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1983-03-01 00:02:46
Uncanny X-Men #169-171
1983/Box 19/EiC: Jim Shooter
Captain America #284

Wolverine #1-4

Issue(s): Wolverine #1, Wolverine #2, Wolverine #3, Wolverine #4
Published Date: Sep-Dec 82
Title: "I'm Wolverine." / "Debts and obligations" / "Loss" / "Honor"
Chris Claremont - Writer
Frank Miller - Penciler
Josef Rubinstein - Inker
Louise Simonson - Editor

The legend here is that Chris Claremont actually wanted to put the runaway popularity of Wolverine in check, so he and Frank Miller teamed-up to do a Wolverine story that removed him so much from the elements that made him popular, and into a world of ninjas, samurai, and debates about honor that the demand for a Wolverine ongoing series would die down. It doesn't really ring true to me, as a lot of care was put into this series and it does quite a bit for Wolverine's character development. In any event the elements of this mini-series helped define the character in ways that only added to his popularity. Surely "Wolverine fights ninjas" is actually a cliche at this point...

Click for Ninja-swarm size

...and the Wolverine's struggle to use the way of the samurai to keep his animal instincts in check were a theme of his book for a long time. The seedy underground of an Asian city also became a familiar one, although it was moved from Japan to Madripoor for his ongoing.

In any event, it's a good story. Mariko's criminal father, Lord Shingen, resurfaces and marries her off to a crime boss to repay a debt.

Wolverine shows up to challenge the marriage but his berserker fighting style is easily defeated by Shingen's samurai fighting style.

Dismissed as nothing more than an animal, he's dumped on the street. He's helped by an assassin named Yukio (actually a double-agent working for Shingen who eventually becomes loyal to Wolvie).

See the comments on the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine series for more on this, but i see Wolverine taking on a de facto Samurai role through the course of this series. He starts off with his normal bestial fighting style, but not only does that cause him to lose his fight with Shingen, it also repulses Mariko.

Later, while he's at his low point, he dreams of being a Samurai who is shot by arrows and stripped bare, revealing a "beast clad in human form". The archer in the dream is Mariko.

Then, by the end of issue #3, Wolverine has the following revelation:

Mariko makes me want to change, to grow -- to temper the berserker in me.

I love 'em both [Mariko and Yukio]. I failed 'em both. Worse, I failed myself.

Because I lost myself.

And yet the patterns of life are as fluid as those of this gravel. I smooth the stones -- new patterns emerge -- chaos becomes order. The wheel turns. And from that order -- peace?

Perhaps that's the answer.

The key isn't winning - or losing. It's making the attempt. I may never be what I ought to be, want to be -- but how will I know unless I try? Sure, it's scary. But what's the alternative? Stagnation - a safer, more terrible form of death. Not of the body, but of the spirit.

Because I'm a man, Shingen! Not a beast.

A man!

With that resolution, Wolverine faces Shingen again...

...and kills him. Mariko becomes head of her clan. And she offers Wolverine her family's samurai sword.

I mentally oversimplify that as "Wolverine becomes a samurai" (and that's what got me in trouble with Paul in the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine comments), but the point is that Wolverine conquers his feral side and tries (he doesn't accept the sword) to take a nobler path. It's a turning point for the character.

Soon the X-Men receive an invitation to her and Wolverine's wedding.

There's a quick first person text blurb in this series where Wolverine mentions that he knows his father (and only his father, as compared to Mariko, who has a long lineage).

Shingen supplements his forces with Hand ninjas.

Great art by Miller...

...nice story by Claremont, and obviously a significant book for Wolverine.

And a fight with a bear.

The opening splash panel of issue #1 has Wolverine's "I'm the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn't very nice." catchphrase for the first time.

Although we know from his first appearance that what he does best is moving.

Quality Rating: A

Historical Significance Rating: 5 - introduces a lot of long lasting themes for Wolverine

Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Uncanny X-Men #168 and concludes before Uncanny X-Men #172.

References: N/A

Cross-over: N/A

Continuity Implant? N

Reprinted In: Wolverine TPB

Inbound References (6): show

Characters Appearing: Asano, Colossus, Cyclops, Mariko Yashida, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Storm, Wolverine, Yukio

Uncanny X-Men #169-171
1983/Box 19/EiC: Jim Shooter
Captain America #284


This shows just how far Wolverine has come from his early X-Men days, when Nightcrawler was actually considered the favorite character and the letters pages typically said "Get rid of that obnoxious Wolverine".

Wolverine really was obnoxious, though, early on.

I don't buy the story about this book being done to "make him less popular" either. Never in the history of comics has a comic, let alone a solo miniseries, been written with the intention of making a character less popular. Popular = better. I tend to take Claremont at his word in the foreword to TPB - the idea was to grow the character, to flesh out the character. And part of THAT involved taking him out of his element, or, rather, showing him in a different context - showing that he wasn't the character we all thought.

Also, concerning the line about knowing his father - there are countless lines like that and plot points (when did he train under Ogun, again?) that seem to indicate that, at least to Claremont, the memory loss and mysterious past WEREN'T part of Wolverine. At least not for the first decade. It'd be interesting to research when that storyline started out, about the memory loss. Was it there before Windor-Smith's Weapon X stories?

Wloverine's friend Asano Kimura is probably a reference to Asano Nitobe, who trained the Archie Goodwin/Walt Simonson Manhunter in the martial arts. Wolverine's healing factor and parts of his backstory owe a lot to Manhunter.

@paul: Agreed re: Wolverine however Claremont revealed in an interview years ago that following the ending HE INTENDED for the Shadow King Saga in Uncanny X-Men #300 he planned to have Logan's mother visit in a story from #301-304.

More recently at the funeral of Wolverine in his X-Men Forever series, he scripted her to be in attendance but Paul Smith ended up leaving her out. Or did he? Are there any females present that could be sly candidates for mummy dearest?

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