Issue(s): Wolverine #48, Wolverine #49, Wolverine #50
Along with the change came what feels like a revelation about Wolverine's origin, but in reality is more like a set of teases that come as close to pretending to be actual revelations as possible without actually committing to anything.
We start with Wolverine heading to a Weapon X facility in Alberta, Canada thanks to memory flashes that he had in Wolverine #46. Accompanying him are Jubilee and a tracker named Harry Tabeshaw that previously worked for the guy that was displaying Hunter in Darkness (also in issues #45-46).
Inside Wolverine finds evidence that he was there previously in the form of claw marks on the walls. He also has vague memories of being there, and he finds a car that used to be his (we saw it in the Weapon X storyline), with a little pouch and an extra key on the keychain in the ignition.
And once he's inside, he starts having flashbacks, some from the Weapon X story (i checked and the idea that he was unusually heavy even before the Weapon X program was in the original; it raised my eyebrows since it seems to imply that Wolverine already had adamantium)...
...and some new.
The guy crashing through the window in the scan above is code named Mastodon, and he was supposed to have been a partner of Sabretooth and Wolverine. But you can see that even these scenes are said by an overhead voice to be memory implants.
Silver Fox is also in these "memories", but she's playing the role of a terrorist (and note that she's wearing the pouch we saw in the car). And her partner in the scan below is Professor Thorton, the guy that was running the Weapon X program in the Marvel Comics Presents story.
A scene from the rustic area that we saw in the flashback in Wolverine #10 is seen on a calendar during the above scenario, suggesting that it too was just a memory implant.
After flashing through these memories, Wolverine decides to head back to the X-Men. He therefore misses a machine labeled 02 Shiva.
When he's back at the X-Mansion, Wolverine has Jean Grey and Professor X use their telepathy to enter his head to help him unlock his memories. But it's made clear from the beginning that what he's experiencing may not be his actual memories. We see Wolverine hanging out with Sabretooth in Cuba. Sabretooth is upset about the JFK assassination as well as the killing of Oswald (a "red herring"). It's also implied that Sabretooth and Wolverine are really Americans, not Canadians.
Wolverine continues through these memories even though Professor X and Jean warn him that his memory has been tampered with by experts and that they've set traps, and if he continues, he may find himself "reverting" to a more "anti-social state". Eventually Wolverine gets so involved in the memories that he tears out of the bonds that Xavier and Grey were using to restrain him, and that ends the attempt to unlock his memories. When it's over, Wolverine tears off his brown and tan costume, shouting that he's not an animal, he's an X-Man.
I mentioned in the entry for Uncanny X-Men #273-277 that, when talking to John Byrne, Jim Lee took credit for putting Wolverine back in his "original" costume, with the irony that Byrne was the one who put Wolverine in the brown costume because it was more appropriate for an animal themed character. But Larry Hama does a good job of addressing Byrne's implied complaint, since Wolverine is rejecting this costume specifically because it makes him seem more like an animal. It would make more sense if Wolverine therefore went back to the generic X-Men uniform that he wore in UX #273 instead of going back to his original costume, since going back to his original costume does imply the exact regression that he is trying to avoid.
For the double-sized issue #50 (which has a special cut-out cover), before putting on his new/old costume, Wolverine raids the SHIELD helicarrier while it is docking for fuel. He confronts Nick Fury and demands that Fury access all of the files on him. Fury said in Wolverine #42 that he had information on Wolverine but it was "ultra hush" and he couldn't provide it. But now Wolverine drops the code names that he and Sabretooth used while they were in Cuba, and that's enough to get Fury to give up the info.
When Wolverine's files are accessed, it attracts the attention of a sect of Hydra.
And we also see Professor Thorton and Carol Hines (from the original Weapon X program, now working in that "Pest Control" department at the Department of Agriculture) getting nervous about Wolverine's investigation, although Thorton is confident that "Shiva" will handle it.
