Monday, September 19, 2016

Crabs Assemble!, Part Two: Wolverine Epic Collection, Volume 01: Madripoor Nights

 If I hated this series 28 years ago, why am I buying it again....?

 The power of the Epic Collections COMPELS me!

 In all honesty, I bought this assuming (Hoping?) that I would enjoy the material more this time around, which turned out to be partially true.


 WOLVERINE EPIC COLLECTION, VOLUME 01: MADRIPOOR NIGHTS collects the Wolverine stories from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #'s 1-10, WOLVERINE #'s 1-16, and material from MARVEL AGE #'s 65, 67, and Annual #4. Back in 1989, before he was hideously overexposed, Wolverine was a hot property, and fans went nuts when Marvel finally announced an ongoing solo series starring the diminutive X-Man. I vividly remember taking the meager earnings from my supermarket cart-pushing job to the local comic store one Wednesday afternoon and buying two copies of the first issue (One for me, and one for my cousin, Rob), and rushing home to read it. I will never forget closing the last page at the same time as Rob, and looking over at him and saying "What the hell was that???"

 People wanted WOLVERINE. Fighting super-villains. Wearing a costume. Clawing people.

 What writer Chris Claremont and artists John Buscema and Al Williamson delivered was a poor mans TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY (Look it up!), with Wolverine wearing an eye-patch as a disguise (Hey, a pair of glasses works for Superman!), and hiding out on a corrupt southeast Asian island named Madripoor, surrounded by a wacky/crooked/murderous cast of locals and visiting Americans. He doesn't wear his usual costume, and REFUSES TO USE HIS CLAWS, lest anyone recognize him. (The X-Men had faked their deaths during this era.)

 To say that I, and everyone that I spoke to at Wonderland Comics, hated this book would be an understatement. Yet.......we all kept buying it! Go figure.

 I actually did enjoy the stories in this book (slightly...) more this time around. The MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS ten-parter kicks things off nicely, setting up Madripoor and the new cast of characters. Claremont had the reins of the book for 9 issues (1-8 and 10. #9 is a fill-in by Peter David and the always-amazing Gene Colan.), and he maintains pretty much the same level of quality throughout: Mediocre, with occasional flashes of Not Bad. The mid-'80's was when Claremont started to go off the rails and become unreadable to me, and this book has a lot of the story tics and Claremont-isms that drove me away from his writing. Your mileage may vary.

 I grew up reading CONAN THE BARBARIAN, and Buscema, inked by Ernie Chan, was THE gold standard of comic-book art when I was younger. Unfortunately, Buscema is paired here with inkers Klaus Janson and Al Williamson, neither of whom is a good match. The art looks rushed and unfinished, and only really shines in issue #8, when Buscema inks his own work.

 I remember LOVING the Peter David six-parter that closes out the book back when I first read it, but, wow....it does NOT hold up at all. Long and meandering, with David in full pop-culture-reference mode, which I found, in 2016, to be terribly obnoxious and distracting. (Will anyone but me get the "Kill my landlord" reference?) I thought the David/Colan fill-in in issue 9 was very good, but the six-parter was filled to the brim with wacky behavior and in-jokes. When Wolverine is making pop-culture references and groan-inducing gags, something is wrong. I did, however, appreciate how David reveals that no one was fooled by Wolverine's "Patch" disguise.

 The collection has a nice assortment of extras, including a MARVEL: 1989- THE YEAR IN REVIEW article, some Buscema promotional art, covers from AMAZING HEROES and THE OVERSTREET PRICE GUIDE, and a ton of penciled pages from Buscema.

 I added this book to my just-started AVENGERS marathon because the MARVEL UNIVERSE BY JOHN BYRNE OMNIBUS collects WOLVERINE #'s 17-23, in case you were wondering what the hell this book is doing under the CRABS ASSEMBLE! heading. There IS a method to my madness....

 Overall, this is an interesting little piece of Wolvie history, but I really can't recommend it.