Issue(s): Wolverine #31, Wolverine #32, Wolverine #33
Marc Silvestri and Dan Green are here as part of the swap that made Jim Lee the full-time X-Men artist (Lee had previously been Silvestri's regular fill-in artist), so in addition to just providing great art it helps that the style is one already associated with Wolverine through the X-book. (Not that there was anything wrong with the pencils of John Buscema, who was the most consistent creator on the book prior to these issues.)
We haven't seen much of Larry Hama in my project so far. He wrote one issue of Daredevil and penciled a few things, including another issue of Daredevil featuring Wolverine. But he's actually been at Marvel since 1980, first as an editor of Marvel's "special projects", including licensed materials (including Conan) and comedy books like What The--?. More notably, he'd been the writer of G.I. Joe since 1982, and will continue writing that concurrently with his Wolverine through 1994. I wasn't a G.I. Joe reader but the book is remembered fondly by many fans and was actually a gateway comic; not only was it based on a popular toy line and cartoon but Marvel actually advertised those comics on television. There's some direct relevance to the Wolverine series as well, since some of the most popular elements of G.I. Joe focused on the ninjas Snake-Eyes and Stormshadow, and of course ninjas are a big deal for Wolverine as well.
This first story doesn't feature ninjas per se, but it does have Wolverine going up against the Japanese Yakuza. We waste no time in having them attack.
If Larry Hama wasn't Japanese(-American), i'd probably be more offended by the "Ro-gan" thing. The fact that Wolverine's misinterpreted name means death might have some relevance, though.
Wolverine was drinking with his buddy Archie Corrigan, who runs outside to see the Yakuza supervising the attack on Wolverine.
Note that in addition to invoking Kwannon, which i just thought was funny since that name will later be used during the Psylocke/Revanche mix-up, Goro says that he can only be killed by a blade wielded by a dead man. (The Kwannon thing is just the goddess of mercy that Goro like to invoke and has a tattoo of; it will be spelled "Kwanyin" once in this arc.)
The woman stopping him is Reiko, who has been bound to Goro because her father had a gambling debt. Thanks dad.
The real leader of the Yakuza is Dai-Kumo. He claims to have found a cure for cancer, which can only be made by extracting brain fluid from endangered monkeys. He wants Madripoor's Prince Baran to approve the exploitation of the monkeys, and he needs the help of Madripoor's crimelords General Coy and Tyger Tiger to collect and ship the monkeys.
Tyger Tiger refuses to get involved, both due to the fact that Dai-Kumo only wants to sell the cancer cure to rich people and because of the monkeys. And she's more right than she knows. Dude's got a tattoo of a spider on his face. He's not curing cancer.
In fact, what he's really created is a drug called "Raiden the Thunderbolt" that provides temporary super-powers. Brain monkey lightning powers!
Wolverine is being attacked because he's thought to be the one person that would try to stop the Yakuza. Wolverine's healing factor is making itself useful.
Larry Hama does show that it has limits.
The guys that took the drug are a pretty crazy mini-boss.
The drug has a PCP-like effect (or at least how PCP is always described in comic books).
Wolverine does manage to kill them, but not before a sequence involving grenades and sharks.
And Wolverine is in really bad shape after that and has to be taken back to Tyger Tiger's place to be nursed back to health. Even when he's had time to rest and heal a bit, he's still got enough holes in him that when he smokes it comes out his torso.
Then, after Tyger and Archie leave for a while, Goro and Reiko show up and make a mess of Wolverine all over again.
Wolverine passes out, and Goro takes a photo of him to prove that he's dead to Dai-Kumo.
Of course, all of the X-Men that died during Fall of The Mutants aren't supposed to be able to be photographed, but Goro's photo comes out fine. The spell does seem to have worn off.
Wolverine dreams of Jean Grey and eventually wakes up. With Wolverine thought dead and the monkey brain juice collected, the Yakuza head home. But Wolverine continues to investigate. And as much as i love monkey brain lightning powers, i have to admit that the way they are made is the saddest thing i've ever seen in a comic.
A mountain of dead monkeys?! Who could be so cruel!?
Wolverine rightly therefore decides to go to Japan to get some monkey vengeance. He takes advantage of the fact that he's taken so much abuse and is thought dead (and gets help from a Feign Death potion from Tyger Tiger), and gets himself smuggled into Japan as a corpse. Things work out better than expected; Dai-Kumo has Wolverine buried in his private cemetery.
It's not exactly what Wolverine was expecting, though, so he's a little panicked when he wakes up.
I bet Uma Thurman wouldn't have minded some adamantium claws.
Wolverine bursts out to find Reiko, who, since she was working (and more) with Goro under duress, helps him out as he goes on his rampage in the Yakuza estate. The Yakuza had been busy pitting some tigers against a lone wolf hepped up on Raiden The Thunderbolt...
...but Wolverine is able to stare it down.
Wolverine later falls into a big vat of Raiden, but comes out unchanged, saying that he's "already as strong and as mean as I can get!". Goro, on the other hand, takes some Raiden.
The fight is short, like in a samurai movie.
Wolverine is a "dead man". He died with the X-Men, he died again in this story, more or less, and his Ro-Gan name means death. So that means he can fulfill the prophesy and kill Goro. But Wolverine doesn't go in for that mumbo jumbo.
Wolverine finds that while he was fighting Goro, Reiko killed Dai-Kumo.
A fun, gritty action story. Really not too different than what's been going on in this book, but less super-hero oriented than, say, the Goodwin/Byrne issues, grittier than Peter David's Gehenna Stone quest, and just better than the Lazarus Project. A lot of minor but memorable scenes along the way: the dragon tattoo guys, the grenade & shark scene, the wolf. A lot of mileage comes from heaping abuse on Wolverine, but Hama does at least show that Wolverine's healing factor has a limit. I think if i had read it in realtime i would have shrugged my shoulders at it since it really is just another standalone Wolverine adventure, but it's a good start to this team's run.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I think you're missing a scan at the beginning :)
Posted by: Berend | June 1, 2015 5:26 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | June 1, 2015 5:41 PM
Regarding the X-Men's disappearing invisiblity, Rogue appeared on Magneto's monitors in X-Men 269, which came out a week before this and was written by Claremont.
Posted by: Michael | June 1, 2015 8:05 PM
I too skipped Hama's Wolverine at the time, at least for the first few years. In part because when I sampled issues like these I found Hama's use of Wolvie's healing factor just over-the-top ridiculous, especially at a time when Claremont was writing him as dying over in X-Men. (Years later I started reading the book in real time and found I actualky liked it, esp. compared to the other '90s X-books.)
GI Joe was indeed a gateway, and a bestseller for Marvel as late as '88, when the Joe book was oneof the first three (with X-Men and ASM) to go biweekly for the summer. There's a funny backstory to those TV ads for the comic, though. Previously cartoon series based on toys had been largely forbidden by the FCC, but that changed under Reagan, which is why the '80s is the golden age of the toy tie-in cartoon (GI Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and crappier things.) But the FCC still had a rule against advertising the toys during the show that was based on them: that was just too blatant. Hasbro got around this by buying commercials (or subsidizing Marvel to buy commercials) for the comic, which was neither a toy nor a Hasbro product.
As I recall, the commercials usually touted new characters appearing in the comic--advertising the latest tank or airplane might have been pushing it, but Serpentor or Tomax and Xamot were fair game.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | June 1, 2015 9:49 PM
Fnord, just fyi, you've got the scan of the "ro-gan" sequence posted twice.
Posted by: Dermie | June 1, 2015 10:53 PM
And interesting background on the commercials, Walter. Thanks. Also explains why Marvel was able to run commercials for that comic but not others.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 1, 2015 11:31 PM
They named a drug after a Shogun Warrior?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 2, 2015 9:40 PM
As far as I know, "Rogan" is not a real Japanese word although "ro" can mean old, and "gan" is cancer. Nor does Hama outright say "rogan" means death. I think Wolverine is being poetic here.
The Japanese language makes no distinction between the "r" and "l" sounds. In fact, Japanese has no "l" sound although I've heard that certain dialects does sound more like an "l". So while depicting the Japanese not correctly pronouncing the "l" may be stereotypical, it's also very true.
Incidentally, "Dai-Kumo" means Great Spider.
It seems that with the dissolution of the X-Men team and most of them going through the Siege Perilous, that it officially ended Roma's spell on the X-Men. Although it was never officially stated, everything else of that era was gone by that point so it makes sense.
I loved Larry Hama's work on GI Joe. It was definitely the gateway comic to me. If not for picking up copies at the newsstand, I would never have picked up Secret Wars #2 (not the second series, the second issue of the first series) and never begun collecting superhero comics. Although in retrospect, GI Joe is written at a younger age than superhero comics and the demands of the toyline would hurt the series, none of that weakness is Hama's fault. Without him, it is doubtful the comic would have had the longevity it did nor retain the cultural hold it does so that revival would come 20 years later.
However, at this time I was so burned out on mutants that I did not pick up Wolverine again despite Hama being on the title.
Posted by: Chris | June 3, 2015 7:09 PM
Chris, the problem with the "Roma's spell ended when they went through the Siege Perilous" theory is that Betsy and Ali were still invisible in issues 256-260.
Posted by: Michael | June 3, 2015 7:53 PM
I find Hama's "G.I. Joe" to be quite readable even now. Particularly the series' prime years, roughly from the Origin of Snake-Eyes through the Cobra Civil War. It's far more mature than the cartoon show.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 4, 2015 7:39 AM
With all this talk of Goro and Raiden, am I the only one who's thinking Mortal Kombat?
Posted by: KombatGod | September 9, 2017 2:11 PM
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