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Sep 4

The Incomplete Wolverine – 2004

Posted on Sunday, September 4, 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 | 2003

We’re in the Greg Rucka run, which so far has been a detour from regular superheroics into something more down to earth. Meanwhile, Grant Morrison has just left the X-Men. We left off with Rucka’s “Coyote Crossing” arc, which ran through to February 2004, and so we pick up with…

WOLVERINE vol 3 #12
by Greg Rucka, Darick Robertson & Studio F
March 2004

After eleven comparatively low-key, real-world issues, this is a drastic departure – a surrealist stream-of-conscious issue depicting one of Logan’s nightmares. Recurring themes include an animalistic version of himself hiding in the closet and a bright red bird who symbolises Jean, but it defies summary. Darick Robertson’s slight edge of cartooning is perfect for it. In the morning, Cassie Lathrop asks Logan if he had dreams, and he just answers “no.” They’re a couple at this point, by the way, but nothing will come of it.

WOLVERINE vol 3 #13-19
“Return of the Native”
by Greg Rucka, Darick Robertson, Tom Palmer & Studio F
April to September 2004Sabretooth is hired by Mr Willoughby and his aide Mr Murray – both connected with the Weapon X Project – to find and capture the Native. Rather than do it himself, Sabretooth gives the Native’s file to Logan and lets him do the hunting. Ostensibly it’s the easiest way of doing the job, but mainly Sabretooth just wants to screw with Logan.

Logan duly tracks down the Native, a feral woman living in the wilderness, who turns out to be another survivor of the Weapon X Project. She clearly remembers him, but he doesn’t remember him at all. Her attitude to him swings wildly from violence to sex. Logan tries to help her escape and they wind up in a cabin that they vaguely recognises; she tells him in broken English that it is “home”. Eventually, Willoughby and Murray manage to capture the Native; their plan is to harvest her eggs to create new super-soldiers. Having fallen out with his employers, Sabretooth switches sides and offers to help Logan rescue Native, mainly just to annoy everyone. Logan plays along until he gets the chance to run Sabretooth over and claw him in the head. Meanwhile, Weapon X’s Dr Vapor discovers that Native is pregnant (apparently with Logan’s child). Logan kills Vapor and rescues Native. He tries to persuade her to come back to the X-Men with him, but she says she can’t. (“Don’t belong, Logan.”) Sabretooth attacks Logan again, claiming that they both know Native needs to be put out of her misery, and that only he has the strength to do it. Sabretooth wins the fight and kills Native before Wolverine can recover, leaving a note reading “I did you a favour, runt – you can thank me later.”

This seven-parter is the end of the Greg Rucka run, and his only arc that really engages with wider continuity. Surprisingly, Native never appears again – yes, she dies at the end, but when did that ever stop anyone? She’s an interesting character, in that she’s an “animal” in a different sense from the usual Wolverine stories – she’s too animalistic even for Logan to interact with meaningfully, and in some ways the character is limited by design. There’s a definite hint that Creed is sincere in his view that she is better off dead.

This arc doesn’t have much to do with the rest of Rucka’s run, and since his only other subplot – the Cassie Lathrop romance – is immediately dropped, the run feels somewhat incomplete. It’s basically a series of character pieces, paced in the somewhat langorous style of the time – not much talked about these days, but good stuff.

5-issue miniseries
by Peter Milligan, Lee Weeks, Tom Palmer & Dean White
March to July 2004

When mysterious forces break contract killer Harvey Long out of his maximum security prison and direct him to Erewhon, a mythical hidden paradise for “made men”, he expects a happy retirement. But Erewhon turns out to be a bleak jungle shanty town populated by criminals on the run from the Punisher. The town is run by Gottlieb, who is running a scheme devised by Napoleon (Oswald Zinn). The plan is to use people like Long to lure the Punisher to Erewhon and kill him. But – also as part of Napoleon’s plan – Wolverine is also there, to recapture Long and bring him back for trial. Cue much argument between the two antiheroes about the value of the law, with Wolverine playing the relative liberal for once. This is more in character than it sounds, since it’s basically a Claremont-era take on Wolverine as a character who strongly believes that the good guys should play by the rules and that the world needs fewer people like him.

Once in Erewhon, Logan gets diverted by the likes of the Lady, who tries to seduce him, and the Atheist (Gerald O’Higgins). Convinced that the Punisher has been brought there to kill them, the Erewhonians turn on their leaders, and Napoleon seizes control. The heroes are captured, but criminal accountant Books secretly frees them and helps them escape – Punisher grudgingly agrees to go, grumbling that he’ll come back when he’s replenished his weapons. Meanwhile, Books persuades the Erewhonians that the threat of the Punisher is the only thing that gives their town meaning, and that none of them really want to be free anyway.

