Characters Appearing: Wolverine
Issue(s): Wolverine #25
This issue is mostly a hilarious fairy tale, although it did give me flashbacks to the horrible 2001 Origin comic. The framing sequence has a Madripoor gangster that Wolverine once worked with in Tehran calling in a favor that Wolverine owes him. The gangster is about to go off to fight another gangster, and he's afraid that gangster #2 will send thugs after his child while he's away. He knows Wolverine won't help him in the fight, but he asks Wolverine to bodyguard his son. And Wolverine tells the kid a bedtime story that seems like it's taken from Wolverine's past.
The story has a young Logan being cast out by his people for being a weak, useless coward. And the boy comes across a pack of wolverines.
But instead of tearing the boy apart, the wolverines befriend him.
So it's basically The Jungle Book.
One day, some bad fur trappers go after Logan's pack, because wolverines eat the animals that get caught in their fur traps. And they wind up capturing Logan, with the intent of selling him to a circus.
But don't worry. The story has a happy ending. Logan kills the trappers and feeds them to his friends.
Then gangster #2 arrives with his goons and Wolverine decides to get involved beyond just protecting the boy after all.
But more importantly, Wolverine's fable encourages the boy to get involved himself.
Congratulations, Wolverine. You've perpetuated the cycle of violence for another generation.
I am assuming that we aren't supposed to take this flashback seriously. It's clearly inspired by the Jungle Book, so i'd guess it's just Wolverine's idea of an appropriate children's bedtime story.
I mentioned Origin because i recall "James Howlett" running around in a pack of wolves in that story. Why wasn't it wolverines? And frankly, why didn't they just make this Wolverine's actual origin? "Raised by a pack of wolverines" is 9,000 times more awesome than being raised on a plantation or whatever.
Perhaps of more interest to Wolverine fans than this particular story are some rulings that are handed down in the lettercol. Last issue's lettercol had someone asking if Wolverine really could die from drowning (after Wolverine's fight with Tiger Shark during Acts of Vengeance). And the response was that yes, he could. This issue a pair of kids write in with a list of possible ways to kill Wolverine:
First of all, someone put those kids on a watchlist or something. But, incredibly (after making a similar joke as me), the answer is that these are "good questions" but the response to all of them "His mutant healing power would kick in and save him.". And i don't agree with that. I think all of those things should be able to kill Wolverine (and in fact Chris Claremont seemed to think that slitting Wolverine's throat would kill him in Uncanny X-Men #177). I really dislike the idea that Wolverine's healing factor means that he's all but immortal. Please indulge me as i go full fanboy and turn to role playing game terms to illustrate this. In Dungeons and Dragons, trolls are monsters that regenerate. And that makes them a terror to lower to mid level players. But they actually only regenerate 3 hit points per round. So once you're at the point where you can dish out lots of damage each round, the regeneration becomes a negligible thing. Trolls can technically only be killed by acid or fire, but once you get to the point where you can do 10 or more points or damage per round, you can just stand there and hack at the thing while your friend goes and gets a match.
To go even further with this, a Marvel RPG book published in 1990 similarly put Wolverine's hit points at 110, and said that he regenerates 10 hit points an hour. Sabretooth's claws do 30 points of damage per hit and a punch from the Thing does 75. So i don't see how Wolverine should be able to heal from a slit throat before bleeding out or dying from lack of oxygen.
I mention all of this not (just) because i wanted to dust off my role playing books. It's a fundamental question about the character. Is he a street level fighter that deals with ninjas and thugs, or is he an immortal god that shrugs off everything that comes at him? So much about his character is about him being a scrappy underdog, so i definitely prefer the former.
Another letter asks if Wolverine's adamantium claws can cut through his own adamantium skeleton? The correct answer here, clearly, is that adamantium is an unbreakable material. That's what it is. That's what makes it adamantium; it's literally unbreakable. It's a super-thing and that's its property. It's not the sharpest thing. It's the unbreakable thing. But the answer, which comes from Bob Harras, says the opposite: "Bob noted that Wolverine's claws are solid adamantium, while his bones are not. Remember, Wolvie's bones are merely laced with adamantium. So yes, Wolvie's claws could cut his bones." That's notable for showing that at this point it wasn't assumed that Wolverine had bone claws. But the main point is the "laced with" argument. If there's adamantium in there, then it can't be broken. So if something is only "laced with" adamantium, does that mean maybe the claws push through it and like, bits of adamantium, maybe even microscopic in size, just get pushed aside? Wolverine's bones have always been described as being unbreakable; this seems like a big caveat. If adamantium claws can cut through them, couldn't a punch from the Hulk also affect them in the same way? Either they're unbreakable or they're not.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
FNORD - when you wrote -
Posted by: clyde | May 28, 2015 12:47 PM
I've always felt the opposite. You could put me in a steel box and give me a steel sword, and i'd never be able to cut my way out, because i'm not strong enough to put enough force behind the sword. But the Hulk could punch his way out with his fists. Wolverine isn't super-strong. And adamantium is by definition unbreakable. But if for some reason Wolverine's bones being only "laced with" adamantium makes them breakable, then the Hulk's unlimited strength should be able to break them before someone with normal human human strength and an unbreakable material. The unbreakable material shouldn't break, but there's nothing that says it should be able to puncture something else in and of itself.
