The Transparent Fox:
Marvel Comics Presents #1-10 (Wolverine)
Issue(s): Marvel Comics Presents #1, Marvel Comics Presents #2, Marvel Comics Presents #3, Marvel Comics Presents #4, Marvel Comics Presents #5, Marvel Comics Presents #6, Marvel Comics Presents #7, Marvel Comics Presents #8, Marvel Comics Presents #9, Marvel Comics Presents #10 (Wolverine stories only)
Now, the reason i hated this book has more to do with format than anything. And the fact is, when i think about the realities of publishing, this format is exactly what it had to be. As much as i personally loved the short-lived Marvel Universe book by Roger Stern, for example, it's completely understandable that no one is going to read three issues about the Monster Hunters. But if you can get some people that will buy anything that Roger Stern writes for Marvel (hi!) combine them with fans of, say, Steve Gerber's Man-Thing, throw in some Doug Moench reviving Master of Kung Fu, and (let's face it) have a lead story about Wolverine so we can plaster his name in big letters on the cover, you've got something relatively viable that still provides a showcase for various characters and creators. And that's exactly what this series is (except it's an Al Milgrom feature, not Roger Stern, in the back). And it really was originally going to be called Marvel Universe, which shows you that they were thinking exactly along these lines of featuring all of Marvel's characters.
Actually if they had stuck with the name Marvel Universe i probably would have been inclined to stick with the book in realtime. Marvel Comics Presents recalls the Marvel Spotlights and Marvel Premieres that tended to be a random hodge-podge of lost souls and try-outs, and we can throw Marvel Fanfare in there too, the book of inventory stories on glossy paper. "Marvel Universe" even now captures my attention in a way that those titles don't, because it tells me it's about the characters, the awesome shared universe that is what i love best about Marvel. And to be fair, despite the more mundane Marvel Comics Presents title, that really is exactly what this book is, especially at first. This isn't a collection of junk that Marvel patched together. It's all new material, and (again, especially at first) creators working on their pet characters, like the aforementioned Moench and Gerber, and soon Don McGregor on Black Panther. And that's a good thing because that's exactly what we want: creators giving attention to the characters that they love. Unfortunately as i scroll down the list of credits and characters at the UHBMCC, as we get further on i start seeing the likes of Howard Mackie, Scott Lobdell (actually he debuts here), Fabian Nicieza, and the like, writers you may or may not like (i mostly don't although Nicieza can be good) but it's not like we won't get enough of them on the main books. I'd like to have seen this book continue as a "creator's character corner", so to speak.
But even if the book managed to fully be that throughout its run, i'd still have problems with it, in part due to my peculiar filing method for my comics, and in part because of some general problems with anthology titles. Again, i understand why it had to be this way. There are not enough people that want to read Steve Gerber's Man-Thing to sustain a book, and not enough to sustain Doug Moech's Kung Fu (ok, i bet there's actually a lot of overlap between those two, but you get the idea). But join forces, and we can keep the book going. And we all want to read a Chris Claremont/John Buscema/Klaus Janson Wolverine book (don't lie to me and pretend you're too cool and indier-than-thou for a Wolverine story by these creators).
But for my purposes, the different stories about different characters present continuity problems that cause me to have to split the stories up, especially since the runs all go for different lengths so that the Man-Thing story runs 12 issues but MOKF runs for 8. Those characters may not be a problem, but eventually you're going to have an interaction that screws things up, and then you've got the Al Milgrom story that uses more mainstream characters. That's my personal bugaboo.
One of the more general problems is that at any given time you're likely to wind up with an issue that has characters or creators that you're not very interested in, and that becomes especially true in later issues when the likes of Howard Mackie are writing a bigger proportion of the stories. Which basically means you've paid for a 32 page comic and gotten 8 pages that you're interested in. Add to that the fact that the lead story is almost always a Wolverine story. The original idea was to have a rotating list of popular X-characters in the lead, and you see that happening at first, but Marvel eventually realizes that Wolverine has much more selling power than Colossus, Cyclops, and Havok and so they revert to pretty much always leading with Wolverine (it does break down towards the end when the popularity of Ghost Rider makes it possible for him and later Vengeance to become the headliners). So if you don't unconditionally love Wolverine regardless of the creative team, or if you've had enough Wolverine once he really starts getting over-exposed in the 90s, you're that much more likely to be out of luck.