This Marvel Knights mini is worth a read. Milligan never quite seemed to fit at Marvel, except on X-Statix, but this is one of the books where he clicks. (“Just because we’re murderers, arsonists, extortionists and thieves, they think they’re better than us. We’ll prove them wrong. We’ll kill the Punisher like decent, civilised people.”)

RAMPAGING WOLVERINE #1 (fourth story)
“Modern Primitive”
by Ted McKeever
April 2009

After a fight with Sauron, Wolverine is stranded on a desert island where he fights a giant baboon and becomes baboon leader. Mainly of interest for McKeever’s art (which is great, even if his Logan is wonky and elongated), and presumably placed here because of the Morrison-era costume.

WOLVERINE #900 (fourth story)
“One Night Only”
by Marc Bernardin, Pow Rodrix, Derek Fridolfs & Sotocolo
May 2010

Logan meets up for his third annual drink with Chet, a young mutant whose only power is to suppress everyone else’s powers – thus making it the one night of the year when Logan can get completely wasted. Chet is terrified but fascinated by Logan’s drunken brawling, and is quietly inspired to quit his job and pursue an art career. It’s basically Wolverine seen from Chet’s perspective, and it’s done well. Presumably, it’s placed here because a wall calendar gives the year as 2004.

ASTONISHING X-MEN vol 3 #1 (part 1)
“Gifted, part 1”
by Joss Whedon, John Cassaday & Laura Martin
May 2004

The Joss Whedon run begins – although for us, this is a false start, since a massive gap has to be awkwardly shoehorned between pages 18 and 19 to accommodate some stories where the X-Men are in their Whedon-era costumes, and which don’t fit any later. Marvel weren’t co-ordinating well at this point, so what follows is chaotic.

The Mansion has been rebuilt, and a new school year begins. Whedon has a very retrograde take on Logan’s attitude to Scott and Emma, pretty much what you’d get if you were trying to revert to “classic” status quo. He shows up confronting Scott and Emma in bed, and mocking Scott’s lack of apparent grief for Jean. And then they fight, with Scott saying that a man who’s been trying to steal his wife from the day they met has no business taking the moral high ground, and Wolverine retorting that he and Jean only stayed together because “she was too strong to give in to what she really wanted and you were too scared.” There’s a token attempt to justify this as a reaction to Jean’s recent death, but really it’s just playing the hits.

At the end of this, the X-Men revert to their traditional superhero costumes, but we have some other stories to fit in before we continue with “Gifted.” A lot of them, actually.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #444 (part 1)
“The End of History, part 1”
by Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Frank D’Armata
May 2004

The X-Men play baseball against the visiting X-Treme X-Men team. In fairness to Whedon, Logan is pretty hostile to Scott here too. Rachel Summers has now changed her name to Rachel Grey and her codename to Marvel Girl.

But, once again, we need to interrupt this issue before we can get back to the plot…

WEAPON X vol 2 #20-21
“Countdown to Zero, parts 2 and 3”
by Frank Tieri, Georges Jeanty, Jeff Johnson, various inkers & Color Dojo
February & March 2004

Chamber infiltrates Weapon X’s Neverland prison and sends Wolverine the co-ordinates. But when he gets there, he is baffled to find an empty complex.

The MCP lists Wolverine as appearing in Weapon X vol 2 #22, which is a Malcolm Colcord spotlight issue, but it reads to me that he’s just a hallucination.

WEAPON X vol 2 #23-25
“War of the Programs”
by Frank Tieri, Tom Mandrake & Brad Anderson
May & June 2004

This is a continuity fix arc, mainly devoted to trying to explain how the various Weapon Plus and Weapon X Projects interact. As part of it, Logan confirms that the information he learned from the Weapon Plus files in New X-Men was his involvement in destroying the town of Roanoke back in his Weapon X era. He revisits the razed site. Fantomex and Agent Zero also show up, and tell him that he wasn’t responsible for anything done under mind control. Then John Sublime shows up to claim that Weapon Plus let Wolverine read his file. And then there’s a fight with the U-Men. Not especially interesting.

“The Devil Inside, part 1”
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Darick Robertson, Wayne Faucher & Matt Milla
September 2004

Just a silent background cameo at the school.

