Wolverine (1982) is the first solo adventure of X-Men Breakout Character Wolverine. A four-issue miniseries written by Chris Claremont with layouts by Frank Miller and pencils by Joe Rubinstein, it is considered one of Wolverine’s defining stories and features some of the most iconic images of the character’s career.
In earlier X-Men issues, Wolverine met Mariko Yashida, a Japanese woman, from the powerful Yashida family, and the two started a romance. In the Wolverine series, he returns to the USA to find that Mariko's vanished - her long-absent father has returned, and Mariko is now back in Japan with her family, who are not letting Logan contact her. When Logan travels to Japan to find her, he finds Mariko ensnared in family duty and her father's debts. And je swiftly finds that her father is a very dangerous man.
The series introduces several important characters to Wolverine's mythology, such as Mariko's father Shingen and the assassin Yukio. The miniseries had been set up over the course of dozens of issues in Uncanny X-Men and appropriately had an immediate follow-up in Issues 172 and 173 of that series. Tropes from the Uncanny issues will be provided on this page as well.
The comic had a Sequel Series of a sort in the Kitty Pryde And Wolverine miniseries (published in 1984–1985), which was also set in Japan and featured some of the same characters and themes (such as Wolverine's internal conflict between his animal rage and his samurai honor).
Many elements of the limited series were later used in the Wolverine anime, including Yukio, Shingen, Mariko, and Logan's buddy on the Japanese Secret Service. The 2013 film The Wolverine also includes characters and concepts from this limited series.
Wolverine provides the following trope examples:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade:
- As always, Logan’s adamantium claws.
- The Masamune blade, Ancestral Weapon of Clan Yashida. Mariko gifts it to Logan at the end of the miniseries for showing honor in battle with Shingen.
- Action Girl: Yukio. To the point that she would have sex with Wolverine on the rails of the supersonic train, just for the thrill of the risk.
- Ancestral Weapon: The Masamune sword, which is said to be 800 years old and has been passed down through Clan Yashida for generations.
- Annoying Arrows: Hand ninja launch volleys of arrows attached to cables at Logan to try and capture him. He shrugs them off.
- The hunter’s poisoned arrow that pierces the bear’s skin the Batman Cold Open doesn’t take it down immediately and leads to several deaths as it is driven mad by the toxin thanks to the hunter not bothering to finish it off when he had the chance.
- Arranged Marriage: Logan finds that Mariko has been forced into one by her father.
- Artistic License – History: Shingen is repeatedly referred to as the daimyō of Clan Yashida, implying that the Yashidas are nobility ("daimyō" is a hereditary noble title). In reality, the institution of daimyō was abolished (along with the samurai) in the mid-19th century following the Meiji Restoration; it was replaced with the institution of kazoku (華族), a new class of hereditary nobility recognized by the government of Imperial Japan. And even that title was abolished after World War II: modern-day Japan has no noble families other than the Imperial Family, and only immediate relatives of the Emperor can claim to be nobility.note
- Badass Normal:
- Yukio has no powers, but is able to keep up with Logan throughout the miniseries being the greatest assassin of Clan Yashida. She shows Storm a thing or two when the X-Men come to Japan, foreshadowing her imminent power loss and use of only her natural skills while maintaining her position as leader of the X-Men.
- Lord Shingen. Though he’s surrounded by sumo bodyguards and has a legion of ninja assassins at his beck-and-call he chooses to face Logan personally and nearly kills him both times. Not too bad for an elderly man with no powers to speak of going up against a berserker with a healing factor and claws that can cut through anything.
- Bald of Evil: Shingen lacks a single hair on his head.
- Batman Cold Open: The first couple pages are a classic example about taking down an enraged, homicidal bear... and the hunter who poisoned it.Logan: The bear lasted longer... but I let the man live.
- Batman Gambit: The first duel of Shingen and Wolverine. Unknown to Mariko, the attacks were deadly attacks, forcing Wolverine to toss the wood sword and fight with his claws... and lose his honor in front of Mariko, as it would seem as if he was the one who was going for blood.
- Big Bad: Shingen, for the miniseries.
- Big Bad Ensemble: The Silver Samurai and Viper, for the Uncanny X-Men issues that follow the miniseries.
- Call-Back: Storm mentions the last appearance of Viper and the Silver Samurai in an X-book, with the duo having recently fought the New Mutants in their book and seemingly killed Karma in the process.
- Darker and Edgier: During this adventure, and after working with Yukio, Storm changed her classic outfit to the punk outfit she used during the 80's.
- Diabolus ex Machina: Mastermind has recovered from his coma, and has started manipulating the X-Men again, including convincing Mariko to call off the wedding.
- Distressed Damsel: Averted. Mariko Yashida is a Distressed Damsel, but refuses to be rescued: for Japanese honor, she must face her problems on her own.
- Evil Old Folks: Shingen is an elderly crime lord looking to become the Man Behind the Man to the emperor of Japan.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Logan popping his claws straight through Shingen’s face is covered by the SNIKT sound effect.
