X-Men Vignettes, Chapter 10 (1987)
Writer – Chris Claremont
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Tom Orzechowski
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Kavanagh, Nocenti, Shooter
From: Classic X-Men #10 (June, 1987)
Our story opens with Wolverine acclimating himself to life in and around New York City… and since this is the less PG-NYC of the long ago, it’s full’a all sorta smut — and Claremontian Captions waxing on about said smut. Our man goes to light up a smoke… however, before the match can do its thang, the cig is swiped right out from between his lips! Our hero is shocked… as even his hyper-keen senses (which he’s always bragging about) didn’t give him any warning. This act of cigarette-stealin’ is just the opening gambit in a playful… and eventually bloody, little game of tag between Wolverine and… well, you know. Worth noting, Wolvie is stood outside a movie theatre which is advertising Marada the She-Wolf, which is a 1985 novel written by Claremont with illustrations by Bolton!
Wolverine feels eyes… and a smile. I guess those world-famous senses are finally kicking in. He busts through a crowd of New Yorkers, worrying that his pursuer could be any one of them. Ya see, there are so many folks here that he’s having trouble “zeroing in” on who might just be out to get him. Our man runs through traffic, and acrobats himself up to a fire escape. On the way up, he informs us that he was once a secret agent — working in Siberia and the West Pacific. I don’t think this is completely “new” information at this point, but, retcononically — it might be his first time mentioning it. At least to this point. I think. Oh, Chris just stop worrying about it and move on…
Out of (immediate) harm’s way, Wolverine finds himself at the West Side Saloon in Chelsea — where he proceeds to complain-in-Claremontian about gentrification. He doesn’t dig the fact that these seedy ol’ joints are being rehabbed into places where folks actually might wanna be. Inside, he’s given a brew by the barkeep… who seems to have some keen-senses of his own. He tells our hero that, if he’s lookin’ for trouble, he’d better take it outside.
From here, we get a pretty neat page of Wolverine taking in his surroundings… while also spending a lot of narrative captions saying very little. His eyes eventually wander over to the bar, where a… I don’t know if she’s supposed to be attractive or a trainwreck (it’s a blurry line sometimes, innit?)… but, a woman is there, and she smiles at him. Our man doesn’t seem to notice her smile… but, instead sees another — disembodied, deadlier and dare I say sabre-toothed, smile from outside the window.
Wolverine rushes toward the door to try and track down the owner of this smile. He’s so out-to-lunch, however, that he nearly knocks the grinning woman off her barstool! When he arrives outside the gin-joint, he sees… well, he sees nothing.
The grinning lady heads out to lambaste our man a bit for being less-than-classy. She then disappears around the corner — where she is loudly murdered by… well, you know. The barkeep rushes out to see what’s what — and despite the fact that the only two people here are Wolverine and the dead woman (Francie) — doesn’t seem to think our fella done the deed? I thought he was already kinda wary of Wolvie being somewhat dangerous? Oh well…
Wolverine leaves the scene of the crime, fearing that the next death at the hands of… well, you know… will be him. He climbs down into the subway, and hops a ride on the side of a train, taking him to Battery Park — for some reason. There, he changes into his Yellow and Blue Wolverine togs — and pops his claws. Worth noting, he says that his (razor-sharp and unbreakable) Adamantium claws were “bionically implanted” into his forearms… which, at the time, was as good a guess as any!
From here — we head right into our ending. Wolverine is grabbed from behind and has his throat ripped out! He’s then tossed into the drink, while his (still unseen, but obvious) attacker informs him that he’s “always been a disappointment”. Later, Wolverine pulls himself out and onto the Staten Island Ferry… informs us all that he’s got, ya know, a healing power that saved him. And finally, let’s the sabre-toothed cat outta the bag about who he just engaged in this deadly game of tag with! He worries that he’ll never be able to stand toe-to-toe against his foe.
If you’re familiar with X-Lapsed, you’ll know that — if nothing else, I tend to repeat myself a lot. In fact, one of the things I repeat most often is that very fact. Another thing you may know is that, I usually enjoy Wolverine stories… but, dread actually having to talk about them — because, they usually don’t lend themselves to the sort of “biting” analysis I like to do.
This story here is… very much like that. I enjoyed it — I mean, what’s not to dig about a fun Wolvie romp, right? That said, however — what in the world can I possibly say about it. Not much. It’s Wolverine doing Wolverine things… facing off with and coming up short against his arch-enemy. It’s good — and perhaps back in ye old 1987, a very novel story to tell — but, in “current year”, with countless similar Wolverine stories out there, there just isn’t much to talk about!
So, instead — howsabout we jump into the ever-nebulous “weeds”?
Knowing what we know now, Wolverine and Sabretooth have quite the tangled history, yes? As of the publication of Classic X-Men #10 back in 1987, that history hadn’t been fully fleshed out. This issue hit the same month as Uncanny X-Men #218. Wolverine and Sabretooth’s first actual run-in (barring retcons) was Uncanny #212… or Power Pack #27, if we wanna look like know-it-alls (Wolverine and Sabretooth DO share the cover… but do NOT cross paths in the ish). In either event, their “shared history” at this point is… ya know, brief.
What we know now, however, is that their history goes back for… ever. It also includes these “games of tag” every so often — and, an annual visit from Sabretooth on Wolverine’s birthday — where be beats him to within an inch of his life, pretty much just to show off that he can. We don’t find out that today is Wolverine’s birthday… but, hey — we’re in the weeds, right?
Another interesting wrinkle to me in this story… which might just be a case of me pretending that I know “how the sausage is made”, is the fact that — when Sabretooth plopped Wolverine into the drink, he said that he’s always been a disappointment. Well, seasoned X-Fans might remember Claremont’s flirtation with the idea that Sabretooth was Wolverine’s father (and even made it canon in X-Men Forever, if I’m not mistaken). I’ve got a few magazines where CC talks about that — and [around 30 minutes later] naturally, they’re all currently at the old house.
It ain’t like I’m blowing any minds or anything though, and information about Wolverine’s proposed parentage isn’t too terribly difficult to track down if you’re interested. But, all that to say, I found Sabretooth’s dialogue here to be very much in the vein of a “disappointed father”. So, I wonder if Claremont already had that in mind as a possibility at this point?
To talk a little about the story itself — it’s probably best not to think too hard about it, ya know? There are bits here that feel extremely sloppy — such as: Why would the barkeep just let Wolverine leave after finding Francie’s bleedin’ corpse? Were the police called? Is Wolverine a wanted man? I dunno! On the other hand, I always appreciate Wolverine being portrayed as less than perfect. Seeing him get his butt handed to him by Sabretooth was refreshing, and spoke to the fact that he’s still got a long way to go in training and mental focus. That’s good stuff.
Like I said, gang — I’m vampin’ for word count here — there ain’t much to say about this story besides the fact that: a) it was good, and b) it was beautifully drawn. Overall, this one’ll probably take ya less than five minutes to read… and I’d say it’s well worth that time.