Saturday, January 23, 2010

Marvel Comics Presents #84

TITLE: Marvel Comics Presents #84


COVER DATE: September 1991


32 pages


More than anything, I remember the anticipation around the twelve part Weapon X serial more than the actual story itself. Up until this point, there was virtually nothing revealed about the history of Wolverine. For better or worse, the fleshing out of Logan's back story started here. So yeah, this storyline was highly anticipated.

The next clearest memory I have of this title is that it wasn't what anybody was expecting. It was a challenging read that didn't always move in a linearly, cohesive direction. I guess you could say this was decompression before decompression was cool.

It also looked spectacular, and Barry Windsor-Smith deserves a lot of credit for giving the whole storyline a dreamlike (or nightmarish) quality that I can still perfectly re-imagine even 17 years later. Even now, thumbing through the issue, I'm half-tempted to pull the first eleven parts and read the whole story in one sitting. Maybe one of these days, but right now we have a review to get to.

The title page gives us a one sentence review of the previous eleven parts, so let's get brought up to speed.

Logan has destroyed most of Project X, including the Professor...or has he?

So without further ado, let's dive right in to last chapter of...

Weapon X: Chapter Twelve
  • Story/Art: Barry Windsor-Smith
  • Letterer: Jim Novak and Barry Windsor-Smith
  • Assistant Editor: Mark Powers
  • Editor: Terry Kavanaugh
  • Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco
Like the recap said, Logan is standing amidst the rubble of Project X, holding the bloodied corpse of the professor, who was the leader of the project.

We soon find out, however, that this is anything but real as Logan drops the professor's body and it falls into a ring of fire, and then darkness. Out of the darkness we see Logan as he begins to regain his consciousness.

Is this real?

Who knows at this point, as Logan is being bombarded by random voices from the past as he tries to gain his bearings.

He soon realizes that he needs to get out this facility, as it's probably military...or worse.

Making his way through the maze of hallways, he comes upon a lab that has been smashed up. A familiar looking body lies sprawled out across a control panel.

Memories start to return to Logan. Memories of this man and of this place...and of death.

As the stench of dying assaults his senses, he wonders who could of done all of this killing. He looks at his hands, covered in blood, and questions if it was him who knifed that body.

As he looks at his blood covered hands, the voices come faster and more intense. Now they are asking and pleading to be killed quickly. As the voices get louder, Logan's claws begin to extend from the backs of his hands.

As his claws fully extend, Logan wonders if he is dead? Or just a walking dead man? The voice of the professor haunts his consciousness, continually calling him an animal. The image of the professor, and his continued taunting, are too much for Logan in his weakened and confused state to bear.

Now in a berserker rage, he begins to run, but it is soon apparent that he is lost in another dream. The faster he runs, the harder he is chased by...something. Whether it's the animal inside him that he is running from, or the memory of the the process of the adamantium bonding to his skeleton is never made quite clear.

We now cut to reality, as the professor and another scientist, named Hines, are watching the progress of Logan via remote cameras. All of this has been another experiment on Logan, and it's not over yet. Niles seems to think that Logan is accepting the procedure and regaining control. The professor is not so sure.

The cameras catch up with Logan as he slices through the outer fences of the Project X compound. There, another test awaits him as the scientists have places a Siberian tiger in his path.

A true battle of beasts ensues, with the professor and Hines watching closely to see how he reacts. It wasn't so long ago, they ponder, that Logan beheaded a bear in mere moments with barely a thought. Will he be that savage again? Or has the project changed him even further?

They don't have to wait long for their answer, as Logan soon gets the upper hand and disembowels the tiger. He shows a greater capacity for thought and tactics, but his ferocity is still unparalleled.

All of this pleases Hines to no end, as he considers Logan a wonderful success. The professor is still hesitant, as in previous tests Logan had shown the capacity for mercy. It is for that reason that the professor is unsure. Logan may have more control over his inner beast, but they still don't have Logan under their complete control.

While Niles and the professor debate the finer points of the state of Logan's psyche, the wranglers are dispatched to bring Logan back inside the project for more tests. It's all too late, as Logan makes short work of the wranglers and heads back into the compound.

There, the scientists are in a scramble as alarms start to go off. They desperately try to find Wolverine on the closed circuit cameras, but Logan is too fast. They try to shut him down remotely through an implanted transponder, but it's not responding. Voices come in over the radio declaring a breach in D-Block.

Where is D-Block, you're wondering?

I'm guessing the scientists are in for a world of hurt.

The story draws to a close as Wolverine bursts through the steel door as other project members try to raise Niles and the professor on the radio. It's no use, as they don't reply and the radio shorts out.

That's the official end of the story, but we are treated to an epilogue as Logan makes his way through the snowy drifts of Canada, no doubt on his date with destiny in Incredible Hulk #181.

Over the next six pages, a conversation between Niles and his assistant is replayed. They both found themselves questioning the morality of the project, and the sanity of the professor in particular.

Niles seems to brush off and hide his concern behind scientific inquiry. His assistant doesn't have that luxury, and feels sorry for Logan. Niles tells her to cheer up, as it'll all be over soon.


Damn if the visuals of this story still look as magnificent and eerily powerful as they did originally. Barry Windsor-Smith is a storyteller that has stood the test of time, and this book is a prime example of his talent. As the journey of Logan progresses from dream, to berserker rage, and finally to reality, BWS has us completely captivated by the artwork.

The one surprise I found with this issue, was that it was no where near as impenetrable as I remembered it being. There were a few places where I had to go back and reread some pages to figure out exactly what was going on, and a second read proved essential to my final understanding. Overall though, it was quite entertaining. Maybe all of those Brian Michael Bendis books with 8000 word balloons per page have trained me to become a better comic book reader.

Remembering back to when I read this originally, I think I was somewhat disappointed at the lack of more specifics about Logan's past. This was essentially a snapshot of the Weapon X project, and even then it was more a morality story about the nature of man vs. beast that worked on several different levels than it ever was a story about answers and specifics about Logan.

As more and more questions have been answered about Wolverine's origin over the last decade, I'm beginning to think that maybe that played it exactly right with this story. Sometimes, less is more.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
  • Barry Windsor-Smith's official website
  • ...and here's the section focusing on Weapon X
  • Click here for the Firestar eight-pager that closes out this issue

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