Issue(s): Wolverine #1, Wolverine #2, Wolverine #3, Wolverine #4
...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.
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
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Uncanny X-Men #168 and concludes before Uncanny X-Men #172.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Wolverine TPB
Inbound References (10): show
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".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 18, 2011 6:55 PM
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?
Posted by: Paul | May 5, 2012 8:02 PM
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.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 7, 2013 12:47 AM
@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?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 8, 2013 6:05 AM
This, of course, also follows on a lot of what Frank Miller had done in Daredevil. Clearly samurais and ninjas were becoming big for Marvel - Daredevil, Wolverine, Snake Eyes in GI Joe - and I was a kid and eating it all up. Kids like me loved it!
This mini-series must be hard for people who are reading it for the first time these days. So much of what was in it has now become cliched, but it was all so startling and new at the time.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 9, 2015 1:06 PM
Isn't the line about knowing his father supposed to reference that Sabretooth was originally intended to be Wolverine's father? Granted that intent was buried and not referenced while PM&IF was published and that character "owned" by that book's writer and editor, but Claremont is not one to forget anything and he always goes back to the same well for his water.
Posted by: Chris | May 9, 2015 1:55 PM
I'd like to put in my two cents to respond to Erik's comment, not disagreeing, but adding my perspective. I've used the "you don't understand how new it was at the time" argument myself (most often in reference to folks who argue Alan Moore is/was overrated). I was sixteen when this came out, I had been a hardcore Marvel junkie for about five years, and I picked it up automatically. Claremont at the height of his popularity writing, Miller at the height of his popularity drawing, on Wolverine's first solo book: how could it be bad? The problem I had with it was exactly that it wasn't "new" to me. It was Claremont writing Wolverine again, Miller drawing ninjas again. Yukio was yet another Claremont "spunky" female, too confident for any conflict of character. Mariko was a cypher to me (tender? tough? what does she see in Logan anyway?) And of course, I don't think Claremont or Miller knew anything more about Japan than what they read in Shogun and Lone Wolf and Cub. I can see why people love this series, but it just seems intellectually and emotionally hollow to me.
Posted by: Andrew | January 24, 2017 7:31 AM
I loathed it at the time, I loathe it now. I never considered wolverine any great character, was stunned by his apparent popularity and have stayed that way ever since. I realize that if, as with me, your top five Marvel characters include Howard the Duck and (the original) Omega the Unknown you're going to be a minority, but I saw this wolverine series and all attending variations following as utter pandering pablum of the lowest sort.
Marvel seems to have in fact treaded water for ten years or more, even whilst still being insanely popular. There came a point where X-Men were retreading at the same time Spider-Man was retreading and there were just no more NEW as in NEW characters appearing. All trimming round the edges. This was an example of that. To me anyway.
Posted by: Flying Tiger Comics | March 14, 2017 2:26 AM
Our last commenter loves some Steve Gerber, as do I. Jason Sacks has a book collecting Steve's interviews, coming soon! I am at least friends with a good friend of Steve's, which is deeply cool to me.
Posted by: Cecil | April 16, 2017 2:21 PM
"I don't think Claremont or Miller knew anything more about Japan than what they read in Shogun and Lone Wolf and Cub."
It is very hard to argue about this. However, it was hard for over 90% of Americans to have any knowledge of real Japanese history and culture in 1982. Even anime as pop culture references was limited to Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets in 1982. Voltron was still two years away. Simply having read Clavell's Shogun probably made you an "expert" compared to your friends. The generation of Americans kids in the eighties was probably the first where World War II was not the immediate and sole reference in regards to the Japanese.
So yes, the depiction of Japan in comics of the era doesn't age well. Newer generations than Claremont and Miller have much more familiarity.
Even compared to the Snake Eyes stories in GI Joe, they don't hold up as well in their depiction of Japanese culture. But Larry Hama was of Japanese heritage himself and thereby much more familiar with authentic Japanese culture.
Posted by: Chris | April 16, 2017 11:24 PM
@Chris- I think that's the point- they could have asked Larry.
