Issue(s): Wolverine #38, Wolverine #39, Wolverine #40, Wolverine #41, Wolverine #42, Wolverine #43, Wolverine #44
This is a string of stories all loosely revolving around Elsie Dee, the robot child that was created by the Reavers in the previous arc. These issues partially fall into Wolverine's bi-weekly summer period, but unlike most books when they go bi-weekly, Wolverine doesn't have an "event". There are actually several smaller stories sewn together here by timing and because Elsie Dee is present. The stories are bolstered with a number of guest appearances and a seeming revelation about Wolverine's past (which turns out to be more of a tease).
We start with Storm in Los Angeles, breaking up a gambling ring. She wants to know why the hoods running it have been posting notices offering a reward to locate Wolverine. After futilely trying to shoot her, they show her a video of Wolverine, accompanied by a little girl, robbing one of their tables. They then try with the guns again and it doesn't work out well for them.
The Wolverine robbing the gambling table is really Albert, a robot lookalike built by Donald Pierce and the Reavers, and the little girl is of course Elsie Dee. The idea is simply to draw Wolverine out, and then when he investigates, Elsie Dee, who has been filled with explosives, will detonate, killing Wolverine. The problem is that Elsie Dee's programming was supposed to keep her intellect at the level of a real five-year-old, but Bonebreaker, who was supposed to be monitoring her intelligence install while she was being created, wound up letting her receive full adult intelligence. This is a point that is explained to the audience twice during this arc. It's meant in an "every issue is someone's first sort of way", providing that info for people that may have missed it. But Hama repeats the scene pretty much exactly, so that it feels like Bonebreaker and Reese are stuck in a loop.
In addition to Elsie Dee being more intelligent than intended, she has been raiding "Radio Huts" to get parts to upgrade Albert. And that works out so well that he winds up experiencing emotions.
The modem line is funny. Elsie Dee's accent puts me in the mind of Winda Wester from Howard the Duck, and so i started treating this whole story as more of a comedy, and i think it works better that way, at least in the beginning.
Storm stays with some of the gambling goons and finds out when the other goons get a bead on the location of Albert.
I like the way Storm is depicted in this story so far. Very strong and regal. At least one reader writes in to complain that she's written poorly, though, citing the fact that she sometimes uses contractions.
Anyway, the real Wolverine gets to Albert before Storm.
Wolverine quickly figures out that Albert is a robot and acts accordingly.
Storm arrives after Wolverine has dispatched Albert, and then Elsie Dee starts calling for help from a nearby burning building. The possibility that Elsie is also a robot is raised immediately, but Wolverine doesn't want to risk letting a real child burn, so he rushes into the building (the fire is said to be too strong for Storm to put out without summoning a monsoon).
When Wolverine braves his way through the fire for Elsie Dee, she decides that she can't go through with her programming, and warns him that she is going to explode. She's not able to stop the countdown, though. Wolverine refuses to leave her, though, deciding that she is "human" despite her robotic origins. And this is where i do have a problem with Storm's depiction. She is 100% against Wolverine risking himself for Elsie, calling her an "it" and saying that she's just a construct.
I can understand being hesitant in this situation, but Storm is also a character that reveres all life, and as an X-Men has met plenty of odd forms of life, including robotic forms like Warlock, and surely knows about characters like the Vision.
Meanwhile, Albert washes up near the gambling gangsters, and they have smarts enough to try to befriend him.
They really wind up working for him, though, taking him to a Radio Hut so that he can use a computer there to access the NSA's computer network to calculate the shutdown code for Elsie Dee's bomb.
Albert is able to calculate and transmit the code, but then he is shot down by police outside the Radio Hut, and his gangster friends are arrested. Storm makes a comment about how young girls tend to get themselves attached to Wolverine.
Elsie Dee is brought back to the X-Men's subbasement where Forge analyzes her. The problem is that her bomb countdown has only been halted, not stopped completely. And even regardless of that, she's still loaded with explosives. Clearly the solution is to build her a new body and transfer her memory and personality circuits over, but they don't get that far.
