Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Hey, look! It was back, then it went away again, and now it’s back! Who knows for how long? Possibly the Shadow, but who can trust that guy?
Of course, there are ground rules for these posts!
Wolverine #94 (“The Lurker in the Machine”) by Larry Hama (writer), Chris Alexander (penciler), Mike Sellers (inker), Al Milgrom (inker), Richard Starkings (letterer), and Joe Rosas (colorist). Published by Marvel, October 1995.
Given the popularity of a certain self-healing, adamantium-laced, and, let’s face it, delicious mutant in the cinema, I can’t imagine anyone picking up their first comic and having it star him and not know a bit about him. Yes, parse that sentence, suckers! Anyway, say this is your first comic ever. You probably know a bit about Logan, right? But this is mid-Nineties Wolverine, so some things are a bit … weird. You remember what I mean!
We open with a brief prologue that has nothing to do with the rest of the issue. Some guy called Cyber is flying somewhere on a fancy plane, expositing for us. He was busted out of the “hoosegow” by some people called “the Dark Riders,” and their boss is transporting him to a mysterious installation. It’s a creepy place strewn with skeletons, some tied to tall stumps, some lying on the ground. The first thing we notice, beyond the story (which, at this point, hasn’t really gotten going yet), is the painful, painful art:
Check out those shoulders on Cyber! And the mohawk! And the posing chick! So many ‘roids, so little time! Some dude called Jamil shows up, tells them he’s “in the service of Candra,” and leads them through a sandstorm to a citadel. End prologue! That was cool, wasn’t it, Cyber?
We head to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Massachusetts, where a bunch of kids are hanging out. Four of them are playing foosball and arguing. One of them, called Jubilee, telephoned Wolverine a few days ago for some reason, but he hasn’t shown up yet. Another one, a gray-skinned young man, implies that Wolverine is a bit nutty, and then there’s a very weird exchange:
Can you do that in foosball? Why is the foosball so very big? It looks like a billiard ball, for crying out loud! And why doesn’t it seem to affect Jubilee at all? Or maybe it does – check out her eyes in the panel where it hits her on the head. That’s a concussion if I ever saw one! Yet no one checks her out? Man, these people suck. Of course, they’re interrupted by the star of our show, heading in from the woods. Jubilee says she’d recognize that walk from a mile away – it’s Wolverine!
You know, to step out of my “first comic ever” mode here, I’ve read a lot of comics with Wolverine in them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him ride a horse. So why does he walk like he’s just gotten off of one? Anyway, Logan tears into a bird’s leg (it’s probably turkey, because it’s too big to be chicken), scarfs down some milk, and tells Sean and Emma how he slipped through the estate’s security. We also find out why he’s at the estate – to be a “special guest lecturer on fighting skills!” Yes, Emma uses an exclamation point – she’s really excited that Logan is there! But wait – Jubilee called him to ask him to come. Did she ask him to come to be a “special guest lecturer on fighting skills”? The text implies that she did, which seems odd, as that means Sean and Emma used her to do their job. It worked, of course, because Logan specifically says he came because Jubilee called, but it’s kind of weird. Anyway, Jubilee and Logan have a brief exchange wherein we realize they have a relationship of some sort (obviously not a romantic kind), and then it’s off to train!
The next morning, Logan and the kids are inside the “biosphere,” which is where they train. Logan tells them: “Attitude is everything … and the proper attitude is positive. You go into a fight to win. No retreat. No surrender.” Okay, Rorschach! Husk (we never learn her real name in this issue) asks what happens if they want to capture, not kill, because they don’t want to kill anyone. Logan replies, “Then don’t get into a fight. Run. Never get into a set-to unless ya intend to win.” Oh, that wacky Logan! Emma (or maybe Sean – it’s hard to tell where the speech balloon is coming from, but the words don’t have any ridiculous Irish affectations, so it’s probably Emma) says that Logan’s viewpoint does not reflect the attitudes of management, and Logan says he’s heard that before, and it always changes when “the wolf is at the door.” Emma and Sean debate the soundness of bringing crazy Logan in to train the kids, and then Logan tells Skin to get ready to fight. Skin asks him if he wants to throw down, and Logan replies:
Oh, that Logan! Always on the cutting edge of popular culture!
