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Wolverine Epic Collection: Madripoor Nights Paperback – 23 Dec 2014
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This volume collects both the introductory ten-part series from Marvel Comics Presents, as well as the first sixteen issues of the Wolverine series itself. Together, they take Wolvie out on his own (at this point in the comics, the X-Men were scattered around the world, having faked their own deaths), as he finds a new life in the lawless south-east Asian island of Madripoor.
Taking on the pseudonym of 'Patch' and attempting to conceal his mutant nature from the raucous locals, he finds himself caught up in the local criminal turf wars as well as taking part in some rather more esoteric adventures. In these pages you will meet crime lords Roche, Tyger Tiger and Nguyen Ngoc Coy, brutal enforcers Roughouse and Bloodsport, a visiting Hulk (in his Joe Fixit persona), ex-Spider-Woman-turned-private-eye Jessica Drew, ancient demon Ba'al, lethal mutant Silver Samurai and more.
The stories are nearly all penned by mutant maestro Chris Claremont, although Peter David scripts the concluding six-parter, and likewise are drawn by Marvel legend John Buscema, with a guest spot from Gene Colan. Claremont has always had a good fix on what makes Wolverine tick, and takes pleasure in exploring his ruthless, wry nature through laconic inner monologues and witty quips - this is a Marvel antihero who is more than willing to deal death to the deserving. Buscema, too, his art sketchier and rougher to match the setting, shows the mastery of visual storytelling that made his name.
As much as Wolverine is the protagonist, though, and as fun as his supporting cast is, the real star of this collection is Madripoor itself. With elements of Casablanca, eighties Daredevil and countless noir movies thrown into the mix, the city-island is a living, breathing cesspit where life is cheap and sudden violence mixes with sleazy glamour. It helps give these adventures very much a unique flavour.
As with a lot of the later material, extras abound in this Epic Collection. As well as plenty of pinups of Wolverine himself, there are Marvel Age articles on both series collected here, ads of the time, the covers of previous collections to collect this material, and lots of original Buscema art. All of which help to make this a definitive printing of Wolvie's original solo outings; why not pick them up and remind yourself what the fuss was all about. What he does might not be pretty... but it sure is fun.
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The art, however, is really excellent throughout. It's almost entirely John Buscema pencils, but those pencils are finished by legends like Klaus Janson, Al Williamson, and Bill Sienkiewicz. I guess the sketchier nature of the finishes might turn off people who are more familiar with the flashier artists that have graced the X-Franchise over the years, but in my opinion, these gritty interpretations of Big John's pencils really set the atmosphere of the these stories and the intensity of their action. I wouldn't trade the art in these stories for anything else.
(Also, there's some great pin-ups by Sienkiewicz, John Byrne, Kevin Nowlan, Barry Windsor-Smith, Howard Chaykin, Matt Wagner[!!!!-- very little Marvel work for Matt], and Kent Williams. Of course, there's a Rob Liefeld pin-up, too, so...)
The first story arch has to do with Tyger Tyger's bid for power. She attempts to overthrow the current crime lord, and she has the support of Wolverine. This was an awesome story arch. After the Tyger Tyger story arch, there are several one-shot stories. The most interesting one-shot involves Sabretooth, and the story is the same origin-type story that appears in the Wolverine X-Men Origins movie.
The last story arch involves something called the Gehenna Stone. It is a very cool story. It's unlike any Wolverine story that I've ever read. Check it out!
I personally loved the story although some hate the "patch" identity. The classic art style is something to behold as well. Although, probably my only grip is the one filler story planted in the middle. That aside its a must have
Now before I get into the meat of the review I must comment on the editorial decision to make this the Volume One of Wolverines Epic Collection. This decision simply makes no sense and goes against everything they have set up in other Epic Collections. The Moon Knight volume simply has EVERY Moon Knight appearance since his creation. In the recent Captain America Volume One they included three stories which appeared prior to his solo run in Tales Of Suspense. Wolverine was created in 1974 this volume starts in 1988. How is it Volume number #1 ? Shouldn't volume One include Hulk #181 and #182( his first appearance). Plus at least a portion of Giant Size X-Men #1. Or how about the Claremont & Frank Miller Mini-series or the follow up Wolverine & Kitty Pryde six issue series? Or even Marvel team-Up #117 where he co-headlined ? If they just would have called it Volume #2 I would have shut up.
But don't let my rant keep you from buying this book. Because what you do get is excellent and is one of the most cohesive Epic Collections so far produced. My only other complainant is when Claremont left the book he seems to have taken the page numbers with him. So even though this is a 504 page collection the page numbering only goes up to Page 335.
