Issue(s): Wolverine #19, Wolverine #20, Wolverine #21, Wolverine #22, Wolverine #23
Gateway teleports Wolverine to Tierra Verde...
...where a very minor chapter of Acts of Vengeance is already underway.
The young lady that Tiger Shark is beating up on is La Bandera (literally, "the flag"), a mutant from Florida that has taken her war against drugs to the source.
Her powers include i guess what you'd call a minor form of mind-control; the ability to rally people to her cause.
And she can also channel the energy? enthusiasm? of her supporters through her staff.
Those powers are pretty useful, but Tiger Shark is a Sub-Mariner class villain, and for those of you who focus exclusively on the mutant books, that means he's very powerful. So good thing Wolverine is also around.
Wolverine pulls the old "drain his water reserves" trick...
...but unlike in West Coast Avengers #16 that doesn't immediately make him weak as a kitten (as it shouldn't). However, he doesn't like his odds any more, so he withdraws.
Wolverine tells La Bandera that she doesn't understand what she's getting involved in and tries to get her to quit.
He then runs into someone he knows from his days in Canadian intelligence; a CIA agent named Jack Bascomb.
Bascomb doesn't like Wolverine showing up to interfere with Tierra Verde's government, but he doesn't actually do anything to try to stop him.
Meanwhile, we get our confirmation that Tiger Shark's attack on the extremely minor (in fact, we've never seen her before) super-hero La Bandera really is part of Acts of Vengeance.
The Kingpin is even kind enough to say the name of the event for us.
Bu Wolverine isn't here for any of that. He's after the ruler of Tierra Verde, Felix Guillermo Caridad, who is using tainted drugs to try to create a native super-"hero", and Caridad's freaky advisor Geist, who is obsessed with shaving people.
As Caridad gets his shave, his scientists discuss the field where the special cocaine is grown, and theorize as to why it may be special.
The second explanation, we'll learn, is actually pretty close to the truth.
Wolverine infiltrates the palace and forces Geist to lead him to Roughouse, who he is here to rescue.
But that's when Tiger Shark attacks again, and this time gets him in his element.
Meanwhile, La Bandera obviously didn't take Wolverine's admonitions seriously
And Caridad tries to convince his ex-wife, Sister Salvation, to use her healing powers on Roughouse. His hope is that she'll heal the negative effects of the drug while retaining its super-strength properties.
I kind of wonder how they would even know if it would work, since as far as i know Roughouse already had super-strength and they weren't really in a position to test his levels.
Note also the reference to childhood scars.
But back to Wolverine.
Tiger Shark is much stronger than him.
And Wolverine gets his claws stuck in a coral reef.
Let's acknowledge that Tiger Shark could have torn his throat out there and that would have been the end of him. Instead he leaves him to drown...
...and goes back for La Bandera. Archie Goodwin is playing up the idea that Tiger Shark hates heroes. And he neutralizes La Bandera's power by killing all her supporters.
She still manages to do ok with her staff.
But Wolverine managed to free himself from the coral reef, and he comes to her rescue.
However, his underwater experience has left him temporarily deaf. They nonetheless manage to fight their way up to where Sister Salvation is trying to help Roughouse, in part because Caridad has promised to let her see their son if she complies. It's hinted that Sister Salvation's powers aren't really healing so much as calming. So it can help Caridad's migraines but all it does for Roughouse is get him to stop struggling.
Wolverine and La Bandera manage to arrange an escape by helicopter for themselves, Roughouse and Sister Salvation, and some political prisoners. Tiger Shark attacks one more time but he winds up getting pulled back into the water by some actual sharks drawn to his blood. That's the last we'll see of him here, ending the Acts of Vengeance part of the story. But it turns out that Wolverine has been pumped full of the special cocaine during the escape; he didn't notice because his other senses were compensating for his missing hearing.
Issue #21 opens with the (remaining few) X-Men, who are about to go on a mission (probably to rescue Polaris).
They tried to contact Wolverine to get him to come along, but Psylocke finds that something strange is going on with him, (conveniently) beyond their ability to help. Indeed, he is in a rage...
...but Sister Salvation's touch can bring him back.
There's Roughouse being all not Asgardian again.
As Wolverine fights off the effects of the drug, he hallucinates, first of himself fighting Nazis...
...including a run in with Geist as he, yes, shaves Adolf Hitler.
Then he dreams of a Deviant creation called Spore, who rampaged and fought the Eternals...
...until he was eventually destroyed by the Celestial Arishem in the field where the special cocaine is now being grown.
