Monday, February 27, 2017

Real Name: James "Logan" Howlett
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #181 (November, 1974)
Fight Club Ranking: #4

Featured Fights:
- vs DONALD PIERCE & HARRY LELAND: X-Men #132 (Apr 1980)
- vs HELLFIRE CLUB: X-Men #133 (May 1980)
- vs DEATHSTROKE: Uncanny X-Men & New Teen Titans #1 (1982)
- vs NIMROD: Uncanny X-Men #194 (Jun 1985)
- vs LADY DEATHSTRIKE: Alpha Flight #34 (May 1986)
- vs LADY DEATHSTRIKE & REAVERS: Uncanny X-Men #205 (May 1986)
- vs DRACULA: What If...? #24 (Apr 1991)
- vs THE PROFESSOR: Marvel Comics Presents #83 (Aug 1991)
- vs CAPTAIN AMERICA: Captain America #405 (Aug 1992)
- vs MAGNETO: X-Men #25 (Oct 1993)
- vs LOBO: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
- vs ONSLAUGHT: Onslaught: X-Men #1 (Aug 1996)
- vs SABRETOOTH: X-Men (Jul 2000)
- vs DEATHSTRIKE: X-Men 2 (May 2003)
- vs XORN: New X-Men #150 (Feb 2004)
- vs THE HAND: Wolverine #20 (Dec 2004)
- vs DAREDEVIL: Wolverine #24 (Mar 2005)
- vs INVADERS: New Invaders #6 (Mar 2005)
- vs X-MEN: Wolverine #25 (Apr 2005)
- vs WINTER SOLDIER: Wolverine #39 (Apr 2006)
- vs BLADE: Blade #5 (Mar 2007)
- vs SABRETOOTH: Wolverine #50 (Mar 2007)
- vs THE HAND: New Avengers #27 (Apr 2007)
- vs ARCHANGEL: X-Force #5 (Sep 2008)
- vs THE HOOD & DORMAMMU: New Avengers #54 (Aug 2009)
- vs LUKE CAGE & AGAMOTTO: New Avengers #2 (Sep 2010)

It's somewhat inevitable that Wolverine would factor heavily into a comics blog dedicated to the art of superhero fighting. What is Wolverine if not an unstoppable killing machine? Well, funny you should ask. That seems to be an overriding facet of the hero's cinematic finale in Logan -- in wide theatrical release next week, March 3rd!

"Logan" will forego the testosterone soaked, guttural growl of Wolverine's greatest hits to tell a tale of the ageless mutant at the end of his world. Trailers paint a bleak picture of quiet desert, a world in decay, and a hero reduced to an aging drifter. It pulls its basic cues from Mark Millar's 2008 apocalyptic opus Old Man Logan, replacing blind Hawkeye with senile Professor X, and the madcap conquests of Red Skull et al with the looming mortality of Wolverine.

A pensive tone promises deep introspection on the character's fictional failings, but the biggest questions it raises may be of the cinematic legacy of Hugh Jackman. The Australia dynamo, who first took up the role 17 years ago in X-Men, says it's the last time he'll unsheathe the claws. As always, he affably sells it as their best effort to make a movie worthy of the character -- openly acknowledging they haven't quite hit the mark. Many expect this to be the best yet, but as trailers expose it as a more conventional film than first thought, I find myself reflecting more heavily on what might have been.

One of the questionable disappointments of Jackman's departure is the fact that we'll never get to him in the costume. 2013's The Wolverine seemed the time to do it. That movie took Wolverine into a world of deep tradition and ritual that would've allowed the flared mask the luxury of some samurai-styled significance. There actually is a deleted scene involving the mask, excised from the end of the movie. Tease, though it does, I would argue there were far more egregious omissions from the story of Wolverine's time in Japan.

The most frustrating moment was the fight with Shingen Yashida, where matters of the sword are solved with adamantium claws. The Wolverine of the comics strived to be worthy of a samurai code, choosing the sword as a matter of honor and discipline. In the movie, he remains an animal, taking far too little from his time in Japan. Though widely touted as the best outing for the character at the time, it was ultimately another under achiever, lacking the substance it promised, and the spectacle it justified. Villains Silver Samurai and Viper were especially misused, leading to another disappointing Third Act fight in a superhero movie, sorely lacking in gravitas and meaning.

It's difficult to tell if Logan will deliver on its ponderous proclivity. Donald Pierce is ultimately an odd choice for an arch-villain, and by its very nature, it sets out to be something other than the definitive experience with the Wolverine character.

If The Wolverine falls short of its potential as a definitive solo adventure, it may be left to X-Men 2 to be the best cinematic outing for the character. Bryan Singer never brought himself to approximate the joy of the comic book aesthetic, but with the siege of the X-Mansion, he unleashed a more ferocious Wolverine familiar to readers. The image of Jackman leaping from the mansion second floor, arms and claws extended, was classic Wolverine. Plot lines involving his mysterious past with Weapon X - another beat that kept him closer to the character on the page.

The bubbling molten metal and machines boring into his body. The naked man running into Canada's snowy wilderness, bloody claws extended. Expressions of confusion, anguish, rage. Short flashbacks told us everything we really needed to know about Wolverine's origin, yet the temptation of something like Barry Windsor-Smith's Weapon X was incredibly strong!

The fever dream of Wolverine's memories were one of the biggest hooks of X2, and some of the most memorable scenes of the first film. Acid visions of Jackman strapped down and sinking into a coffin-sized vat were undeniably compelling, but nothing killed the appeal of that story more than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The first solo outing supplanted what should've been a lay-up for FOX, but turned into the hole every installment since has been trying to crawl out of! A brief, helmeted cameo in the otherwise uninspiring X-Men: Apocalypse proved for one fleeting moment than a 90 second Vine could be more enjoyable than a multi-million dollar blockbuster.

From a personal perspective, the brown costume of the eighties is the thing I would've most liked to see make it to the big screen. I still kinda hope it might bust out in the third act of Logan for his final stand, but that seems against the James Mangold sensibility, underscored by the meaning he was unwilling to give it in The Wolverine.

The biggest regret of the films will always be that they never delivered on the Weapon X movie they promised from the start. Jackman floating in an Empire style tube of water wearing that big crazy helmet. Eyes obscured by the full visor of an absurdly big piece of hardware! Giant rooms full of computers and scientists, explosions and terror as the test subject escapes. The inhuman personification of Wolverine's suffering: The Professor -- despicable until his final comeuppance.

This concludes our month long spotlight on Wolverine! The mutant hero sits poised on the verge of making the leap to the Top 3 in the Fight Club ranks! He jumped Hulk to take #4 earlier te month, and another win would've toppled Iron Man as well! With the shellhead hovering on the horizon in Spider-man: Homecoming, an injection of relevance could be on his way! We'll be looking at another iron willed hero in March. There's a special Wolverine connection in our next featured fight - so stay tuned for that!

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