The other general problem is that with four stories per issue, you have the problem that i have with split books, where they are coming to a dramatic conclusion and then an opening splash and then a recap of the previous issue every eight damn pages. And that's enough to even drive anyone crazy; it's just bad pacing. Some creative team can handle that better than others, but we'll look at how it's a problem even here for Chris Claremont and team, and even with him structuring this story in the most formulaic way possible, as you can tell by reading the chapter titles.
This book came out bi-weekly (for the most part they didn't even put dates on the covers)(i should also note that at one point the working title of this book was Marvel Weekly and it was going to come out weekly), and that was an additional problem for me to keep up with the series in realtime. So i had a lot of scattered issues of this series and added more at random later when filling out "10 for $1" deals in the bargain bins, and that's added to my feeling that this was a really haphazard series (and at the same time, it's exactly why every story in every issue had to be able to recap the previous issue's events). Some of the more "important" stuff from this series i was able to get in trades (you'll notice that both this first Wolverine story and my Weapon X entry are reviewed from trades), and i've only recently filled in the missing issues for completion's sake for this project. So i'll now be reading a lot of these stories in full for the first time. And i'm hoping that this will allow me to appreciate them more, and being reminded that this series was originally going to be called "Marvel Universe" has made me want to approach these with a more open mind. So let the lengthy ramble above serve as my longstanding impressions of the series, and we'll see how they hold up as i go through this stuff in more detail.
As for this story, it's actually a pretty important one for Wolverine. It introduces Madripoor as an environment for Wolverine's solo adventures (the city was first seen in New Mutants #32-34 but we haven't seen it since), and with that it gives him a cast and a new identity. The elements introduced here will continue to be used when the ongoing Wolverine's solo series begins; that book actually begins publication while this series was being published.
I'm not the biggest fan of Wolverine having a solo book, especially while he's an active member of the X-Men and especially when they are supposed to be hiding and dead to the world in Australia, but i'm equally not a fan of, say, Spider-Man having three books; it's just what happens when a character becomes mega-popular.
Earlier Wolverine solo adventures - his original mini-series and the Kitty Pryde book - were carefully coordinated so that we could see exactly when he left and came back from the X-Men book. Since Chris Claremont was writing both, that made a lot of sense. But with this and his solo series, it's not as tightly coordinated. Which is fine; the solo appearances of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and others more often than not aren't directly fitted into their team appearances, either. It's just a little more notable when the writer is the same, and you'd think just for promo purposes there'd be some footnotes.
We begin already in Madripoor, with Wolverine declaring it "my kind'a town". It's also said that Wolverine has been here before, in the days "before Logan became Wolverine". Madripoor is an island principality south of Singapore with a sharp divide between the very rich and the very poor, and "no rules".
Wolverine walks into a place called the Princess Bar, where trouble is already in progress.
He helps fight off the goons (without claws) and is introduced to the bar owner, a guy named O'Donnell, and a woman named Sapphire that repeatedly propositions him. The problem is when he says that he was sent by a guy named "Dave Chapel" to "find the tiger".
That causes everyone in the bar to point a gun at Wolvie, since Chapel is known to be dead. Wolverine explains that he found Chapel "in the desert" and was given a pendent showing Chapel and the woman for whom the Princess Bar was named. Chapel died from torture wounds soon after asking Wolverine to find the tiger.
Meanwhile, we meet our "bad guy", the crimelord of Madripoor, a Mr. Roche.
He's hired (a) Razorfist to be his enforcer.
Interesting to see Razorfist here at the same time Doug Moench is reviving Master of Kung Fu. We've also seen the character relatively recently in West Coast Avengers as part of a failed attempt to tie in with the Nick Fury vs. SHIELD miniseries. I guess when that dried up he went back to solo work. One thing John Buscema might have considered was giving Razorfist some pants. I can't speak for 1975, when the first Razorfist was introduced, but i was there for 1989 and i know that we wore pants.