Man, i'm glad i mentioned those letter responses. We haven't had a good argument about super-powers in a while.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 28, 2015 12:59 PM
I wonder if Harras thinks being "laced with" adamantium means the adamantium is on the inside of the bones, which would mean the claws could cut through the bone but not the adamantium inside of it?
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 28, 2015 7:42 PM
fnord12, thanks for that bit about the healing factor. I've been reading Claremont's "Uncanny" run from the beginning, and I was kind of astonished that for about 70 issues, Wolverine's whole deal is that he has adamantium bones and claws, and is a pretty good tracker. That's it, nothing else.
Then, when the X-Men visit Broodworld in the 160's, and Wolverine gets implanted with an egg, suddenly "Hey guys I have a mutant healing factor. Who knew? Er, I mean, I had it all along." (Maybe this got added in the Claremont/Miller limited series; I'd have to check.)
As you note, this begins to trigger a massive power-upgrade to the character. I also think it helps to account for his massive popularity. If you look at the typical 1980's Action-Movie plot, you've got an early bloody battle, followed by the hero getting mashed up real bad, talking to some nice person as he slowly gets his act together, followed by an even bloodier climax. Wolverine's healing factor is a terrific story device for that kind of plot, and that's how it's normally used in Claremont's stories.
This also ties into our culture's equating heroism = dedication = tolerance for agony = physical toughness. From this perspective, the story tellers have a license to show Wolverine suffering absolutely ghastly injuries (WHOA COOL HIS SPLEEN GOT PUNCHED OUT!!!), but he continues to soldier on. And even though Wolverine, in the long run, can't actually be injured in a meaningful way, he suffers like hell in the meantime in a way that traditionally invulnerable characters like Thor, Wonder Man, and the Thing never do.
Compounding this, Wolverine's claws are up-close weapons, which means that he's (a) gotta close distance even in spite of suppressive gunfire or energy beams, and then (b) gotta put himself at risk of hand-to-hand combat against big bad dudes. So the claws are kinda designed to trigger situations where he gets injured; his injuries heal; he then struggles back to his feet a scene later to finish the job, and we're culturally conditioned to think he's a bad-ass.
I have no idea if Claremont understood all this at the time--Miller certainly would have--but I think it begins to account for the character's surge in popularity throughout the 1980's.
The trick, as you mention, is how fast does Wolverine's healing work. In the early-to-mid 80's, it seems like Wolverine can get the crap beaten out of him, and it takes him hours or days to really mend. There's X-Men Annual 11, when a single drop of blood lets him rebuild his whole body, but (a) that might be dream, and (b) he was cosmically charged up or something. But it was a cool sequence of illustrations, and I think a lot of artists enjoy drawing that.
(And to meet you nerdery for nerdery, in the original Marvel Super Heroes RPG, yellow box with Spider-Man explaining the rules, Wolverine heals 100 health points after a day's rest, which pretty much tops him up, but nothing's said about recovering on the fly, as it were. This was in 1984, when his powers hadn't been upgraded so drastically. IF you look at the write-ups as the game line develops, he gets considerably more powerful.)
Posted by: James Nostack | May 29, 2015 10:01 AM
@James: Wrong Wolverine's healing factor is first mentioned in Uncanny X-Men #116.
Yes, you’re correct that his healing factor took hours or days to mend him, and the only reason he regenerated from a single drop of blood in Uncanny X-Men Annual #11 was because of the Crystal of Ultimate Vision. Claremont was showing closer to the end of his run that the mileage was making Wolverine take longer to heal, the crucifixion by the Reavers being the most obvious in Uncanny X-Men #251.
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 29, 2015 10:58 AM
Wolverine mentioned that he healed real fast in #116, and no doubt Claremont/Byrne were considering the healing factor by that point, but it is a valid point that he never really suffers anything in the way of injuries until Broodworld, nothing beyond normal superhero fightscenes anyway. Colossus was nearly killed twice and up and running around a few issues later, where's his healing factor?
Posted by: ChrisW | May 29, 2015 2:27 PM
@Nathan, you're right: I just reviewed 116 and it's mentioned, but to my knowledge the Brood Queen egg business is the first time the healing factor is used as a plot point, or even depicted.
Posted by: James Nostack | May 29, 2015 3:34 PM
So Logan fed the trappers' fingertips to the wolverines?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 29, 2015 8:29 PM
Re: Logan's healing factor - what about the first Hellfire Club story? In his fight with the HC goons, he got shot with a machine gun. And yet, he just got up... I've always taken it as a sign of his healing factor at work.
Yes, it's true that other X-Men also tend to heal heavy injuries in the matter of days, but other superheroes do it, too. Heroes getting beat up and returning to health a few days later is a genre convention. Meanwhile, Logan is able to get back up mere minutes after being wounded... that's the healing factor.
Posted by: Piotr W | May 31, 2015 12:10 PM
Yeah, I was reading Dark Phoenix Saga tonight and I have to agree with Piotr. Before he was shot by the HC goon, his costume was intact. Afterwards, there were holes in the costume not only over his belly, but on his back as well, showing that the shots were through-and-throughs, but his flesh was intact afterwards.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | June 7, 2015 1:50 AM
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