Albert, meanwhile, has been stored in the police's evidence locker, and he uses the electronics equipment and body armor in there to rebuild himself.
He escapes, freeing his gangster friends along the way (but they go separate ways), and then starts making his way across the country to get back to Elsie Dee. By, you know, stealing a stealth bomber.
Across the country, Wolverine and friends are just hanging out, with Jubilee expressing a lot of jealousy.
Elsie eventually catches the signal from Albert saying that he's coming, and she takes Wolverine to the top of the World Trade Center so that she can read Albert's signal more clearly. Albert is under the impression that if he can kill Wolverine, Elsie Dee will be out of danger, so he winds up slamming the stealth plane into Wolverine.
Wolverine survives, and they fight on the plane.
Having upgraded himself, Albert is tougher for the rematch.
But Elsie has also made it onto the plane, and she breaks up the fight. Wolverine is happy to let Albert and Elsie go.
Unfortunately, the US military catches up with the plane and blasts it, plugging Albert full of bullets and causing the plane, with Wolverine and Elsie, to crash into the East River.
So far we've had one or two stories, depending on how you count it. Issues #38-39 had Wolverine and Storm dealing with Albert and Elsie Dee in LA, and issue #40 was half downtime, exploring the character of Elsie, and then featuring a rematch fight with Albert. Two mini-arcs but definitely related. Beginning with issue #41, the stories really stop being about Elsie and Albert, although they remain as participants. But let me pause here and say that i had every expectation that i would hate Elsie Dee. And i definitely do hate her pwecoshious accent. But Larry Hama managed to make the story work. I definitely don't think we should take it too seriously - i think the scene of Wolverine getting slammed into by a plane is meant to be more outrageous than totally rad - but Hama does manage to do some serious drama with Elsie even while having a lot of fun with Jubilee's jealousy and everything else.
Issue #41-42 begin with Wolverine and Elsie washing up in New York's sewers after the crash. A storm makes it impossible for rescue workers (and Forge and Jubilee) to search for Wolverine in the river. And the storm also threatens to cause the sewer to flood.
Also in the sewer is Sabretooth, who has apparently just finished battling a horde of albino alligators.
Wolverine is hallucinating, reliving a flashback that we first saw in Wolverine #10, after Sabretooth had killed Silver Fox. Sabretooth hears Wolverine ranting and attacks, and, as he does so, announces that he's Wolverine's father.
Note that the line in the original flashback, after "She's just an Indian", was not in the original story. But it was originally Chris Claremont and John Byrne's intention that Sabretooth be Wolverine's father. It's just something that fell by the wayside or that Claremont changed his mind about later. Considering that Claremont never did get around to revealing that and that nothing better had come along at this point, i like the idea of going with the original idea. And let's clear up a few other things too, like Mystique's relationship with Destiny and Nightcrawler. For a while it was intriguing to let things simmer, but they've gone on for too long. However, as we'll see, Hama has a fake-out in store for us.
There's also the fact that Wolverine seems shocked by this revelation, practically mimicking Luke Skywalker with his "Nooooooo!". In Wolverine's original mini-series, Wolverine said that he knew his father. Now maybe Wolverine is upset because he's (seemingly) finding out that he's adopted, or maybe his head is a jumble and what he remembers from one minute differs from the next. But the original idea seemed to be less that Wolverine was in the dark about his past than that the readers were kept in the dark (with the mystery of where he got his adamantium skeleton being the first thing that got turned into a mystery).
While Wolverine fights Sabretooth, we pan around to other people in the sewers.
The flooding sewer presents a problem for the Morlocks that still live there, so Masque has two generic strong guy mutants manipulate the pipes to keep the water away from them. It winds up all getting directed to where Wolverine and Sabretooth are fighting.
And Elsie Dee runs into Cable.
Cable isn't willing to shoot open a door that Sabretooth and Wolverine are fighting behind, in part because it means that he'll release the floodwaters and in part because "Wolverine doesn't exactly bring out the altruistic side of me" (as we first learned in New Mutants #94). So Elsie Dee gets Cable's gun from him by distracting him with her removable head.
And she blows the door open. So now Cable and Elsie are also in danger of getting caught in the flood. Sabretooth, meanwhile, is making up for lost time by referring to Wolverine as his son in every other panel.
For his part, Wolverine holds on to the possibility that Sabretooth is lying or crazy.
Elsie manages to free everyone from the flood by taking off her head and letting her body explode, clearing up the gears that they were all getting pushed against. They wind up getting washed back out to the river, where they are found by Nick Fury and SHIELD, who were called in by Forge.
SHIELD take blood samples from everyone to test for hepatitis and the like, and Sabretooth is sedated. But the saccharin conversation between Wolverine and what's left of Elsie (who is dying without the power source that was in her body) becomes too much for Sabretooth, and he overcomes the sedation and breaks out of his restraints.
Sabretooth winds up getting thrown from the SHIELD helicopter with Elsie biting on his neck.
As i said it works better if you think of it more as a humor story, although there are serious elements as well.
Elsie is located and rescued by Albert, who was still in the river. He enters the Morlock tunnels and forces Masque to supply him with equipment to repair Elsie.
Meanwhile, a SHIELD scientist looks at Sabretooth and Wolverine's blood samples and confirms that they are not father and son. Nick Fury reveals that he knew this, although Sabretooth does think he's Wolverine's father. Fury is bound by an oath to not reveal any more information to Wolverine, because it's top secret.
Wolverine demands to be let out of the SHIELD helicopter, and now we really get away from anything related to the story we started with. Which, to be clear, is fine. I just think it's worth noting that while Marvel felt the need to do something special for most bi-weekly summer books, Wolverine was allowed to just do normal stories.
Anyway, Wolverine literally drops out of the sky.
Note the billboard with the yeti thing. That is the Hunter In Darkness creature from Wolverine #34. He'll be appearing again in the next arc. Lady Deathstrike comes to the US and takes an interest in the Hunter advertisements as part of her next plan to attack Wolverine.
But the main story has Wolverine going to the zoo in Central Park and noticing that all the animals are disturbed, including the wolverine.
And this turns out to be the work of a psycho named Linus.
Linus has killed the real zookeeper so that he can torture the animals. So Wolverine lets his namesake out of its cage so it can extract vengeance (despite the fact that Linus says that he's mentally ill, and almost certainly is).
Linus isn't actually mauled by the wolverine; we see him fleeing from it.
The final story is the Peter David fill-in. It begins with one of the weakest segues in history, with Wolverine thinking about how he was recently in water, which reminds him of that other time he was in water.
The story itself is pretty awful, too. Wolverine was once on a cruise where there were three pregnant ladies, and some monster started attacking the ladies, and it's because it turns out that one of the ladies was destined to have a baby that would grow up to fight the monster. The battle has been going on since the dawn of time, thanks to reincarnations. Wolverine stops the monster for now.
A weak end to a string of stories that were otherwise pretty fun. The teasing and deepening of the mystery of Wolverine's past is, in my opinion, the wrong move, and my impression from having read scattered issues of Hama's run in realtime is that this tendency continues to the detriment of Hama's run. But for the short term, this is a cute set of adventure stories with some fun action (except for the zoo story, which is a little insubstantial). Marc Silvestri is great, doing just as well with the downtime and humorous moments as with the action.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 301,459. Single issue closest to filing date = 247,800.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: A weekend passes between issues #39 and #40, during which time Elsie Dee is brought back to the X-Mansion for tests and Albert rebuilds himself in the LA police's evidence locker. Other than that, these stories all follow each other directly. The opening splash panel in issue #44 takes place while Wolverine is still in Central Park (although the rest of the issue takes place at some point in the past).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showAlbert, Bonebreaker, Cable (Adult), Elsie Dee, Forge, Jubilee, Lady Deathstrike, Linus Dorfman, Masque, Molokai, Murray Reese, Nick Fury, Reno, Sabretooth, Storm, White Bishop (Donald Pierce), Wolverine
"I can understand being hesitant in this situation, but Storm is also a character that reveres all life, and as an X-Men has met plenty of odd forms of life, including robotic forms like Warlock, and surely knows about characters like the Vision. "
Would that be the same Storm who in Uncanny X-Men #219 had this discussion about Havok - "And he learns that the X-Men previously mind-wiped him "for your own protection". They then seemingly seriously consider killing him to keep him quiet."?