When Wolverine leaves the Princess Bar, he runs into Jessan Hoan, the banker that had been kidnapped by the Reavers when the X-Men first encountered them. This results in our shock ending for issue #2...
...and then the opening splash for issue #3...
...and that's followed by a two page recap of Uncanny X-Men #229. So that's 3 pages out of your eight pages for issue #3.
Hoan turns out to be a much tougher lady than you'd expect from a banker...
...and she manages to get away. This causes Wolverine to... well, the narration says laugh...
...and then we're re-introduced to this story's other "gal", Sapphire from issue #1.
Sapphire gives Wolverine a kiss...
..and she turns out to be a strength draining "vampire". Her kiss weakens Wolverine enough for an easy defeat by Razorfist.
So Wolverine becomes a prisoner of Mr. Roche, who, in addition to Sapphire Styx and Razorfist, has a torturer named the Inquisitor working for him.
We learn that "the Tiger" is an upstart rival crimelord that Dave Chapel was working for (and we can now make the connection that the Tiger is Jessan Hoan. It's unclear how Chapel wound up in what i assume was the Australian desert after being tortured in Madripoor.
Mr. Roche puts a cigarette out in Wolverine's eye.
Hoan, meanwhile, claims to not have recognized Wolverine, and talks like she has no memory of "the old days".
While Wolverine is imprisoned, he considers a mental cry for help to Psylocke but decides, no, if he's going to have a solo series he's going to have to commit to it.
Escaping leads to another fight with Razorfist.
Notice that Wolverine has heard that Razorfist's hands have been surgically replaced with swords, so he's not just wearing specially designed gloves or something. And that fits with the story from the character's earlier appearances, but as Wolverine notes, it seems incredibly impractical. In this Razorfist's first appearance, he and his surviving brother only had one hand each grafted onto a sword, which at least leaves one hand free for doing stuff (i'd still be slicing off parts of my body all the time by accident) but he went to two swords/no hands for his WCA appearance. Which i applaud, frankly. If you're going to do something like that, you really have to go all in.
Wolverine is in no state to fight, and Razorfist stabs him in the throat and pushes him into the sea. And then impressively avoids putting a giant gash in his own head as he salutes his opponent.
Issue #5 is devoted to Wolverine having hallucinations while he recovers from his recent travails. He was rescued from the sea by Hoan. While he's hallucinating, he pops his claws...
...and maybe that's why she suddenly recognizes him as Wolverine at the end when before she didn't know him at all.
You'll notice that in the above scenes Wolverine's eye has not yet healed from Roche's cigarette, and in issue #6 he's wearing an eyepatch.
Hoan reveals to Wolverine that she is the Tyger, and explains that thanks to the manipulations of the Reaver named Pretty Boy, she's become apathetic regarding her personal safety and regarding the fact that the surviving members of her family (the bank that the Reavers attacked was family owned) basically disowned her for surviving unscathed while the rest of the people in the bank died.
So she decided to investigate the people who hired the Reavers for that job, and that led her from Singapore to Madripoor and Mr. Roche, who had been hired by a rival Meridian Bank.
You'd never know from their X-Men appearance that they were actually working for someone; it seemed like they were just looting for their own sake. I guess the deal was that they could keep whatever they wanted as long as the Hoan bank took a hit.
Hoan's not just trying to kill Roche and the Meridian Bank people that hired him, though (in fact, Meridian barely seems to be on her radar). She's trying to beat him by becoming a rival crimelord. So she's got her own crew of criminals and such. That leads to a scene where she tries to take Wolverine to a boat with some of her foot soldiers, only to find that they've all been killed and there's a bomb on the boat.
If you've ever seen an old black & white series of movie serials, perhaps the Commando Cody series that Mystery Science Theater ran before some of their movies, you'll know that each episode usually ended with a cliffhanger of some kind, say for example the hero going off a cliff in a car and seemingly dying in the explosion. And then in the recap at the beginning of the next episode, they'll replay that scene but insert a new part where the hero dives out of the car right before it goes off the cliff. And that's exactly what happens here. In the above scene, you see Hoan alone in the room with the guy with the bomb, and then the Skboom. But at the beginning of issue #7, Wolverine manages to get into the room and pull her out first.
