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Aug 7

The Incomplete Wolverine – 2003

Posted on Sunday, August 7, 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
1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002

When we left off, we were in the middle of a mob storyline, though we’d taken a diversion to deal with some guest appearances. And now, back to the main story.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #183-185
“…And Got Yourself a Gun” / “When in Rome…” / “Sleeping with the Fishes”
by Frank Tieri, Sean Chen, Tom Palmer & Edgar Tadeo
December 2002 to February 2003

As per his deal with Freddo, Logan starts going after the operations of rival crimelord the Roman. The Roman turns out to be a gang leader who publicly feigns insanity, dressing as an ancient Roman. He does things like feed annoying henchmen to his pet lions. It works better than you’d think; he feels like a Silver Age Batman character who’s wandered into an otherwise straight crime story. Anyway, being a moron, Freddo is so delighted with Logan’s work that he tries to offer him a permanent job, despite sensible underboss Delcavvo trying to warn him off it. When Logan turns him down, Freddo starts scheming to force Logan into working for him. Meanwhile, the Roman and Delcavvo both try to have Logan killed, and get absolutely nowhere with it. In the end, Logan kills the Roman, but winds up striking a deal to hand over Freddo to Delcavvo, who has him killed.

Issues #181-185 are the peak of the Tieri run; they have dry humour that actually lands, and they don’t have the repetitive sadism that plagues a lot of his run. This is a largely forgotten arc because it has no wider impact, but it’s really pretty good.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #186
“See Ya Around, Frankie”
by Frank Tieri, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson & Edgar Tadeo
March 2003

Unfortunately, Tieri’s final issue is this notorious misfire. Unhappy that Wolverine has been interfering in mob business, the Punisher attacks him and they fight for an issue. It’s meant to be the “answer” story to Punisher #16-17, where Garth Ennis battered Wolverine for two issues, but it’s just excruciating, mostly because of some gay jokes that didn’t work at the time, even on their own terms, and are even worse from the standpoint of 2022. In fact, Tieri’s main approach in this story isn’t so much to humiliate the Punisher as to have Logan dismiss him as a deranged idiot, but even if you ignore the dire attempts at comedy, it’s just not a story.

There ends the Tieri run. For some reason, it’s followed by three fill-in issues before the book relaunches under its next regular writer. But first…

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #409 (part 2)
August 2002

We had part 1 last time. Wolverine only appears briefly in the second part; at the end, he acknowledges that Warren’s methods worked after all.

PUNISHER vol 6 #33-37
“Confederacy of Dunces”
by Garth Ennis, John McCrea, Crimelab Studios & Avalon Studios
November 2003 to January 2004

Daredevil enlists Spider-Man and Wolverine to help him capture the Punisher. Wolverine seems more interested in killing the guy (despite letting him go in Tieri’s story), but grudgingly agrees to Daredevil’s terms. The heroes get to meet supporting character Spacker Dave.

Of course, since this is his book, the Punisher outwits them, sets the Hulk on them, and escapes. Wolverine gets punched from New York to Boston at the start of the final issue and misses the ending. The payoff is the Punisher telling Daredevil that the only way to defeat him is to kill him, since if he goes to jail, he’ll just kill everyone he meets – and since Daredevil isn’t up to doing that, he should just back down. It’s the final arc of Ennis’s Punisher run, and the point is to tease that the Punisher might finally be brought down, and then not do it, because the Punisher is a static character. It’s basically a parody arc as far as Wolverine and Spider-Man are concerned, though less so than in Wolverine’s previous appearance in the book. Daredevil, in contrast, is written more or less straight.

I’m not sure quite why the MCP has this so wildly out of sequence, but presumably it’s to do with one of the other guest stars.

X-TREME X-MEN vol 1 #19
by Chris Claremont, Salvaador Larroca and Liquid! Color
November 2002

Wolverine is among the X-Men who visit the X-Treme team in New Orleans for Thanksgiving. He decides to stick around for a while and help Storm out with her rehabilitation (she’s in a wheelchair at this point). For timeline reasons, though, a lot of other junk will happen before we get back to that.

X-FACTOR vol 2 #3
by Jeff Jensen, Arthur Ranson & Paul Mounts
August 2002

Despite the title, this miniseries was about FBI agents Aaron Kearse and Catherine Gray of the Mutant Civil Rights Task Force. When a mutant-friendly “Sanctuary” church is blown up by a terrorist, Wolverine shows up to lean on Kearse and demand action. In fact, even though Kearse has conflicted feelings about mutants, he’s trying his best already. Later, the X-Men show up to help deal with bomber Kyle Nakamura.

“Chasing Smoke”
by Chris Claremont, Arthur Ranson & Liquid!
November 2002

Assigned to make a muckraking exposé about the X-Men, journalist Neal Conan and Manoli Wetherlell try to do it properly and set up an interview with Storm. Logan kind of looms in the background, and chips in to say that vigilanteism is good, because governments are useless. Generally, he plays the patient supporter to Ororo and encourages her to take her rehab slowly . Remarkably, the series logo has an apostrophe instead of an accent.

NEW X-MEN vol 1 #131
“Some Angels Falling”
by Grant Morrison, John Paul Leon, Bill Sienkiewicz & Chris Chuckry
October 2002

Logan is among the mourners at Darkstar’s funeral. Later, he encourages Scott to talk to Jean more.

NEW X-MEN vol 1 #133
by Grant Morrison, Ethan van Sciver, Norm Rapmund & Chris Chuckry
November 2002

In Afghanistan, Wolverine rescues mutant Sooraya Qadir (later Dust), from a group of slave traders – despite, in his words, “trying my best to honour the strict pacifist principles of the Xavier Institute”. Fantomex is also trying to collect Sooraya for his own reasons. Wolverine is unimpressed by Fantomex’s mercenary attitude, but gets much more interested when Fantomex calls him “James” and offers information about Weapon Plus. Wolverine quickly figures out that Fantomex is the last iteration of the Weapon X project, Weapon XIII.

Later, Wolverine takes Sooraya to the X-Corp offices in Mumbai, where he presumably meets local staffers including Feral’s sister Thornn (Lucia Callasantos).

WOLVERINE vol 2 #183 (backup strip)
“Restraining Order”
by Matt Nixon, Ryan Bodenheim, Mark Morales & Avalon
December 2002

Obsessed with revenge yet again, Lady Deathstrike kidnaps Amiko. When Wolverine fights her, she wins, but can’t bring herself to kill him. He tells her that she needs to come to terms with the fact that he gives her life meaning, and that she will never let herself succeed. Advising her to get help, he leaves her to face the forces of crimelord Nicopetti (who she had tried to drag into her scheme) without his involvement.

This story is missing from the Marvel Unlimited version of the issue. It was Bodenheim’s prize for winning a talent contest in Wizard, and in the circumstances it’s surprisingly non-throwaway.

4-issue miniseries
by George Pratt
September to December 2002

Prompted by dreams, Logan returns to the Shingen estate in Japan, where an antique… I guess it’s a helmet? Anyway, whatever it is, it transports him to a wintery landscape. There, he finds an inexplicably unfrozen garden where he can sense Mariko’s presence. This leads to a series of events where Logan finds a series of netsukes (miniature carvings) which apparently let him to travel back in time and live the life of swordsman Kiyoshi, who has his own Mariko. Meanwhile, a winter spirit menaces Logan in the present day, but is defeated thanks to the spirit of the past Mariko… or something?