I think Storm does have the same concern for a "robot" that she has for humans.;)
Posted by: clyde | October 22, 2015 2:10 PM
You know seeing Elsa Dee's head bash right into Cable is just hilarious. I think we found our cure to over-doing the 90s.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 22, 2015 3:09 PM
Kveto, that was just one incident. It's not like Storm went along with Xavier's plan to hide Karma's capture by the Shadow King from the New Mutants and did nothing to rescue her for months- um, wait a second she did. OK, but's it not like she almost drowned her friends stopping Mastermind- ok, she did that as well. Well, it's not like she stabbed her boyfriend without letting him explain his side of the story- um, she did that too.
Posted by: Michael | October 22, 2015 7:46 PM
Storm's dialogue is off. You can make the argument that it's still in character for her, but there's still something wrong about it. If nothing else, why is she intervening on one of Wolverine's personal missions if she's so willing to let him go on those personal missions in the first place? If she trusts him enough to let him go off on his own, then she doesn't need to get involved. If she wants info from random thugs who want to kill Wolvie, then she should be asking Wolvie who wants to kill him and punish him if he holds anything back.
This goes back to the first few years of Claremont's "X-Men," where they literally didn't know his first name. The leprechauns at Cassidy Keep knew it, Vindicator knew it, he started to tell Mariko just before the big fight began (and one assumes he told her in their private conversation the following issue) but none of the X-Men knew Wolverine's first name until he took Nightcrawler back to Canada to meet Jimmie and Heather. In #98, an issue that specifically said the New X-Men had been together for over a year, training daily, Banshee suddenly learned that Wolverine's claws were part of him and not just on his costume. This is not how a team works.
Partial disclosure: I have been in US Military Special Operations teamrooms. I have seen a long list of questions posted on the wall for anybody who looks at them. "Do you know your buddy's first name? Do you know his wife/girlfriend's name? Do you know his childrens' names? Do you know their birthdays? Do you know what beer he likes to drink? Do you know his hobbies?" Etc. And the punchline to that list is "If you can't answer 'yes' to all of these questions, YOU ARE WRONG!" It builds teamwork. Given what we've learned, Wolverine should be the first person to tell what he knows, and if he has memory problems, there are telepaths available. He should be the one asking for help, because it might be useful to his teammates in the future.
For all the team-building scenes, and the emphasis on the danger waiting for them, this is where Claremont was at his most ridiculous. Larry Hama, who knew a bit more about being on a team, and had his own authorial voice, was fitting himself in. As much as I love this storyline - because it's awesome - it's where Claremont lost control of his characters. They aren't being done "wrong" (I loved the way Forge, Jubilee and Cable were included) but they aren't "right" either.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 22, 2015 10:48 PM
For another example, Hama wrote "G.I. Joe Special Missions" and an early issue compared the Joe pilots with their fancy planes with a Cobra pilot with his fancy planes [an SR-71 no less.] The Cobra pilot abused his flight crew, and ultimately died because they returned the favor. Meanwhile the Joes knew everybody's names and thanked people for putting in extra work. "I visited your son last night while you were busy, he took the operation like a trooper. Here's a toy for him, but it'll look better if he gets it from his Dad." When the Joe pilot is shot down over the ocean, everybody scrambles to help. When the Cobra pilot is shot down, the rescue crew will get there when they get there, no point working too hard. And there's a great punchline with the Maguffin (a break-out tool in case pilots are shot down over water.) The Joe pilot never needs it because he looks after his team and they look after him. The Cobra pilot... Not so much.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 22, 2015 11:11 PM
Two of the thugs, Reno and Molokai, appear again in issue 74.