X-MEN vol 2 #157-160
“Day of the Atom”
by Chuck Austen, Salvador Larroca, Danny Miki & Udon
May to August 2004

The X-Men find the “real” Xorn – Shen Xorn – in China and bring him back to the Mansion, after fighting off the Chinese superheroes Collective Man and the Eight Immortals (Chuan Chung Li, Chang Kuo-Lao, Lu Dong-Pin, Tsao Guao-chiu, Tieh Guai Li, Han Hsian Tzu, Lan Tsai Ho and Ho Hsien Ku). Wolverine is just there to add some general X-Men-ness to the proceedings.

“The Devil Inside, pats 3-4”
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Darick Robertson, Wayne Faucher & Matt Milla
December 2004

More cameos – in issue #3, he’s at the Institute, watching Kitty and Kurt fence. In issue #4, the X-Men round up a satanist coven who are fleeing from Nightcrawler.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #444 (part 2) to #447
“The End of History” / “The End of Tomorow”
by Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Frank D’Armata
May to August 2004

The title of the arc is given inconsistently from issue to issue, but… maybe that’s on purpose…?

As officers of the newly sanctioned X.S.E. police force (a plotline inherited from X-Treme X-Men), Wolverine and Nightcrawler try to help with a school siege in Wade River, Washington. An alpha mutant, Reichart, is holed up inside – but the racist cops won’t accept their help, and even try to arrest them until Warbird invokes her Avengers clearance to get them released. Reichart has uncontrollable explosion powers, and Wolverine has to kill him to save lives. He insists it was a last resort, but the incident causes controversy. The second half of the arc seems completely unrelated. The X-Men fight the Fury and defeat it with a brief appearance by  Jamie Braddock.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #448-449
“Guess Who’s Back In Town”
by Chris Claremont, Olivier Coipel, Scott Hanna & Chris Chuckry
September to November 2004

The X-Men are invited to Buckingham Palace, but get abducted by Viper. She suppresses their powers with nanites and puts them in Murderworld. The nanites wear off, the X-Men outwit Viper and escape (thanks in part to Sage and Wolverine swapping places with the aid of an image inducer), and then they rescue a hostage and save the day despite the excessive caution of UK government agent Alistaire Stuart. Perfectly decent old-school Claremont.

“Are You Ready?”
by Peter Milligan, Mike Allred & Laura Allred
August 2004

A one-panel cameo as a guest at X-Statix’s farewell party.

by Paul Jenkins, Gary Erskine & Chris Sotomayor
January 2009

Another background cameo as a mourner at a military funeral (“several months ago”, hence the placement). Other mourners include Genis-Vell and, remarkably, what seems to be Baron Zemo.

“Testing Times”
by Lee Barnett, Travel Foreman, Tim Townsend & Danimation
October 2004

To see if Juggernaut has the self-control to teach kids, Scott gets Logan to test him in the Danger Room with assorted annoyances and provocations. Cain concedes that he isn’t ready, which apparently proves that he is. It’s a Wolverine-as-secretly-wise-irritant story.

X-MEN UNLIMITED vol 2 #4 (backup)
“Mutual Secrets”
by Ted Naifeh, Greg Tocchini, Don Hillsman II & Transparency Digital
October 2004

This is rather good. Emma takes Logan as her partner to the wedding of college friends Douglas Hutchinson III and Madeleine Vandervalk, solely in order to annoy the happy couple and their anti-mutant friends. Finally, annoyed by Doug’s obnoxious behaviour towards her, Emma publicly exposes him as a mutant. Logan is unimpressed, telling her that it’s one thing to mess up Doug’s evening, but she’s gone too far by messing up his life. Emma unconvincingly tries to palm this off as taking a stand on principle.

“Mr M, part 4”
by David Hine, Lan Medina, Alejandro Sicat & Avalon
August 2004

Just an easter egg cameo in the background of a nightclub.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #450-451
“The Cruelest Cut” / “Impediments”
by Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Frank D’Armata & Chris Chuckry
December 2004

Ororo and Logan go to see Hugh Jackman’s Broadway show Boy From Oz, but get diverted to deal with a series of murders in District X. Four bodies have been found, but a fifth victim is missing – Jade Parisi, daughter of a mob boss. This story is the debut of X-23, and Wolverine does appear to recognise her, though the details don’t really match with the later flashbacks that we’ve already covered. It’s the earliest incarnation of the X-23 character; she’s written here as a partly-brainwashed weapon who’s been specifically designed to fight Wolverine, and attacks him on instinct. Wolverine manages to calm her down, while the other X-Men rescue Jade from the Bacchae. The X-Men then deal with Parisi’s father’s henchman Geech, but X-23 flees.