We’re now entering a period in which Wolverine miniseries are running almost continually, alongside the main book. Effectively, this becomes a second Wolverine title with a rotating creative team. Netsuke is a very unusual story – it won an Eisner for “Best Painter / Multimedia Artist”. It’s undeniably ambitious and beautiful, but as a story I find it an absolute chore just to follow. The sort of book I feel guilty for not liking.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #410-412
by Chuck Austen, Ron Garney, Mark Morales & Hi-Fi Design
September & October 2002

Yup, we’ve reached the much-maligned Chuck Austen run. But he doesn’t do much with Wolverine – quite reasonably, he focuses on the characters that are mainly his – so his stories won’t be detaining us much. In this one, the X-Men go to Cassidy Keep and help Juggernaut deal with an out of control Black Tom Cassidy. Squid-Boy (Sammy Paré) debuts, and Juggernaut joins the X-Men. Austen gets off to a flying start by giving two different reasons for the X-Men to go to Cassidy Keep in the first place, and then putting the castle in the wrong country.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #413
“Annie’s Moving Story”
by Chuck Austen, Sean Phillips and Hi-Fi Design
October 2002

Back at the Mansion, the X-Men meet nurse Annie Ghazikhanian and her son Carter Ghazikhanian, who join the supporting cast during Austen’s run. Wolverine warns Juggernaut to behave himself.

by Chris Claremont, Arthur Ranson and Liquid!
December 2002

Wolverine appears in a single panel near the end, discussing the plot with the X-Treme cast after Warren has the hostile news show spiked.

“Can They Suffer?”
by Chuck Austen, Romano Molenaar, Danny Miki & Dean White
April 2003

A very special issue about how animals can feel pain. Wolverine has a brief scene where he goes after some local kids who are torturing animals, but it’s principally a Juggernaut story, and (on a character level) one of Austen’s better issues.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #417-420
“Dominant Species”
by Chuck Austen, Kia Asamiya & JD Smith
February to April 2003

The X-Men fight the Dominant Species, a group of feral mutants led by Maximus Lobo, who have somehow managed to take over Lobo Technologies, a Worthington Industries subsidiary that Warren hasn’t even heard of. Wolverine gets knocked unconscious at the end of issue #417, remains unconscious throughout issues #418-419, and appears in a single panel of the epilogue of issue #420. See what I mean about Austen not being terribly interested in him?

by Chuck Austen, Pop Mhan, Derek Fridolfs & James Brown
April 2003

An Alpha Flight story. The X-Men appear briefly in the epilogue, to meet James and Heather Hudson’s newborn daughter Claire Hudson. (Yes, I’d forgotten they had a daughter too.)

WOLVERINE vol 2 #187
“Down the Road”
by Daniel Way, John McCrea & Avalon Studios
April 2003

Logan hitches a lift from a drunken hillbilly serial killer who has two bodies in the back of his pick-up truck. The killer is weirdly relieved that someone has finally caught up with  him, and Logan “assists” him in committing suicide by driving his truck off a cliff. A perfectly serviceable fill-in, elevated by McCrea’s art. I like the mutual suicide ending, which depends on the unspoken point that Logan will survive this.

WOLVERINE vol 2 #188-189
“Good Cop, Bad Cop”
by Daniel Way, Staz Johnson, Danny Miki & Avalon Studios
May & June 2003

Rounding off this volume, another fill-in. Beleaguered internal affairs detective Lester Brown investigates narcotics officer McLawry, but meets a brick wall until McLawry panics and kills a potential witness. Brown confronts McLawry in a bar, but has no evidence and has to back down. But Logan overhears, and tricks McLawry into trying to kill him too, thus collecting the forensic evidence for Brown.

This is a crime story awkwardly repurposed as a Wolverine story – the title character only appears in one panel of issue #188. The influence of Garth Ennis’s Punisher is heavy on both these Daniel Way fill-ins, and really, both would work better as Punisher stories, if you tweaked the plot so as to not involve Wolverine’s powers.

“Weapon of Choice”
by Ian Edginton, Simon Bisley & Jose Villarrubia
May 2003

Logan enters a pitfighting tournament, where mutants fight for the entertainment of humans. He deliberately undermines the business by winning all the fights in the most boringly predictable way he can. After the owners sell out to him, he burns the place down. Simon Bisley is surprisingly restrained here, but it’s still a story written to his strengths.

X-MEN UNLIMITED vol 1 #46 (backup strip)
“Upon Reflection”
by Bruce Jones & Shin Nagasawa
May 2003

As a favour to Nick Fury, Logan checks out a remote government facility where the scientists have been killed by the mirror creature they accidentally created. Logan fights the creature, which now looks like a giant, monstrous version of him, until he finds a dying message from the lead scientist that explains how to shut the monster down. A neat mostly-silent short, strong on atmosphere.

In contrast…

by Bruce Jones & Richard Isanove
June 2003

When Dr James Mackenzie discovers that Savage Land plants and animals are dying, he suspects that an invasive species has introduced a new disease. In an odd couple story, Wolverine and Shanna the She-Devil team up to track the newcomer down and get a blood sample. Shanna and Dr Mackenzie succumb to the virus, but Logan figures out that disease is actually spread by mutated fleas on Mackenzie’s dog Bingo and its wolf mate Sheba, and saves Shanna and Mackenzie by… injecting them with Sheba’s blood? Um…

This is awful. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t makes sense, it exists primarily because someone really wanted to paint Shanna’s arse, and dialogue such as “When a woman like you is grabbed roughly and kissed, she usually slaps back, unless maybe she’s feeling guilty about slapping someone else recently!” was inexcusable even at the time.

WOLVERINE vol 3 #1-5
by Greg Rucka, Darick Robertson, Tom Palmer & Studio F
May to August 2003

Logan is living in Portland (apparently for some adventure that takes place off panel; he shows up injured after what appears to be the resolution). He becomes a regular at a local diner, to the fascination of waitress Lucy Braddock, who befriends him.

Lucy has escaped a survivalist cult, the Brothers of the New World, led by Cry. The cultists kill Lucy, and try to gun down Logan as a witness, with predictable lack of success. Tracing the killers’ modified guns leads Logan to corrupt gun dealer Tom Leeds and his partner Cassie Lathrop. Cassie is actually an undercover cop; she doesn’t recognise Logan as Wolverine but becomes instantly obsessed with him and starts following him in an ongoing subplot.

Meanwhile, Logan’s trail leads to the town of Westfall, where the local Sheriff Dennis Terril has been turning a blind eye to the cultists in his area. When Terril derides Lucy as a “tease” who had it coming, Logan apparently kills him (and certainly seriously injures him). Meanwhile, Cassie winds up getting captured by the Brothers. Logan breaks into the cult compound and is horrified to find out how many women they’ve  killed. He goes on a rampage until running into Cassie; he tells her that they aren’t enemies, then leaves without explanation. Cassie is more determined than ever to find out who he is.

This is the first relaunch of Wolverine as an ongoing series – justified on this occasion by the fact that the book was being moved to the Marvel Knights imprint. The Rucka/Robertson run is very good on its own terms, but like a lot of Marvel books from this period, it’s very slow in serial form. It’s got things like two-page silent sequences of Logan removing the bullets from his body after a fight.

The Rucka run is inconsequential when it comes to wider continuity; by this point Wolverine has become a static character and we’re shifting to stories about how other people react to him. Rucka drops Logan’s first person narration and tells the first issue from Lucy’s perspective. She sees him as a “Mean Man” who can probably take care of himself in a way that she can’t; Logan is quietly overtipping her, recognising that she needs support. Logan is living in an unfurnished apartment and showing his depth by reading a lot.