The first arc is from Marvel Comics presents #1 to #10 "Save The Tiger" is a ten part story-line formed of 8 page segments. It is an outstanding job of World Building by Claremont who creates this seedy East Indian Island, It is mix of Terry and the Pirates and Casablanca with a lot of respectful homage given to those great old Adventure strips. O'Donnell is blonde version of Rick from Casablanca but is named after Modesty Blaise's creator Peter O'Donnell. He runs the " Princess Bar" . Princess was Willie Garvin's pet name for Modesty. John Buscema does breakdown pencils and Klaus Janson does the rest of the art, finishing the pencils and inking.
The plot involves Logan trying to save the beautiful Tyger(the not so bad Crime-lord of Madripoor) from Roche (the really bad Crime-lord of Madripoor). Roche has working for him the beautiful life-force sucking Sapphire Styx and from Master Of Kung-Fu Razorfist. It should be noted that this story takes place after the Fall Of The Mutants storyline in which all the X-Men including Logan are in hiding so the world thinks them dead. So Wolverine never wears a mask except for a smear of grease paint . He wears an all black costume and towards the very end of the story sports an eye-patch and start calling himself "Patch". This is an excellent first story which sets things nicely for the entire rest of the book.
Long before Save The Tiger 10 parter is finished Wolverine is given his own book which runs simultaneously. Claremont and Buscema are the announced team with Buscema returning to full pencils with Al Williamson on-board as the inker. The first story-line in the regular book is a three parter about a Black Blade that possess it's owner. This story transplants Jessica Drew and Lindsey McCabe frm Claremont's canceled Spider-Woman book to Madripoor.
Also finding a new home is the Silver Samurai. Kluaus Janson returns to ink the middle issue in the arc. Another great story.
Next we get the a five page new story from Marvel Age Annual #4. This was done to catch new readers up to speed and plug the new Wolverine book. As such, I think it belongs before the Black Blade story. Irregardless it adds little to the worth of the collection but is nice for a complete collection.
Wolverine #4 to #6 is another three parter and is my favorite of the collection. This is mostly due to the beautiful art from Buscema and Williamson and the now giant supporting cast. New bad guy is General Coy who is eager to take over Madripoor's crime world. He is accompanied by his unwilling niece Karma from the New Mutants. It has some great new underlings working for Coy: Roughouse and Bloodsport . Also new is Patch's new ally the Black Pilot Archie Corrigan. Corrigan is named after Archie Goodwin who wrote the best years of the comic strip Secret Agent Corrigan . It should be noted that Archie Goodwin's partner on Secret Agent Corrigan was the talented Al Williamson who inked this saga.
Wolverine #7 & #8 are two parter starring Mr. Fixit. Wolverine #7 is really a linking issue in that starts the Mr. Fixit story but also goes back and ties up a lot of loose ends from the previous arc which ended on a cliff hanger. Mr Fixit for those of you not around then is the Hulk, now colored Grey again, as a LosVegas Enforcer in Peter David's then current run. These are a change of pace story which is pretty light heart-ed and a rare humorous story from Claremont.
Wolverine #9 is a one shot very dark story from Peter David and guest artist Gene Colan. This is a story set before Wolverine was an X-Men and is told in a bar in Madripoor. Wolverine #10 is Claremon's last and also a one shot. It also a flashback story with Sabretooth and introducing Silver Fox the love interest for Wolverine who would be featured in the first Wolverine movie. Bill Sienkiewicz takes over as John Buscema's new inker.
The book closes with Peter David's six part Gehenna Stone Affair which ran in Wolverine #11 to #16. The book went to twice a month as I assume did Claremont's X-men book. Claremont was also writing New Mutants and Excaliber so something had to give. The book remains pretty faithful to Claremont's vision with his supporting cast from Madripoor all appearing. After Saphire Styx and Bloodsport I just wish that Peter David would have stayed away from Vampire like villains. Still not a bad closing arc.
We get lots of back matter including a couple articles from Marvel Age, Original art, Art from Various collection covers and even some fanzine covers. Plus sprinkled in are over a dozen full page pin-ups from big name artists in the Wolverine Gallery. These appeared in solo book and are found in proximity to the original issues they appeared in.
I read this material when it first came out and thought it was a strange take on Wolverine. Re-reading now after reading all the classic comics strips like Terry & The Pirates, Johny Hazard, Modesty Blaise, Secret Agent Corrigan and the like, I now appreciate it a lot more and think it is an outstanding run on Wolverine.
My Highest Recommendation.