By various (Marvel/Panini Publishing UK)
The Wolverine juggernaut rolls confidently on with this bulky yet absorbing compendium of bombastic battles starring a selection of worthy adversaries as rendered by some of the biggest names in comics.
The carnage begins with a sleekly impressive turn from illustrators Paul Smith and Bob Wiacek, as the feral mutant Logan goes wild in Japan after the X-Men are poisoned at his wedding. With fellow mutant powerhouse Rogue in tow Wolverine carves a bloody trail to the Yakuza mercenary Silver Samurai and the deadly mastermind Viper in Chris Claremont’s ‘To Have and Have Not’ (from Uncanny X-Men # 173, September 1983).
This is followed by the concluding episode of the six part miniseries Kitty Pryde and Wolverine (April, 1985). ‘Honor’ by Claremont and Allen Milgrom features a big battle between Logan and an immortal Ninja magician named Ogun, but unless you’ve actually read the preceding five issues somewhere else, that’s about all you’ll comprehend plot-wise from this underrated saga which completely rewrote the character of the youngest X-Man and her relationship to the Canadian crazyman.
‘Wounded Wolf’ is a visceral, visual masterpiece from Uncanny X-Men # 205, (May 1986), courtesy of Claremont and Barry Windsor-Smith as Wolverine faces the vengeance-crazed cyborg Lady Deathstrike in a compelling tale guest-starring little Katie Power from Power Pack.
Marc Silvestri and Dan Green illustrated the first part of a classic clash with ex-Hellfire Club villain Donald Pierce (‘Fever Dream’ Uncanny X-Men # 251, November 1989) and his band of cyborg assassins the Reavers, whilst Rick Leonardi and Kent Williams finished Claremont’s brutal tale in the concluding ‘Where’s Wolverine?!?’
There’s no let-up in the extreme action and bloodletting in the untitled tale that follows as Peter David and Sam Kieth introduce the grotesque and decidedly warped Adamantium Assassin Cyber in an eight chapter, 64 page saga that originally ran in the fortnightly anthology Marvel Comics Presents (1991) whilst John Byrne, Jim Lee and Scott Williams pit the old Canuckle-head (albeit incredibly briefly and please don’t make explain that peculiarly inept nick-name) against toxic Cold War living weapon Omega Red in the first part of a much longer tale that begins in ‘The Resurrection and the Flesh’ from X-Men #4 (January 1992).
From the same month in Wolverine #50, Larry Hama, Marc Silvestri and Dan Green’s ‘Dreams of Gore: Phase 3’ reveals tantalizing snippets from Logan’s past life as secret agent when he fights a rogue computer program and a past lover in a choppy but oddly satisfying tale, whilst ‘The Dying Game’ (Wolverine #90, February 1995) by Hama, Adam Kubert, Mark Farmer and Dan Green, although not the final battle between Logan and his arch-foe Sabretooth it was proclaimed, is certainly one of the most cathartic and impressive.
‘Better than Best’ by Tom DeFalco, Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz (Wolverine #123, April 1998) finds a physically depleted Logan imprisoned and tortured by two of his oldest foes Roughouse (a giant troll) and Bloodscream (a vampire) in an unusually insightful tale of perseverance and the grudge matches conclude – once more unsatisfactorily I’m afraid – with parts one and two of the three part epic ‘Bloodsport’ by Frank Tieri, Dan Fraga and Norm Rapmund (Wolverine #167 and 168, October-November 2001). Herein the mutant mite competes in a gory martial arts/superpowers tournament against such second-raters as Taskmaster, Puma and the Terrible Toad just so he can confront Viper and the man he cannot defeat, the telepathic serial killer Mr. X.
The old, old plot still has plenty of punch here but I find it incomprehensible to have 18 pages of data-files and biographies of Wolverine’s foes pad out the book whilst omitting the 20 or so pages that would end the story! Visually this book contains some of Wolverine’s best moments, but I’ll never understand sacrificing story-content for pictures and punches…
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