Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wolverine #4 (December 1982)

Title: Honor
Cover: Frank Miller, Josef Rubinstein
Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciler: Frank Miller
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Colors: Lynn Varley
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.60
Cover Date: December 1982
Release Date: August 1982
Synopsis: Wolverine #3 ends with ends with Logan searching his soul and coming to a critical conclusion: “I’m a man, Shingen! Not a beast. A man! And that mistake is going to cost you!”  And it does. In spades! Wolverine shows that he is the best there is at what he does as he tears through Shingen Yashida’s criminal organization, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.  What starts as a minor annoyance to the crime lord soon becomes and embarrassment of such magnitude that he dispatches the finest assassins of the hand to kill Wolverine.  To Shingen’s surprise, Wolverine sends back a box with the Ninja hoods and a note bearing only one word: Tonight.  The game is on!

Logan prepares for his assault on the ancestral stronghold of Clan Yashida, arming himself with the weapons that he took from the Ninjas that he defeated.  “I don’t normally use hardware – with my physical assets, who needs any – but for this caper, I figure every little bit’ll help!”  As Logan gets underway, Yukio sneaks into the Clan Yashida castle and is ambushed by the Hand who present her to Shingen for questioning.  She reveals that she sought to balance the scales with Logan by killing Shingen, who cuts her free of her bonds and engages her in combat.  Shingen makes quick work of Yukio and would likely have killed her if not for the timely intervention of Mariko.

At that moment, the radio sounds and Shingen realizes that Wolverine has launched his attack.  As the enraged crime lord demands a report and receives only silence in return, the scene cuts to outside the castle which is littered with the bodies of dead Ninjas riddled with arrows.  As Shingen prepares to fight Wolverine, Mariko’s husband grabs his wife and tries to escape to his helicopter.  When Wolverine blocks their path, he raises a gun to Mariko’s head and threatens to kill her.  Logan steps forward and Mariko’s husband shoots him, but Yukio appears and plants three blades in the coward’s back.  Gotcha!  With Mariko safe and Logan to face Shingen in single combat, Yukio takes her leave.

The duel between Logan and Shingen is easily one of the best choreographed and most memorable fight scenes in the history of comics.  Perfectly scripted.  Perfectly drawn. “We move as one…blades hissing through the we pass.  I cut deep. Shingen cuts deeper.  I’m hurt bad.  He knows it. But no quarter is asked…and none given."  Shingen is the superior swordsman and takes a terrible toll on his opponent, but Logan mutant healing abilities and stamina allow him to keep pace and the outcome of the fight is truly never in doubt.  Frank Miller is at his best in this scene. The drama, emotion, energy and pure physicality that he conveys with an economy of penstrokes is extraordinary.

Happy endings for the X-Men in general and Wolverine in particular were few and far between during Chris Claremont’s definitive run, but it’s a heartwarming moment to wrap up this incredible limited series with the X-Men’s reaction to an invitation to Mariko and Logan’s wedding.  From a personal perspective, this issue was my first encounter with the Wolverine limited series.  To put things in context, I had never heard of ninjas and certainly never seen a hero kill a villain in a bloody sword vs. adamantium claw battle.  This was pretty intense stuff in the mind and imagination of the 11 year-old me.  It’s great to see the story has stood the test of time and is as acclaimed and influential today as ever.

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics

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