There are no superhero elements in this arc except for Logan himself (and a passing suggestion that Cry’s influence over his followers might be a mutant power). Logan doesn’t even use his claws in action until issue #5. It’s a dialling back of the stakes, or at least the scale, in favour of a more street level approach – though the Brothers are undoubtedly a serious threat to their victims.  It feels like a story about reclaiming aspects of masculinity as cool while rejecting the more dubious stuff – though Rucka does also go out of his way to show Logan hanging out with a reputable law-abiding gun dealer friend, who runs a shop called “My Cold Dead Hand”.

WOLVERINE vol 3 #6
“So, This Priest Walks Into A Bar”
by Greg Rucka, Darick Robertson, Tom Palmer & Studio F
October 2003

Logan and Kurt meet for a drink in a (completely mundane) mutant bar. From Logan’s unkempt state, Kurt quickly figures out that he has failed to save a girl, and counsels that this is sad, but a part of life for them both. Logan then explains that he has just killed 27 cultists. After asking a few more questions, Kurt declares them evil, but says that he cannot simply offer forgiveness. Still, he says, “Is the wolf evil when it culls the sickness from the herd?” At first Logan seems to find that comforting, but soon he insists that “I’m not an animal. I’m not.” Kurt agrees, but Logan seems unconvinced.

If the first five issues could have played as a Punisher story, this epilogue – which shifts the perspective back to Logan – very much couldn’t. There’s a lot of self-loathing going on in this take on the character.

One side effect of the shift to very long arcs is that Wolverine’s solo title will effectively be telling just two stories a year. Which means there’s a lot of other stuff to fit in before we get to issue #7.

4-issue miniseries
by Bruce Jones, Scott Kolins & Lee Loughridge
January to April 2003

Logan is having a break in a remote mountain cabin when, by sheer coincidence, a plane crashes nearby carrying Bruce Banner, pilot Margie White, teenager Kyle Hatcher, and criminals Whitie and Sid, who are on the run. Kyle has been bitten by a snake and has the titular six hours to get the antidote.

Logan and Banner team up to rescue Kyle and Margie from the two criminals, who are also on the run from  weird mercenary Shredder. Shredder gets an over the top build as a man from Wolverine’s past, but he’s really just a one-off villain with an admittedly memorable and off-kilter character design. After Shredder is defeated, Banner lets the snake bite him so that he can cure Kyle with, um, a blood transfusion. Yes, that’s two Bruce Jones Wolverine stories this year where the resolution is a blood transfusion that doesn’t make sense.

Leave that aside and this is okay, but there’s really no particular reason for it to be a Hulk and Wolverine story; you could do the basic story with Logan alone. The mini has some gloriously over the top covers by Simon Bisley that bear no resemblance at all to the muted interiors.

4-issue miniseries
by Brett Matthews, Vatche Mavlian & Paul Mounts
June to September 2003

SHIELD abduct Logan to get a genetic sample for their anti-superhero programme “Stuff of Legends”. Programme leader Edward Brecker and a group of followers turn rogue, and hand Logan over to Takeshi Kishimoto, a drug dealer who was once jailed thanks to Wolverine. Takeshi broadcasts a live stream of Logan’s torture. Nick Fury sends Spider-Man to rescue Wolverine, and everyone teams up to take down Becker.

This Marvel Knights mini is memorable mostly for its gorgeous artwork. But it’s a mess – it’s a simple story jazzed up with wildly overcomplicated plot mechanics, and it does things like claiming Switzerland is three continents away from France. It also has a mad scientist in late middle age who is said to have been a child in the Silver Age, as if the sliding timeline wasn’t a thing. The hook is meant to be the odd couple angle, but it winds up as one of those awkward stories where Spider-Man is appalled by Wolverine’s body count, but not to the point of actually trying to do anything about it.

X-TREME X-MEN vol 1 #20-22
“Schism, parts 1-3”
by Chris Claremont, Salvador Larroca & Liquid!
January to March 2003

Logan is back helping Ororo with her rehabilitation; he’s here mainly to discuss the plot with her and to explain why he’s not at the Institute, and he doesn’t even appear in the final chapter.

The main story, which Logan only hears about, involves Bishop and Sage investigating whether mutant teen Jeffrey Garrett, now a student at the X-Men’s school, killed his family; Emma generally shelters him and behaves obnoxiously, though she’s under the influence of Elias Bogan for some of the time. Logan gets to defend Emma’s trustworthiness to Storm.

4-issue miniseries
by RA Jones, Tom Derenick & Hi-Fi Design
February 2004

Wolverine, Captain America and Warbird (Carol Danvers) team up to recover a stolen Shi’ar computer chip which has somehow mutated to become massively powerful. They fight rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. black ops unit the Contingency – Shrike, Kite, Killdeer, Condor and Rapture. Rapture escapes with upgraded powers, but the rest of the Contingency go to jail.

From a 2022 standpoint, most striking thing about this weekly mini is the treatment of Warbird as a cavalier incompetent who needs to learn faith in herself. It’s mediocre, and it’s mainly a Cap/Warbird story with Wolverine as an unnecessary guest to boost sales. The story was plainly intended to set up Rapture and the Contingency as recurring villains – Rapture had previously appeared in Weapon X: The Draft – Kane in 2002 – but nothing comes of them.

DAREDEVIL vol 2 #53-55
“Echo, part 3 to 5”
by David Mack
October to December 2003

Echo (Maya Lopez) encounters Logan while on a visionquest. He tells her how he once met her “Chief”, who helped him control his animal urges, and told him a story about Two Dogs Fighting. Logan tells her that for him, what was important was to shed the dents to his ego caused by his past exploitation, and to focus on a sense of purpose and the good that he had done. He acted out the story he wanted to tell until he made it real, he says. Summarising it like that rather misses the point of these highly unusual, visually experimental issues, where Wolverine serves as the animal spirit for Echo’s visionquest. These are Echo stories; Daredevil only appears briefly in issue #55.

2-issue miniseries
by Peter Milligan, Darwyn Cooke, J Bone & Laura Allred
May & June 2003

The Pink Mink – seemingly just a piece of pink fur, but allegedly a dangerous artefact that can cause visions and mania in people, especially mutants – is stolen from scientists. They ask Wolverine to get it back. The trail leads to the Collector (no connection to the Elder of the Universe), a rich obsessive who collects valuable things.

Ignoring the warnings not to expose the Mink to the air, Wolverine picks it up and immediately has a vision of a Pink Lady, who takes the Mink and leaves. When Wolverine reports this back, the scientists don’t believe him – they say the Collector just stole the thing back from him while he was hallucinating. Haunted by the memory of the Pink Lady, Wolverine teams up with Doop to investigate further, and both become increasingly convinced that the other one is going mad. Along the way, they fight random Pink Psychos – latent mutants activated by the Pink Lady – and Hunter Joe, also hired by the scientists to get the Mink back. Bizarre plot twists ensue, as Wolverine and Doop test each other’s sanity by inventing scenarios that both turn out to be true – apparently because of the Mink’s probability-warping. Eventually they recapture the Mink, but the Pink Lady persuades them not to return it, so that she can remain free. Instead, Logan enjoys a night of passion with her, while Doop helps the Mink to asexually reproduce, creating a duplicate Mink that the heroes deliver up to the scientists in place of the original.

This is more coherent than I remember, though still very meta (“Like characters drifting in a pointless plot line who are suddenly given motivation”). It’s not especially like X-Statix, which was more satirical in tone, where this is absurdist and dreamlike, relying heavily on Logan as a familiar character to anchor the madness. For no apparent reason, Logan wears a suit throughout the story.