I don't mean the above as criticism. I think it's extremely appropriate for this very serialized Marvel Comics Presents format, but it does give you a sense of the type of pacing we're dealing with on these stories.
Wolverine and Hoan - who is sometimes called Tyger and sometimes Tiger, and they'll eventually say "stop, you're both right" and call her Tyger Tiger (although i'm not sure how anyone knows the difference) - next go to a brothel run by a Madame Joy, who is allied with Tyger Tiger...
...and find one of Mr. Roche's men shaking her and her ladies down. Wolverine and Tyger put a stop to that and find out that Roche is holding O'Donnell, who they now assume to be the Tiger.
I included a scan of that entire page so that you can see that Tyger refers to Wolverine by his super-hero name in front of Madame Joy's prostitutes. We're getting into the establishment of a Madripoor identity for Wolverine, and next issue shows him in a new costume.
The costume includes a fishnet mask.
I should say here that Chris Claremont's recaps of the previous installments are generally pretty unobtrusive. This is the kind of thing you get at the beginning of an issue of any comic.
The difference is that you're getting this every 8 pages instead of every 22.
Wolverine and Tyger Tiger break into Roche's compound. Tyger rescues O'Donnell, seemingly shooting Sapphire Styx dead before getting hit by the Inquisitor.
And Wolverine encounters Razorfist again.
And again, just to give you a sense of the pacing, that's the entirety of the Wolverine story from issue #8. Splash of the new costume, a few pages of Wolverine and Tyger Tiger infiltrating Roche's base while recapping the previous issue, and then a cliffhanger as the heroes run into the bad guys. That's your story for this two week period. Or if you're reading it as a trade, it's these kinds of fits and starts. It's entirely tolerable when it's Claremont, Buscema, and Janson, at least when you get to read it all at once, but you can see how this is going to be trouble.
And stuff does get lost during these bits. I mentioned Wolverine getting called by his real name in his only public appearance so far while he was wearing an eyepatch. His current costume has no eyepatch. But starting in issue #9, everyone is calling him "Patch".
Wolverine does seem to be trying to maintain a secret identity; in addition to the new costume, he initially tries to not use his claws against Razorfist.
Meanwhile, Tyger Tiger has taken care of the Inquisitor, but Sapphire Styx turns out to still be alive. And there she is calling Wolverine "Patch".
Regarding the Wolverine / Razorfist fight, once Wolverine brings out his claws it's all over.
(Razorfist is said to be dead after this fight but he'll appear again.)
I'm a little disappointed that in Wolverine's first two fights with Razorfist, he's in a weakened condition and that he wins the third one pretty easily once he brings his claws out. Claremont does build the character up a bit, having Wolverine think that at first he thought he was going up against a random goon with a gimmick and then realizing that he's tougher than that. And at least Razorfist does ok while Wolverine's claws are sheathed. But Razorfist is supposed to be a top level martial artist with a pair of deadly weapons for arms. And that should make him a much better match for Wolverine. I'd argue it's the shortened amount of space available for the fight as much as it's the continued amping up of Wolverine's healing factor.
The final issue ends with Tyger Tiger beheading Roche.
Wolverine is thought to have been shot dead by Roche. And he considers leaving it that way, but he decides that "I like it here" and decides to reveal that he's not really dead.
Not only is this jeopardizing the X-Men's secret ID, but does Wolverine seriously not have anything better to do? I know it's beating a long dead horse at this point, but does anyone remember the Mutant Massacre? Havok's girlfriend Polaris is still possessed by Malice. Maybe Madelyne Pryor would like some help from a super-tracker to find her baby instead of just relying on her no good husband. Wolverine had a freak out when investigating the fire at Sara Grey's house; maybe he should try going there again? I think Wolverine's solo series might have been a great way to close up a lot of the smaller scale plot threads that Claremont left dangling in the main X-Men book.
Instead we're setting up a whole new scenario here, with Wolverine/Patch in a Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca kind of role.