Somewhere around here, Claremont starts writing Logan and Ororo as an outright couple – this is explicit by issue #455. It’s a plot that hovers about for a while until the Black Panther comes in and shoulders it aside, but we’ll get to that. Also, Sage locates X-23 after the story, and she shows up in issue #455 having been “paroled” into Logan’s “charge”, whatever that means.

flashback in Wonder Man vol 3 #5 includes a background cameo by Wolverine as a guest at an Avengers Mansion party, when Wonder Man introduces Ladyfair to the superhero community. And a flashback in X-Men Unlimited vol 2 #9 (second story) has another background cameo by Wolverine, in a montage of Iceman at the Mansion through the ages.

X-MEN vol 2 #161-164
“Heroes and Villains”
by Chuck Austen, Salvador Larroca, Danny Miki & Liquid!
September to November 2004

This is the final Chuck Austen arc, and once again, Wolverine’s involvement is little more than token. The X-Men fight a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants – Exodus, Sabretooth, Avalanche, Black Tom Cassidy, Nocturne and Mammomax (Maximus Jensen). Juggernaut seems to be working with Black Tom but he’s actually bluffing; Nocturne also betrays the group because she’s a hero. Sammy Paré is killed. Wolverine and Sabretooth naturally pair off to fight one another, but that fight takes place off panel. Wolverine claims to have killed him, but no later story takes that seriously.

“Follow the Leader”
by Scott Killinger, Rael Lyra, Jay Leisten & Transparency Digital
December 2004

Logan grudgingly agrees to test Cyclops’ Henry V-themed leadership simulation in the Danger Room; he starts off losing because he fails to make plans and ignores the rank and file, but learns the importance of leadership and planning after speaking to the demoralised troops. The moral is basically “Logan learns that leaders do something useful after all”, and that’s a story for late 70s Wolverine, not the 2004 version.

X-MEN UNLIMITED vol 2 #5 (second story)
“Bar Stools”
by Vito Delsante, Lee Ferguson & Transparency Digital
December 2004

Logan turns down a girl called Polly who tries to chat him up, and then rescues her from the vampire who was her second choice. Amateurish and rather sexist.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #452-454
“Chasing Hellfire”
by Chris Claremont, Andy Park, Jon Sibal, Justin Ponsor & Morry Hollowell
January & February 2005

The X-Men get involved in a civil war between two rival Hellfire Club factions (and get to fight Donald Pierce’s new Cleaning Crew henchmen). Sage turns out to be aligned with Sebastian Shaw and Sunspot, who winds up as the new Lord Imperial. This is mainly Sage and Rachel’s story, but Wolverine gets some character moments, albeit of a familiar type. He’s rooting for Sage to be a genuine hero because “she reminds me too much of me. Damages goods with a lot of scars on her soul that ain’t her fault.” At this point he’s also insisting that he and Ororo are just friends who enjoy each other’s company.

“Quiet, part 4”
by Sean McKeever, Manuel Garcia, Raul Fernández & Digital Rainbow
January 2005

Wolverine tags along when Rogue confronts Mystique. Rogue absorbs his powers in order to fight Mystique, and he sleeps peacefully through the ensuing combat.

“Venomous, part 2”
by Mark Millar, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson & Ian Hannin
September 2004

Just an easter egg of the X-Men on the street.

flashback in Marvel TV: Galactus – The Real Story, a 2009 digital one-shot, is a one-panel cameo of Wolverine refusing to answer questions about Galactus.

“Ghosts on the Rails”
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Darick Robertson, Wayne Faucher & Matt Milla
January & February 2005

Logan, Ororo, Kurt and Christine Palmer go to see Phantom of the Opera; Kurt gets sidetracked into a ghost story but Logan has little to do with it. This is the same Christine Palmer who was the title character of the 1972 Night Nurse series, by the way.

X-MEN vol 2 #165
“Hark How the Bells–!”
by Chris Claremont, Salvador Larroca, Danny Miki & Rob Ro
December 2004

A fill-in between Chuck Austen and Peter Milligan, this is basically a bonus issue of Claremont’s Uncanny. The X-Men – now including X-23 and Elixir – respond to a local pile-up. Wolverine acts as X-23’s mentor, helping her to keep her focus and resist her animal tendencies. Later, he assigns her to share a room with Rachel and Kitty, arguing that she needs to socialise. Afterwards, everyone celebrates Christmas.

MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2004 (second story)
“An X-Men X-Mas”
By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Roger Cruz, Victor Olazaba & Chris Sotomayor
January 2005

Scott and Emma spend Christmas at the school with the one student who had nowhere to go. Wolverine has a couple of cameos, but rides off to spend Christmas alone. (The MCP has this a bit later, but the Christmas stories surely ought to be together.)

flashback in Hercules vol 3 #1 has a brief cameo of Wolverine among the mourners at the funeral of the heroes who died in Avengers Dissassembled.

“After-School Special”
by Joe Meno, Paco Medina & Gotham
August 2005

A background cameo at the school.

A lengthy flashback in All-New Wolverine #7 takes place here. Logan is heading off on another solo adventure when Laura corners him and complains that the Institute doesn’t feel like home – everyone is afraid of her. Logan acknowledges that being able to smell their fear won’t help her feel at home, and explains how he found it hard to trust his teammates when he first moved in too. She repeatedly asks him to stay with her but he insists that, while he’ll do everything he can to keep her safe, people around him get hurt, and he “attract[s] violence and insanity”. He tells her to trust his judgment that she’ll be better off with the other X-Men than following in his footsteps, and adds that “it’s not like I’m leaving you forever.” So more of that excellent Wolverine parenting we’ve come to know and love, with the usual excuse that his children will be better off without him. Of course, by the time of this flashback, he’s dead.

MARVEL TEAM-UP vol 3 #1-2 and #5
“The Golden Child, parts 1, 2 and 5”
by Robert Kirkman, Scott Kolins & Studio F
November 2004 to February 2005

In issues #1-2, Wolverine checks on mutant teen Paul Paterson, a student at the school where Spider-Man is currently teaching. Paterson turns out to be a homicidal maniac who has killed his parents; when Wolverine claws him, he vanishes in an explosion. When he gets back to the Mansion, Jubilee tells him that she’s leaving for Los Angeles, but Wolverine is too exhausted to talk to her. This is a trailer for Jubilee’s short-lived solo book, of which more in a second.

The appearance in issue #5 is just a one-panel cameo of Logan sleeping.

JUBILEE #3, 5 & 6
“Hard Knocks with Shane Shooter” / “Dance Dance Revolution” / “If This Be The End”
#3 by Robert Kirkman, Michael O’Hare, Mostafa Moussa & Transparency Digital
#5 by Robert Kirkman, Derec Donovan & Transparency Digital
#6 by Robert Kirkman, Casey Jones & Transparency Digital
November 2004 to February 2005

Issue #3 is another one-panel cameo: Jubilee phones Wolverine, but he’s in the middle of fighting ninjas.

In issues #5-6, Logan shows up unannounced in Los Angeles, and takes an instant dislike to Jubilee’s love interest Shane Shooter. Jubilee’s aunt Hope Lee turns out to be a retired assassin who has got sucked into one last job. Because that’s what Jubilee’s back story needed, isn’t it? Wolverine, Jubilee, Hope, Shane and butler Brad fight off gunmen who have come after Hope, but she apparently dies in an explosion, and Jubilee agrees to return to the X-Men because her book is being cancelled. (Aunt Hope survives, but she never appeared again.)

“The Burnt Offering”
by Fabian Nicieza, Patrick Zircher, Rob Ross, M3TH, Shane Law, Kevin Yan & Gotham Studios
September to December 2004

When Cable sets up a floating city and starts doing things like demanding total world disarmament within 48 hours, the X-Men are among the groups trying to stop him – Wolverine shows up as one of the team. He meets the new Six Pack – GW Bridge, Domino, Solo, the Constrictor, Anaconda and Hammer (Eisenhower Canty) – and the Cat (Shen Kuei).

5-issue miniseries
by “Akira Yoshida” and Dreamwave Studios
December 2004 to April 2005

The Fantastic Four and the X-Men team up to defeat the Brood, in a ludicrously contrived story where four of the X-Men randomly wind up re-enacting the FF’s origin and briefly get the same powers. Wolverine gets the powers of Mr Fantastic. Yes, the guy with metal bones. Yes, I know. This is downright abysmal – one of the rare comics on this list that isn’t just bad but truly incompetent.

“Akira Yoshida” was a pseudonym for CB Cebulski, but we’ll come back to that in a future instalment.

UNCANNY X-MEN vol 1 #455-456
“World’s End, parts 1-2”
by Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer & Dean White
February & March 2005

By this point, Logan and Ororo are kissing openly in front of the other X-Men, to the disappointment of Kurt and the curiosity of X-23. Logan spars with Ororo and Bishop, and doesn’t come out of it very well, which prompts X-23 to try and come to his rescue. Logan then diverts to a subplot where he has a brief fight with the Hauk’ka, a hidden race evolved from dinosaurs, and vanishes from the rest of the arc.