“3 in a Bed”
by Peter Milligan, Mike Allred & Laura Allred
July 2003

Logan appears briefly as a guest at a pool party thrown by X-Statix (the former X-Force). He gets to meet Dead Girl, El Guapo (Robbie Rodriguez), Venus Dee Milo and Spike Freeman.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #423-424
“Holy War”
by Chuck Austen, Ron Garney, Mark Morales, Nelson, Dan Green & JD Smith
May 2003

The Church of Humanity crucify a group of mutants on the X-Men’s lawn, including Bedlam (Jesse Aaronson). The X-Men discover that Nightcrawler’s mind has been tampered with to believe that he has completed his priestly training; his mentor Father Whitney turns out to be part of a ludicrous Church of Humanity scheme to destroy faith in the Catholic Church by somehow making Nightcrawler the Pope and then exposing him as a mutant. The X-Men defeat the Church. A truly abysmal story which seems motivated largely by anti-religious sentiment and a desire to prise Nightcrawler from nasty God-type opinions, missing the point of the character completely.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #425-426
“Sacred Vows”
by Chuck Austen, Philip Tan & Avalon Studios
June 2003

Logan is a guest at Havok’s stag night, and then at his wedding to Polaris (which he calls off at the altar).

Soon after, looking for Logan, Laura Kinney visits the X-Men Mansion and watches from afar, in a flashback in X-23: Target X #6. More of that issue in a bit, but first…

EXILES vol 2 #28-30
“Unnatural Instincts”
by Chuck Austen, Clayton Henry, Mark Morales & Transparency Digital
June to August 2003

When student Nicholas Gleason (later codenamed Wolf Cub) injures him, Havok is possessed by the consciousness of Earth-1298 Havok (the Havok who was native to the world of Mutant X, in other words). The Exiles arrive with a mission to stop evil Havok; the Dominant Species show up looking for Gleason. The X-Men and the Exiles team up to beat the bad guys, and the Exiles spend a few days with the X-Men afterwards before moving on to their next adventure.

At this point, the Exiles are Earth-12 Mimic (Calvin Rankin), Earth-2182 Nocturne (TJ Wagner), Earth-1081 Morph (Kevin Sidney), Earth-2109 Sunfire (Mariko Yashida), Earth-3470 Sasquatch (Heather McDaniel) and Earth-4210 Magik (Illyana Rasputin). Wolverine is just making up the numbers here, though he does make a point of avoiding the alt-Mariko afterwards.

4-issue miniseries
by Bruce Jones, Jorge Lucas & Oscar Carreno
April 2003

Amiko visits America, but runs off in tears when Logan loses his temper at a carnival. In response, Logan drinks himself into oblivion, passes out, and wakes up on a beach. Dreamlike weirdness ensues, including a small boy who apparently represents Logan’s inner child, and a monster that Logan must allow to kill him, in order to come to terms with his guilt. Afterwards, a man comes to collect Logan from the island, having apparently been hired by Logan to put him there in the first place. No explanation for anything that happened on the island is ever given.

A very heavy handed metaphor for Logan needing to control his temper, and a weird little experiment that just doesn’t work. Jones had something of a problem with teasing fascinating ideas and blowing the reveal, and this is no exception.

“The Swordsmith”
by Kazuo Koike, Kengo Kaji, Paul Smith & Brad Anderson
July 2003

Wolverine helps a woman, Renge, defend her late father’s mystical sword Mikage from the villainous Azuma. The sword’s power comes from the souls of the people it has killed, who want to exact revenge on the sword-user. Azuma is consumed by the souls, and Wolverine has the sword melted down.

A perfectly nice little story in a traditional Wolverine-in-Japan mould. Kazuo Koike was the creator of Lone Wolf and Cub, one of the more intriguing guest creators to work on X-Men Unlimited.

5-issue miniseries

by Tsutomu Nihei & Guru eFX
May to November 2003

A girl called Fusa brings Wolverine to her post-apocalyptic future so that he can defend her people from the Mandate – a waste-consuming bacteria that has gone out of control. Wolverine teams with Fusa’s freedom fightsers, including the robot Colonel, to defeat the original Mandate – the Primogenitor – so that Fusa can send him home.

This is another stab at manga, complete with manga-style pacing. It reads better as a collection, but as a five-issue monthly it was excruciating. It’s a real oddity, with everyone’s skin consistently left uncoloured, and Wolverine depicted as tall, but it’s got some moments of grand scale to it. A real oddity.

NEW X-MEN vol 1 #135, #137 and #138 (part 1)
“Riot at Xavier’s, parts 1, 3 and 4”
by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
December 2002 to March 2003

The X-Men discuss the troubling behaviour of rebellious student Kid Omega (Quentin Quire) and his Omega Gang (Glob Herman, Radian, Redneck and Tattoo). At first Wolverine dismisses it as kids testing their limits, and Quentin having an identity crisis on learning that he’s adopted.

When the Omega Gang stage a riot on the school’s first Open Day, Wolverine shows up to look confident and give Quentin a stern talking to – and gets easily despatched by Quentin, who traps him in his own mind and moves on with the story. Afterwards, with Sophie of the Stepford Cuckoos dead, Wolverine yells at the Gang members, who insist that they were under Quentin’s control. With hindsight, this is an odd storyline in being so unsympathetic to Quire’s version of youthful rebellion.

Issue #138 is split in two parts because it has an epilogue. But first…

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #429-434
“The Draco”
#429-433 by Chuck Austen, Philip Tan & Avalon Studios
#434 by Chuck Austen, Takeshi Miyazawa, Craig Yeung & Avalon Studios
August to November 2003

Azazel, an ancient mutant who claims to be Satan, has fathered many teleporting mutants on Earth in an attempt to build an army under his control, who can open a portal to the dimension where he is trapped. He summons all these mutants to Isla des Demonas, where Professor Dibble‘s archaeological site has discovered evidence of an ancient mutant society. Among the summoned mutants are Nightcrawler, Kiwi Black and Abyss. The X-Men tag along and defeat him. Wolverine’s role in all this is largely peripheral.

“The Draco” has a reputation as one of the worst X-Men stories ever published, because it is. It’s completely incoherent – Azazel’s plan involves travelling to Earth in order to create a portal through which he can travel to Earth, and the finale involves him being defeated by falling into the very portal that he was trying to go through in the first place. Tan’s art is simply not ready for prime time, and in fairness to him, it’s a visually demanding story that called for someone much more experienced. On top of that, it does yet more damage to Nightcrawler’s back story for no benefit whatsoever.

The epilogue to New X-Men vol 1 #138 goes here, with Wolverine visible in one panel at the X-Men’s prizegiving.

NEW X-MEN vol 1 #139-140
“Murder at the Mansion, parts 1-2”
by Grant Morrison, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning & Dave McCaig
April 2003

Logan shows up briefly to sympathise with an upset Emma after her affair with Scott comes to light. He cameos in part 2 when Bishop and Sage arrive to investigate Emma’s murder but vanishes from the arc after that.

flashback in X-23: Target X #6 – which forms most of that issue – fits between New X-Men #139-140. That night, Logan goes biking, and X-23 tails him. Picking up her scent, Logan sets up camp and invites her to talk. Instead, she attacks him, claiming that they are both weapons who need to be stopped and destroyed. Logan tells her that she isn’t to blame for anything she’s done, and tries to persuade her to return with him to the Institute, but instead she gets captured by S.H.I.E.L.D.. Wolverine already knows who Laura is, and claims to have a copy of a letter from her mother – none of this has ever really been explained, but since we know Wolverine has previously met her in a time travel story, presumably that encouraged him to do a bit of digging.

