Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: John Buscema
We find Wolverine in Japan, sailing along the coast with a mysterious female vigilantly, bent on avenging the death and dishonor brought upon her family. A recent encounter has left Wolverine owing her his life, and so he’s sworn to repay her. This early exploration of Wolverine is a great example of how he may not be predictable, but he is consistent. Throughout all his adventures, he always errors on the side of honor. You hurt him, his family, his friends, you’ll end up on the wrong end of his claws Bub. You save his life, or the life of his friends, and he’s in your debt (unless you’re Cyclops, and then there’s no chance of getting on his good side).
There’s a line in this issue that really quantifies Wolverine’s character perfectly: “Hittin’ where it hurts the most, my sense of honor. I dump her, I turn my back on all I believe in. But if I help…won’t I be doing the same thing? Suddenly though, there’s no more time for thinking.”
As he looks at the circumstances, it’s pretty simple: there’s a girl(that parts important) that needs help, and he has the power to help. Helping her would mean breaking the law, and going against what his teammates might do if they were faced with the same situation. But they aren’t there, it’s just him, and he owes this woman his life. It’s a discussion, a battle that is clearly raging on his conscious mind, but before there’s time to think it through, action must be taken. Wolverine always takes action, he never hesitates.
Wolvie wants to do what’s right, it’s his prerogative. However, unlike many of his fellow mutants on the side of good, he doesn’t fall back on any absolute law except his own. He knows first hand that morality can be made of grayer things. More importantly, he’s learned in his many years that it’s better to act and apologize, than chance inaction and let the wrong person die, or the enemy win. This is the heart of the Wolverine. He’s intelligent, he wise, but he’s a primal creature, and unwilling to consciously accept failure or compromise.
This issue(and the others in the 10 issue run) is truly a rare blending of talents. Chris Claremont and John Buscema (God rest his soul) stand as two pillars of the comic industry, but on very different sides. Claremont single handedly brought about a new generation of X-Men, more relevant and entertaining than ever. He created the majority of the team members we know today, and wrote the Dark Phoenix Saga, arguably one of the greatest story arcs in Marvel history. A 2009 slate article describes his contributions this way: “the genius of Chris Claremont was that he made mutants a generic stand-in for all minorities and made Wolverine their Malcolm X.”
On the other side stands the late, great John Buscema. A Comic Book Hall of Famer, who drew for practically every Marvel series since 1966, when he started his career at Marvel working under Jack Kirby. He’s best known for pioneering the art and stories of Conan the Barbarian and his work with Stan Lee on the Silver Surfer. Truth be told, it’s hard to find a character worth reading that hasn’t been drawn by Buscema. His art is simple, with classic, concise lines and panels. I can’t think of a better way to draw Wolverine.
If you can find a copy of this book, pick it up, it’s a fantastic read, and an important part of Wolverine’s history.