If you’ve been reading Wolverine from the start via the Epic Collections format, the third volume is out this week to wet your whistle. Or is it wet your claws? Running 456 pages, this collection houses some very important Wolverine stories, including the introduction of cyborg Wolverine Albert, the story Blood and Claws featuring an iconic Lady Deathstrike story drawn by Marc Silvestri before he left for Image Comics, and a compelling super sci-fi story set in Canada called Bloodlust.
Collected here are Wolverine (1988) #31-44, the miniseries Wolverine: Bloodlust, and the miniseries Wolverine: Bloody Choices. All in all, you get four complete Wolverine adventures which makes this book easier to jump into as a casual fan. Sure, you might want to brush up on Wolverine’s exploits in Japan to understand why he’s fighting the Yakuza in the opening, but how hard is it to go with the flow when Patch kicks gangster butt?
The opening story features Wolverine as Patch fighting a bunch of Yakuza goons. This is a period where Wolverine was dealing with this berserker rage. He’s also a little easier to wound to the point where he has to rest to get back into fighting shape. Possibly the craziest moment in this arc involves Jean Grey telepathically healing Wolverine and bringing him back from death. It’s interesting to see Wolverine so vulnerable considering in future stories he heals much faster and is invulnerable to almost everything.
Written by Larry Hama with art by Silvestri, you can tell this was a grittier time for Wolverine where the series was going for grungy street-level fights and more animalistic takes on the character. In a one-shot that follows the Yakuza story, Wolverine is in the wilderness tracking down a monster. This leads to him fighting with the idea that his humanity may be lost.
A similar theme is explored by Alan Davis and Paul Neary in Wolverine: Bloodlust. It’s an interesting story thanks to the introduction of an ancient species that looks like a skinny version of Wendigo. At its core, this is a story about how humanity has really screwed up since this species left Earth and we’ve literally tainted a few of their own. In order to stop them, they need the help of Wolverine or they’d turn themselves into raving monsters. There’s a spiritual nature to the story as well as a disheartening larger purpose about how humans are treating the planet and killing each other. It also hits at the core of who Wolverine is deep down, even if he goes into berserker rages. It’s very well drawn, with a more premiere look and feel likely due to the creative team having more time than the usual monthly series.
Following this is a “Blood and Claws” story arc in the main series by Silvestri and Hama. It utilizes Lady Deathstrike and her desire for revenge against Wolverine, features one of the most iconic Wolverine covers of all time with Logan holding a giant gun, and features Nazis too. It’s crazy, violent, and big action comics.
Next up is “Death in Venice”, the introduction of Albert the cyborg Wolverine. It’s goofy for sure, with a child robot named Elsie Dee who does a lot of the talking. Their relationship and bond are developed well so that when Albert comes back made up of scraps you believe he’ll stop at nothing to save her, even though Wolverine is on good terms with her. This tale naturally leads to a Sabretooth vs. Wolverine spat that also weaves in Cable. Also written by Hama with art by Silvestri, this story is about as iconic as a 1990s comic can get, right down to the nonsensical and overly long action.
Following this is a quick one-shot by Peter David and Larry Stroman before it dives into the miniseries Bloody Choices by Tom DeFalco and John Buscema. This story introduces a Kingpin-like character named Bullfinch, and a Wolverine copycat called Shiv. It’s a gritty story that’s not unlike an adventure Punisher might go on, right down to the narration that gives it a noir feel. The book’s drawn gorgeously, although the original format size does lose the bottom tenth of the page to white space. This story heavily implies Shiv might be Wolverine’s brother and you can tell the creators were playing around with Wolverine’s origin a bit at a time when his origin was far from ever being fully revealed.
Wolverine Epic Collection: Blood And Claws is an example of how different Wolverine was in the early ’90s and how badass he could be. The allure of a man who doesn’t know his past, can barely control his rage, and who wants to be left alone is highly relatable. The style of the ’90s doesn’t always quite work, but considering how many important stories are in this collection, it’s well worth purchasing.
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