ASTONISHING X-MEN vol 3 #1 (part 2) and #2-6
by Joss Whedon, John Cassaday & Laura Martin
May to November 2004

See what I mean about the long break in issue #1? But returning to this arc…

The newly superheroic X-Men battle Ord, an alien from the Breakworld. Ord wants to kill the X-Men because of a prophecy that one of the X-Men will destroy his world. Meanwhile, scientist Kavita Rao has discovered a cure for mutant powers. Beast gets his hands on a sample, but Wolverine demands that he destroy it, and argues that Hank would be letting down mutantkind if he chose to use the cure on himself, handing a propaganda victory to anti-mutant forces. Hank takes the personal autonomy side of the debate, but it turns out that the cure has been created by experiments on mutant corpses, and everyone agrees that that puts it beyond the pale.

In Rao’s facility, the X-Men rescue Colossus, who turns out to have been alive and well. The X-Men then defeat Ord, only for Abigail Brand of S.W.O.R.D. to make her debut and reveal that Ord has diplomatic immunity. Naturally, Wolverine destroys most of the facility before leaving.

WOLVERINE vol 3 #20-25
“Enemy of the State”
by Mark Millar, John Romita Jr, Klaus Janson & Paul Mounts
October 2004 to February 2005

Logan travels to Japan to help Ichiro, a chauffeur whose son has supposedly been kidnapped by criminals who mistook him for the son of Ichiro’s employer. But it’s all a scheme by new Hand leader Gorgon (Tomi Ishido) to lure Logan in. The Hand kill him, then magically resurrect him alongside the Dawn of the White Light, a nihilist splinter faction of HYDRA led by Baron Strucker and his previously unmentioned wife Elsbeth Strucker, an anti-life fanatic.

A month later, a brainwashed Wolverine resurfaces as a warrior of the Hand, attacking various superheroes and SHIELD agents – though he continues to perform the occasional act of random heroism, as his real personality tries to break through. During this rampage, he kills the Hornet (Eddie McDonough). He stealing several doomsday devices, then tries to force Rachel Grey to use Cerebra to murder the President. The X-Men, SHIELD and Captain America defeat him, but Northstar is killed in the fight. Wolverine is then carted off for deprogramming.

Coming right after the gently reflective Greg Rucka run, this is a drastic change of… well, everything, really. It’s not actually that important in continuity terms, but it’s a well remembered arc. It also cements the idea of the Hand resurrecting people as something that applies beyond just Elektra. It’s a very simple story, but it’s all about the art and the energy, and it scores well on both counts. Millar had a tendency to push things a bit too far into Just Plain Silly, but this arc mainly stays on the right side of that line. There’s an interesting idea that Wolverine’s many traumas make part of him more sympathetic to HYDRA’s nihilist agenda.

The bit that doesn’t really work is Elsbeth Strucker, who is silly and over the top. Aside from the tiresome cuckolding stuff, her anti-life philosophy is pushed to ridiculous extremes, and there’s some conspiracy theory nonsense about how you can tell some corporations are part of her conspiracy because of their hidden satanic imagery. At the time that played as irony, but it reads more weirdly in the light of Millar’s later enthusiasm for David Icke. Still, she doesn’t drag the story down too much.

There are a bunch of tie-ins here, many of which are ineptly co-ordinated:

  • flashback in issue #59 expands on Logan’s capture and resurrection, revealing that Phaedra had a hand in it, and that she separated off part of Logan’s soul to become Shogun. Don’t worry about those. We’ll get to them in the “Logan Dies” arc.
  • Uncanny X-Men vol 1 #460 has a scene of Wolverine hiding in the Mansion and watching the X-Men return from the Savage Land. The trouble is that Wolverine was in that same storyline earlier on, and there’s no possible way that the arc could have taken long enough for Wolverine to undergo Hand brainwashing, be missing for a month, and so forth. On top of that, Sage says in terms that the story comes after Wolverine tries to kill the President in issue #25 – but if so, he ought to be in SHIELD custody. The Marvel Index appears to have rejected this appearance as intractably non-canon, but if it happens at all, it has to go somewhere between pages of issue #21. It’s all the weirder because issue #460 came out after “Enemy of the State”, so that the shape of the plot ought to have been known.
  • New Thunderbolts #4 sees HYDRA send the brainwashed Wolverine to kill, er, Baron Strucker – not Millar’s version, but the one who was a regular in New ThunderboltsNew Thunderbolts eventually won this continuity struggle – probably because it didn’t really matter to Wolverine but it would have derailed a lot of storylines in New Thunderbolts – and Millar’s version was retconned into a clone, created to help Elsbeth front the cult. When Wolverine arrives, Strucker is in the middle of a fight with the new Swordsman (Andreas von Strucker, formerly of Fenris), and they team up to see him off.
  • flashback in Loners #2 expands on Hornet’s death.
  • New Invaders #6 shows Wolverine being sent to kill Professor Jonas Eckhardt, a criminal scientist now working for HYDRA’s allies Axis Mundi. The New Invaders – USAgent, Namor and Blazing Skull (Mark Todd) – repel the attack, and HYDRA decide they’ve got better things to do than try again.
  • flashback in New X-Men vol 2 #13 shows the climactic fight at the Mansion from the perspective of the students, but we only see fragments, and Wolverine himself doesn’t appear on panel.
  • Wolverine’s arrival on the SHIELD Helicarrier after issue #25 is shown in flashback in Irredeemable Ant-Man #1.

