Countdown to X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Andy B On Barry Windsor-Smith’s Classic Weapon X

Well we’re less than two weeks away from the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the first solo film adventure from everyone’s favorite ‘ole Canucklehead. With the unfinished film leak dividing people for a variety of reasons and anticipation running high, I figured that we’d spend the next week and a half counting down to the film’s arrival. Expect to see recaps and reviews of classic Wolverine comic escapades, along with personal reflections of Biff Bam Popper’s favourite Logan tales. Let’s get started, shall we?

No matter how big a fan you are of any particular character, I highly doubt you’ve been able to read every comic book that they’ve been featured in. At least those that have been around for 30 years plus. I mean, my main character that I’ve always dug is Spider-Man, and while I’ve read my fair share over the years, there’s lots of stuff I’ve missed out on. In some case, thankfully so (I’m looking at you, Clone Saga). The same goes for Wolverine. While I can’t profess to be a diehard fan of Logan, I have been around to read some of his core stories. Those early tales from Madripoor, his first solo mini-series, the moment where Mageneto ripped the adamantium from poor Wolvie’s body; read it, relished it, bought the trade paperback. But I’ve also missed out on some key moments in the history of the character, a situation which I’m remedying now with the release of the Wolverine Omnibus, a mammoth 1000 pages and more of quintessential Wolverine stories in chronological order.

The first story in the collection is Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X. Originally anthologized back in 1991 in Marvel Comics Presents, the 125 page tale details how Logan received his adamantium-laced skeleton and the trials and tribulations he’s forced to endure directly following the operation. Though I’m surprised that I hadn’t read Weapon X sometime over the past 18 years, I’m not so surprised that I missed it the first time around. I wasn’t reading MCP when it was publishing the tale, and had I been, I don’t even know if I would have stuck with the story. Barry Windsor-Smith’s artwork doesn’t remotely resemble typical comic art, at least not at the time of publication. In an era when Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee were making waves, Windsor-Smith’s work was decidedly less accessible. And violent as hell. The powers that be must have thrown away the guidelines at the time of publication, because I don’t recall a Wolverine story prior to Weapon X’s publication being so bloody. Of course, that violence is necessary in depicting the animal that Logan initially becomes post-op. Perhaps that’s why the comic holds up and feels fresh, nearly 20 years after publication. There are no boundaries. Just the story.

Speaking of which, Weapon X is amazingly dense, perhaps the most demanding of Logan tales up to that time. There is very little visceral action in the first few issues. Instead, we watch as Logan is injected with adamantium, a harrowing and mercilessly painful process. Never do we see the character in costume. He only ever utters a few sentences throughout the duration. Instead, it’s the doctor (Cornelius), assistant (Hines), and professor (Professor) who are the real voices of Weapon X. All of them seem coldly detached as they perform an experiment that will change a man into a superman. While there’s no clear timeline in the story, we know from subsequent revelations that Weapon X takes place sometime in the mid-60’s, where it appears few are aware of the term mutant or homo superior.

There’s something quite moving about Weapon X which I didn’t expect reading it for the first time. I think it’s the fact that we as readers know just how much crap Wolverine has waded through his entire life. Reading Weapon X back in 1991 would have shed much light on the character, to be sure, but with so much more backstory to Wolverine throughout the years, as I was taking in the tale for the first time I couldn’t help thinking “can’t the guy catch a break”.

19 years after its initial publication, Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X remains a key piece of the Wolverine puzzle. If you’ve read it before, you might want to return to it once more as you gear up for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But if you’re like me, and somehow missed out on this core piece of the Logan puzzle the first time ‘round, Weapon X is essential and quintessential reading. So finish kicking yourself and get to it.

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