Friday, May 2, 2014
An Obscure Wolverine Story - "The Hunter"
Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics (1991)
Chris Claremont-Marshall Rogers/Randy Emberlin
Doug: What a mystery we have here! Back in March, when I was readying to go to the Indiana Comic Con, I was down in the library looking for anything to take with me that I might like to get signed. As I've noted in the past, I've used the Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics book pictured above to get autographs from everyone from Stan Lee to Jim Shooter to Sal Buscema to Jim Lee. However, there weren't fair representations of the work of some of the creators I was going to see. But, I did leaf through the book as I'd not had it out in years. Well what to my wondering eyes did appear but an obscure Wolverine story! Entitled "The Hunter", it's a little 6-pager done by usual Wolverine scribe Chris Claremont but penciled by noted Batman artist Marshall Rogers. What's more, I found that this appearance is the only reprinting of the story, which first appeared in a leather-bound book, The Best of Marvel (1987) -- that book was only available through the Sears catalog or in-store. So how's that for obscure? Shall we?
Karen: I hate to say that I've had that Les Daniels book for years and never noticed this story.
Doug: Yeah, well I did read it way back when, and had no memory of it when I saw it again a couple of months ago!
Doug: This short story, for those who need a little temporal spacing, came five years after Frank Miller's landmark Wolverine mini-series and just a year before Wolverine's ongoing series. It seems to me that this story has a similar vibe to the Wolverine mini in that Chris Claremont appears to use this as a tutorial on the character; in the Daniels book the author comments that Claremont has referred to this story as "Wolverine: 101". Logan is in Tokyo, and he narrates that although he's a Canadian by birth, this city and the country of Japan are his adoptive lands. Someone has kidnapped Lady Mariko, and Logan ain't happy. But what's amusing is Wolverine's zest for the hunt (hence the title). Somebody's done somebody wrong, and they're gonna pay.
Karen: 'Wolverine 101' - Claremont does manage to convey a lot of information on that first page. As far as the art goes, I'm not sure why, but this doesn't look like Rogers' best work to me -not by a long shot.
Doug: I think Rogers' depiction of Wolverine is off for me. The lay-outs, landscapes and backgrounds -- all good. Logan just doesn't feel right, though.
Doug: Wolverine knows who his enemy is -- a certain tycoon who fancies himself a noble of days past. He lives in a castle complete with moat and circling guards; guards who wear Mandroid armor. Wolverine easily breaches the first lines of defense and smells out a laser light -- and trips it on purpose. He's instantly strafed by automatic gunfire, and drops to a hard concrete floor below. Japanese guards in traditional samurai garb move to surround him and remark how easy it was to bring down the mutant. Shortly, Sabuko (the Yakuza kingpin) is shown Wolverine's body. Sabuko gloats that now the other Yakuza gangs will be forced to accept him as overlord. Wolverine's eyes open, and this isn't going to end well.
Karen: Claremont must've really loved the Mandroids; this is the second time (to my knowledge) that he chucked them into a story (X-Men # 118). I guess the whole point of the sequence, with Wolverine getting shot repeatedly, was to demonstrate his mutant healing power for new readers, but you have to wonder if that was really the best plan he could come up with...
Doug: Sort of funny how it always worked. Even when he fought the Hulk, no damage done. Give him a few minutes and maybe a couple of Tylenol -- good to go!
Doug: What follows is pretty typical for 1990s Wolverine stories. Trouble is, this was printed in 1987 -- I was a little taken by the blood on Logan's claws. Of course, we all know that throughout his X-Men and solo career there have been many a'body laid open in his wake. But in a standard four-color 22-pager there never seemed to be any overt evidence of such carvings. I also find it a bit unusual that such a story would have been printed alongside many of Marvel's all-ages classics (clicking the link at the top will take you to a complete listing of the tales included in the original hardcover). Wolverine cuts his way through man and Mandroid on his way to Sabuko. Sabuko gloats that the Lady Mariko was encased in one of the Mandroid suits -- in making his way to his target, Wolverine had unwittingly killed his love! Pfah -- Wolverine scoffs to himself. He knows Mariko's scent, and knew exactly which Mandroid contained his lover. He had only cut it enough to disable its working so that she could free herself. We see a close-up of Mariko's face as we hear the familiar SNIKT! She's aghast at what she thinks just happened. But sometimes the perception that one might be killed is more lasting than actually finishing the job on the spot. Wolverine had extended his two outer claws, but not the middle one. Sabuko was scratched, but not run through. Logan had made his point.
Karen: There certainly was a lot of blood flowing freely. Even today it bothers me. I guess ultimately that's the problem with Wolverine for me: just like sword-wielding heroes, I can't see them really using their weapons on others and remaining heroes. Any sort of lethal force just negates that for me, but then, I'm pretty old school. All in all, this came off as a paint by numbers story -fine if you had no idea who Wolverine was but somewhat boring for an actual comics fan.
Doug: I suppose Chris Claremont is right -- this was a primer on Wolverine. It was a decent little story, with a defined beginning, middle, and end. Claremont's script was familiar, Wolverine's voice true to how we hear it. But as we both said above, I'm a bit disappointed in Marshall Rogers' art. Oh, it's good enough -- much better than some. But it's not his best work, not in the category of his runs on Batman or the Silver Surfer which are my personal gold standards for Rogers. I don't know that inker Randy Emberlin had anything to do with it, but I didn't feel that Rogers was the best fit for this story.