Before the files from Fury are fully processed, Wolverine learns enough to say that the CIA was really behind Weapon X, and he finds a new location to visit. Here's Wolverine wearing his "original" costume, which Wolverine wore fairly recently already in Spider-Man #10-12, before this story was published. And it's a good thing Jean Grey is thinking about how Wolverine's behavior is reverting, since otherwise i would have just assumed he was his normal grumpy self, and with good reason due to what he's learning.
Inside the new location in Windsor, Ontario, Wolverine finds a number of studio sets that were presumably used to create all his fake memories. He takes some relief in seeing that the picture on the calendar in this studio doesn't have his cottage from Wolverine #10, but he's still pretty confused.
In addition to sets that he recognizes, there are some that he's never seen, and we'll learn that they were used to create memories for other participants in the Weapon X program, including Silver Fox. Thorton will also say that they saved money by giving multiple operatives the same implants.
Wolverine eventually makes his way to an imposing door (which he previously saw in one of his memories) and finds that the extra key on his keychain unlocks it (despite the fact that the key looks like it opens an old cottage door and not a heavy high tech one). Observing from a monitor, Thorton is impressed that Wolverine still has his key, saying that "the other one never even found his key", so Wolverine is "exceptional".
Behind the door, Wolverine finds Shiva.
Shiva is really more of a computer program with multiple bodies than a robot. Kind of like a sentinel, it has learning capabilities. So while Wolverine is able to defeat it easily enough the first time...
...it's more difficult the second time.
Meanwhile, Professor X and Cyclops continue to sift through the data from Fury, and find the proposal for the Weapon X program. The idea that it included a memo on the "suppression of aging factors" is interesting.
They also find a list of people in the program, or i guess just animal code names.
Then we learn that the Hydra leader we saw earlier is Silver Fox. She approaches Professor Thorton.
We see that she remembers the cabin scenario fondly too, but Thorton's reaction says that it really was just an implant.
Wolverine finally destroys the second incarnation of Shiva, and then reacts to screams from Carol Hines. He finds that Thorton has died, but not before he hit an override on the Shiva program so it would release the remaining robots and move on from Wolverine to the next person on the list. And in the final sign of Wolverine's new/old attitude, we see that he doesn't care about that.
So what did we really learn? Mostly that Wolverine's head is fully of memory implants, and that the flashbacks from Wolverine #10 were probably false. The most concrete thing is that Silver Fox is alive; this is her first (published) non-flashback appearance. The second most concrete thing is that she and Sabretooth really were in a Weapon X program together, but the details of their relationships are more unknown than ever. It's worth noting that it used to be that Wolverine had a mysterious past, but it wasn't necessarily mysterious to him. I guess there became a point where if his past was going to be mysterious, it had to be mysterious to him as well, since he eventually becomes friendly enough with the other X-Men that he would have told them about it. But the "revelations" here just seem to over-complicate things, and, worse, open the door for endless reversals, since anything "remembered" from now on can turn out to be a memory implant.
These issues are still quite fun in terms of Wolverine delving into the archaeology of his own missing past, for the same reason that previous issues of the Hama/Silvestri/Green Wolverine run are fun (even if the fight with Shiva is no three way battle between Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, and the Hunter). But the story already feels like a cheat, and my impression is that it only got worse as time went on.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: We're meant to see Wolverine's new attitude reflected beginning in X-Men #4. And it does seem that his costume change is meant to be a permanent one, so we should avoid brown costume appearances after this.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showCarol Hines, Cyclops, Forge, Harry Tabeshaw, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Nick Fury, Professor Thorton, Professor X, Shiva, Silver Fox, Wolverine
The Lotus Seven was the car Patrick McGoohan drove around London in in The Prisoner.
Posted by: Tony Lewis | November 13, 2015 3:13 PM
The memory implant plot device can lead to some bad storytelling, but it's also its own failsafe since said bad stuff can be written out as more implants.