As for Tyger Tiger, she's the latest in a long string of instant super-women from Claremont, and her being "wild" is a common trait of his as well.
As an isolated story, i think this is a fun little adventure, although definitely a little light on any kind of deeper meaning or characterization that one would expect from Claremont. I think the Buscema/Janson pairing is interesting if not always successful (and usually it's quite good). But (with some other highlights, especially Weapon X) this represents the best that i recall the Marvel Comics Presents stories being, and it's not that promising a starting point. But we'll see how it goes.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP have this and Wolverine #1-3 between X-Men #231-232. I'll be covering the other stories that appear in these Marvel Comics Presents issues in separate entries.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Comics Presents: Wolverine vol. 1 TPB
Inbound References (5): showMadame Joy, O'Donnell (Princess Bar), Razorfist III, Sapphire Styx, Tyger Tiger, Wolverine
I thought it was too obvious the first time I read this that Jessan was the Tyger and that she was the way she was because the brainwashing was interrupted halfway through.
Posted by: Michael | July 13, 2014 4:26 PM
I enjoyed Claremont's Madripoor stories very much, but agree the timing is real off for Wolverine to be doing this instead of all the other outstanding issues.
Personally, I would have loved to have seen this series without Wolverine using one of Marvel's "international men of mystery" like Paladin or even Moon Knight, both characters known to have intrigue throughout the world. I think it would have been great for Paladin in particular.
Posted by: Chris | July 13, 2014 8:04 PM
Most of the outstanding plots, though, are definitely missions for the whole team. The Marauders certainly are, and the X-Men are about to efficiently go after the Brood in their own title. Logan wouldn't need to go hunting for the scent he picked up on at Jean's sister's house because that was Jean, and he knows she's alive and back with Cyclops, as we'll find out during Inferno. Logan's not Batman, and it's just not clear what scents he could follow that would advance any of the outstanding plots further than they're already going.
I'm less bothered than Fnord by all this because I just chalk it up to the MU's compressed timeline. But also on a meta-level, would filling two new Wolverine series with Claremont's old X-Men plots really be much fun? I love the fact that Wolvie is given a new setting that let's him have adventures totally unrelated to the X-Men. (Or they would be if not for Jessan--Clatemont just can't resist, and that does address a loose plot line.)
It's after the Madripoor period, when the X-books get blended, that Wolverine's adventures feel like a cluttered and pointless mess. Madripoor may be a sideshow, but at least it's enjoyable in its own right.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | July 13, 2014 9:48 PM
DC was attempting a similar initiative with Action Comics Weekly at around this time. The biweekly pace of Marvel's version was a little easier to keep up with for me; i think both companies were taking a shot based on the reality of collector culture at the time: plenty of people (like myself) were making weekly or biweekly treks to the comic shop, and using pull-lists or "subscriptions" via their shops.
It was made clear (possibly before launch) that there would always be an 'X' feature in the rotation. This may have eventually given way to Wolverine-only, but i'm pretty sure the first few years saw Colossus and Cyclops features as well. [This would have probably meant people with "X-Men appearances" in their pull-lists would have two issues of MCP placed in their hold bins each month, automatically.]
Posted by: Cullen | July 14, 2014 2:51 AM
Cullen, after Wolverine we get Colossus, Cyclops, and Havok, and then there's an Excalibur story. And then after that it goes back (and stays with) Wolverine starting with issue #39 (the Wolverine story actually starts in #38 but Excalibur gets the headline). That may feel like a few years thanks to the bi-weekly schedule, but it's only a Dec 89 cover date, less than a year after this story ends. From there on out it's Wolverine or a Ghost Rider character (with a caveat that towards the end they start doing split book covers so on one side you'll see oddities like Man-Thing, Force Works, or Lunatik).
Posted by: fnord12 | July 14, 2014 7:49 AM
You'll want to push this before X-Factor #30 because of the Marvel Age Annual #4 crossover with Wolverine & X-Factor there that takes place after this story.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | July 14, 2014 2:05 PM
Thanks Jay. I would have never agreed to accept that Marvel Age annual as canon if i knew there was *work* involved. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | July 14, 2014 4:51 PM
I don't think there's an inherent problem with the 8 page format. It's not that different from the 11 page or the 5-6 page format that Marvel UK tended to use for the homegrown material in its titles (usually published on a weekly or fortnightly basis).