X-TREME X-MEN vol 1 #25-30
“God Loves, Man Kills II”
by Chris Claremont, Igor Kordey, Scott Hanna & Liquid!
May to August 2003

When Reverend Stryker’s plane crashes while transporting him to a new prison, the X-Treme X-Men (including Wolverine) investigate. Stryker and Kitty Pryde are on the run from Lady Deathstrike, who is meant to be on Stryker’s side, but has fallen under the mental control of Mount Haven, a small picket-fence town run by an AI that’s using nanites to re-write mutants into delighted citizens. The AI can see mutants’ energy signatures, but it mistakenly believes that they’re souls, and it’s concluded that non-mutants are all soulless monsters who must be destroyed.

Lady Deathstrike defeats Wolverine in battle, but he claims later that he was actually just getting her to stab him through the heart in order to reboot his healing factor and overcome the nanites. If you say so, Logan. The core story largely gets sorted out by Kitty without Wolverine contributing very much to it.

Though it doesn’t live up to the billing of “God Loves, Man Kills”, Kordey does good work on this story. Claremont also takes the chance in issue #28 to set out his stall on Wolverine and Deathstrike: “Both rebuilt as weapons, Logan’s innate humanity is the touchstone of his life. It gives him focus and meaning and purpose. To transcend the goals of those who made him and carve his own path of honour. For Yuriko Oyama, that humanity is an encumbrance, like a pressed flower in a memory book, reminding her of a time long-past, whose meaning and relevance fades with every upgrade.” Originally, the idea was that Deathstrike wanted to be restored to humanity once she completed her quest, but evidently Claremont thinks she’s drifted.

NEW MUTANTS vol 2 #5
“Not One of Us”
by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, Mark Robinson, Aaron Sowd, Wayne Faucher, Scott Elmer & Ian Hannin
October 2003

Logan appears as the teacher of a martial arts class. His students include Laurie Collins (Wallflower), Sofia Mantega (Wind Dancer), Kevin Ford (Wither), David Alleyne (Prodigy) and Julian Keller (Hellion). Since Logan doesn’t understand his powers, Prodigy actually beats him in a sparring session.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #438-441
“She Lies with Angels, parts 2-5”
by Chuck Austen, Salvador Larroca, Danny Miki & Udon
January to March 2004

Wolverine is among the X-Men who tag along to Kentucky stand around in the background in a Romeo & Juliet riff based on a feud between the Guthrie family and the Cabot family. He contributes literally nothing to the plot and doesn’t even meet any of the Cabots until part 5.

NEW X-MEN vol 1 #142-145
“Assault on Weapon Plus”
by Grant Morrison, Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend & Chris Chuckry
June to August 2003

Wolverine bumps into  Cyclops in the Hellfire Club’s strip club, where he is attempting to drown his sorrows after his split with Jean. Wolverine laments that all he ever wanted was the sort of life that Scott had with Jean, while Scott wants to “throw all that away and run a little wild with the sexy White Queen.” He also tells Scott that he’s wrong to think Jean wouldn’t understand – “Bub, she’s been praying for you to come out of your shell for a zillion years.”

But Wolverine is mainly there to meet with Fantomex, who had promised to reveal facts about his past. Fantomex, Wolverine and Cyclops – and Fantomex’s living vehicle E.V.A. – travel to the World, a facility where scientists are creating life-forms using time-warping technology stolen from A.I.M.. A.I.M. have also been trying to reclaim the World, but have been torn apart by the World’s newest creation Weapon XV. Weapon XV has apparently gone mad after learning the true nature of the World, and he flies up to the Weapon Plus Project’s orbiting satellite base, with Fantomex and co in pursuit.

During all this, Fantomex reels off a mixture of genuine facts about Wolverine and bluff – he claims that Wolverine’s real name is “James Logan”, for example – which the two X-Men treat with appropriate scepticism. But once on board the satellite, Fantomex does indeed help Wolverine access the Weapon X database for a few minutes. When Weapon XV – also going by Ultimaton – wanders in  asking about the purpose of his life, Wolverine replies that based on what he’s just read, “some of us were born to kill and raised to kill and that’s the only damn thing we’re any good for. Everything else is just lies we tell ourselves.” He dismisses Weapon XV as a “genocide machine”, and blows up the station. (Fantomex and Cyclops escape separately.)

This is a rare story from the period which actually develops Wolverine’s back story, though it turns out not to amount to much. Morrison never specifies what Wolverine read in the file, but according to Weapon X #25, it was his involvement in slaughtering the townsfolk of Roanoke.

NEW X-MEN vol 1 #146, #148 and #150
“Planet X, parts 1, 3 and 5”
by Grant Morrison, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning & Chris Chuckry
October to December 2003

Jean goes into space to rescue Wolverine, and the two wind up on the ruins of Asteroid M fighting Ultimaton. This is just sub-plot stuff, and the fight ends off panel. Wolverine and Jean are then trapped on Asteroid M, which is set to fall into the sun within 24 hours. Wolverine tells Jean that what he saw in the Weapon Plus files proves that they only chose him because he was an enthusiastic killer, and he now believes that his hazy recent memories of a red-headed woman (Rose O’Hara from Origin) actually involve times when she was scared of him. Jean tells him that he’s already redeemed himself for whatever he may have done in the past.

Once they get closer to the sun, Jean’s full Phoenix power is triggered, and she takes Wolverine back to Earth in time to join the final battle with Magneto (who turned out to have infiltrated the school as “Xorn”). Magneto kills Phoenix, and a berserk Wolverine beheads him in retaliation. Then he has to be held back by the Beast as Jean dies in Scott’s arms.

This is where we bid Morrison goodbye; the  final four issues of Morrison’s run take place in an alternate future, and end with a future Phoenix altering history by nudging Scott to stay with Emma and keep the school running.

flashback in Weapon X vol 2 #18 has Wolverine tell the X-Men that, based on what he saw on the Weapon Plus satellite, they need to go after the new Weapon X Project. Chamber is selected to infiltrate them.

The flashbacks in Secret War #2-5 take place here. Nick Fury recruits Wolverine, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Captain America, Luke Cage, the Black Widow and Daisy Johnson (later Quake) for a secret mission to overthrow the Latverian government, who have secretly been funding tech-based supervillains. They fight a bunch of Latverian soldiers and such illustrious villains as a new Hobgoblin and Lady Octopus (Carolyn Trainer). Finally, when they reach current Latverian leader Lucia von Bardas, Daisy brings down the building to kill her, horrifying the other heroes. Fury wipes everyone’s memories, and they don’t learn about their involvement in the coup until the main story.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #442-443
“Of Darkest Nights”
by Chuck Austen, Salvador Larroca, Danny Miki & Udon
April 2004

Logan grudgingly accompanies Professor X to Genosha for the funeral of Magneto, but refuses to participate in anything amounting to a show of respect. Other mourners, such as Shocker (Randall Darby), are offended by his behaviour, and Polaris shows up to make the case for Magneto. Xavier decides to stay and rebuild on Genosha (leading in to Excalibur vol 2), and Logan leaves.

NEW X-MEN vol 1 #156
“A Bright New Mourning, part 2”
by Chuck Austen, Salvador Larroca, Danny Miki & Udon
April 2004

Just a single-panel cameo in the epilogue, as the X-Men watch the school being rebuilt after being blown up by Magneto in “Planet X”.