Wolverine finally comes out of his dreams to find that Sister Salvation, although she has been healing him, has also betrayed him by dropping a map with their path for her ex-husband to find.
Wolverine and Roughouse are taken back to Caridad's base. I guess Wolverine tells them about Spore and they don't believe him, even after he maintains his story after they electrocute his testicles.
Geist's solution, of course, is to shave him.
Caridad rejects that idea.
Back in his cell, Wolverine tells Roughouse that some of his body parts are better than others. And here we have the final de-awesoming of Roughouse; we learn that he's the victim of child abuse.
I sure hope that was abuse from a 20 foot tall frost giant upset that his son was so short.
Anyway, Sister Salvation's touch has completely de-fanged Roughouse, so that he can't even access his strength any more.
Caridad, meanwhile, is showing his slightly better side. He legitimately does want to leave Tierra Verde a super-hero, despite his methods. And he even considers destroying the cocaine, although he quickly abandons the idea. We also see his ex-wife finally getting to see their son, who it turns out is not a prisoner or anything; he just wants to please his dad.
To that end, he allows his father to inject him with the Spore drug. Caridad knows that his ex-wife will be forced to use her healing power to keep him under control. It's her screams that get Roughouse to break his chains.
Wolverine pauses to admire Roughouse's naked body.
They also pause after locating Wolverine's costume so he can get dressed, and then they make it to the others, and stop Geist from zapping Caridad's son with all of the darts.
Instead, most of the darts wind up in Caridad, and Sister Salvation says she can only heal one person at a time, so she picks her son.
Geist slips away during the confusion, and La Bandera shows up again with a new group of dupes, this time from the Native tribes in the area. And then Caridad fully becomes Spore. As the cover acknowledges, we basically already saw this in the earlier dream sequence, but this time it's real.
And he's not easy to defeat.
Interestingly, Spore says that he managed to eat the Eternals that he's fought in the past.
That shouldn't be possible (they are literally eternal), but i guess either there's something special about Spore that therefore makes him particularly dangerous, or while he's not able to kill them he is able to break up their molecules and make them "grist" for his body, something that is possible.
But Wolverine does manage to get out...
...and hurting it improves the morale of La Bandera's followers, increasing her powers.
Ultimately, though, it's not enough, and it's up to Sister Salvation to "cure" Spore.
And indeed her powers seem particularly suited for that.
Wolverine can't accept that there's anything religious about her powers, so he speculates that
With Spore taken care of, there's still the matter of Geist, who Wolverine hunts down and gives a shave of his own.
But that's still not the end. First, La Bandera learns that the part that comes after the revolution is at least as hard as the fighting.
And we also find out that the new leaders of Tierra Verde have extradited Geist to America, thanks to the CIA's Jack Bascomb now throwing support their way.
Then Wolverine goes back to Madripoor where he tracks down the vial of the tainted cocaine that Geist sold to General Coy (it looks like Wolverine is giving up on the Patch conceit, even though he kept Geist fooled with it throughout this storyline).
He brings both Coy and Prince Baran into the sewers and gives himself the cocaine, claiming that his healing factor will handle it, but only after he terrifies the hell out of both of them. It turns out he didn't really take the drugs, though.
Then he goes back to Australia. Note that he's not teleported back directly to the X-Men's base, but he's traveling there by jeep. This leads directly into X-Men #251.
As for Geist, well, someone anonymously alerted Magneto to the fact that he's back in the US, and he tracks him down.
I remember reading the last issue of this story in realtime and thinking, "Man, John Byrne is making people fight scrambled eggs again?!". But i actually like the Deviant/Celestial origins of Spore. La Bandera is an interesting mutant, but i guess she's too specialized since we never see her again. Same with Sister Salvation and Spore. Geist, on the other hand, despite surely being killed by Magneto at the end, appears in some continuity inserts/time travel stories.
