Wolverine #4 (1982, December)
We now finish Wolverine’s original miniseries, with “Honour.”
Wolverine is messing up Shingen’s criminal operations all over Japan. Miller does some great, dark, sinister panels for this sequence. Shingen tells some associates that he sent his finest ninja to deal with Wolverine. Then he gets a package with some ninja hoods and a note saying “Tonight.” Shingen summons the Hand.
Wolverine’s loading up with ninja weapons, including – naturally – a crossbow. Mariko is trying to determine the right path to follow between duty and truth. She’s obligated to follow her father, but he dishonours the Yashida clan.
Yukio tries sneaking into Shingen’s place, but gets caught by the Hand. Shingen chastises her for failing to kill Wolverine, then lets her free to attack him. He beats the crap out of her. He’s interrupted by the radio, which then goes dead. As do all the Hand ninjas standing guard outside.
Mariko’s husband decides to grab her and leave. Wolverine cuts them off, but Noribo’s got a gun to her head. Yukio kills him from behind. Wolverine tells Yukio to leave, and she does. Then he goes to confront Shingen.
Miller, once again, draws the hell out of the fight, while Claremont just steps back and lets him. Miller does a fantastic job with the fight choreography.
In the end, of course, Wolverine kills Shingen. Which is when Mariko comes in. Honour demands she become his enemy, and she picks up the sword. Wolverine does nothing. She reminds me of the story she told him of the Yashida clan honour sword. And then tells him it’s his.
Turns out that, had Shingen defeated Wolverine, Mariko would’ve killed him, then taken her own life, in order to restore her clan’s honour. And then it ends with the X-Men getting an invitation to his wedding to Mariko.
This is, in many ways, the definitive Wolverine story. It gets into who he is as a character. It explores a lot of his skills – fighting, tracking, stealth and infiltration – as well as the deepest elements of his character – his fear that he’s just an animal, and his desire to be something more. Claremont establishes Wolverine’s voice, which all future Wolverine writers have tried to follow, through the use of the narration boxes. Those boxes are, themselves, something of an innovation. It was much more common back then for characters’ thoughts to be in thought bubbles, and boxes to be used for third-person narration. This series began to change that. Wolverine, of course, is the king of the narration box – his solo series always make heavy use of them. Other characters have gotten in on the act, too, and at this point, thought bubbles are seldom used, except maybe as a charming throwback. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw thought bubbles.
Frank Miller’s art can’t be praised enough. The series looked amazing. While the series probably would’ve been successful with any artist, Miller made it iconic, and I don’t think any other writer could’ve done that. His action flowed well, and he brought the right mood to it. It was dark, sinister, seedy, and absolutely perfect for the story. Claremont, wisely, allowed the art to speak for itself a lot of the time, not cluttering it up with dialogue or descriptions. This just heightened the effect of those moments.
And just to finish it off, here’s the wedding invitation: