretooth. And that’s the largely forgotten ending of the “bone claws” phase. We’ll get to the end of this story in early 2000, but suffice to say it’s not going to get any more satisfying than this.

Due to this storyline, Wolverine does not appear in Wolverine vol 2 #140-143, which are revealed after the fact to star the Skrull impostor. That’s why they don’t feature Wolverine’s normal first-person narration. They’re quite a fighty bunch of issues. In issue #140, “Wolverine” and Nightcrawler fight superhero-themed robots, then they fight Solo and Cardiac. In issue #141, “Wolverine” and Jubilee fight Donald Pierce and new villain Khyber. In issues #142-143, “Wolverine” teams up with Alpha Flight and the Black Widow to fight AIM.

Issue #144 does feature the real Wolverine extensively, because it’s a flashback story that takes place just before his first fight with the Hulk. But he’s not in the present-day framing sequence. So that’s five issues of Wolverine from 1999 that we can skip over.

All five issues are pretty much filler. Some of them are making a point that Wolverine is so guarded, and has such a heavily contrived persona, that he’s really quite easy to impersonate successfully – which is a nice idea in theory but doesn’t really go anywhere. In fairness to Larsen, he seems to have been trying to set up future storylines, by introducing villains that the real Wolverine would come back to in due course. But he never gets round to telling those stories, and nobody else will pick up on the threads.

Meanwhile, over in the X-Men titles, “Wolverine” sets about subtly undermining Professor X’s authority, without people really noticing the difference, because he’s Wolverine and that’s what Wolverine does. Plainly, by 1999, X-Men and Uncanny X-Men have gone back to being the major Wolverine titles, and his solo book has become an afterthought again. But really, what we’ve got here is a Wolverine-centred story, which hits the reset button on a big chapter of his history, yet from which Wolverine himself is largely absent.

HULK vol 1 #8
“Death Match”
by Erik Larsen, Ron Garney, Sal Buscema & Steve Buccellato
November 1999

Apocalypse briefs Death on his upcoming mission to kill the Hulk; meanwhile, the fake “Wolverine” is already fighting him. Oddly, the impostor has thought balloons in this story, and is written as though he believes himself to be real – he describes Alpha Flight as his friends, and seems genuinely concerned about saving innocents. It doesn’t make an awful lot of sense.

In Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #372, Nina of the Mannites senses Death coming for her, thouogh he doesn’t appear.

3-issue miniseries
by Howard Mackie, Brandon Peterson, Tim Townsend, Dan Panosian & Liquid!
September to November 1999

As Death, Logan attacks Hulkbuster Base, looking for the Mannites – Nina, Headcase, a new Beautiful DreamerDarcoGlubGrace and Totem. Bastion also happens to be a prisoner there, so Death takes the opportunity to decapitate him.

The regular X-Men have disbanded (since Professor X has figured out there’s an impostor around), so a makeshift team show up to rescue the Mannites. After a protracted fight scene, Death kills “Wolverine”, declares that the Mannites have proved their fitness to live, and goes home.

Shortly after this story, the X-Men learn that their “Wolverine” is a Skrull impostor, and the regular team re-form.

X-MEN vol 2 #95
“Do Unto Others”
by Alan Davis, Tom Raney, Scott Hanna & Marie Javins
December 1999

The X-Men attack the Skrulls’ base looking for Wolverine; Death loses his mask in the fight and is exposed as Wolverine. He proclaims his loyalty to Apocalypse before teleporting away.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #145
“On the Edge of Darkness”
by Erik Larsen, Leinil Francis Yu, Dexter Vines & Marie Javins
December 1999

As foreshadowed in Hulk #8, Apocalypse sends Wolverine to kill the Hulk, who he regards as “a mistake born of man’s arrogance and infatuation with science”. Larsen writes the brainwashed Wolverine as rather more addled than Davis – “a dense gray fog … mires his thoughts” – but he tracks down the Hulk and they fight anyway.

Death gets the upper hand, but Wolverine’s influence makes him hesitate, and the Hulk escapes.

Next time, we enter the 2000s with the end of the Death storyline and the short-lived Revolution relaunch.

Bring on the comments

  1. Alastair says:

    I forgot there was such a long lead in to the Twelve. The space adventure and the shattering all straight out of Magneto war the Davis run was very event heavy and next year it’s worse we get twelve (over a decade in the making) dreams end, eve of destruction, no more mutants, and the return of Uncle Chris with the sensational character find of 2000 the Neo.

  2. The Other Michael says:

    Mutants No More.
    Ah yes, that time when -every- mutant on Earth was depowered for the span of a week, courtesy of High Evolutionary and Sinister, and unlike when Wanda did it, no one important died horribly, and there was never any real fallout.

    Oh, except for the Neo.

    I’d forgotten what a weird storyline that was. Every mutant is reverted to baseline human–Nightcrawler losing his fur and tail and growing extra fingers and toes for instaance–and within a week, the X-Men have split up and scattered all over the world like they couldn’t wait to get going. And then everything is fixed.

