Monday, December 28, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Wolverine #1-4, Thor #337-338

Wolverine's original solo series was one of the first trades I read when I entered the comic book hobby ten-ish years ago.  I loved it then and now, with deeper understanding of the broader Marvel Universe, I love it all the more.  In fact, I feel as if the comic books have been building up to this moment for a long time.

For starters, the project brought the company's best writer, Chris Claremont, and its best artist, Frank Miller, together.  Next, it provided a showcase for one of the franchise's most intriguing, and still relatively new, characters.  Could another of the X-Men have worked just as well?  I contend not.  They'd already killed off Jane Grey/Phoenix.  Perhaps Ororo would have been the next-best candidate.  But Wolverine offered something more, the sort of morally ambiguous character Marvel had been seeking to perfect for a long time.  Wolverine was a more relatable Hulk who never reverted back to Bruce Banner.  He's a hero who never quite manages to be a good guy.  He's delicious!

Furthermore, Wolverine (aka Logan) was the ideal character to make the most of Frank Miller's considerable talents.  As good as Miller's Daredevil issues are, it's the surrounding world that works.  The character himself leaves a lot to be desired.  Wolverine has an essential quality DD lacks: self-awareness.  DD is aloof while his friends and lovers do the worrying.  Logan's self-torment is a lot more interesting.

Bonus for me: most of the story takes place in Japan, a nation Logan, Frank Miller and I all love.  Miller's incorporation of Japanese aesthetic into the panels is absolutely stunning.  Funnily enough, what doesn't take place in Japan is in Canada, probably my second-favorite foreign country.

My Recent Reads

Wolverine #1
Originally Published September 10, 1982
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Frank Miller
  • We catch up with Wolverine in the Canadian Rockies where he hunts down both a rampaging bear and the irresponsible hunter who poisoned him.
  • Afterwards, he heads to Japan in pursuit of his true love, Mariko, only to find that she has been married off by her father to an abusive husband.
  • Lord Shingen, Mariko's father, captures Wolverine and challenges him to a duel with wooden swords.  Slowed by poison, our hero is easily defeated.
  • Dumped in a Tokyo alley, Wolverine is set upon by a mob.  All are killed by an as yet unnamed ally...

Wolverine #2
October 10, 1982
  • Wolverine's mysterious new friend is revealed: Yukio.
  • Together, Wolverine and Yukio fight off an attack by The Hand.
  • We learn Yukio is actually working for Lord Shingen who has hired her to kill Wolverine.  But who's side is she on really as she's clearly falling in love with Logan?
  • Wolverine and Yukio infiltrate a meeting between crime lord Katsuyori and Mariko's husband, Lord Yinshgen at a private kabuki performance.  They did not expect Mariko to be on-hand as well.
  • When the kabuki cast jump off stage to attack Yinshgen, Wolverine intervenes to protect Mariko.
  • Wolverine defeats them (and separately, Yukio offs Katsuyori) but Mariko is horrified by Logan's brutal violence.

Wolverine #3
November 10, 1982
  • The enigma of Yukio deepens.
  • The Hand attacks Yukio and Wolverine as the latter sleeps.  The Hand remind her of her commitment to kill Wolverine but instead, she kills them.
  • However, Logan calls her "Mariko" as he wakes.  She kicks the snot out of him and storms off.
  • Later, Wolverine discovers his friend Asano dead and realizes, in turn, that Yukio killed him and she was also the one who attacked Wolverine when he first arrived in Japan.
  • Wolverine and Yukio face off and he is determined to kill her, despite his developing feelings for her.  But The Hand ambush him and he must fight them off instead.
  • As the dust settles, Logan realizes that Yukio had killed some of the ninjas, too.
  • And now she's gone.

Wolverine #4
December 10, 1982
  • Separately but simultaneously, Wolverine and Yukio invade Lord Shingen's stronghold.  
  • Noburu-Hideki, Mariko's husband, makes a run for it with his wife but Yukio kills him.
  • Wolverine lets Yukio escape and with a kiss goodbye.
  • Wolverine and Lord Shingen finally have their showdown, this time with steel, playing to Wolverine's adamantium advantage.
  • Wolverine wins and kills Shingen.  He assumes Mariko will never forgive him.
  • Not only does she forgive him, she offers him the family's honor sword, believing Logan to be more honorable than her father.  He accepts.
  • The issue and the series end with the X-Men receiving an invitation to Mariko and Logan's wedding.

Thor #337
November 10, 1983
Writer and Artist: Walter Simonson
  • Here begins Walter Simonson's long and celebrated run on Thor.
  • Don Blake - Thor's human alias, a non-factor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - is out for a stroll in Chicago's Grant Park when he's kidnapped by S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Col. Fury tells Blake that an alien ship is headed toward Earth at high speed and they need Thor's help.
  • Thor heads off to intercept.  He encounters Beta Ray Bill (strong candidate, worst super-villain name ever).  
  • The two battle.  Thor drops his hammer - Mjolnir, affectionately referred to as "Meow Meow" at our house - and unexpectedly reverts back to Don Blake.  Suddenly vulnerable, he gets flattened by Bill.
  • Upon crashing on Earth, Bill is confronted by Fury and company.  He picks up Blake's walking stick which is actually Mjolnir.
  • Apparently Bill is worthy, because he is able to pick up the hammer and thus becomes Thor.
  • Mistaking him for the real thing, Odin calls Bill/Thor away to Asgard.
  • In the midst of all this, we do get a visit to Asgard where we are reacquainted with Odin, Loki and others in Thor's supporting cast:
    • Sif
    • Volstagg
    • Balder
    • Heimdall
    • Lorelei (introduced in this issue)
    • Surtur

Thor #338
December 10, 1983
Walter Simonson
  • Odin is faced with a dilemma.  When he learns of Bill's role as guardian of his now destroyed civilization, he realizes that both he and Thor are genuinely worthy to hold Meow Meow... er, Mjolnir.  But apparently Asgard ain't big enough for both of them.
  • Odin sends both Bill and Thor to Skartheim to settle matters with a fight to the death.  
  • Bill wins but cannot bring himself to destroy such a worthy and honorable foe.  So, Bill is brought back to Asgard with Thor in his arms.
  • Featured: Hugin and Mugin, the ravens of Odin.


  1. Walt Simonson has some great runs, this one and one on FF, in particular.
    The Wolverine limited series is one of the first things I ever bought back issue. It was before the time of trade paperbacks, but it was also the mid-80s, so the issues weren't all that expensive yet.
    Not that I'm really up on current Wolverine history, I kind of feel like they ruined the character somewhat when they did his origin story and everything that has happened since.