Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

First Published: January 2009

Contents: Wolverine #91 (July 1995) to #110 (February 1997); Wolverine Annual ’96 (1996); and Uncanny X-Men #332 (May 1996)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Adam Kubert, Val Semeiks, Anthony Winn, and others

Key First Appearances: Dirt Nap, Chimera, Ozymandias

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 6

Overview: Everyone’s favorite Canucklehead is back! Wolverine returns to the black & white pages, still sporting the bone claws, but becoming more feral in his nature and looks!

The stories in this volume start out with the X-Men still trying to understand and cope with the more animalistic version of Wolverine. He wants to be outside in the woods, and not cooped up in a lab in Xavier’s mansion. As he gets more primitive, his body starts to revert as well. Eventually, he is kidnapped by Genesis (Cable’s son) who wants to re-bond Logan’s skeleton with adamantium. However, his mutant healing ability overwhelms the process, and Wolverine’s body rejects the metal.

Following that, Logan goes on a journey to bring himself back from the animalistic edge. Along for this journey is an odd companion, Elektra. While she is more closely associated with Daredevil, this pairing actually works well. Elektra coaches Logan back towards a (relatively) normal human personality.

This volume gives us a lot of familiar faces, whether in cameos or team-ups. From the X-Men, we have appearances by Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Beast, and Iceman. From Alpha Flight, we see Guardian, Vindicator, and Shaman. A story arc takes us back to Madripoor where we see Archie Corrigan and Tyger Tiger again. From his time in Japan, we see Logan go on a mission to track down the missing Yukio and Amiko. And no volume would be complete at this point without a couple of appearances by Sabretooth.

What makes this Essential?: Once again, I am impressed by how much I enjoyed the volume. In full disclosure, I was never a fan of Wolverine as a solo character, and the over-use of the character in the 1990s drove me away from a lot of his appearances. Larry Hama continues his long run with Logan, which will come to an end in Volume 6. My biggest complaint about this volume is a carryover from the previous volume. With the way the books were produced and printed in the mid-1990s, reprinting them in black & white lead to a lot of really dark pages. There are times when some of the caption boxes and panels are very hard to read. 

Footnotes: Essential Wolverine Vol. 4 ended with Wolverine #90 (February 1995). Volume 5 begins with Wolverine #91 (July 1995). For the four months in-between, the book was renamed Weapon X as part of the Age of Apocalypse storyline that ran through all of the mutant books.

If you like this volume, try: the Onslaught story from 1996, which is touched on briefly at the end of Wolverine #105. Onslaught was a sentient psionic entity created from the consciousness of Professor X and Magneto. The X-Men (in all of the various teams) go toe-to-toe with Onslaught but need help from the Avengers and the Fantastic Four to finally defeat their foe. However, the victory came at a cost, as the Avengers and FF were shuttled off into the Heroes Reborn universe for a year, and were not seen in the Marvel Universe proper. As I recall, this was truly an X-Men story that morphed into a Marvel Universe event to fit the needs of the business. But that won’t stop Marvel from rebranding, as there is an X-Men/Avengers: Onslaught Omnibus due out in July of this year. There are prior omnibus and trade paperback collections of this storyline, but the new omnibus appears to be the most complete of any of the collections.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

First Published: May 2006

Contents: Wolverine #70 (June 1993) to #90 (February 1995)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Adam Kubert, Dwayne Turner, and others

Key First Appearances: Zoe Culledon

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome back, Wolverine! After an eight-year absence from the Essential schedule (see Footnotes), you finally have a new volume tracking your solo adventures away from the X-Men.

This volume begins by finishing up a three-part story in the Savage Land fighting Sauron that was started in Essential Wolverine Vol. 3. From there, we get a story of Wolverine and Jubilee fighting Sentinels in the X-Men’s old headquarters in the Australian Outback.

The highlight of this volume comes with Wolverine #75, which was a tie-in issue with the Fatal Attractions story-line in the X-Men books. In Fatal Attractions, Magneto returned once again to face off against Xavier’s students. In the course of the battle, Wolverine savagely cut up Magneto, leaving him severely wounded. In retaliation, Magneto used his powers to extract all of the adamantium out of Wolverine’s skeleton, as well as his claws. The story picks up in Wolverine #75, as the X-Men are returning to Earth as quickly as possible to get Wolverine medical treatment. His mutant healing factor is extended well beyond what it can handle, and his body seems to be shutting down. Thanks to the skills of his teammates, the X-Men get the plane safely to the ground, and Wolverine gets the help he needs to start his recovery.

While he is recovering, Wolverine takes leave of the X-Men to travel the world and settle his affairs. That journey takes him to Canada, Madripoor, Japan, and back to Canada. During this period, Wolverine finds that he can extend “claws” made out of bone, but his body is having a hard time healing each time he bares the claws.

The volume concludes with yet another showdown between Wolverine and Sabretooth. Wolverine finally returns to the X-Men’s mansion, and finds that Sabretooth is being held in a cell in the basement. As luck would have it, Sabretooth has been testing the limits of his holding cell, and finally manages to break free, leading to a battle with Logan.

What makes this Essential?: I really enjoyed this volume, in particular when Wolverine was without the adamantium. This was a new take on the character, who now could be hurt, could be stopped, and potentially could be killed. This was a good move by Marvel to be able to do something completely different with the character. I think this is a must-own volume for the Wolverine and/or X-Men fan, if they do not already own the individual issues. 

Missing in Action: Wolverine ’95 (the very first Wolverine annual) is not included in this Essential or Essential Wolverine Vol. 5. Volume 5 does contain the Wolverine ’96 annual.

Footnotes: Essential Wolverine Vol. 3 was released in June of 1998, but Essential Wolverine Vol. 4 was not released until May of 2006. During the long gap, Marvel reprinted Volumes 1-3 multiple times, as the cover format was updated in the early 2000s.

With the changes in production process for comic books in the 1990s, the Black & White reprints of the comics in this volume come across as very dark, and are at times hard to read.

If you like this volume, try: Alpha Flight, in particular the first two years of the monthly book done by John Byrne. In the early days of the Chris Claremont-John Byrne run on X-Men, some stories started diving into the background of Wolverine. We found out that Wolverine had been part of a super-hero team in Canada, known as Alpha Flight. The first encounter (Uncanny X-Men #109, Essential X-Men Vol. 1) had Guardian trying to bring Logan back to Canada to fulfill his obligations. The next encounter (Uncanny X-Men #120 & #121, Essential X-Men Vol. 2) gave us the first full meeting of Alpha Flight. Over the next couple of years, Alpha Flight would make sporadic appearances before moving into their own monthly book in 1983, written and pencilled by Byrne. Over the next two years, Byrne broke up the team and then brought them back again, fleshing out the characters and providing more history to Wolverine’s past. The Byrne issues have been collected into three Alpha Flight Classics, so they should be easy to track down.