Next time, the back half of Mark Millar’s run, in “Agent of SHIELD.” And Wolverine joins the Avengers.

Bring on the comments

  1. […] Next time, we go from Greg Rucka to Mark Millar… […]

  2. Andrew says:

    This is a period I remember well, as the 2004 issues coincide with my final months in high school before graduation, with the 2005 issues coinciding with my early days at university.

    Plus a summer in between of part-time work in retail near the comic shop I visited at the time.

    Great memories of finishing work and ducking over to pick up comics on a Thursday.

    This is around the time where Bill Jemas has now gone and the far more conservative era of Marvel begins – the wholesale jump backwards from the Morrison era.

    That said, I remember really loving Enemy of the State when it came out. It was a hell of a lot of fun.

    I remember Claremont’s 2004-era run absolutely bombing with readers during this time but I re-read it a while back and I think it’s better than its reputation suggests and far better than his 2000 return.

    Unfortunately we’re on the very of House of M and it’s infamous line-reshaping ending.

  3. Omar Karindu says:

    Didn’t know about Millar’s support for Icke, and that led me to Millar being pro-Brexit.

    In that context, there’s a lot of conspiracy theory crap in Millar’s comics, which at the time read like knowingly exaggerated, somewhat juvenile efforts as “witty” social commentary.

    But now….Ugh.

  4. Jenny says:

    In fairness, I do think that Millar has since said that he doesn’t support David Icke anymore. The Brexit stuff is still there, obv, but I get the feeling that Icke was more of a “funny” figure to him, going back to how he comes up in stuff like Big Dave.

    Remember Big Dave? I’m sure Grant Morrison and Steve Parkhouse would prefer you didn’t.

  5. Bengt says:

    X-23’s comics debut was in NYX 3, a year before Uncanny 450.

    The Hand resurrected Kirigi in DD 187 before attempting to resurrect Elektra in DD 190. So it was never exclusive to Elektra.

  6. Chris says:

    FWIW, I think Millar supported Brexit more because he was angry about how the EU shafted Greece than any kind of racist/nationalist. He’s, like, super far left and didn’t like how GB was profiting off other, less prosperous, countries, IIRC. Not that that makes it okay.

  7. Person of Con says:

    I had totally forgotten that Claremont had a 2004 return to the main X-Books; I suppose at the time it was overshadowed by the Whedon Astonishing run. (Or maybe not, because I seem to remember long delays on Astonishing.)

    Should it be Rachel Grey in the Enemy of the State recap?

  8. Paul says:

    It should, yes – I’ll fix that.

  9. CalvinPitt says:

    Paul, for the Cable/Deadpool issues: You have Shen Kuei bolded, but Wolverine already met him in a couple of issues of Heroes for Hire (I went back and checked and you’ve got it noted in the 1998 post. I only noticed because I was rereading that H4H series earlier this week.)

    Rucka’s run on Wolverine hung around longer in my collection than Millar’s did, but I didn’t really care for “The Native.”

    The weird thing to me about Millar’s run was that the Hand and HYDRA ultimately seem to have caught, killed and turned Wolverine as part of an elaborate scheme to then trap and turn Elektra. Of the two of them, I would think the guy with unbreakable bones and a ridiculous healing factor would be more useful, rather than the guy you use to draw out the one you actually want.

  10. Paul says:

    Thanks – removed.

  11. Omar Karindu says:

    CalvinPitt said: The weird thing to me about Millar’s run was that the Hand and HYDRA ultimately seem to have caught, killed and turned Wolverine as part of an elaborate scheme to then trap and turn Elektra. Of the two of them, I would think the guy with unbreakable bones and a ridiculous healing factor would be more useful, rather than the guy you use to draw out the one you actually want.

