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Aug 28

Wolverine: Patch

Posted on Sunday, August 28, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: Andrea Di Vito
Inker: Le Beau Underwood
Colourist: Sebastian Cheng
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Mark Basso

When you stop to think about it, this is a slightly odd book. The X-office seems to have rediscovered the joy of setting stories in past continuity – aside from X-Men Legends, we’ve got a Gambit series just kicking off, and now this. Fair enough. The Krakoa era isn’t for everyone and besides, if economic considerations dictate that there shall be more X-books, it avoids trying to tie everything in to the current status quo, and lets you do something else instead.

But when you think about a Patch miniseries, that’s the set-up from the first few years of Wolverine’s solo book, where they were doing noir stories in Madripoor. And here to write the reprise is Larry Hama, who didn’t really do that set-up. His first arc was set in Madripoor, but he closed the door on the place and moved the action on pretty sharpish. That’s probably why this miniseries takes place between Wolverine vol 2 #30-31 – immediately before Hama’s run began, in the last break in the action where Madripoor was still a thing.

Even then, Hama steers clear of actually doing barflies in Madripoor – this series consists almost entirely of everyone out in the jungle. But it’s clearly designed to feature all the major players from the Madripoor supporting cast – well, aside from Jessica Drew, but we see her all the time anyway. And Hama does a pretty good job of constructing a story which gives everyone an excuse to show up, while working as a plot in its own right.

Logan is hired by Prince Baran to go and investigate weird goings on in the jungle. This has nothing to do at all with the main plot, but results in Logan being where the Prince doesn’t ultimately want him to be. The main plot involves Alef, Beth and Gimel, a family of Russian Jewish mutants who were being pressed into service as enhanced super-soldiers by the state. They’re mutants being turned into weapons by their government just like Logan was, in other words, although they seem rather less traumatised by the experience than he was, perhaps because they remained a family.

Anyway, having escaped the Russians, they’re lying low in the Madripoor, and the Russians want them back. Cue everyone hunting for the family, while making deals and doublecrossing one another. We’ve got General Coy and his mercenary troops trying to get the bounty. We’ve got the Prince and what passes for Madripoor’s military forces, though they’re mainly just a bunch of amateur thugs. We’ve got the KGB with a bunch of soldiers of their own. And on top of that there’s the local indigenous tribesmen, who want to protect the Russians and the local monkey population, and a bunch of Yakuza who are busy experimenting on local monkeys (to set up the plot of Wolverine #31) and want nothing to do with any of this at all. Oh, and S.H.I.E.L.D. are around too.

It’s a lot to keep track of. And spread out over five months, this didn’t really grab me. But it reads a lot better in one go, when the shifting alliances are much easier to keep track of. There are some odd pacing choices – it tends to jump choppily back and forward between scenes in the middle of a page, and it could probably use some stronger visual cues that that’s happening. Everyone’s wandering around a rather similar-looking jungle, after all. But in a way it help contribute to a fog-of-war sense.

If the set-up doesn’t particularly recall Hama’s stories, the style does. This is so doggedly 1990 that the Russians are still billed as working for the KGB (which was replaced in 1991), and have knock-off Mandroid armour with the Soviet emblem on it. Even with five issues to play with, the dialogue tends to spell out the plot points very tersely. The tribesmen, faithful to the way they were depicted in the first Hama arc, were very broad stereotypes at the time, and the passage of thirty years has not helped.

At the same time, there’s a definite charm to it. Hama’s tongue is firmly in cheek with the ridiculous number of competing forces; the overconfidence of the competing faction leaders is nicely done, and I like the understated absurdity of Baran having his servants setting up afternoon tea in the middle of the jungle. Andrea DiVito didn’t work on Wolverine stories at the time, but has a suitably traditional style to feel at home with the late-80s cast, and gets the balance between the machismo and the knowingness. And he does a really good job bringing some personality to Alef, a character who doesn’t speak and mainly heals people or do other things that the plot demands. Alef could easily have become a macguffin, and DiVito manages to imply that there’s more going on with Alef if only we had the time to get to know them.

True, it’s a Wolverine story where he blunders into events in progress, and maybe it leaves the title character a bit reactive. He sides with the good guys, he helps them win – well, he would, wouldn’t he? The parallels between himself and the family are there, but they’re sort of left for you to make of as you will. Still, everyone else is scheming furiously; Wolverine just shows up and tears right through them, refusing to let it be that complicated. That works in a Wolverine story, and on the whole it’s a successful reprise.


Bring on the comments

  1. Chris V says:

    So, is this out of continuity? Did the USSR not collapse in the Marvel Universe until 2009? Which wouldn’t make sense since we saw lots of Marvel Comic stories from the early-1990s hinging on the USSR being gone. What is going on with the timeline?

  2. Paul says:

    It’s canon. It’s 1990 continuity with topical references, just like books actually published in 1990.

  3. Daibhid C says:

    The fact that in the Marvel Universe the sliding timeline is an actual in-universe thing that sufficiently cosmic characters are aware of means that you can get away with this sort of thing. You can do a story where Logan’s time in Mardipoor about a decade ago, because that’s how it is now, according to memory, records, and most forms of time travel. But you can also do one where it was 1990, because that’s still what actually happened.

  4. Chris V says:

    I never realized this to be the case, Daibhid. Do you have textual evidence of this happening on page? I’m not saying I don’t believe you, but just wondering where you saw it was possible.
    Because Marvel has been doing continuity patches to fix out-of-date continuity. Like Sin-Cong replacing the Vietnam War or Frank Castle being a soldier in Iraq. So, Iron Man was both in Vietnam during the 1960s, but was also injured while in Sin-Cong? Is Sin-Cong just a cover memory created so these Marvel characters don’t have to deal with the temporal paradox of realizing they were involved in the Vietnam War but they weren’t born until the 1990s?

  5. Paul says:

    I believe the idea originates in the Official Handbook, but it was certainly canonised in Al Ewing’s Ultimates. Specifically, it’s Ultimates vol 3 #5, where Galactus spends a page explaining that the timeline is that malleable and some events are permanently being dragged along by the present, shifting through time and always remaining just a few years behind.

  6. Chris V says:

    Ah, thanks. I read and loved The Ultimates. I should have known it would be in that book.

  7. Mark Coale says:

    It seems like the sliding timeline issue comes up all the time in the comments. I think we were talking about the USSR collapse just a week or two.

  8. Jim says:

    It really is strange that Hama did this book considering he was the one who had this cast brutally massacred in the first place.

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