WOLVERINE vol 3 #7-11
“Coyote Crossing”
by Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernandez & Studio F
November 2003 to February 2004

Another crime story with minimal superhero elements. Logan stumbles upon two thugs, Merrick and Lake, who have unintentionally killed a truck full of immigrants while smuggling them across the Mexican border, and are trying to cover up the deaths. Logan’s investigation leads him to El Paso, where he hangs out with old friend Nestor Garcia, and follows the trail to Mexican crime boss Rojas, who is also involved in heroin smuggling. Cassie Lathrop also shows up, along with Border Patrol’s Agent Aguinaga, and Logan has to rescue her.

Logan tracks down Rojas, who turns out to be a heavily pregnant woman. She accepts responsibility for the deaths, but argues that she doesn’t actually want to kill the people she smuggles, or her drug mules – after all, it’s in her interest for them to live – whereas Logan is a true sociopath who just likes to claim the moral high ground while he’s killing people. Logan shows up back at Nestor’s bar with Rojas’s baby (later named Angelica Murillo) – it’s initially implied that he killed Rojas, but a flashback clarifies that she died in chlidbirth. Logan tells Cassie that he is “not much of a man at all” and that he “might as well have” killed Rojas, since the stress of his attack sent her into labour and wiped out the support staff that would have helped her. Cassie insists that he is not an animal and that if “you decide you’re a man, you know where you can find me.” Logan tracks down Rojas’s relatives in El Paso and delivers the baby to them.

This is a very good arc, with excellent art and a deliberate anticlimax in Rojas’ death before the final act.

Next time, we go from Greg Rucka to Mark Millar…

Bring on the comments

  1. Col_Fury says:

    re: Bruce Jones and Shanna’s butt
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Bruce Jones told the artist to include a nice butt shot. I remember reading a Red Sonja story written & drawn by Bruce Jones in Savage Sword of Conan and thinking to myself “The only reason this story exists was so Bruce Jones could draw Sonja’s butt a bunch of times.”

    I’m calling it now, Bruce Jones is an ass man.

    Also, I’m kind of surprised at how much Marvel work he was getting at the time. For some reason I had it in my head he was just writing the Hulk. I don’t recall any butts in that run, though.

  2. Nu-D says:

    someone, presumably Chuck Austen, decided that what the mess really needed was a twin brother with an almost identical name and power set

    Like Ernst, the fans really liked Mr. Xorn. So a committee of editors and Chuck Austen decided to bring him back, and this was Austen’s solution.

    IIRC, when the brother was first introduced, the Xorneto retcon hadn’t really been established. So for a month or so after Morrison left there really was only one Xorn but he had never been to New York. Then the Xorneto retcon happened to save Magneto, and suddenly Xorn II needed a mid-story re-write.

  3. Col_Fury says:

    Found it. Savage Sword #157, for those interested.

  4. Paul says:

    In fairness to Austen, all his story did was to introduce a “real” Xorn and assert that this was the person who Magneto had been impersonating. In itself, that wasn’t especially problematic (and arguably it was unintentionally implied by some of the dialogue in Xorn’s first appearance, where other characters seem to remember him being imprisoned by the Chinese authorities for far too long for him to have been Magneto all along).

    The real problem stemmed from the fact that Xorn/Magneto had been beheaded at the end of Morrison’s run, but Magneto was running around in Excalibur without explanation. A number of problems from the end of the Morrison run seem to have arisen from the fact that Morrison had fallen out with Bill Jemas and was handing in scripts late in the day to stop them being edited, which resulted in some major plot points completely blindsiding the other writers. The writers of New Mutants at the time have said they were completely unaware that Morrison’s run was going to end by blowing up the school, which was the setting for their book. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Magneto’s immediate reappearance in the cast of Excalibur was in the same category.

    The basic defect in Austen’s retcon is that it doesn’t actually explain Magneto’s return. Austen’s Xorn couldn’t have been the Morrison Xorn (because he was explicitly set up as a separate character who had been in a Chinese prison all along), and so the Morrison Xorn had to be yet another character. The initial solution was to ignore the problem and hope it went away, after which they tried a bit of handwaving about reality warping from the Scarlet Witch.

    Eventually Brian Bendis tries to explain it properly in New Avengers by claiming that Morrison’s Xorn is the twin brother of Austen’s Xorn, who really did get rescued from a Chinese jail and brought to the X-Men’s school, but who at some point decided that he needed to start impersonating Magneto in order to provide a focus for mutant followers. The problem with this is that nobody has ever come up with any explanation, consistent with any of his other appearances, about why Xorn would want to do that, so it’s really no more satisfactory than any of the previous attempts. But technically, that is the current state of continuity.

  5. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I skimmed Austen’s Xorn issues on Unlimited – the most clear laying out of who is who happens in the opening of X-Men #162.

    Emma, after checking out the new Xorn telepathically, says:

    He […] is Shen Xorn, twin brother of Kuan-Yin Xorn, the man whose body Magneto somehow appropriated for his rampage against New York.

    But just two pages later Shen Xorn says:

    You should know it was not Magneto who did the things you accuse him of. It was someone else… Someone I still sense within your midst. […] I do not know the name of this individual, but I do know that they are fiercely hateful, and malevolent, have been hiding among you for some time, and even now seek to turn others against you. […] They intend to destroy everything Xavier has built.

    That’s X-Men #162 from 2004.

    So it does explain Magneto’s return – he wasn’t beheaded, because it wasn’t him.

    Now, in Austen’s explanation, it also wasn’t Kuan-Yin Xorn.

    Austen’s run doesn’t explain who it was.

    But it’s pretty clear from that description who he intended it to be – Cassandra Nova, whom he wanted to use, but Whedon booked her for the Torn arc of Astonishing. Two issues after that Havok/Emma/Xorn conversation I’ve abridged above, nurse Annie leaves the school with her son, who’s in contact with / under the influence of an unexplained disembodied telepathic entity. Which, again, was Austen setting up Cassandra’s return.

    Later Bendis makes Kuan-Yin Xorn the perpetrator after all, which doesn’t gel with Austen’s setup, but has been more or less accepted as the final word on the matter.

    Or maybe not ‘accepted’, more ‘there’s an unspoken agreement not to touch the oozing sore anymore’.

  6. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    And then the Xorn brothers, who admittedly make for a nice visual, appear in the Ultimate universe – as Xorn and Zorn, the rulers of the mutant haven of Tian or something like that.

    And for some reason this seeps through to the 616 – Shen Xorn is now Zorn in the 616. And he was the puppet ruler of New Tian, from that lovely crossover where mutants were quislings aiding and abetting the Nazi takeover of the US. Beast got to shake so many Hydra hands as Tian’s ambassador before he became a supervillain in his own right, it must have been inspiring!

    And Xorn isn’t even a Chinese name. At least not a Han name – that syllable doesn’t exist in Mandarin.

  7. entzauberung says:

    “Interesting to realize that serialized storytelling has sped up since the Jemas/Quesada years. Writers are still writing for the trade, but are offering more story. I suppose they have to as individual issues are more and more expensive.”

    I think the extreme decompression of 20 years ago was very much a Jemas thing. From all I’ve read he thought Marvel comics were too silly and impenetrable to appeal to a mass audience – he wanted simple and relatively low key stories that could be sold as self-contained books.

    Of course, two decades later the tables have turned completely as the interconnectedness and over the top spectacle are the two main selling points for the (VERY mass audience) MCU.

  8. Nu-D says:

    I really admire Morrison’s systematic dismantling of the tired X-Men tropes. Over and over he tried to poison the well on stories that writers since Claremont had been using as tired crutches.

    Genosha gone
    Xavier and the school outed
    Mutants a visible minority
    Xavier gone
    The imperial guard killed off
    Logan’s memory restored
    The Weapon X mystery resolved
    Scott and Jean broken off
    Phoenix killed off
    Magneto killed off

    Then the capstone story was a dead Jean telling Scott and the X-Men to move on to something new. I resent that Marvel immediately scrambled to undo it all.