I also didn't see Wolverine as becoming noticably more anti-social or gruff than normal, even in subsequent issues of this very title. I think the problem is that the character, like Ben Grimm, is already very well defined with a very clear voice and you can't really move away from that without totally changing them.
Also, I believe Harry shows up at least once more as the pilot who flies Wolverine to fight the Phalanx during the end of the Phalanx Covenant crossover.
Posted by: Red Comet | November 13, 2015 4:03 PM
The memory implants do open up the door to endless reversals, but I don't think you can hold that against Larry Hama.
What we CAN hold against him (or perhaps the X-Editors of this era) is endlessly teasing bits of Wolverine's past but taking far to long to reveal something concrete, eventually ending up revealing barely any concrete stuff at all.
This could've been the definitive history of Wolverine, which later writers would've been forced to work within. Instead it just further hyped up Logan's mysterious past, thus inspiring a decade or two of writes to write more stories about it. And since no one was paying attention to the continuity of those stories, eventually the memory implants HAD to be used to explain why we have 6 different versions of Logan's first meeting with Sabretooth, 12 different versions of him discovering his powers and about a gazillion dead first loves.
Posted by: Berend | November 13, 2015 4:39 PM
Why Marvel and Jim Lee took Logan out of the superior brown and tan costume baffles me.
A grim and gritty street level character has no business in bright, pineapple colored duds.
Posted by: Bob | November 13, 2015 5:07 PM
I'm not the biggest Jubilee fan, but is she supposed to be that much of a Wolverine fangirl?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 13, 2015 5:31 PM
Luis,several writers have written her with a crush on Wolverine.
Posted by: Michael | November 13, 2015 7:41 PM
After studying Claremont's "X-Men" on my own and on this site, and as a big fan of Larry Hama and Marc Silvestri, these issues come across as later writers attempting to use Claremont's ideas. Nothing we see here contradicts what Claremont did in his original run [on any series] except insofar as Wolverine had a "mysterious past." It's like Claremont left the title long ago, but set up a template to get it through #50, and timed it to coincide with the upcoming "X-Men" #300 and his long-term plans, and after he's gone, his successors do the best they can with what's available.
Larry Hama did great work on his "Wolverine" run to this point, but this reads like taking Claremont's cast-off ideas and possible stories and forging Claremont's work. Sad to say, this is as good as it gets.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 13, 2015 10:11 PM
This was my first Wolverine story and if you were a young snot like I was you simply were not cool on the playground if you were unaware of this "monumentous" arc of issues. At the time and being so young, the mystery about who Wolverine was and exactly which portions of his past were real and false implants was fascinating. Looking back at it now, my fondness for the stories is really just childhood nostalgia masking the badness within. I still enjoy them, but the countless attempts of asking more questions instead of asking them, really became infuriating, but still kept me interested in finding out just what the deal with Wolvie was, which was probably Marvel's true intention, to keep drawing it out until interest wained. Too bad what we did get at the dawn of the new Millennium was a total let down of sorts.
Posted by: Darren | November 13, 2015 10:35 PM
Just imagine what it was like at the time, and I was a relatively-late-comer to the X-titles. I started reading with the Mutant Massacre, and Wolverine had already been set up to be what he became. Back issues sealed the deal. OK, fine. But when they started making his mysterious past about memory implants, that's when I gave up.
I really don't envy you who started reading here, but my sympathy is directed at those who started reading earlier. Sucks to be us.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 14, 2015 1:22 AM
@Michael, re Wolverine's Canadian-ness. In issue #49 during the telepathic memory unlocking sequence, Wolverine and Sabretooth are in the bar in Cuba, watching the reports on the assassinations of JFK and Oswald. Cuban soldiers burst in and call them "Yanqui spies". Wolverine says to Sabretooth, "He called us Yanks! Doesn't he know we're Canadians?" Sabretooth responds, "Canucks? You're a real bundle o' laughs today, partner!"