Posted by: Michael | October 22, 2015 11:24 PM
Most people think of Larry Hama as the GI Joe guy or the military adventure guy, but he's also one of the best comedy writers in the business. There's a lot of hilarity in the Elsie Dee story in between the more dramatic moments.
I read his GI Joe run pretty recently and was also surprised at all the comic relief in there. Good stuff.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 22, 2015 11:28 PM
As to the Wolverine/Sabretooth material:
I believe Claremont and Byrne did intend for him to be Wolverine's father, maybe Byrne more so than Claremont.
Father or not, Claremont's direction with Sabretooth was that he was never actually a member of the Marauders and maybe was never even a costumed super-villain. The costumed Sabretooth that was in the Marauders and fought super-heroes was always one of Sinister's clones. The real Sabretooth had never even met the X-men nor had any reason to fight them. He was just the unstoppable psycho that would torture Wolverine on his birthday every year as seen in the Silver Fox story from Wolverine #10 and that one Classic X-men back-up story.
This Sabretooth clone set-up is the X-men version of the Walter Simonson Doombot out where any bad showing or story you don't like is really a Doombot. So any Sabretooth story you didn't like was a clone except for those two where Claremont explicitly stated he was the real deal.
The clone plot device became defunct pretty much immediately after Claremont left the X-books.
Writing this out has also reminded me of how important the Claremont written back-up stories in Classic X-men were despite them seeming to just be filler at first glance. There's a lot of info in them about plots Claremont never got to do before being ousted. They also began to spell out Claremont's intended origin for Mr. Sinister and Gambit.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 22, 2015 11:45 PM
@Michael, added Reno and Molokai. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 23, 2015 7:53 AM
@ChrisW - We don't have to assume that Wolverine told Mariko his name later - we explicitly see him do it just before the X-Men leave Japan. (In other words, you're right in your views on his name).
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 23, 2015 9:11 AM
I missed that one. "Essential X-Men" Volume 1 ends with Wolverine and Mariko having a private conversation. I didn't have access to the other "Essential" volumes until just recently, I just assumed that since their previous conversation was interrupted literally in the middle of Wolverine telling Mariko his name...
How weird is that? Claremont knew Wolverine's first name back when Dave Cockrum was still drawing the title, but none of the other X-Men learned it until John Byrne's run was ending? Again, Wolverine should have been one of the first people to tell everything he knows, never mind the New York State laws requiring Xavier's School to report everything about their students.
[And how does that work during tax season? "You have a Russian, a Kenyan, a German, an Irishman, and this new student from Chicago. And some Canadian whose every file is classified. Can't you at least tell us his name?" This would get worse when they add the Brazilian, the Scot, the Cheyenne, another Russian, etc. and still don't have any qualified teachers, never mind Amara or Warlock. "You have a gymnasium, but subcontract out to Stevie Hunter? You have a Cheyenne bodyguard, but every piece of information on this guy says he was white until that weird hospital incident a few months ago." No wonder Betsy just started erasing memories.]
Red Comet, I agree that it was always the intention for Sabretooth to be Wolverine's father. Your mileage may vary on how much he wanted that versus how much he had to retcon his own work versus how much actually showed up on the page. I also agree that the "Classic X-Men" back-ups were there, at least partially, to show how much work put into the earliest issues, as well as to make them line up with the later issues, as with Mr. Sinister. My favorite has always been Jean preparing for her last date with Scott, with Thunderbird's funeral (and Wolverine investigating his little brother) as a close second.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 23, 2015 7:42 PM
Oh, those aren't even the only, or even biggest, problems Xavier would have with the Feds, as Linkara's fans know...
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 25, 2015 11:31 AM
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