  9. Mike Loughlin says:

    Col_Fury: Ha! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable that I can deduce certain comic book creators’ fetishes from their work. As for the plethora of Bruce Jones work in the early-’00s, the first few issues of his Hulk run were really good. Offbeat, low-key, horror-adjacent- kind of like the recent (much better) Immortal Hulk series, only with less Hulk and more decompression. I think his Hulk early work convinced editors to give him more work, almost all of which turned out to be mediocre or worse. And then his Hulk run went off the rails…

    Nu-D: the one-two punch of Morrison/Quitely/etc. New X-Men and Milligan/Allred X-Force led me to believe that the X-books were going to change radically, become something more interesting and intelligent from that point forward. The Casey run didn’t work, but at least it didn’t read like ’90s X-Men. The Austen run was the Austen run, but it very much read like the B-series. Then came the end of Morrison’s run and subsequent writers ignoring his changes and characters. The comic that made me disillusioned, however, was Astonishing X-Men. The flagship X-book was a retrograde super-hero series with some terrible plotting and dumb concepts. The potential of the line was wasted yet again.

  10. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    The concept of ‘the flagship x-book’ is interesting to me, because I wonder if there was a successful flagship after Morrison.

    There was no need for a flagship under Claremont – first because there was only one book, and then because Claremont wrote the X-Men, and every other book was secondary. His was the flagship by default.

    After Claremont launched Adjectiveless, I guess that was the flagship for a hot second, before Adjectiveless and Uncanny became sort of two halves of one book.

    Morrison writes New X-Men, it’s definitely the flagship – it sets up the status quo, that’s where the important stuff happens.

    After Morrison, New X-Men is immediately undercut, and in effect both Uncanny and soon-to-again-be-Adjectiveless… both become the b-titles.

    The flagship Astonishing launches. But it’s soon clear that it doesn’t set the status quo, it’s removed from everything else happening in the line, and then the delays hit and turn it immaterial.

    The status quo is defined or changed radically not in any ongoing, but in events – House of M, Decimation.

    Astonishing finishes after Messiah Complex. The ‘flagship’ is completely irrelevant to what was happening in the x-line at time.

    For a minute the main book is Carey’s Adjectiveless, but only in as much as that’s where most of the setup for Messiah Complex happens. After MC it turns into Legacy – a b-title by definition.

    I’d say it is only after Messiah Complex when the x-line gets a definite ‘main’ book again, in the form of Fraction’s Uncanny. Which isn’t very good, but it drives the main plot and other books serve to fill in the blanks. So I guess this is a point where the x-line has an actual flagship again (in terms of importance to the line, I have no idea what the sales were).

    That remains true through the Gillen run, and after Avengers vs X-Men we go into the All-New/Uncanny/Wolverine and the X-Men trio, in which… none of the books is the main book? There isn’t even a defined main X-Men team, just dozens of X-Men living in the institute and going out in teams as needed. Which isn’t what the Wolverine and the X-Men book was about, despite being focused on the institute. And All-New and Uncanny were in clear opposition to that book. Which was even more fun when Wolverine and the X-Men ended, and All-New and Uncanny continued – books in opposition to a non-existent main title.

    That ends with Secret Wars, which leads into the Inhumans vs X-Men era. Which at least has a clearly defined main team in Extraordinary, and later Gold, and later Uncanny in the runup to HOXPOX. But none of them were ‘the main book’, none of them were flagships. They didn’t feel important and they definitely didn’t get the marketing push – it was the Great Inhuman Replacement era after all, when X-Men couldn’t be important.

    HOXPOX was big, important and marketed as hell. But it’s two minis, minis aren’t flagships. And in the Krakoan era… we still didn’t get the flagship? In the Hickman project most books contributed to the main plot – Hickman’s Adjectiveless was nothing but setups, but Excalibur was arguably more important as the lead-in to X of Swords.

    Hickman leaves and we’re left with Duggan’s Adjectiveless – even less important to the line than under Hickman – and the main plot is currently carried by Immortal.

    I was going to say ‘Immortal and Red’, but I guess the second part depends on how important Arakko will turn out to be in the long run.

    Would we call Immortal X-Men the current flagship x-book? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s important to the plot, but so far it doesn’t seem to be impacting other books? It doesn’t ‘feel’ big.

    Anyway, this was a long stream of consciousness born mostly of me being bored by work.

  11. Nu-D says:

    the one-two punch of Morrison/Quitely/etc. New X-Men and Milligan/Allred X-Force led me to believe that the X-books were going to change radically, become something more interesting and intelligent from that point forward.

    To me, Morrison’s run feels like he’s throwing down the gauntlet and challenging future writers to embrace the science fiction concept of humans evolving into super-powered hominids. He tried to take off the board content that had become tired, and introduced a slate of new ideas to play with.

    In many ways Hickman’s run is a restoration of what Morrison seemed to be trying to do, and it has stuck (so far). What’s different is Hickman didn’t try to take old, tired stuff off the board. He just lurched us forward into the mutant future that Morrison’s run tried to introduce, but left everything else in place to be used in the new setup.

  12. Nu-D says:

    FWIW, I liked Astonishing and didn’t feel like it undermined what Morrison attempted. I have no problem with an X-Men book in the classic superhero mode, and I like the school set up. I just was excited by Morrison’s more radically realized world of mutants emerging as the next step of human evolution. I don’t think Whedon’s book undermined that, though it didn’t do that much with it either.

  13. Taibak says:

    Morrison definitely got rid of a lot of tired concepts, but in a very real sense he played the concept completely straight. He let the school be a school, he turned mutants into a real minority (Mutant Town and Jumbo Carnation), he let mutation be mutation and not just an excuse for superpowers (Ugly John).

  14. Nu-D says:

    I just found out Morrison uses they/them pronouns, so please read my prior posts with the pronouns accordingly amended. It was not an intentional misgendering.

  15. Nu-D says:

    in a very real sense (they) played the concept completely straight. (They) let the school be a school, (they) turned mutants into a real minority (Mutant Town and Jumbo Carnation), (they) let mutation be mutation and not just an excuse for superpowers (Ugly John).

    That’s what I mean by “more radically realized world of mutants emerging as the next step of human evolution.” Morrison took the concept of an emerging mutant population and extrapolated it into a near-future sci-fi world, instead of trying to force-fit it into “the world outside your window,” like Marvel had been doing for decades.

  16. Mike Loughlin says:

    One of the best things about Morrison’s run is the way they explored aspects of mutant life between the big events. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t like Whedon’ & Cassaday’s run, I thought so much of that was lost so we could get Ord, the Breakworld, Danger, and other stuff I couldn’t care less about. I’m not saying it was a terrible run (although the giant bullet thing was so stupid), but I missed the more rounded and daring Morrison material.

    As for the concept of a flagship book, I think Astonishing X-Men was supposed to be it, but KrzySiek is right that delays killed its relevance. I see Immortal X-Men as the flagship now, especially while its writer is also handling the current big event series, but I can see that it isn’t quite driving the line. It’s weird to me that the series called X-Men has felt like a b-title since the start.

  17. ASV says:

    The fact that there were no “X-Men” for like two years and nobody mentioned it in-story seems telling about Hickman’s interest in the X-Men part of the concept (as opposed to the mutant part).

  18. Luis Olavo Dantas says:

    Re: Flagship books. I will agree that the current Gerry Duggan adjectiveless X-Men book isn’t much of a trendsetter.