Logan schools Angelo, then fades into the forest and tells them to track him. “M” (we never learn her real name, either) is bored, the others think Logan is a freak, and Jubilee gets all mad at them. They do what they’re told, however, and slink through the woods. Jubilee sees Wolverine standing still, and when he looks at her, his eyes are red. Huh? He motions for them to be quiet, then tells them all to back out of the room quietly and then run for the exit. He shows up in the control room demanding answers (to what, we’re not sure yet), and when Emma and Sean say there’s nothing out of the ordinary, he tells them to shut the place down and scan it. In the morning, Sean and Emma tell the kids they scanned it but found nothing. Emma thinks it’s just Logan’s paranoia acting up (we learn he’s been living in the woods), but Jubilee and Angelo tell them they saw something in the biosphere the night before. Emma says they’re just as paranoid as Logan, and Sean wonders if Logan is turning into a pooka (Harvey was a pooka, too, in case you’re interested) and asks Angelo to tell them what they saw. He and Jubilee followed Logan to the biosphere and saw him battling … something:
Jubilee says Logan was “all frizzed out like he was having a bad hair day,” while Angelo says it was an “out-there forest spirit,” and while Logan and this thing weren’t “dukin’ like Macho Camacho,” they “was dealin’, you know?” He also tells us something I didn’t know – you can actually see angry waves coming off people:
Apparently, these “mucho bad vibes” from Wolverine were enough to scare the forest spirit off, and it fled, but not before it smashed through Angelo and Jubilee, causing them to experience a “creepy cold run up [their] spine[s]” that felt like “it went right through [their] souls!” Well, that sucks. Jubilee and Angelo check on Wolverine, who really is having a bad hair day:
He says the thing was a “token” and then decides it’s time to leave. So he does. Back in the present, Jubilee says that she saw defeat in his eyes, but she couldn’t say anything to him. Sean tells them that a “token” is a “wraith of the dead, or, worse still, of the living.” Emma, in the typically idiotic way some people in superhero comics have, is skeptical, but the others aren’t so sure. Sean says that Wolverine got it to leave because “a token cannot abide its own kind.” Dum-dum-DUMMMMMMM!
Now, ignoring that this reads more like an issue of Generation X than Wolverine, do the creators give us any reason to return? Well, the story is kind of boring, especially because the “token” only appears in five panels and doesn’t seem to be all that menacing. And, you know, how did it get there in the first place? The fact that Logan is going through his “feral” phase right now is obliquely addressed, and it’s not that difficult to figure out, so kudos to Hama for that. However, as a single-issue story, which should be the best way to draw in new readers, there’s a lot missing. The prologue with Cyber adds nothing, and although I understand that Hama is setting something up, perhaps it might be better served having it as part of a continuing story arc. It takes away from the main story, leaving Hama with less time to develop the whole idea of Wolverine showing up and finding something weird in the biosphere. Sean’s final aphorism has less impact because we’re not terribly impressed with the token in the first place, so the fact that Wolverine “is” one doesn’t feel all that important either. It certainly sets up some interesting storylines, but this initial revelation falls kind of flat.
Of course, a first-time comic book reader might wonder what in the hell is up with the art. I have never heard of Chris Alexander, but he has that whole “Early Image Style” crap down pat, but it’s a knockoff of the originals (Lee especially, of course), so it’s just painful to look at. Everyone is posing all the time, the anatomy is mind-bending, and Wolverine’s hair changes length panel-by-panel. The less said about the art, the better.
Ultimately, there’s nothing memorable about this issue, but it doesn’t approach the worst even Marvel had to offer in the mid-Nineties. You can see the nuggets of a good story here, but Hama never really gets us to that point. As for making people return for more comics – well, I can’t say it would drive people away from comics forever, but it certainly isn’t the best advertisement for what the art form has to offer.
Amen to that, Monet!
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