- Heel–Face Turn: Part of the Uncanny X-Men issues resolve the plotline from the previous issue of Uncanny, where Rogue tearfully asked to join the X-Men. While the other X-Men have grudgingly accepted hernote He grudgingly teams up with her, but treats her mostly as an annoying albatross and as a trap canary, and when he saves her life, threatens to kill her if she ever even jokes about using her powers on him or anyone elsenote . It's only at the climax of the second issue that he accepts the Heel–Face Turn when Rogue interposes herself between a weakened Wolverine and Mariko and a laser beam shot by Viper. Rogue tanks the beam until the gun explodes and there is a glowing hole where her chest once was. Laying there dying, Wolverine says that he will loan her her powers. She refuses, saying that he risks dying without them. He kisses her anyway. In an interior monologue, Wolverine says that he owes a debt to Rogue for risking her life for Mariko, and he is going to pay that debt back.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: The Uncanny issues establish this rapport between Storm and Yukio. Though it could be argued they’re not 100% committed to the “heterosexual” part of the trope.
- Hitman with a Heart: Yukio was Clan Yashida’s top assassin. It turns out she can’t go through with her mission to kill Wolverine and falls in love with him, turning on her masters completely.
- Honor Before Reason: The characters’ struggle to find balance between honor and reason could be seen as the primary theme of the miniseries, with Logan wondering if he is an honorable man and Mariko staying with an abusive husband for the sake of her father’s honor. Played with thanks to Mastermind’s manipulation of Mariko at the end of the story, with her being tricked into considering Logan to be a dishonorable figure and breaking off their engagement.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How Logan dispatches Shingen. Note that he stabs his through the face with his claws to end their duel, making this extra gruesome.
- Important Haircut: Storm cuts her long hair into a Mohawk prior to the wedding. As she has faced a great deal of change between The Brood Saga, nearly killing Callisto for leadership of the Morlocks and the events of this story she was due for a change before she broke. Kitty handles it...poorly.
- Japanese Politeness: Mariko plays the Yamato Nadeshiko to the hilt in the story, making sure that all the X-Men are welcome as guests. Even Rogue, whom Wolverine just got through saying that if it were up to him, he'd cut her heart out. This partly saves Mariko's life, as Rogue repays the kindness by nearly sacrificing her life to save Mariko and Wolverine from a laser blast from Viper.
- Katanas Are Just Better: The only way to make a Wolverine story better is by putting a katana in his hands.
- Kiss of Death: Rogue jokes about doing this to Logan when they’re on their own searching for the Yakuza. He tells her he’ll kill her if she even jokes about it again. Given what her kisses do (and have done in the past to Logan's friends), it is not an idle threat.
- Logan’s anger at this makes the moment where he kisses her to pass along his healing factor after she takes the bullet for Mariko even more powerful.
- Manly Tears: Logan sheds one when Mariko his brainwashed by Mastermind to consider him unworthy and leaves him at the altar.
- Outrun the Fireball: Storm and Yukio attempt to do this when the former’s lightning accidentally sets off explosives in a factory. They barely make it out above water just as everything ignites.
- Poisoned Weapons:
- A hunter dips his arrows in poison and shoots a grizzly bear, causing the animal to go berserk and kill a large number of people. Logan makes him pay dearly for it.
- Shingen has Logan poisoned by throwing stars to make him groggy and off his game during their first duel.
- The scent from Shingen’s throwing stars matching Yukio’s knives lets Logan know that she’s working for the crime lord.
- Rōnin: Yukio considers herself to be this after leaving Clan Yashida’s employ. Logan himself would come to personify this archetype, especially after Mariko grants him ownership of the Masamune blade.
- Runaway Bride: Thanks to Mastermind, Mariko leaves Logan at the altar so that he can return to America with the X-Men.
- Seppuku: If Wolverine was not around, Mariko would have killed her father, for bringing dishonor to the family, and then suicide (or die trying to kill her father). In any case, she would not live in dishonor. But Wolverine did it first, saving her from that dilemma.
- Shoot the Dog: Logan puts down a crazed grizzly bear that was poisoned by a cruel hunter.
- Signature Style: For a book written by Chris Claremont, the miniseries has a lot of Frank Miller's writing quirks — Film Noir style Inner Monologue, Ninja, Honor Before Reason, and Deconstruction/Reconstruction of the protagonist. Downplayed in that Claremont had been utilizing these elements in stories involving Wolverine for years in the buildup to this story.
- Soft Water: Storm and Yukio attempt to escape a factory explosion by leaping into nearby water from several stories. Though they take hits from the explosion and fall they’re none the worse for wear once they reach shore.
- Taking the Bullet: Rogue takes a bullet meant for Mariko, earning Logan’s loyalty on the spot after he was internally wishing he could tear her heart out earlier that evening.
- Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: The events of the miniseries and subsequent Uncanny issues take place in Tokyo.
- Translation Convention: Text enclosed in < > is in Japanese, as per Marvel house-style. Since the events are set in Japan and the only “gaijin” is Wolverine (until the X-Men arrive) the majority of spoken dialog is stylized this way, with Logan’s internal dialog being written in the standard format.
- Villainous Rescue: Yukio rescued Wolverine from The Hand, but only to seduce him, gain his confidence, and kill him as Shingen instructed. That she actually fell in love with him for real, and refused to continue that plan, does not deny why did she rescue him in the first place.