It's not the most impactful of Wolverine stories, and it's not as fun as, say, the Gehenna Stone Affair, but it's a solid story, and i really like how, going back to the first two parts, it uses all sorts of elements from the larger Marvel universe, from Daredevil to Nuke to the Eternals to Acts of Vengeance (i liked the fights with Tiger Shark) while still feeling like a Wolverine story throughout.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: A footnote says that the X-Men's appearance takes place before the events of Uncanny X-Men #249. It may actually take place during #249, since Havok is saying that something's come up. But it's also vague enough that it could refer to something else. The end of this leads directly into Uncanny X-Men #251. Issues #19-20 are Acts of Vengeance issues, and the appearance of the Red Skull places this relatively late in the crossover, after he's recruited in Captain America #365 and had his first meeting with the rest of the arch-villain cabal in Captain America #366. Note that these issues take place circa Uncanny X-Men #249, but the X-Men's Acts of Vengeance chapter is in Uncanny X-Men #256-286. So X-Men #251 (when Wolverine tries to return to the group) through #255 (as well as Wolverine #21-23, of course, since #19-23 are all part of this entry) take place during Acts of Vengeance. That compounded with the specific events that occur in UX #255 will cause considerable continuity problems, but more on that in future entries.
Crossover: Acts of Vengeance
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showColossus, Dazzler, Dr. Doom, Gateway, Geist, Havok, Kingpin, La Bandera, Magneto, Prince Baran, Psylocke, Red Skull, Roughouse, Sister Salvation, Spore, Tiger Shark, Wolverine
Another awesome Byrne cover on #23.
Posted by: Robert | November 7, 2014 9:51 PM
Some people at the MCP argued it wasn't Arishem since he was missing the thingie on his head. (I thought it was Arishem.)
Posted by: Michael | November 7, 2014 11:01 PM
I own the original art of the page with Sister Salvation's burning hands. I asked John Byrne about the different look of his inks on the final issue and he said that Klaus Janson was supposed to finish it but couldn't at the last moment, so he inked it himself, but tried to maintain continuity with Janson's inking style. That was a 20-year mystery solved for me!
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | November 8, 2014 1:04 AM
I don't know whether Spore was mainly defined by Byrne or by Archie Goodwin, but one can't help but notice that less than one year ahead Byrne would create the very similar Sluj in Namor #6-8.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 8, 2014 10:08 AM
Worth noting that those 2 panels are the only time that Byrne has ever drawn Psylocke.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | November 8, 2014 10:36 AM
Or Dazzler in her only proper costume. :D
Posted by: ChrisW | November 8, 2014 9:46 PM
I believe Gruenwald eventually adds la Bandera to the list of Latin Americans supers slain by Zeitgeist, when he revisits that dangling Alpha Flight plot in Captain America. She's not the character sensation of 1989, but she deserved better than an off-panel death at the hands of a lame-o.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 9, 2014 3:19 AM
Agreed. La Bandera had a bit of potential to be a future guest star. deserved better than to make up a body count. There are few enough Latin superheros as is. In fact, she could have made a good story about her father, a Cuban exile, not exactly being better off for escaping (considering he died from drugs). twas not to be.
but sorry, Tiger Shark beats Wolverine 9 out of ten times (and Tigra and Hellcat).
Posted by: kveto from prague | November 9, 2014 2:32 PM
I assume the 'anonymous tip-off' to Magneto came from Wolverine? Interesting if so, given that the powers that be, much to Claremont's chagrin, were hell-bent on returning Magneto to full-on villainy by this point...would Wolverine still not view him as an out and out enemy after eventually accepting him during his brief reformation period?
Posted by: Harry | April 22, 2015 6:41 PM
There's a minor continuity glitch when Magneto confronts Geist and claims his *wife* died in the camps, rather than his parents and sister.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 7, 2015 4:52 PM
There's also a minor continuity glitch with my earlier comment, since I somehow totally missed the second line of Michael's comment above addressing that very thing!
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 7, 2015 4:54 PM
This is one of my all time favorite Wolverine stories for the reasons that fnord mentions in his summation. I've read this several times and enjoyed it on each occasion.
The ending is especially good, with Magneto showing up. Although brief, I find it is one of the better uses of the character in that it utilizes his tragic backstory and motivation as a Holocaust survivor while showing that he still possessed the capacity to be a very vengeful, sadistic individual.
I also like that Wolverine has a really difficult time fighting Tiger Shark. After all, Tiger Shark was created to go toe-to-toe with Namor the Sub-Mariner, one of the most powerful beings on Earth. This was obviously before the "rule of cool" kicked in, Wolverine's power levels got amped up to ridiculous levels, and he started defeating much more powerful adversaries simply because he was a hot character.
La Bandera getting killed off-panel was unfortunate. However this is superhero comic books, so hopefully one of these days someone else will bring her back.
It is generally agreed among both fans and professionals that Archie Goodwin was one of the all time great writers and editors in the comic book biz. Certainly this is a good, entertaining story by him. It really shows what a loss it was to the field when he passed away at such a young age.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 7, 2015 7:13 PM
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