Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wolverine #1 (September 1982)

Title: Wolverine
Cover: Frank Miller, Josef Rubinstein
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Frank Miller
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Colors: Glynis Wein
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.60
Cover Date: September 1982
Release Date: May 1982
Synopsis: The first issue of the Wolverine limited series finds Logan high in the Canadian Rockies hunting a grizzly bear that has gone on a wild rampage and killed multiple innocents in its path. The serious feel of the comic is apparent from the first page as Wolverine reminds us that “I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do best isn’t very nice.” The tone of Chris Claremont’s script and the grim and gritty look of Frank Miller’s pencils with Josef Rubinstein’s inks immediately drives home the point that you are not reading an average comic with superheroes in tights battling their standard villains.

Logan tracks the rogue bear to its den and the fight is on. Claremont is clearly enjoying himself as he piles on with the Wolverine bad-assery. “He’s big an’ mean -- a rogue grizzly bear. No more fearsome -- or deadly -- creature exists on earth. ‘Cept me. His claws gleam in the half-light. So do mine.” Logan dispatches the bear with brutal precision, putting the animal down before it can do any more harm and learning that it was driven wild by an illegal poison arrow. Logan tracks down the hunter responsible for the bear’s murder of seven men, three women and five children, turning him over to the authorities for prosecution.

Returning to the X-Men’s headquarters in New York, Logan is surprised to find a stack of returned mail from Mariko Yashida, daughter of one of the richest and most powerful families in Japan. Logan first met Mariko when the X-Men were in Japan in Uncanny X-Men #118 and the unlikely couple fell immediately in love. Mariko was mentioned in a few issues since, but was otherwise relegated to the sidelines. Logan is frustrated that his every effort to contact the woman he loves is rebuffed and decides to travel to Japan to seek her out.

Upon arriving in Tokyo, Logan is greeted by his old friend and partner Asano Kimura, who is an intelligence agent for the Japanese government. He tells Logan that his presence in Japan is unwelcome and explains the circumstances that have changed with Mariko. Long believed to be dead, Markio’s father recently returned and took over as head of Clan Yashida and all of its interests. Her father apparently incurred a debt that he paid by offering Mariko’s hand in marriage. Logan is shocked to learn that Mariko is now married and refuses to accept that her family obligation can take precedence over their love for one another.

That night, Logan travels to the ancestral stronghold of the Clan Yashida and sneaks into the palace to seek out Mariko. He finds her in the garden beneath a statue of the Buddha where he tries to speak to her. She is clearly ashamed and distraught, refusing to face him and telling him that she has no choice in her fate. Logan finally gets Mariko to face him and he sees that her face is bruised. “Who did this?” Logan asks. “It is none of your concern” Markio replies. The four wordless panels that follow are a truly remarkable expression of Logan’s rage as he realizes that Markio’s husband is responsible for beating her.

Mariko talks Logan down and persuades him to accept her decision to honor her family obligation rather than following the dictates of her heart. Logan’s resolve is tested when Mariko’s husband appears and he almost kills him, but he decides to leave and never return. However, Logan is ambushed and knocked unconscious by poisoned throwing stars, awakening to find himself face to face with Markio’s father Shingen Yashida who challenges him to single combat with wooden samurai swords in front of Markio, her husband and two enormous sumo wrestlers who serve as body guards.

Logan is in bad shape from the poison and finds that he is no match for Shingen, who is an expert swordsman despite his advanced age. Although the swords are wooden and the contest ostensibly and exhibition match, Shingen repeatedly hits Logan in key nerves and pressure points, inflicting pain and goading him into dropping his sword and popping his claws. With the poison still flowing through his veins, Logan is still no match for Shingen and the man easily defeats him in a contest that is a perfect mirror of Logan's fight with the grizzly bear. Logan is distraught as he realizes that he played right into Shingen’s hands as he intended to fully defeat and dishonor him in front of Mariko, describing Logan as an “animal cast in a semblance of human form.”

Defeated and broken both in body and spirit, Logan is dumped in an alley in Tokyo where he is woken by a group of thugs intent on doing him harm. Before Logan can try to defend himself, the men are dropped dead by a mysterious woman who comes to his aid. The issue ends with the woman declaring “You’re mine, Wolverine. Now and forever.” This issue still gives me goosebumps when I read it. While Wolverine was always a fan favorite and an incredible character, this issue was the first true solo adventure in which Chris Claremont could really plumb the depths of Logan’s true self. The epic story continues next issue with Debts And Obligations.

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics

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