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Uncanny X-Men #205 (1986, May)

July 3, 2015

Ooh, it’s a good one today. By Claremont and Barry Windsor-Smith, “Wounded Wolf.”

Wounded Wolf

A weirdly inaccurate cover that also fails to convey how awesome the story inside is.

The issue starts with the creation of Lady Deathstrike, as Yuriko becomes a cyborg, care of Spiral’s Body Shop. Deathstrike asks Spiral if the process is reversible, once she’s completed her mission. Spiral guarantees satisfaction. Also there, are some of the former Hellfire Club goons who were turned into cyborgs after Wolverine nearly killed them. Deathstrike feels a debt to finish her father’s quest for atonement, with Wolverine as the key.

Meanwhile, Katie Power is going caroling with her class or choir group or whatever. Oh, this issue takes place around Christmas. I should mention that, so the caroling reference makes sense. Also, it’s winter and it’s cold and there’s snow. As she exits the washroom with her teacher or whatever, there’s sounds of fighting. A guy knocks down Katie and her teacher, and then Katie sees a badly-injured Wolverine.

A police car pulls up, and Wolverine grabs Katie and starts running. She starts getting scared, so she fires a big power ball right in front of his face, which dazes him. She asks Wolverine why he was hurting her, then she finally notices he’s hurt badly. He senses Deathstrike’s men approaching, so Katie helps him to his feet and they stumble off.

Katie hails a cab and helps Wolverine into the back, but it’s not long before they’re found and the cab gets shot at. Katie and the cab driver are thrown out safely, but Wolverine’s hurt even more by the exploding cab, and Katie starts to cry. He grabs her and jumps over the fence of one of those construction areas that were always so conveniently located in comics. Wolverine starts speaking Japanese, and says he doesn’t know who he is. He howls.

Katie tries to comfort him, and he regains his mind. Deathstrike and her men find him, and Wolverine takes Katie behind cover. She offers to blast them, but he says to leave them to him, and to just trust him. He takes down Cole through a sneak attack. Deathstrike tells Reese to get the girl, but Wolverine gets to him, first. Then it’s time for a duel.

He asks why she’s doing it, and she says a child has to honour the parents. She has to finish her father’s work in order to be free of him. Then the fight gets nasty, and Claremont shuts up.

Wolverine wins, of course, and Deathstrike says her life is forfeit. But Wolverine refuses. Then he goes back to Katie, who’d been covering her eyes and ears, like Wolverine told her. He asks if she’s scared of him, and she says she still is, but he promises she’ll always have a friend in him.

On a fun note, one of the letters talks about how a lot of normal people wouldn’t fear mutants, and uses, as a real-life example . . . Uri Geller. If you’re not sure who Uri Geller was, well, he was a charlatan who actually appeared in a bizarre issue of Daredevil.

This is a great issue, and a very memorable one. Yuriko becomes Deathstrike, of course, which has resulted in her being one of the biggest members of Wolverine’s rogue’s gallery. However, as great as she later became, in these early appearances – here and in Alpha Flight – she’s a bit weird. This CBR article talks about her weird motivations. She started, of course, as part of a largely forgettable Daredevil arc, where she hated her father and wanted to kill him. At the risk of spoiling some of the next issue of Alpha Flight, Mantlo threw away her happy ending, had her learn all about the history of her father (the same history she’d told Daredevil, so . . .), added adamantium to that story, and gave Deathstrike the motivation of wanting to get Wolverine’s adamantium bones, which she feels were stolen from her father. Given this issue and the Alpha Flight story came out at the same time, Mantlo and Claremont obviously worked it out together, but it’s tough to tell exactly who came up with what part.

That said, Windsor-Smith came up with a great design for Deathstrike, and Claremont wrote her well. So it’s no surprise she became a successful villain.

But the real meat of the issue is Katie and Wolverine. They contrast really well. And Katie’s just written fantastically here. She’s incredibly brave and compassionate, and her mixed fear of and for Wolverine comes across really well. Add to that the ending, where Wolverine works hard to preserve her innocence by having her cover her ears and eyes so she doesn’t have to see or hear what he’s doing. That’s a great bit.

And then there’s the art! Windsor-Smith just kills it here. A lot of the issue takes place in a snowstorm, which meant that he could skimp on environmental detail. So, naturally, he put a lot of work into the environmental detail, even if it was just the way the snow swirled around. Windsor-Smith was never one to half-ass. You’d be hard-pressed to find an artist who puts that much work into a pile of snow. Characters look great, and expressive. The action is done really well, with a lot of energy. The fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike is vicious. The final scene between Wolverine and Katie is a lot softer than the rest of the issue, and a lot brighter.

This was a really, really memorable issue. A classic. This is why I said the previous issue was so overshadowed – the Nightcrawler solo issue was fun, and then this one was intense, and so much more memorable, even with the star not being an X-Man. Katie Power being the star just makes it all that much more intense, that much more dramatic. Because it taps into our desire not to see kids hurt, I suppose. I think, also, the child’s viewpoint might be easier for even us jaded adults to relate to – Wolverine nearly being killed is old news, but a young girl seeing Wolverine nearly killed? It’s a fresh perspective, and I feel like giving us an extra degree of separation from events actually makes them more powerful. We don’t know what it’s like to be shot, but we relate to the shock of someone else seeing someone get shot.

Anyway. Excellent issue.

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