Wolverine #1 (1982, September)
Here’s a big one! Claremont and Frank Miller, for “I’m Wolverine.”
“I’m Wolverine. I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do isn’t very nice.” That’s a hell of an opening line, and it’s since become Wolverine’s catchphrase. He’s in the Rockies, hunting a grizzly bear. He kills it, and finds illegally barbed arrow dipped in poison. He tracks down the hunter, and we don’t get to see the fight.
Then he flies to Tokyo. Mariko’s been returning the letters he sent her, gone back home, and is rejecting his calls. A cop and old friend explains what’s happened. Her father’s shown up again, and has forced her to marry someone else. He sneaks into her home and talks to her. When he sees her face, she’s got a big bruise and a black eye. He asks her to leave with him, but she can’t. Duty and honour and all that. She shows him the honour swords of Clan Yashida, and tells him that if he can’t understand her need to obey her father, he doesn’t understand her, or Japan. It’s a good scene. It shows a strength in her that hadn’t been shown before (mostly because she’d appeared so seldom before this).
He almost kills her husband, and then on his way out, gets hit by a bunch of shuriken coated in poison. He barely survives it, since this was back in the days before he could regenerate from being reduced to a skeleton. His healing factor actually had a limit back then. He wakes up in front of Lord Shingen. Shingen tells him off, then challenges him to a duel with wooden bokan swords. Shingen cheats, and tries to kill him with nerve strikes. Wolverine pops his claws, dishonouring himself in front of Mariko.
He wakes up in the street. Some thugs prepare to beat him up, but they get killed from behind. It’s a woman, who’s clearly got a thing for him.
It’s Claremont and Miller, both at the height of their game. Miller was in the middle of his legendary Daredevil run (his first one). Claremont was one of Marvel’s biggest writers. I think Daredevil might have been outselling UXM at this point, but the top two creators in the business at the time were working together on this book. Miller’s art, of course, is excellent. Very moody, full of atmosphere. The action is easy to follow, and expressions are great. Claremont, in this mini, defined Wolverine. His ferociousness, his sensitivity, his pull between duty and desire. We’ve also got the narration boxes that have become such an intrinsic part of the character – every Wolverine story uses them. Thought bubbles were still the norm back then, but this mini instead used thought boxes, and those have actually long since become the norm. Thought bubbles almost never get used now.
So, yeah. Very good comic. A must-read for any fan of Wolverine. Or of Chris Claremont. Or Frank Miller. Hell with it, I’m just going to call it a must-read for anyone who likes good comics.