POW~! Presents The 7 Greatest Moments In Comics #5: Wolverine Cries
I didn’t always hate Wolverine as a character. Hell there was a time he was my second favorite X-Man after Cyclops. Then something happened in the late 1980s, you couldn’t fucking escape Wolverine. He was in every damn Marvel comic, sometimes not even really serving a purpose othe than to put him on the cover to boost sales. It was this constant overexposure that made Wolverine my second least favorite X-Man ever, right behind Gambit. Man do I fucking hate Gambit… er… where was I?
I cannot pinpoint the comic where I started loathing Wolverine but I can definitely pinpoint where my appreciation for him was at its apex. Uncanny X-Men issues 172-173. These comics followed up the dangling story points from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s amazing Wolverine 4 issue mini-series. Wolverine had been easily the mos popular characer overall since The X-Men came back from their forced hiatus with Giant Size X-Men #1. He was given the huge spotlight issue during the Hellfire Club/Dark Pheonix Saga in Uncanny X-Men 133. In it Wolvverine keeps his promise to get revenge on the Hellfire Club for ambushing the X-Men and he does so by just beating the hell out of everything in his path. The highlight comes early in the issue as one Hellfire Club agent is left alone with Wolverine and our man Logan taunts him into surrendering. It is was really the first time we, as readers, saw Wolverine use just his ability to talk to win a fight and it was pretty damn sweet.
So it went from that point onward, Wolverine was the official badass of The Marvel Universe. He was portrayed as this little berserker that when he entered a fight, could change the odds in the X-Men’s favor. But writer Chris Claremont had bigger ideas for Wolverine. Thus Wolverine travelled to Japan after the X-Men came back to Earth following their litle war in space with the Brood (Uncanny X-Men 155-168). See, before the X-Men went through the harrowing experience of having to kill Jean Grey, they had been to Japan to fight Moses Magnum. It’s better if you don’t ask who Moses Magnum is, he isn’t that important. The person who is important was Mariko Yashida, the daughter of Yakuza crimelord Shingen Yashida. It is Mariko who Wolverine becomes utterly smitten with and spends the entire 4 issue Wolverine miniseries trying to free from her father’s clutches. Our boy Logan succeeds and the mini-series ends with the wedding invitation of He and ariko being recieved by the X-Men in Westchester.
Uncanny X-Men 172 picks up a few weeks later, as the rest of the X-Men arrive in Japan for the wedding. Needless to say shit goes south fast, as the Yakuza poison the X-Men and kidnap Mariko, thus leaving only Wolverine and Rogue, who only just joined the team 2 issues ago, as the last X-Men standing. The Yakuza don’t want Mariko, as Shingen’s only heir, to takeover the Yashida clan since she wants them to go legit. Instead the Yakuza would rather her cousin, Kenuichio Harada aka third string Daredevil nemesis The Silver Samurai, take the post since he has ties to Hydra via his partner Lady Viper (though this is during her “Just Viper” phase). So Uncanny X-Men 173 is all about Wolverine tearing apart Tokyo to get to Silver Samurai. Rogue is along for the ride, essentially playing the role Spider-Man would play if Spider-Man went to Tokyo with Wolverine i.e. wise-cracking smart-ass. It’s really all Wolverine will let Rogue do since he still had not learned to trust her at this point, what with her being an ex-member of The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants just being the tip of the iceberg.
So after ripping every Yakuza owned business in Tokyo to shreds, he finally has his big showdown with Silver Samurai in one of the BEST comic book fights of the 80s. Its 3 pages of 2 guys just beating the crap out of each other. In other words, everything a great comic book fight should be. Even more impressive is that Silver Samurai gives as good as he gets in it. I mean this guy was barely a Daredevil villain and in 3 pages Chris Claremeont and artist Paul Smith have him go toe-to-toe with Wolverine, who at that point was the BADASS of Badasses at Marvel. Still, this is Wolverine, the character that was quickly becoming as much a poster-boy for Marvel as Spider-Man was. Ain’t no way our boy Logan was losing to The Silver Samurai. Even worse, this is Wolverine in one of his most brutal fights so you know he is going into it with the killing mindset, which is probably the most realisitc Wolverine had been written up to that point. I mean the guy had his friends poisoned and fiancee kidnapped just so the Yakuza could have ties to Hydra. So when it comes time for the coup-de-grace, Logan has no qualms about ending Silver Samurai once and for all.
Of course there has to be a fly in the ointment and that fly is Mariko Yashida herself. With Silver Samurai at her mercy, she pleads with Logan for his life. Wolverine points out that by letting him live, this kind of thing will keep happening. Mariko points out that Harada has been shamed and will do what is necessary to redeem his honor (i.e. serve her willingly as her protector). That’s when Viper appears and unloads her laser pistol right at Wolverine and Mariko. It looks like its curtains for Wolverine and Mariko… but then it is Rogue to the rescue as she outraces the laser bolt and takes the shot for the two lovers, even shoving them into a separate room for safety. Viper keeps unloading until her pistol overloads, forcing her to retreat via teleportation but the damage she left behind actually seriously messes Rogue up. It was at that point Rogue earned Wolverine’s trust. It was also one of the last time I liked Rogue as a character as she went from being this scared little girl trying control her powers and deal with having absorbed Carol Danvers psyche/personality in Avengers Annual #10 to becoming a sexpot southern girl who can’t actually touch people. See how the latter personality is incongruous with the actual powers? Oh Chris Claremont and his wacky dichotomy of writing characters.
So Rogue ends up in the Hospital, Viper gets away and the X-Men go ahead with Wolverine’s very Japanese wedding ceremony. Of course, this is Superhero comics, which are just soap operas for little boys (with lots of punching). Even in a little boy’s soap opera a wedding is not going off without a hitch. The hitch here is that someone has hypnotized Mariko to stop the wedding right before the exchanging of vows. Her excuse? Logan-san is not worthy of her. She pretty much calls him an animal right in front of all the X-Men and her family (who were no doubt thrilled their clanswoman was choosing to marry a Gaijin) and then just walks off. The X-Men are stunned and each offer their sincerest apologies to Wolverine. The last page is just downright heartbreaking. Wolverine and Mariko pass each other, no words spoken between the two, then we see who is really responsible for this… Mastermind! This was during his evil little revenge scheme for what Jean Grey did to him during the Dark Phoenix Saga. Then the last panel of the page hits us… a single teardrop rolls down Wolverine’s cheek.
I was 12 or 13 when this comic hit the stands and to this day, it still brings a tear to my eye. It was the only time that I’ve felt sorry for Wolverine. He had the love of his life not only reject him but do it in public and demeaning him by calling him that which he struggled not to be. It was a giant gut-punch that knocked the wind out of me emotionally as a reader becasue here was this character I really liked letting his feelings for someone all hang out. He thought she accepted him for who he was, for what he went through just to be with her. Instead she tore his out and crushed it under her heel. Sure, the fallout from this all tied into the now famous “From The Ashes…” storyline. It was a storyline that really fucked with the X-Men on an emotional level by using the memories of the then dead Jean Grey against them. But this, this was really heart-wrenching thing to do to a favorite character. It was almost killing Gwen Stacy bad… almost. Wolverine cried in Uncanny X-Men 173. For that alone, it is a Great Moment in Comics. The fact that entire issue is first page to last AMAZING… well shit, that’s just icing on the cake!