(Crap! X-Men Week did not start strong this week, so I must extend it until May 1st! Annoying work and sleep got in the way this week. Stupid sleep...)
Uncanny X-Men #205 was the comic that made Young Dave think, “Man, wouldn’t it be cool if Wolverine had his very own monthly series?”
I wish I could travel back in time and stop Young Dave from thinking that. But back in the Eighties the only place you could get your Wolverine on was in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men or the occasional mini-series. Marvel caught on and launched a Wolverine series in 1988, and then proceeded to put him in EVERY SINGLE BOOK THEY PUBLISHED. Be careful what you wish for, eh, hoser?
This issue, a stand alone Wolverine story (guest-starring Katie Power of Power Pack!) by Chris Claremont and artist Barry Windsor Smith was so good that Young Dave couldn’t help but want more. When it was published in 1986, a perfect, precarious balance existed between Wolverine supply and demand. Windsor Smith returned to Wolverine with his legendary and lavishly illustrated “Weapon X” storyline in 1991-1992 in Marvel Comics Presents.
In “Wounded Wolf,” the cybernetic killer Lady Deathstrike and a trio of cyborgs hunt a wounded Wolverine through a Christmastime blizzard in New York City. Only the chance intervention of plucky five-year-old Katie Power of Power Pack saves Wolverine’s back bacon. The spirited girl keeps Wolverine one step ahead of his pursuers until his healing factor kicks in. Then he guts them like fish, the end.
We begin in a place called The Body Shop, where the revenge-crazed Lady Deathstrike has just been turned into a hideous adamantium cyborg by the mysterious six-armed Spiral. Now properly equipped for some Wolverine-killin’, Deathstrike teams up with Cole, Reese, and Macon, three Hellfire Club mercs with all kinds of crazy high-tech shit sticking out of them. Can Wolverine defeat these four super-enhanced killers?
Of course Wolvie comes out on top in the end, but in the beginning of the book, when he runs into Katie Power by chance in New York City, he’s in bad shape. He is hurt so badly that he has been reduced to a guttural, animal state. I get like that on the toilet sometimes. Seriously, I turn into frickin’ caveman William Hurt from Altered States. Not pretty.
I’m oversharing again, huh?
Let’s move on. Wild & wounded Wolverine grabs the girl and hoofs it off into the driving snow. He knows his hunters are not far behind. I’m not 100% clear why Wolverine grabs Katie Power. Warmth? A Human shield?
Most of the book takes place at night in heavy snow, and it’s full of dazzling lighting effects and moody coloring – all achieved without the fancy Photoshop lenses those kids use these days. Even printed on crappy newsprint you can appreciate the level of inventiveness and detail in Windsor Smith’s work. He is The Poo.
Young Katie and Wolverine are tracked down in a big construction site by the hunters. They move in for the kill, but Wolvie’s healing factor has repaired his previous damage and now it’s Go Time. He makes Katie cover her eyes, because what Wolverine does isn’t very pretty.
Wolverine dismantles the three cyborgs, ginsu ninja style. What kind of idiots follow Wolverine into a dark construction site, anyway? People that don’t need their intestines.
After taking out the trash, Wolverine carves up Lady Deathstrike. Sure, she gets a few good hits in, but the outcome is never in doubt. You gotta know that if you come at Wolverine with something sharp, he’s going to fuck you up real bad.
But will he kill you? Depends. Here, he leaves Lady Deathstrike unraveling like spaghetti in the snow, begging for death, for mercy. Wolverine sheathes his claws. Mercy?
That makes for a great ending but may not be so smart, because Lady Deathstrike comes back like, twelve more times and even shows up in one of the movies. Should have just ended it on that snowy December night in ’86, Wolvie.
Anyway, Wolverine comes and gets Katie Power, who has probably been watching the whole thing and is now traumatized for life.
I think that’s a nice ending.
Claremont always did a good job contrasting Wolverine’s noble, gentle nature with his batshit-crazy killer instincts, and this story is no exception. Throwing cute little Katie Power into the mix really helps lighten the story and sort of lets the reader into the narrative, if that makes sense.
Uncanny X-Men #205: Claremont knew what he was doing. Windsor Smith, who co-wrote the story, definitely knew what he was doing. “Wounded Wolf” is a great X-Men story, and reading it reminded me of that fragile time when Wolverine was still totally bad-ass.