    But I will (and did) propose that it is the current flagship in as much as it is written to be accessible for new and/or casual readers and acclimate them to the main beats of current X-Men continuity.

    Incidentally, I respecfully disagree that the previous, Hickman-penned volume of Adjectiveless X-Men was entirely set-up. I recall that one of its early issues was the pay-off for a Brood plot introduced in a then-recent issue of New Mutants.

  19. Dave says:

    The King Egg? We’re still waiting to see if that set-up ever has a pay off.

  20. Si says:

    I never got Broo. Why he looks like a reptilian humanoid instead of an insect, why he’s a child when Brood don’t reproduce that way, that sort of thing. Eating the ambiguous king egg is just one more layer of confusion. I’d hate to see the brood species turned nice by this.

  21. neutrino says:

    @Chris V

    With the t-shirts, Morrison was making a comparison to Che Guevara, someone turned into a shallow revolutionary symbol without regard to the actual person. Quire didn’t know about Magneto’s master race ideology anymore than someone wearing a Guevara thinks about his exhortation to become a “murder machine”. Quire considered himself striking back at his oppressors who had murdered Jumbo Carnation, which is why they went after the U-Men. They attacked the homo sapien visitors to Xavier’s because they had invaded their safe space. Quire’s gang were the mutant Antifa. As for the fascist imagery, that was deliberately copied from Bolivar Trask’s anti-mutant propaganda, reclaiming it as the left says.

  22. K says:

    I come back to this a lot, but I’d say Uncanny X-Force briefly reached flagship tier just because of how heads and shoulders it was over the rest of the line for a moment.

    All the rest of the X-books all the years just goes to show that a flagship book is something that happens to you, not something that you decide.

  23. Omar Karindu says:

    With the t-shirts, Morrison was making a comparison to Che Guevara, someone turned into a shallow revolutionary symbol without regard to the actual person. Quire didn’t know about Magneto’s master race ideology anymore than someone wearing a Guevara thinks about his exhortation to become a “murder machine”. Quire considered himself striking back at his oppressors who had murdered Jumbo Carnation, which is why they went after the U-Men. They attacked the homo sapien visitors to Xavier’s because they had invaded their safe space. Quire’s gang were the mutant Antifa. As for the fascist imagery, that was deliberately copied from Bolivar Trask’s anti-mutant propaganda, reclaiming it as the left says.

    I think assigning Quire and the Omega Gang a clear political ideology is difficult because the point of the story is that Quire is putting a superficial, ultimately, incoherent political gloss on what is really just acting out an adolescent identity crisis and a personal sense of loss/lack of status.

    It’s also, in its way, part of Morrison’s takedown of the old X-Men plot dynamic, where the X-Men balanced the anti-mutant humans against the mutant supremacists like the older versions of the Brotherhood.

    Quire models himself on Magneto-as-T-shirt icon, but when actual Magneto comes back, he’s no more coherent in his ideology. Morrison’s Magneto is a supremacist who literally, crashingly reenacts the genocidal actions that traumatized him. And Quire, for his part, spends a lot of time in the story reenacting his own issues and calling it a politics.

    Indeed, it’s Magneto-as-Xorn who essentially euthanizes Quire, and it’s Sublime, in the form of Kick, who was at the back of it. Sublime is just the urge to dominate, the atavistic thing that can’t accept change. Since both Magneto and Quire (and the Omegas) turn out to be on Kick, that’s the statement Morrison is really making.

    I think the reason people can see the Omega Gang as school shooters, or the alt-right, or antifa, or black bloc, or whatever is that the mega Gang are a commentary on the entitled, disaffected people who want to lash out at the world, and looks for a way to Romanticize that and pretend it’s a moral crusade or something of of world-historical importance. (I have my own political sympathies here, as it seems most of us do, but I think Morrison is looking at this from the angle that members of all of these group just end up endlessly fighting each other in public…rather like traditional superpeople in comics.)

    It’s also why the Omegas parallel the earlier U-Man teenage murderer and the racists who publicly attack Jumbo Carnation. And it’s why Sublime is at the back of it: none of these character represent real ideas for change, just the old violence.

    As Quire says in his final words: “What if the real enemy was inside all along.” Yeah, that’s Magneto infiltrating the school and Sublime possessing mutants, but the more obvious meaning in-story — before those plot reveals — is also that all of these folks are looking for an enemy to defeat or dominate when the real problem is in them, and needs to be dealt with there first.

  24. Si says:

    Didn’t Quire’s gang murder some random humans who were badmouthing mutants?

  25. Nu-D says:

    I think this thread is clear evidence that Quire is coded both fascist right and anarchist left, which is why we all can read into the character whichever fits our priors.

    Likely Morrison was deliberate about that.

  26. Josie says:

    Because I can’t find anyone here saying it yet, Morrison confirmed (perhaps in Supergods?) that Quentin Quire was absolutely supposed to be an example of nerd culture gone bad. He basically predicted gamergate/comicsgate more than a decade in advance.

    And the comparison to Ben Shaprio is absolutely apt, not Richard Spencer. Both Quire and Shapiro are emasculated nerdy young men (at least, Shapiro was young when he rose to power) who become spiteful toward society (Shapiro hates Hollywood because he failed to break in), embrace fascism, and rise to power by going after their ideological opponents.

  27. Josie says:


    “Quire is coded both fascist right and anarchist left”

    Incorrect. Quire isn’t anti-authority, he’s anti-Xavier’s authority. He is absolutely authoritarian with the way he simps for Magneto and gets his crew to wear identical outfits.

    This would be like calling Qanon anarchist left because they hate Biden.

  28. Josie says:

    “Quitely and I depicted nerds as fascist thugs, chugging back power-enhancing drugs that came in the form of asthma inhalers. It was the dark side of Spencer’s imperial youth Stormer generation: sickly, vengeful, ignorant, and dully predictable in its demands.”

    – Grant Morrison, Supergods (2012)

  29. Jason Powell says:

    “I really admire Morrison’s systematic dismantling of the tired X-Men tropes. Over and over he tried to poison the well on stories that writers since Claremont had been using as tired crutches. …To me, Morrison’s run feels like he’s throwing down the gauntlet and challenging future writers to embrace the science fiction concept of humans evolving into super-powered hominids. He tried to take off the board content that had become tired, and introduced a slate of new ideas to play with.”

    If that was truly his aim, then that seems a little hypocritical, since most of his run was built on those familiar stories and tropes: He did a Magneto story, he did an origin-of-Wolverine/Weapon “__” story, he did a Phoenix story, he did X-Men vs. the Imperial Guard, he did Sentinels, etc. So it’s okay if he relies on the “tired old crutches” for most of his run but writers who come after him are now expected to pick up his thrown-down gauntlet and NOT build a run around all those things? It seems like the real way to throw down such a gauntlet would be to just ignore those familiar stories entirely yourself — not to do your own take on all those tropes but in such a way as to render them all unusable in the future. If that was his intent, it’s awfully self-serving and a little perverse.

  30. Josie says:

    “If that was truly his aim, then that seems a little hypocritical”

    Morrison drawing a line under some concepts doesn’t mean he drew a line under every concept. He was writing the X-Men. You can’t write the X-Men while getting rid of every single thing about the X-Men. What a bizarre complaint.

  31. Luke says:

    RE: Wolverine Netsuke.
    I remember wanting to read tisbwhen it came out, but I finally tracked it down after reading this post.
    Your description is dead on the money.
    “Some Wolverine stuff happens, or something?”

    The only other George Pratt work I’ve read was in Sandman Endless Nights and I think he’s probably a good painter but he definitely struggles with sequential storytelling.

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