(If one was looking for additional circumstantial evidence, there's also 1) the fact that Wolverine's most substantial pre-Weapon X memory of being Canadian comes from the Wolverine #10 flashbacks, which are revealed to be memory implants, and 2) the fact that the Weapon X program is said to be in Windsor, Ontario, which is so close to America it's practically in Michigan (whose state university's mascot is the...) and it was funded by the CIA, not the Canadian government. But it was the Cuban scene that i was referring to.)
Posted by: fnord12 | November 14, 2015 1:38 AM
Weird, then, that Marvel went back on what was implied in issue 49 so quickly.
Posted by: Michael | November 14, 2015 10:28 AM
I'm not sure the dialogue in 49 is casting doubt on Wolverine's nationality so much as Sabertooth's—my recollection of the early '90s status quo for these characters is that Wolverine was Canadian but Sabretooth was American, which wouldn't necessarily have been the assumption when Sabertooth was meant to be Wolverine's father and had first been active, in Iron Fist's mag, in Canada.
Fnord, I too never realized that the costume reversion was meant to signify a character reversion as well. I somewhat disagree with ChrisW on this point: it seems to me the point of the reversion, which is probably Harras's idea--another "back to basics" move--is to get away from the more mature and balanced direction that Claremont intended, and partially executed, for Wolverine. The retconning of #10, Silver Fox, and the Wolverine-Sabertooth relationship is also a move away from Claremont's intentions, as indeed was Windsor-Smith's Weapon X series.
Harras--again, I'm assuming it's him as x-line "showrunner," not Hama as an author doing what he wants--seems to try a couple of times to revert Wolverine to a pristine, savage state, as we'll see to truly awful effect after issue 100 of this series. What we see there goes beyond reversion, visually, but I think Harras wanted a dangerous, edgy Wolverine that could ignore Claremont's late '80s development of the character. (Who was still not exactly a Quasar-style boy scout.)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 14, 2015 2:30 PM
Walter, I'm not sure what you disagree with me on. It sounds like we agree that the old costume was hideous, or at least you aren't attacking my view that the old costume was hideous. A reversion of Wolvie, directed by Bob Harras? That's probably the best way to summarize what's going on here.
My point is simply that giving Wolverine a mysterious past is bad enough - but executed successfully enough that it works - but then making it all about memory implants is a horrible idea, and I think that it's Bob Harras putting together Claremont's various ideas and foisting them on whatever writers he hires. This story - and the Mojo three-parter coming up - is as good as it got, as far as that goes.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 14, 2015 7:00 PM
Just a difference of emphasis: these issues seem less to me like forging Claremont's work than demolishing it, doing away with the Wolverine characterization Claremont was developing, retconning away the last issue of the series written by Claremont, and taking Silver Fox and Sabertooth in directions very much unlime what Coaremont had intended. These issues seem like deliberately cutting Claremont out of Wolverine's development, as much as possible considering that Claremont was the main guy who'd written the character.
But then, the purpose of this demolition was to get back to a basic Wolverine who, of course, was also Claremont's work, and even if the concepts and characters got mangled, it was still Claremont who had introduced most of them in the first place. So forgery is a reasonable metaphor. Wolverine and the X-Men generally will have this problem: they remain Claremontian and tend to return to Claremontian roots even when the line's editor wants to get beyond Claremont or outdo Claremont.