I suspect most of the pacing problems on this title will be because the writers & artists have never done a multi-part story or ongoing with fewer than about 20 pages per issue. The obvious example from this story is that it includes a splash page every issue, something which a writer used to shorter formats would never do in a ten-part story with only 8 pages each issue.
Posted by: Stephen | July 14, 2014 5:30 PM
I agree, Stephen, and a good example of that in this project are the Captain Britain issues, which were often just a few pages per episode, but it reads much more cleanly as a trade. In addition to the splash panels i think the format was coming in conflict with the "every issue is someone's first" policy which maybe should have been relaxed for this series.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 14, 2014 8:59 PM
But it's not just the splash panels and the recaps that are the problem with the pacing. For example, in the Panther's Quest serial, T'Challa goes to South Africa to save his mother but the poor man gets dragged all over South Africa fighting people that have nothing to do with his mom's kidnapping. I doubt that would have happened in a four-issue limited series.
Posted by: Michael | July 14, 2014 10:36 PM
I'm not familiar with Panther's Quest, but it sounds like the writer has realised that the format lends itself to an episodic story that contains a lot of variety between episodes, but forgotten to tie it together with a coherent plot.
Posted by: Stephen | July 16, 2014 11:22 AM
I'm too cool, if not indier-than-thou, for a Wolverine story by these creators.
Wolverine is a douche, on top on being a psycho. That's fine, for a team book, but they had to make him cool to work as a solo act, and I've known the little SOB too long to buy him being cool for a second. I did not follow this book.
Posted by: BU | July 30, 2014 11:12 PM
Fnord, you again referred to Lorna as Havok's wife.
Posted by: Michael | August 6, 2014 9:58 PM
Maybe i'm declaring a common-law marriage. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 6, 2014 10:11 PM
In Comics Interview #56, Claremont calls the country "Majipoor", but that may have been a transcription error.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 8, 2014 4:34 PM
It almost certainly was, since Madripoor has had its spelling since New Mutants 32.
Posted by: Michael | November 8, 2014 4:41 PM
The evidence is light, but I'll bet Roche's villa is the same one previously occupied by Karma/Farouk. They're both perched on high ground, a mountain or cliff, and they seem to have a similar "Berlin Wall" fortification. These are qualities any number of bad guy lairs might share, but Claremont likes to reuse specific locations, I think this is one of them.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 11, 2015 9:46 PM
That would make sense. Karma/Farouk was wiping out Coy's empire at the time, and he (they) moved right in for Wolvie's solo series. With Madripoor and Genosha, how many countries was Claremont trying to set up over the years in his overall 'mutant arms race' plot?
I also wonder how much Marvel editorial was behind Wolverine not really making much effort to keep the secret that he's still alive. If you're trying to sell a Wolverine book, only established fans are going to know who Logan/Patch really is.
Posted by: ChrisW | April 12, 2015 4:13 AM
I just couldn't ever bring myself to care about this. I had no interest in a bi-weekly book sucking up my money just for 8 pages of Wolverine. I didn't actually much care for the art. And the story held no interest for me at all. I just couldn't understand how he could be traipsing off for this in-between issues of X-Men or why he would be doing it (it would something like a year before any of this gets referenced in the actual X-Men title).
But I think what I found most stupid was the "secret identity." Are Clark Kent's glasses stupid? Yes. But at least Superman is fairly generic looking. How can anyone look at that man's hair and not know who he is?
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 5, 2015 6:10 PM
Concerning Gateway not taking responcibility for Jessan Hoan, I assume it was he who sent Wolverine to a deserted place in Madripoor to hear a dying man's words to save the Tiger.
Posted by: Proctor | March 17, 2017 9:47 PM
Love the part where MadameJoy is thrown Out of a balcony head-first and gets up like It's another day at the office
Posted by: Bibs | November 15, 2017 4:38 AM
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