X-Men Vignettes #32 (1989)
“Shreds of Humanity”
Writer – Ann Nocenti
Art – John Bolton
Letters – Joe Rosen
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Edelman, Harras, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #32 (April, 1989)
Rather than pre-ramble today, I’m just going to share a couple’a pages from X-Men #126 (October, 1979), because the entire story we’re about to discuss occurs somewhere betwixt their panels. Quite why we needed to add twelve x-tra pages to this scene… well, um… ya got me! Least it’s gonna look pretty!
So, we pickup right as Proteus is reality-warping Wolverine and Nightcrawler. Our heroes are mocked for their lack of ability… which triggers our more feral friend to begin slipping into that more Berzerker Rage mindset. Not completely, as he’s still able to reason and maintain a semblance of cognizance… but, he’s gettin’ mighty ticked off. Nightcrawler begs Wolverine to settle his tea kettle… and makes the mistake of referring to him as playing the “tough guy”. Whoa, whoa, WHOA — turns out, this is akin to calling Marty McFly a chicken… cuz, it’s at this point our man starts to see red.
What’s more, Proteus picks up on this as well. Being called a “tough guy” appears to be a sore spot for ol’ Logan — and so, Proty’s gonna use this new knowledge and have a little bit of fun with it.
And well, this is where the story shifts into a mosaic of Wolverine taking tiny steps forward… juxtaposed with full-page spreads of our man in different crazy forms. It’s very cool to look at, and is a great idea for a story — it just doesn’t x-actly “land” for me. I feel like there’s too much of an effort at play here — trying to make this “more” than a story. Like, a deeper character study. In some ways, I suppose it works — but, the “tryhardedness” and faux-Claremontian is strong. First, Proteus shatters Wolverine.
Next, Proty turns Wolverine into a Spider with Eggs. This looks like it’s supposed to be a reference to a nursery rhyme of some sort? Proteus says “Spiders and Eggs for Breakfast” a couple’a times. I made the mistake of Googling that… which only showed me disgusting pictures of spiders and eggs. When I added “nursery rhyme” to the search, that only made it worse — I was shown horrifying big-headed CGI babies from Youtube thumbnails — but, not the nursery rhyme I was looking for!
Then, it’s the Marvel Zombies version of Wolverine — only with less “funny, ha-ha” and “lol, random” than you might x-pect. This is a really good page, as it suggests that Logan uses his healing factor in order to justify indulgence — fifty-thousand cigarettes, beers, burgers — after all, what’s it matter to him?
Next stop, toon-Wolverine. Kinda resembles that weird little Wolvie critter from the most recent run of Exiles… only a bit more angular. His voice becomes squeaky… but, his resolve seems stronger than ever. He gets almost… well, cartoonishly violent with his descriptions. He smokes atomic bombs, eats bullets, and drinks napalm!
All the while that we’re seeing this, Logan is drawing nearer and nearer to Proteus… and at this point, he’s not only standing right next to him — but, he’s already slashed him across the face and chest! Proteus understands that the “tough guy” thing isn’t an act — there’s actual substance behind the bravado. Wolverine tells him that that substance actually goes all the way to his core — and it’s called courage.
Ya know what? I read this story twice. Sometimes, when I read something that I’m planning to cover for a post or a show, I come out of it feeling one way — then, when I sit down with it again, in order to actually write and/or speak about it, I come away feeling almost completely different. That’s kind of the case with this little ditty.
After my initial read-thru — I hated it. Well, maybe “hate” is too strong a word, but I didn’t like it at all. I felt it was unnecessary, way to indulgent — and kind of insisted on its, I dunno, faux-depth? I mean, it was pretty to look at, no doubt about that — but, the Nocenti-isms (which is to say, faux-Claremontisms) really drilled on my nerves. Each one was like golf ball-sized hail hitting a tin roof. I winced with each and every sharp “ping”.
Right now, actually sitting down with it and writing about it — I dunno, I come away with almost the complete opposite feeling. Again, the Nocenti-isms were (very) strong — the prose was a bit purple — but, I kinda “got it” this time. I’m not sure we needed quite so many pages to make this point — but, without all those pages, we wouldn’t have gotten the very fun John Bolton showcase we wound up getting.
The story itself has the misfortune of being one of the sort that’s been strip-mined in the time since it’s been written. Wolverine as a “man” or “beast” is a well-trodden bit’a business… and has been done to death (and beyond). We’ve seen Wolverine in near every situation possible, and reacting in just about every possible way… and, what’s more, we’ve met scads of different versions of the man. It’s not fair of me to hold any’a that against this story — though, I can’t honestly say that the overdone-ness of this sort of x-amination/character study didn’t make me think a bit less of it. Again, it’s an unfair position to take — I understand and own that.
Overall, the Bolton-bonanza we get here makes it completely worthwhile — and, depending on your Nocenti-ism mileage… you might just enjoy the story as well.