On a different note, I'm grateful to Fnord for helping me understand what the x-office was trying to do with Wolverine at this time. I'm one of what must have been several hundred thousand readers who bought Lee's X-Men issues but not the Wolverine comic or Marvel Comics Presents, so Lee's revelations about Wolvie in X-Men 4-7 seemed even more confusing than Lee's awful writing had to make them. I caught up on Weapon X and this series later, but only seeing them reviewed in order makes it clear that editorial was being pretty systematic about remaking Wolverine and his back story. With those Lee issues I felt like it was all out of nowhere. (And to be fair, a lot of it was.)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 14, 2015 8:51 PM
Ok. It's just a difference of perspective as a member of the audience. I think Claremont probably came up with most-if-not-all of the ideas for Wolverine, and the next year or so is basically Bob Harras and Jim Lee picking and choosing which ideas they want to work with. Wolverine as an interesting character - who even Claremont wasn't interested in for the first twenty or thirty issues - and they're trying to get back to their own ideal "Wolverine" who has long since progressed from whatever they see him as.
I would say they were forging Claremont's work. Using his ideas as much as possible because they made for good stories. Changing things when they needed to, because, well, things had changed. It's not possible to get back to a "basic Wolverine" because the "basic Wolverine" was a horrible character, even Claremont didn't like him, and he only became interesting when John Byrne brought in other people who knew him, and at this late point, trying to get back to the "basic Wolverine" is just making him a psychopathic killer, exactly what Logan has been trying to prevent all this time. Welcome to the 90s.
I think we have the same ideas, we're just coming from opposite directions.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 15, 2015 6:51 PM
It's probably why he was the least popular character prior to 1978. Written as nothing more than the resident hot head and the third point in the new romantic triangle between Slim and Jeannie. You don't back talk the Professor and Cyclops and try to move in on his girl and expect fan support without some kind of pathos.
Posted by: Darren | November 15, 2015 9:14 PM
But there wasn't a love triangle. It didn't exist until "Classic X-Men" had to retcon Wolverine into having subtlety that he just didn't have originally. "X-Men" #100, Jean just loses it and screams at Wolvie how unlikeable he is, and God knows she's tried, but she just flat-out gives up. "X-Men" #101, Jean's in the hospital, and the cheesy second-person narration shows us Wolverine buying her flowers, his thought balloons saying "Maybe we'll get ta talkin'" and "what Wolverine wants, Wolverine gets" before he sees Jean's friends hovering around her. The narration points out that Wolverine should have know that Jean's friends would do that. Or maybe not. He's never had any friends.
That's the biggest problem I have with all the retcons, if the early Wolverine was anything, he was a despicable asshole, and usually a homicidal maniac. Just making him part of a triangle with Jean and Scott is bad enough. But the triangle was never set up until Claremont's retcons in "Classic X-Men." I love thinking about children's superheroes in a more adult manner, but there's nothing in Claremont's run that would set up a Wolverine/Jean attraction, not at all. At best, she might get hot for him, and not want to tell Scott, but she and Wolverine had very little time together before she became Phoenix and died, and Wolverine was still the horrible person Claremont originally wrote him as. With no friends. Not even Carol Danvers, Michael Rossi or Nick Fury. He simply is no good with people. It's not until he meets Mariko that he shows even the slightest growth.
I get why he might home in on Jean as a hot chick that he wants to celebrate a big victory over Krakoa with, but she shoots him down on the spot because she loves Scott. Trying to make that a love triangle is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard of in comics. Ororo's walking around naked, why not hook up with her?
Posted by: ChrisW | November 15, 2015 9:37 PM
Carlisle is later revealed to be John Wraith, and Andre is the Professor from Weapon X. But who's Morse? According to the Team X roster found two issues from this one (#50), the group's members are Wolverine, Sabretooth, Fox, Kestrel, Vole, Mastodon and Wildcat. Wolvie, Sabretooth and Mastodon are obvious, Fox is Silver Fox, Kestrel is John Wraith, Vole is Psi-Borg (who's behind the scenes messing with everyone telepathically) – and Wildcat is Maverick. Out of that list, the only one not definitively participating in the staged scenario is Wildcat/ Maverick. And the only person who doesn't definitively correspond to anyone is Morse. Does Morse = Maverick? Is this the first appearance of Maverick, published two months before his debut in X-Men #5?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 8, 2016 7:23 AM
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