Characters Appearing: General Nguyen Coy, Karma, Lindsay McCabe, Prince Baran, Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), Tyger Tiger, Wolverine
Issue(s): Wolverine #27, Wolverine #28, Wolverine #29, Wolverine #30
Look, we all accept that stories are going to have MacGuffins, especially if you are cranking out an adventure with three artists and four inkers during Wolverine's bi-weekly summer period. Everyone needs something to chase after and get into fights over. But you've got to give us something to make us feel like there's an actual story being told. What we've been given in these four issues is the structure of a plot without any actual plot. There's a thing called the Master Form. The bad guys, who are working on something called the Lazarus Project in the castle of Madripoor's Prince Baran (although he may or may not be aware of it), want the Master Form. People who seem to be good guys leave the Master Form with some random villagers on an island south of Madripoor because they are the only ones that can protect it (despite the fact that they seem to be a tribe of fishermen). You have Wolverine, who stumbles into the Lazarus Project business, gets amnesia, and winds up on the island with the tribe. Then the bad guys show up, and indeed do mow down all the fishermen with machine guns.
Wolverine is shot in the head, which knocks him out for the fight but gives him his memory back. Then he fights the bad guys. One of the good guys turns out to really be a bad guy. Wolverine and the remaining good guys then leave the Master Form on the island, and go back to Madripoor. When the bad guys hear about this, they too decide to leave the Master Form alone (because they don't want to be blamed for the massacre of the village). Then Wolverine stops the Lazarus Project.
All this is reasonably fine, in theory. But the Master Form is never explained. The bad guys, who seemingly needed it to complete their Lazarus Project, have already produced a cyborg thing, which indicates that the Master Form wasn't even needed, and indeed, they quickly abandon it. The Lazarus Project is not really defined either, and i'm actually out on a limb saying that they produced a cyborg. Basically, the whole thing has no payoff, no details, no story.
There's also a confusing bit about that good guy who turns out to be a bad guy. He was, like, a family retainer or something for the people that were carrying the Master Form. He's the one who brings the Master Form to the village, but then it later turns out that he's the one who sent the soldiers to kill the villages. I don't know why he didn't just kill the young man that he was working for and take the Master Form and cut out all the middle men. He might have just been covering his tracks, or it might have had something to do with the nature of the Master Form, which of course we are in the dark about. I may be missing something on this guy, not that i really care, because the information on him is provided in a huge info dump flashback in issue #29 that also includes a record breaking 4 full pages recapping the previous two issues. All i could really pay attention to during all of that was this fascinating Mr. T / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle amalgam.
As you can see from the scan above, the Master Form is actually a Yoshi egg. That probably explains everything. Marvel couldn't come right out and say that for copyright reasons. And Yoshi probably wouldn't take too kindly to people killing other people just for a chance to ride him, which is why the one guy had to be involved in so much subterfuge.
As for the cyborg, well, when Wolverine first attacks it, it's not clear if Wolverine can't cut it or something else.
And that's when he gets hit with the amnesia potion.
For the rematch fight, it's more clear that the cyborg has the robotic equivalent of a healing factor.
And it also turns out that it's got the brain of a cousin of the kid that was responsible for the Master Form.
I don't know for sure if it's just a electronic copy or an actual organic brain or if the "Pinocchio" robot is actually a full cyborg. I guess it doesn't really matter, but it's another unexplained part of the story. And the larger issue is that we don't know if the Lazarus Program was about making the regenerating robot portion, or the cyborg portion, or something else (i mean, i'd guess based on "Lazarus" that it's resurrecting dead soldiers into robot bodies, but it's not said), or how the Master Form would have improved things.
The art in issue #30, by Bill Jaaska, is pretty cartoony in a bad sort of way, and very divergent from the previous issues.
It took me a minute to realize this was General Coy.
For completion's sake, here's a map showing the location of Rumika, the island where the Master Form was given to the villagers.
Despite the fact that the main story is a wash, there is some movement for the supporting characters of this series, making these issues not completely pointless. The developments aren't entirely positive, though. Jessica Drew, the former (and still semi-) Spider-Woman, has been hanging around in this series since it began, but there really hasn't been much for her to do. Which isn't entirely unexpected since this is a Wolverine solo book. And i guess someone figured that out, because she and Lindsay McCabe are exited from the series in this arc. First, Wolverine raises the idea that she's not really suited to be in Madripoor.
Jessica is the first to encounter the Pinocchio robot.
We don't get to see the fight. The next page has her wandering Madripoor, badly injured.