    And then M-Day hit only 5 years later, in a vastly changed post-Morrison landscape and it was a much more traumatic event.

  3. Josie says:

    As much as I complained about cartoony artist doing superhero stuff (particularly Humberto Ramos, but sometimes Chris Bachalo on certain titles), I have a huge fondness for the work of Jeff Matsuda. I’m not sure why exactly, maybe he was jumping on the style that Joe Mad had begun to popularize, but to a greater degree than Joe Mad ever went with.

    The unfortunate thing about his Wolverine arc is that the inking is a bit sparse and the colors are all flat. I think given the right inker and colorist, Matsuda could’ve been huge as a comics artist. But he eventually went off to animation and had a much more successful career, so good for him.

  4. Si says:

    Galactus is sitting around thinking “oh those bligerlings tasted so good! Such a rich culture, and their souls! Just the right amount of spice! Oh man I wish there were still some bligerlings around, I could eat so many right now. Wait, what’s that smell? Am I imagining it? No, it’s bligerlings!” and off he flies like Scooby Doo with his nose hooked on pie steam.

  5. Paul F says:

    This is the point I started reading the X-books, in the UK Collecter’s Editions! The whole thing with Joseph’s death and Astra was my first issue.

    I was quite confused.

  6. Miyamoris says:

    I could never get much into Matsuda tbh. I like Joe Mad to this day, but Matsuda felt like those nearly parodic poor imitations of manga style. But then I’m mostly familiar with his work on that infamously bad Mackie X-Factor run, which doesn’t help much.

  7. Mike Loughlin says:

    Matsuda’s art got me to drop Wolverine. Granted, that’s not hard to do. I always seem to be on the verge of quitting Wolverine, his book rarely rises above “okay.” But Matsuda’s art was the exact opposite of what I wanted from comics at the time.

    I popped back in for the issue with Nightcrawler. It also featured Solo, Erik Larsen’s failed Cable. All I remember is Solo telling Nightcrawler that it was a pleasure to meet him, then telling “Wolverine” that he sucks.

    I also bought issue 145, which featured one of the laziest things I’ve ever seen in a comic. You know those blurbs that used to run across the top of the first page of every Marvel comic that gave the reader a quick rundown of the series’s premise. Like, “in a world that hates and fears them, the X-Men fight to blah blah blah?” In Wolverine 145, there’s a two-page splash of the Hulk coming toward Wolverine with almost no background. The captions above are the Hulk’s blurb (“Caught in the heat of a gamma bomb…”). I couldn’t believe they used 2 pages on that and didn’t even bother to think up any words.

  8. James O says:

    Replacing Wolverine for four issues but not revealing it at first and then the audience realising there was no internal monologue for four issues because it wasn’t really Wolverine is Watchmen level of storytelling compared to what Marvel was doing on the X books in 1998.

  9. Adam Farrar says:

    I never read any of these as they came out but a while ago I went back and got the three issues of the Skrull Moon. I thought it was pretty fun. Alan Davis can draw just about anyone and make them look good so it was nice to see him bring back some characters/designs he missed out on. I liked how they rationalized all their superpower recreations. Like Skrull Warlock being a telepath to imitate the Soul Gem. When Secret Invasion came out, I felt like these issues were a good precedent but also did the story better.

  10. Josie says:

    “Matsuda felt like those nearly parodic poor imitations of manga style. But then I’m mostly familiar with his work on that infamously bad Mackie X-Factor run, which doesn’t help much.”

    I know! I liked him on that book too! I can’t explain it. Something about his style really worked for me, and damned if I know exactly what it is.

  11. Josie says:

    I wasn’t big on the Alan Davis X-Men stuff. I didn’t hate it, but it was before I’d warmed up to his art style, and I also had no fondness for classic Ditko or Kirby yet.

    When they revealed dead Skrull Wolverine, I remember thinking, “Well, that’s definitely something I haven’t seen before.”

  12. Andrew says:

    Paul’s original review of Astonishing X-men 3 back in 1999 remains one of my favourite things he’s ever written. It’s just glorious.

  13. James O says:

    Paul definitely missed a trick by giving Astonishing X-Men a pass this time around lol

  14. Nu-D says:

    I miss the X-Axis. The acerbic tone is diluted these days.

  15. Dave says:

    If Marvel had editors who viewed continuity as a thing that exists then Secret Invasion would have linked back to this X-Men on the Skrull moon story. And this story actually bothered to put some thought into the SECRET part of it.

  16. Josie says:

    Nu-D, not that I think Paul “took comics more seriously” back in the day, but I know he’s since gotten married and uh, has a kid? or more? My point being, he probably has far more pressing emotional engagements in his life, which make it harder for him to get as worked up over bad comics. I dunno, it was simpler times, when comics seemed like a bigger deal.

  17. […] • 1999. Groove Armada hit the big time. Wolverine finds a new groove. […]

  18. Rob Salerno says:

    I’m pretty sure Wolverine met Mellancamp in UXM #300, years before the Magneto War. 🙂

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