Monday, April 22, 2019

Quod Sum Eris

We're hip deep in a story by Jeph Loeb and Simone Bianchi that has Wolverine seeking out the meaning behind surfacing memories which appear to involve not only Victor Creed, a.k.a. the bloodthirsty Sabretooth, but also a new evolutionary species known as the Lupine. Part 1 saw that mystery bringing Logan and Creed to Wakanda, where it appears the Black Panther and his consort, Storm, are pursuing similar leads on the Lupine thanks to archaeological findings in an elephant graveyard. Creed, who hasn't been exactly forthcoming with any information which might help Logan decipher the meaning of it all, has at least acknowledged a latin phrase which appears to be at the root of the mental turmoil which Logan has experienced of late--Quod sum eris, "I am what you will be," a taunting statement from Creed that "the stretch of road ahead of you ends up lookin' like this" (meaning, himself). It's a claim that Wolverine understandably rejects outright.

But what of this bizarre collage of flashbacks that have been triggered by Logan's encounters with Creed? Behind them seems to be the most elusive key of all--a man named Romulus, a hulking, formidable figure whom Logan has "remembered" from a Colosseum setting and appears to be thousands of years old. And there will be more links to the answers he seeks as this story continues.

As for the Panther, he has his own reasons for investigating a theory of a lupine race, reasons steeped in the spiritual history of his homeland.

And then there's Creed, who has already escaped Wakandan captivity once and now does so again, though this time with help from someone who takes him by force--Wild Child, a former member of Alpha Flight and Omega Flight and a new player in this drama, faster and stronger than when Wolverine knew him.

(It's a little disturbing to learn that the Wakandan capital's drainage system has human remains floating around in it; I suppose even Wakandan planners slip up now and then.)

With Wild Child's claws tipped with poison, the attack leaves Wolverine unconscious for two days, after which Logan learns that others have come to Wakanda looking for Wild Child--individuals which are a reminder of the common denominator which is at the heart of this story. Yet now, there appears to be another potential source of information to be investigated--the Weapon X program, an all-too-familiar fixture in Logan's life which apparently has even more secrets to divulge.

During the flight to the facility, Wolverine has another flashback--taking him back to 1942, when he was working in the field with Captain America. Only this time his memories have an added meeting, with a figure he hasn't yet met in this time period--an ambush by Wild Child, who seems to be an operative of the Germans and, in his attack, assures Logan that he'll have no memory of this encounter until the proper time. A mystery within a mystery. (To me it makes little sense to have Wild Child attack Wolverine if he clearly has intentions for Logan to survive that attack, but what do I know.)

Arriving at the Weapon X complex, the group finds it strangely quiet--and so Logan orders everyone to stay with the plane while he investigates, though Feral shadows him regardless. Yet who do they find but Creed, trapped in a chemical tube which Logan will discover has robbed him of any civilized veneer and left him as little more than beast. Nor could their timing have been worse.

As Wolverine reels from Creed's attack, another flashback hits. Only this time it's Logan trapped in a tube, with Creed and the Weapon X scientist known as "the Professor" in attendance--as well as Romulus, an authoritative figure in the Weapon X program who clearly has extensive plans for Logan designed for the long haul. Regrettably, Logan's incapacitation gives Sabretooth ample opportunity to make off with Feral, leading to a shocking scene which leaves Logan at a crossroads in this penultimate issue--though not where his anger toward Creed is concerned.

Yet the battle that we expected when we pick things up in the next issue is curiously set aside by Loeb--which is almost a relief, given that up until now we've seen nothing but clashes between Wolverine and Sabretooth which have individually and collectively amounted to nothing. Instead, the story regroups, if only to bring closure to the death of Feral; and in terms of meeting up again with Sabretooth, Wolverine realizes that their next meeting must be the last.

To that end, a return to the X-Men is warranted, in order to reclaim a weapon that was to serve as a fail-safe to Wolverine ever losing control and truly becoming like Creed.

Returning to Canada, and armed with the Muramasa blade, Wolverine steels himself for the final clash. When the time comes, he makes short work of Sabretooth--and with no small amount of satisfaction, given the deaths this man has laid at his door. But their fight has been watched--a reminder that Wolverine has one important loose end to tie up, assuming he's allowed to.

If you were expecting this six-issue story to have a satisfactory resolution (beyond the fact that Logan has made good on his promise to end Creed's threat), instead of accomplishing little more than essentially laying groundwork for its continuation at some future date, I share your disappointment in that respect--though I can't help but recall that, in the beginning, Wolverine's popularity was in large part due to his character and past being revealed in tidbits, a strategem that helped to make him intriguing and compelling reading. I would say, however, that "Evolution," this story's running title, takes that a bit too far, given that it only adds a good deal more pieces to the puzzle while revealing little to nothing in the process. When all was said and done, readers in 2007 would have shelled out about $20 for this story--and I dare say that many of them likely resembled Wolverine's pose and expression on that final page, out of sheer annoyance of being strung along so. To twist the knife, we would discover that Logan had slain only a clone of Sabretooth with the Muramasa blade, rather than the real McCoy.

It would take over five years for Wolverine to have his final reckoning with Romulus, a tale that Loeb and Bianchi would again chronicle. And while I'm the slightest bit curious to take a peek and see if anything has come from all of the elements this story has dropped in our lap, it feels more prudent to simply give Loeb the benefit of the doubt and assume that something has, without running the risk of discovering otherwise.

Wolverine #s 50-55

Script: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Simone Bianchi
Ink & Washed Halftones: Simone Bianchi and Andrea Silvestri
Letterer: Comicraft


Jared said...

Think the time from about 2002 to about 2012 doesn't get enough credit as a great time for Marvel comics. I love the cinematic art style that was popular then. I also like the fact that a Wolverine story takes place in Wakanda, instead of having Wolverine confined to his set areas of the Canadian Rockies or Madripper.

I didn't mind the ending that went everywhere because I was going to keep buying Wolverine at this time no matter what. Looking back this story is pretty over the top. Like most of Loeb's Marvel work, it is perfectly entertaining and fun to read. And for the most part, forgettable even if it was billed as a huge event at the time. It is probably more disappointing in retrospect than it was at the time because Marvel had a bunch of modern day classics going on in just about every other title at the time.

Big Murr said...

For me, a single adjective covers both the art and the story: turgid.

By this time period in comics (and continuing on to present day), I only appreciated Wolverine as part of a team or a guest star. These solo stories had become a bottomless bucket of chunky memory soup. As you mention, the days of a single bowl of memory bits were interesting. By now, not so much.

And, as you say with this post and the previous one, these battles between Sabretooth and Wolverine were more pointless than Thing vs Hulk. The chances of a clearcut victory are almost nil. At least with Thing and Hulk, there are outrageous scenes of tanks being tossed or buildings being knocked down. With Sabretooth and Wolverine, it's nothing but snarls and growls and slashing blood for panel after page.

Comicsfan said...

Jared, I can appreciate your words of admiration for Marvel's comics produced in the first decade of this century, though admittedly it's a rare day that I'll seek out a story from that period (and onward) in the company's history to profile; in fact, I think I've mostly done so as a result of conducting research on an older character, as was the case in this instance. That said, there's always a gem or two to be found, and it's interesting to flip through those books from time to time just to see what turns up.

Murray, you seem to have read my mind in that I likely won't be spotlighting any other Sabretooth/Wolverine meetings, for just the reasons you mention.

Unknown said...

Sabertooth is a tough customer, but Sasquatch has battled the Thing, The Hulk, The Super Skrull, Colossus and a bunch more heavy hitters. I know that they are trying to move the story along but this is just poor writing.

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