And next thing we know, she and Lindsay are being shipped home.
I wouldn't mind a series about Spider-Woman kicking ass, and i think it sucks that her exit from the series is because she lost a fight as opposed to, say, going off to do her own thing, but i do think it's for the best that she's not just left lingering in the background.
There's also movement for Karma, who had forced herself into service to her evil uncle, General Coy. An interesting bit in issue #27 shows that Coy seemingly really is trying to help locate Karma's siblings (either that or he heard her entering the room and is putting on a show).
But by the end of this arc, when it comes out that he's been funding Project Lazarus, Karma decides to stop working for him. Her sense of familial obligation prevents her from letting Wolverine attack him, but she's done with him.
I think this is good. Short of a story where she actually locates her siblings (which is overdue at this point), her status quo as a permanent unwilling lackey of her evil uncle just made her look like a dupe. Either he has the resources to find her or not.
So for those two things, these issues aren't entirely skippable. I'd rather that we had stories actually focusing on those characters instead of these things happening incidentally, but thanks to these things the stories don't feel like just isolated filler the way so many of Wolverine's appearances are becoming.
The cover of issue #27 (by Jim Lee despite being an example of Liefeld Pose #1), has become somewhat iconic. Or at least it winds up getting used in a lot of ads for backissues and the like.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Wolverine spends "weeks" with amnesia on Rumika.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Fnord, I think the idea is that the entire point of the Lazarus Project sending people to guard the Master Form and then sending other people to steal it was so to create survivors who would be willing to volunteer for the cyborg project. In issue 27, Doctor Page says that the entire point of the project is finding subjects for her work and in issue 30, Wolverine says families and pain and how that pain is channeled is key.
Posted by: Michael | June 1, 2015 8:01 PM
Jo Duffy once told me that, yes, had the second Fallen Angels miniseries been completed & published, one of the aspects of it was that she was going to actually explain what the Master Form really was.
I am surprised that someone like Kurt Busiek or Mark Waid, writers who are good at picking up old, obscure bits of dangling continuity and using them to tell interesting stories, never got around to doing something with the Master Form.
So, in the absence of any sort of in-print explanation, I propose that the Master Form is actually an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands :)
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 1, 2015 8:51 PM
OK, I found an interview where Duffy says the Broker was supposed to appear in a lot of books as a crossover with Fallen Angels:
Posted by: Michael | June 2, 2015 7:58 AM
Michael, that interview is with the intended artist Fallen Angels artist, Colleen Doran, and doesn't mention Wolverine. Is there another interview with Duffy? (I couldn't find it on Allan Harvey's site.)
It seems like the cancellation of that series set Doran's career back, which is a real shame. (And if Fallen Angels II was going to be a crossover with this arc, it seems we just missed a Devil Dinosaur/Yoshi meeting!)
Posted by: fnord12 | June 2, 2015 9:31 AM
I meant Coleen Doran, sorry. I was thinking of this exchange in the interview:
Posted by: Michael | June 2, 2015 7:55 PM
I meant, Doran. I did it again!
Posted by: Michael | June 2, 2015 7:56 PM
I wonder, based on developments here, whether Karma would have appeared in the new Fallen Angels series.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | June 2, 2015 9:42 PM
@Michael: Doran seems to imply that there were titles other than Wolverine!?
I always wondered if Duffy had plans to reveal the whereabouts of Karma's younger siblings, Leong and Nga given the Broker's penchant for powered children!?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | June 3, 2015 2:41 AM
Not sure if you saw it, Nathan, but Leong and Nga are actually in the Doran-drawn pages included at Michael's link. The winged boy who was claimed to be Angel's son from Marvel Fanfare 50 is there as well. Fascinating stuff.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | June 3, 2015 4:24 AM
@Walter: Unfortunately I'm a blinkie these days so no.
Thanks for the news about the winged boy.
So if Leong and Nga were part of the plot I wonder how Claremont felt about his plot being co-opted? Any theories what his original plan was there? Which enemy of General Coy might have kidnapped them?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | June 3, 2015 5:02 AM
Yeah, in the interview, Doran mentions a Marvel Fanfare issue drawn by Joe Staton that was supposed to tie into the limited series- that must have been Marvel Fanfare 50.
Posted by: Michael | June 3, 2015 7:56 AM
Iconic is right. I remember the Wolverine #27 cover being all over ads and T-shirts and stuff in the early 90s. It was also used as the box art for Wolverine's Nintendo game that came out in 1991.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 23, 2015 10:10 AM
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