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Friday May 8, 2009

Number of the beast

Finally, an X-Men movie that is appropriately named. X-Men Origins: Wolverine reconstructs ol’ canuckle head’s mythos in surgical fashion. Having followed Wolverine’s adventures for nearly two decades, one word best sums up the journey – painstaking!

Why? Prior to the success of the X-Men movies, Marvel adopted an extremely cautious approach when it came to Wolverine’s origin – opting for the usual “memory implant” excuses when more Wolverine revelations cropped up. Here is where credit goes to the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie for successfully piecing together the character’s past and relationship with Sabretooth in a digestible (and logical) fashion.

Anyway, the movie has left me with a huge appetite for all the best Wolverine tales from the last three decades. The following stories, in my humble opinion, are the “best-at-what-he-does”.Snikt!

Incredible Hulk #180-181/ Incredible Hulk Wolverine one-shot (1974/1986)

Writer: Len Wein

Artist: Herb Trimpe

The issues that introduced Wolverine into comics and despite coming out second against the green goliath, our feral Canadian mutant still did enough to garner a call-up into the X-Men. This slobber knocker story sheds very little light on the character’s origins, focusing instead on a no-holds-barred slugfest among the Hulk, Wendigo and Wolverine. While there is little doubt as to who is the strongest, Wolverine’s presence is strong enough to ensure that these issues will forever remain as a “must-have milestone”. SAlso check out What If (vol.1) # 31 (“What If Wolverine killed the Hulk”) and What If (vol.2) # 50 (“What If the Hulk killed Wolverine”) for alternate outcomes to the initial story arc.

Wolverine (vol.1) #1-4 (1982)

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Frank Miller

While (Uncanny) X-Men # 133 introduced X-Men fans to his berserker-style, this mini series does the reverse by brilliantly defining Wolverine’s warrior persona. Set in an Oriental backdrop, this four-parter dabbles in Wolverine’s martial arts background and his feelings towards Mariko Yashida – daughter of a Yakuza leader. The diversion from the feral berserker persona is indeed refreshing, while the presence of the Hand and the Yakuza as villains bring a new dimension to Wolverine in terms of confrontations.

Wolverine (vol.2) #10 (1989)

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: John Buscema

This pre-X-Men tale explains the rivalry and hatred between Wolverine and Sabretooth – commencing with a squaw named Silverfox. Similar to the movie in which Logan and Kayla (Silverfox) had it all, the comic version shared the same sentiments – until the big bad Sabretooth came to blow their love nest down. The gruesome bit about this tale is that Sabretooth’s actions (he supposedly killed Fox) spark a game of “tag”, whereby Sabretooth and our hero try to hunt each other on Wolverine’s birthday every year.

Uncanny X-Men #268 (1990)

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Jim Lee The thought of Wolverine, Captain America and the Black Widow teaming up would certainly drive the fan-o-meter up the roof! However, things go out-of-this-world when it’s revealed that Logan, Cap and an adolescent Widow were part of a WWII adventure – prompting questions as to Wolverine and the Widow’s actual ages. This early 1990s stand-alone tale opens the floodgates on Logan’s contribution and influence in the Marvel Universe’s golden age era as he (and Cap) complete an unfinished 50-year-old assignment.

Marvel Comics Presents #72-84 (1991)

Writer and artist: Barry Windsor Smith

The first revolutionary breakthrough to Wolverine’s enigmatic past occurs in this 13-parter Weapon X story arc, courtesy of Barry Windsor Smith. While the movie featured Logan volunteering for the adamantium-fortification experiment, the comic book plot has him kidnapped and forcefully experimented on. Despite fortifying Logan’s bones with adamantium, the side effects are prevalent here via his regression into a feral state and severe memory loss. Weapon X shed light on how Wolverine got adamantium-laced bones, there were still plenty of unanswered questions.

X-Men (vol.2) #4-7 (1992)

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: Jim Lee

The creative team’s credentials are enough to make you buy this story arc! Its contents graciously repay the faith by introducing Maverick, Omega Red and Team X (via a flashback of a botched mission). Another missing piece of Wolverine’s past is neatly woven into a new adventure, with the X-Men assuming the role of Red’s hostages. Even if Wolverine is not your cup of tea, Lee’s stunning rendition of Psylocke is sreason enough to get this story arc.

Wolverine (vol.2) #75 and X-Men (vol.2) #25 (“Fatal Attraction” tie-ins) (1993)

Writer: Fabian Nicieza

Artists: Adam Kubert and Andy Kubert

The kid’s gloves are off as Magneto uses his powers to purge out Wolverine’s adamantium – setting the pace for half-a-decade of adamantium-free stories. The premise surrounds Magneto’s evergreen dream of a utopia for mutants. Hence, a makeshift X-Men team decides to pay the Master of Magnetism’s orbital base a visit, only to be greeted in a hostile manner – with Wolverine ending up the worst casualty.

Wolverine (vol.2) #90 (1995)

Writer: Larry Hama

Artist: Adam Kubert

The most bestial slugfest between Wolverine and Sabretooth! Fresh from his merciless bashing of Psylocke, Sabretooth finds reprieve from Professor X as part of his rehabilitation. However, a mass outing at the School leaves Wolverine in charge of babysitting duties and it doesn’t take much instigation to ignite things between the two.

Wolverine The Origin #1-6 (2001-2002)

Writer: Paul Jenkins

Artist: Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove

THE story that comic fans thought would never be told … until pressure from Tinseltown decided otherwise. It was top on the “must-do” list of then newly appointed editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. It was inevitable that Marvel had to plot its most favourite mutant’s origin before Hollywood’s creative minds churned out their own version!

Fortunately, Marvel’s initiative paid off handsomely, as this six-parter superbly (plot and visuals) narrates the childhood of James Howlett – who? Coming to terms with the fact that Wolverine’s real name wasn’t Logan was already a tough pill to swallow. What was even more complex was his actual birthright, friendship with a lad named Dog and a lass named Rose (explaining his fetish for red heads).

This story is set in the mid-19th century, making Wolverine more than a 150 years old and cutting off any reasons to include Xavier or Magneto in the plot … thankfully! A recommended starting point for any Wolverine fan since the short three-minute feature in the movie does little to justify James’s wonder years.

Wolverine (vol.3) #50-55 (2008)

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artist: Simone Bianchi

THE problem with characters possessing healing factors are they don’t stay dead for long, judging from the numerous resurrection plots. Well, that was before the Muramasa Blade came to play, as Wolverine now possesses the ultimate tie breaker! With most of their battles evenly matched, Wolverine has the upper hand, courtesy of the blade and a mind-controlled Sabretooth. Expect the usual slobber knockers ... but with one major difference! Someone finally gets decapitated – and no prizes for guessing who.

Comics courtesy of Earth 638 (Atria Shopping Centre, Lot 2.13J, 2nd Floor, Jalan SS 22/23, Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya in Selangor). Hotline: 03-77296380, e-mail: (earth638@streamyx.com)


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