Thursday, November 15, 2007

What if Wolverine was never Deprogrammed?: Bite the hand that feeds (Marvel)
Where: What if? Wolverine Enemy of the State #1 When: January 2007 Why: Jimmie Robinson How: Carmine Di Giandomenico

Well, it's Infinite Wars by the numbers today, folks.
We're going to attempt to dive into some of 2007, focusing on issues significant, and not so much, from the early parts of the year. We're going to start with a variation on the quick fix which, for the latter part of the year, has become a fun new version of the Infinite Wars.

War mongers [that's you, the regular readers] will remember back to April when our What if Wednesdays turned to this very issue, and the battle between Hydra super-soldier Wolverine, and a motley crew of surviving heroes including Magneto and Invisible Woman.

This time around the quick fix model allows us to take a look at some of the smaller battles featured as part of Wolverine's rampage through the Marvel Universe. Those not in the know should familiarize themselves with the Mark Millar storyarc from which this what if alternative is derived.

Enemy of the State presented a scheme perpetrated by a young mutant upstart making waves within the Hydra/Hand heirarchy. Gorgon, whose powers boil down to the ability to kill, sets about luring Wolverine to Japan, where his defeat facilitates Hydra's desire to use their magicks and techology to turn Wolverine into a puppet soldier, capable of perpetuating their strategum across the landscape of superheroes and villains.

Wolverine would clash with many considered friend and foe alike [Elektra, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Sub-Mariner], before eventually coming unstuck during an invasion on the X-Mansion, which would see his defeat at the hands of the united efforts of Captain America, the Avengers, X-Men and SHIELD [Wolverine #25]. This defeat would not come before the death of the mutant, Northstar.

In this What if one-shot, we see the results of a world where Wolverine was able to evade defeat, and butchers Captain America in his escape. Hydra's continued persistence proves successful, and leads to a final confrontation led by a limbless Captain America, Magneto, Invisible Woman, and Kitty Pryde.
It is the deaths of many other heroes that leads to this particular selection.

With the likes of Iron Man, Daredevil, Punisher, Black Panther, and the Fantastic Four having already fallen by implication, it is Spider-man that is the first we see to bare the brunt of Wolverine's Hydra assisted assault.

Wolverine meets the web-slinger on his home turf, the urban sprawl of contemporary Manhattan, where Spider-man has the slim advantage of his bouncing speed, agility, and precognitive senses.

The wall-crawler seems capable of sufficiently out maneuvering the controlled Wolverine, seen flipping him away with an acrobatic kick. The heroic weakness of characters like Spider-man is crucial to Wolverine's unrestrained attack, and Spider-man plays directly into it, webbing Wolverine to a wall with the intent to restrain him until SHIELD squads can arrive.

Unfortunately, along with many other technological upgrades, Wolverine is fitted with a teleportation system that is remotely controlled by Hydra. They teleport him free of the webbing, and not even Spidey's spider-senses can give him warning sufficient to evade defeat. Though he attempts to escape, his web falls limp as Wolverine's claws sink deep.

The Fix: 4 Winner: Wolverine

In their global bid for domination, it is little surprise that Hydra revisit their pursuit of assassination of "POTAS"; the President of the United States.

It is on the lawn of the White House that Wolverine and a mob of Hand ninja launch their attack on the head of the free world.

Iron Fist's fighting skills serve him well against the brutal attack of the manipulated Wolverine. His claws slash wildly at the exposed chest of the chi-master, while the bodies of US federal agents and Hand ninja fall indescriminately around them.

Wolverine's adamantium laced claws prove sufficient to penetrate the super-durable hide of the Power Man, Luke Cage. Though bleeding, Cage's strength holds out, allowing him to press the advantage over the runtish mutant.

Ultimately the close quarters battle costs Luke Cage his life, while Iron Fist is preoccupied mowing through the disposable force of the Hand. The Fist is there to hold his friend's hand as he dies there on the lawn -- succesful in their mission to protect the President.

The Fix: 4.5 Winner: Iron Fist (w/ Luke Cage)
NOTE: Wolverine killed Luke Cage

Despite their many defeats, Hydra remain anything but discouraged.
Wolverine's mutant healing factor maintains him sufficiently for field duty, allowing attacks to continue at a regular rate.

Hydra send Wolverine back to the streets, where he seeks out more of the back alley bruisers. Their tactics to eliminate an enemy, and gain an ally, extend this time to the mystically powered Moon Knight, who is at particular strength given the eves distinction as being a full moon.

Despite his brutal determined brand of combative skill, and Khonshu enhanced strength, Moon Knight is little opposition for the clawed mutant.

Bouncing back from a bloody kick, Wolverine attacks with his own hard style.
Expressing admiration for Moon Knight's true grit, Wolverine describes Hydra's methods of resurrection, and assures the hero that though he would experience great pain to begin with, the results would be finite.

With that, Wolverine guts Moon Knight then and there.

The Fix: 4.5 Winner: Wolverine

The Hammer...
And that's all she wrote for this particular alternate universe.
If you're interested in learning more about the final conclusion to this particular story, you can refer back to our previous review. The results of this grim universe may yet hold some surprises, but as we close the book on this one, Wolverine walks into the home stretch with a string of wins under his belt.

I have to admit to some labour in the previous review, which really doesn't service the quality of this one-shot, at all. Unfortunately my ailing technology fails to capture the rendered glory of Di Giandomencio's presumably CG colours, which round out his own pencils and Robert Campanella's confident black inks.

Walking a minimalist line between hyper-realism and cartooning, the Moon Knight pages show particular flair. I don't know if I could narrow it down to a particularly character, but I would delight at seeing this kind of work on a monthly basis. To bog it down in motly dark colours would be a disservice, yet at the same time it's the kind of style that really compliments the gritty urban environment, with an interesting juxtaposition of the bright characters.

One could almost imagine a Daredevil special or annual done in this style, presenting the scarlet character in a style I don't doubt would compliment, whilst still respecting the established look of the solo title.
With work like this, it's hard not to think about the possibilities presented by the return of Marvel Comics Presents, which in days past featured tangential tales of Hells Kitchen's guardian devil.

I was a big fan of Enemy of the State. I think it goes without saying that Millar's wanton disregard for the stoic "cool" of popular comics is tailor made for a website like this. The Scot tosses combat and big screen action around with a swagger typically lacking in this overly self-conscious genre. It's a confidence that instantly endears the action to any willing reader, pushing quality of fun, rather than obsessive details and realism.

This What If special sufficiently tackles the theoretical it promises.
Though Millar deserves the credit of instilling his original story with some assemblance of superhero logic, this story perhaps bogs itself down a little too much in one concept, and one stern target. It's perhaps this that made the climactic conclusion more laborious a review than these, more familiar and frivilous encounters.

Enemy of the State is essentially an excuse to pit Wolverine against other elements in the Marvel Universe. Granted, it did so through the veil of a PG action rating, but ultimately the success weighed on A battling B.

The combat choices made here are delightful, and in some respects, one almost wishes the vaguely optimistic ending could've been put aside for more of the same. Never the less, an admirable effort, and one of the more interesting prospects to come out of the modern What If initiative.

Fix Average: 4.3 The Issue: 5

If you think you might enjoy this story, it's now available in collection along with other fifth-week What If specials detailing events surrounding the Age of Apocalypse, Spider-man: The Other, Avengers Disassembled, and X-Men: Deadly Genesis! You can also find Enemy of the State collected, and with Christmas coming up, why not treat yourself or a friend?

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