Wolverine by Archie Goodwin and John Byrne



Currently, I have thirteen posts in draft mode: three King's Highway posts, three From Novel to Film posts, a TV Tomb of Mystery post, plus some other odds and ends. I also need to get the next Fantastic Four in the 1960s post together. Sheesh.

It'll happen, don't get me wrong. Just not today. Let's have a look instead at the seven issues of Wolverine that comics legends Archie Goodwin and John Byrne (as inked by fellow comics legend Klaus Jansen for five of those seven) put out twenty-seven years ago.

I remember enjoying this at the time but outside of a brief glance when I did my other Wolverine post, I haven't looked at it since. Not the best thing any of the talent involved ever did, but it's a fun little story with lots of payoff and a pretty good example of how comics were being made in 1989.

The action movie trailer for it that I'd like to see would go something like:



The world thinks the X-Men are dead* but Logan lives a happy life as "Patch" on the island of Madripoor, also known as Gomorrah on the Pacific Rim.

* This story takes places after Fall of the Mutants.

But his routine is shattered when he gets mixed up in international intrigue that will take him across the globe to Tierra Verde, to face down a dictator with a plan worthy of a Bond villain, bring a Nazi War Criminal advisor who wears an exoskeleton to justice, and to destroy the world's only supply of Insanity Cocaine that turns men into super-powered monsters. 










Something like that. Logan's not Marvel's hairiest hero - he's not even the hairiest X-man (or X-woman) - but okay, ad hyperbole. 

Let's break it down some.

Archie Goodwin was one of the industry's most-respected writers and editors. And for good reason. His stories were always a memorable mix of plot, characters, and dialogue. Here is no exception. Consider the main villain, Geist, the Nazi war criminal with an exoskeleton and shaving fetish.

Most folks would be happy enough with a Nazi War Criminal. The exoskeleton's a bonus, but this is a Marvel superhero comic so not really a remarkable innovation. Neither is giving the main baddie an odd fetish, for that matter, but it allows a writer of Archie Goodwin's experience some fun room to maneuver.

I've made that same point - as have many people, I'm sure - on Nazis and Hollywood.
Back to the shaving.

The secondary villain is equally above-and-beyond. President Caridad is the democratically-elected / CIA-supported leader of Tierra Verde. Much of his power comes from the trafficking of cocaine that turns the user into a disposable container of rage and invulnerability. This was the 80s, albeit the very end of them, and cocaine-and-banana-republics were very much en vogue in comics and elsewhere. So it'd have been enough to have this angle, but Archie Goodwin adds three things.

1) The Insanity Coke is actually a sentient being with ties back to the uber-races of Marvel's then-continuity. The short version is "Failed genetic experiment from Earth's past sleeps in Earth until coca cultivation awakens them." 

Here's the longer version for interested parties.

2) President Caridad is a client of the U.S., who provide him with one of Uncle Sam's special operatives, Nuke, to help silence his domestic enemies.

See Daredevil: Born Again for more. (And the Iran-Contra hearings.)

He is greatly impressed by Nuke and becomes obsessed with the idea of engineering Tierra Verde's very own super-soldier. Providence has provided the means to do so with the Psycho Cocaine, so abundant (and exclusive) to Tierra Verdean soil. Only problem: it burns the user out fatally after a short period of time.

If the cops don't get them first.

So, he has Geist kidnap Roughouse - one of Wolverine's mildly-super-tough sparring partners on Madripoor - or, rather, purchase him from Prince Baran. (Madripoor's a rough place.) Wolverine follows along and discovers that while Roughouse has survived longer than most, the Insanity Coke is still killing him. So:

3) The President turns to his estranged wife, Sister Salvation, a mutant with healing powers, to counteract the effects. To secure her cooperation, he lets her see their son, who has thrown in his lot with the regime. 

The young woman in the foreground of the above-left is La Bandera, a revolutionary whose mutant power is "to inspire." Archie Goodwin was way ahead of his time. She was apparently later killed, but that shouldn't stop anyone from making her the most popular heroine in grade number two in 2016.

Anyway, both the President and Spore agree Wolverine is a far more suitable subject for the Super Coke / Super Soldier hybrid and hi-jinks, as they often do, ensue. 

Tiger Shark makes an Acts-of-Vengeance-related appearance.

The art's pretty cool. I've read some criticism of the Jansen-inked issues about how Jansen's inks overpower Byrne's layouts. Any and all criticism of Klaus Jansen in whatever form it takes is silly, of course, but this is especially silly. Of course it looks more like Jansen than Byrne - he's finishing Byrne's layouts, not inking his pencils. 

Jansen above, Byrne-inking-from-his-own-layouts below.

It's certainly a fun little series, and all of the above things that Goodwin adds to things certainly demonstrate a tried-and-true (and solid) approach to storytelling. Everyone is clearly motivated and individuated through dialogue. Plenty of plot twists and drama. And the ending is great:

1) Tierra Verde is still too important to Uncle Sam to let Wolverine just topple the government and take out Geist, whom they've been protecting and using to spy on Caridad's regime. 


2) Uncle Sam is capable of a little bait-and-switch of its own, as Geist discovers once spirited to his new home in America.

Byrne's second period at Marvel (I always think of his post-90s work for the company as his third period, though technically I guess it's just an extension of his second. But bear with me) is pretty strong: She-Hulk, Namor, Avengers West Coast, that terrific "Armor Wars 2" storyline with JRJR for Iron Man, and other little surprises, like this. I think I still prefer his first period (the classic X-Mens, FF, etc.) more than any, but if you're ever looking for some solid Copper Age fun back when Marvel still had its active mk-1 continuity and you see Byrne (or Goodwin for that matter) in the credits, don't hesitate. 



  1. (1) All I know about Dead Can Dance is that piece of theirs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtQpM6MTugE) that was used prominently in Darabont's "The Mist." The drum piece you linked to is very different from that, obviously.

    (2) Wolverine in his underwear. That's a hairy dude. The fact that this story included shaving him is . . . odd.

    (3) That'd make for a pretty solid trailer. Well done!

    (4) I can imagine some of the new-breed superheroes defeating the Insanity Coke monster by snorting him. That's the sort of dumbass thing that'd show up in the Deadpool sequel, maybe. $490 million at the box office, for sure. Go to hell, 2016.

  2. Dead Can Dance was overall cool. Definitely a unique collaboration between Perry and Gerrard, almost as much an archaeology project as a musical collaboration actually. They were an important part of my life in the mid-90s or so but I do have trouble connecting to a lot of it now.

  3. I read these issues many years ago and I really like them. There are some over the top things (like the mutant cocaine), but also a lot of fun bits (Geist and his shaving obsession which, as you said, is incredibly funnier when the hairy Wolverine is involved). I recently bought the Marvel Universe Omnibus by John Byrne and these issues are included in it. I actually plan to review it at some point.