    And then it turned out that Elektra was able to get the resurrection but avoid the brainwashing part anyway, making the whole thing rather self-defeating.

    This is leaving aside the issue that the Gorgon is more powerful than even Wolverine for 99% of the story until the final battle, when Wolverine wins because the Gorgon chooses to use his petrification power when he doesn’t have to.

    There was also the bit about Wolverine stealing a bunch of Reed Richards’s inventions, which HYDRA is using to build doomsday weapons, I guess, but that doesn’t really get off the ground either.

    It’s striking that Jonathan Hickman took up the Gorgon as something of a pet character in Secret Warriors and hen pulled him into his X-books run, given that Gorgon was a pretty one-note, over-the-top villain clearly built to run his course and then die at the end of the arc.

  12. Luis Dantas says:

    @Person of Con: Claremont had returned as a regular writer for X-Treme X-Men already, as Paul mentions in the previous few installments of this column. This return to Uncanny is in some senses a continuation of that book.

  13. Si says:

    That X-Men/Fantastic Four comic was so bad it’s ridiculous. The FF need to go into space and famously don’t own any space ships. And where’s the first place you go when you need a space ship? NASA? SHIELD? Bezos? Of course not. You turn up unannounced at the X-Mansion in your plane and ask if you can use their plane. Which isn’t able to fly into space, but Reed can rebuild it with only slightly more effort than it would take to build a rocket from scratch. Upon arrival, Wolverine immediately jumps through a closed window and attacks Thing for literally no reason.

    And that’s just the first few pages. It never rises above this level. Some of the scenes with the brood were drawn very creepy and cool though.

  14. K says:

    Perhaps the context is lost from today’s perspective, but the marketing for Enemy of the State was “the most dangerous man in the MU gets set loose against all the A-listers and not everyone will survive.”

    Back in 2004, it felt distinctly hollow following the event month to month and ending up with a death count of exactly two D-listers from the most dangerous man in the MU.

    And remember that this was still coming off the Jemas “dead means dead” era, where, at the very least, the revolving door of death wasn’t a thing yet and your favorite character dying would mean you won’t be reading about them in the near future.

  15. S says:

    C’mon, Northstar is at least C-list

  16. The Other Michael says:

    That was the month when Northstar died three times, between Wolverine, Age of Apocalypse, and The End. Yikes.

  17. CalvinPitt says:

    Omar, I’d forgotten about Logan stealing Reed’s inventions until you mentioned it. I think Sue at one point forms invisible force fields in Logan’s lungs, but he gets away somehow.

    Not surprised Millar let the stolen doomsday devices thread drop. I don’t think he really pays much attention to what he’s writing at any given moment. He also at one point has Logan basically state he’s going to kill everyone in HYDRA and the Hand (like 50,000+ people) as though this is not completely ridiculous.

  18. Paul Fr says:

    You have to wonder what Claremont was feeling when he saw his “Wolverine dies and is resurrected by the Hand” story finally play out and he can only vaguely reference it in his own stories and has to write Logan out of his book.

  19. Ronnie Gardocki says:

    To be fair, it’s REALLY easy to kill Hand and Hydra people. They’re about as formidable as Putties from Power Rangers.

  20. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I was re-reading the New Mutants/New X-Men Academy X series recently and it’s incredibly grating there – there’s a whole issue of panicking students during Wolverine’s rampage, there’s a memorial for Northstar, the kids are sad and traumatised.

    I think literally in the next issue Wolverine is in the background, helping to hang Prom Night decorations or somesuch.

  21. Mark Coale says:

    If you kill one member of HYDRA, two more take their place.

  22. Thom H. says:

    Killing and resurrecting (present-day 616) Northstar pushed the amount of collective damage between him and Aurora to critical levels, which led to Mike Carey resetting both of them early in his X-Men run. So, thanks to Mark Millar for getting the ball rolling, I guess?

  23. Matthew says:

    “I did you a favour, runt – you can thank me later.”

    I was really hoping that the writer/artist/editor/letterer had gone to the effort of using the Canadian spelling for “favour” here, but I went and checked the comic and saw (disappointingly) that it was spelled “favor.” Alas!

  24. Mike Loughlin says:

    When the Weapon X program messed with Sabretooth’s head, they switched his spelling to “American.”

  25. Taibak says:

    Too bad really. I’d love to see a comic book where Wolverine and Sabretooth go shopping for a new Chesterfield and have an in-depth conversation aboot their favourite colours.

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