Posted by: Michael | April 16, 2017 11:38 PM
As early as the mid-50s, Japanese culture was a topic discussed among the veatniks, includibg books on Zen Buddhism by the lijes of Alan Watts and DT Suzuki. Japanese cinema included not just the Godzilla movies but films like Rashomon, Ugetsu, Yojimbo, and The Seven Samurai (the latter two being adapted as Westerns) being shown in art houses. Translations of contemporary fiction by Mishima Yukio, Kawabata Yasunari, and Tanizaki Junichiro, and others found American readers, and the practice of Japanese martial arts became more common. (Actually, Theodore Roosevelt had practiced judo decades earlier!)
Japanese culture was not was widespread, certainly, but it was just as surely not simply unavailable.
Posted by: Ubersicht | April 17, 2017 4:00 AM
If those examples are deemed highbrow or recherche, let's not forgot that the James Bond films introduced Americans to ninja in the 60s with "You Only Live Twice" and Sydney Pollack's "The Yakuza", starring Robert Mitchum as well as a number of top Japanese actors was released in 1974 and covered some topics relevant to what Miller was doing.
Posted by: Ubersicht | April 17, 2017 4:13 AM
Posted by: Ubersicht | April 17, 2017 4:23 AM
Indeed, there was something of a karate craze in pop culture in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | April 17, 2017 7:10 AM
And Stan Lee gave a number of original Marvel characters skill at judo.
Posted by: ChrisW | April 19, 2017 9:21 PM
@ChrisW--yep...including Sue Storm, who was "taught judo by one of the world's experts, Reed Richards!" ;)
Posted by: Shar | April 19, 2017 9:56 PM
@Ubersicht Hahaha I was totally trying to figure out if "veatniks" was like some combination of "Vietnam" and "beatniks" or something like that. Of course, the timeline doesn't quite match up with that, as you referred to the mid-50s and America didn't really ramp up involvement there until the 60s. Derp.
Posted by: J-Rod | April 25, 2017 10:01 AM
@J-Rod. Nice! I could see that as a plausible way to reverse engineer what was actually a typo. I just need to be more disciplined about proofreading before posting, especially when posting from a smartphone.
Maybe veatniks were beatniks who became vegetarians after reading stuff about Buddhism? I seem to recall Alan Watts was vegetarian. Veatniks and meatniks could be a schism in this secret history of late 50s counterculture.
Posted by: Ubersicht | April 28, 2017 5:55 AM
That's right: "...because cows scream louder than carrots."
Don't think I've ever heard a cow "scream", if they even do. I do know what it sounds like when doves cry though.
Posted by: Ubersicht | April 28, 2017 6:03 AM
"Vietnik" was a term coined by Time magazine in 1965 to describe young Americans protesting the U.S. military presence in Vietnam.
Posted by: James | April 28, 2017 7:01 AM
Interesting! Thanks. I wasn't aware protests were that widespread in '65.
Apparently, cows do scream. Don't Google it if you're at all sensitive.
Posted by: Ubersicht | April 28, 2017 7:31 AM
Man this series needed Janson inks. Miller and Rubenstein are a poor match IMO.
Posted by: MindlessOne | April 28, 2017 7:57 AM
Piggybacking off the comments on Japanese culture, Kurosawa films, etc., I would like to champion a film that came out around the same time as this mini-series: John Frankenheimer's "The Challenge", starring Scott Glenn and the greatest of Japan's film stars, Toshiro Mifune. The plot centers around an American boxer (Glenn) getting stuck in the middle of a conflict between two brothers over the posession of two swords. One brother (Mifune, the good one) is steeped in the traditions of the samurai, the other is a businessman representing Japan's modern corporate culture. Not sure if the film was seen by the creators, but it's a hard-to-find, underrated gem of a flick I'd recommend to fans of samurai/ninja/martial arts films, culture clashes, and/or Frankenheimer.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | July 10, 2017 11:52 PM
Ninjas and Japanese culture were pretty hip at the time. Anyone doing DandD wanted to have a ninja character. I loved Daredevil but hated this series. I never liked Wolverine as a Samarai and I thought this really ruined his character. I also lost a lot of respect for Miller, could he only do Ninjas. But I really hated the Kitty team up series.
Posted by: OrangeDuke | January 9, 2018 12:31 AM
And then there were... Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! :D :D :D :D
Posted by: Holt | July 10, 2018 10:59 AM
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