X-ual Healing: Madripoor Mayhem in Wolverine (1988) #1: ‘Sword Quest’

Welcome back to X-ual Healing, the weekly recap column where we obsessively read every X-Men and X-Men-adjacent comic that Marvel publishes, tell you what happens, provide additional context where necessary, and examine whether the comic makes good use of the long and convoluted history of the X-Men by referencing it in a way that’s accessible to new readers — because we here at X-ual Healing love the X-Men, and we want everyone else to love them too.

The X-Men are returning to their rightful place of prominence after a decade of insults and neglect by a Marvel editorial that feared and hated the fact that Fox owned their movie rights, which means it’s finally time for X-fans to enjoy some…

If you need to know more on the premise of this column, check out the longer explanation here.

Reprinting Wolverine (1988) #1
32 PGS./Rated T …$1.00

(Note: We read the original Wolverine #1 rather than the reprint for this recap.)

With Wolverine’s return currently happening in the Hunt for Wolverine event comic, Marvel put out the first issue of Wolverine’s second solo series as a ‘True Believers’ reprint, presumably hoping to cleanse the palette of Wolverine’s last few burdensome pre-death years and remind everyone why they liked him in the first place.

Launched in 1988, Wolverine’s solo ongoing book came toward the end of Chris Claremont‘s first X-Men run, but during the time Claremont and John Buscema worked on the book they established the classic status quo for Wolverine in Madripoor. Around this same time, Claremont and Buscema produced the first Wolverine story in Marvel Comics Presents, which also set up Madripoor and established Tyger Tiger’s position as Wolverine’s ally.

‘Sword Quest’ opens with Captain Lee Kwan Pen making his “last, desperate stand” on Telembang, an island in Indonesia. He’s at the mercy of Banapur Khan and his pirate gang, whose trade is to capture refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam, kill the men, rape the women, and sell them into slavery.

They’re about to do just that when Wolverine begins picking off guards one by one. He’s searching for missing flight Sovereign 49, the survivors of which are in the hands of the pirates. Wolverine kills his way through more pirates, freeing the women, and locates Kojima Noburo, a passenger on the plane. Wolverine speaks to him in Japanese, but he doesn’t believe it’s really Wolverine. Wolverine and the other X-Men were recently killed on live television during a battle in Dallas, and though they’ve secretly relocated to the Australian Outback, the world believes them dead.

Khan and the rest of the pirates close in, but Wolverine is ready for them, and he hasn’t looked this good since Dave Cockrum drew him.

Wolverine kills a hundred pirates by himself, narrating the whole thing in caption boxes, saying stuff like “The bullets burn like fire. Would’ve killed anyone else. They just make me mad.” Typical Wolverine stuff.

As Wolverine tosses half a dozen pirates through a shed wall, a woman from the flight crew worries about Kojima, who looks pretty dead. This gives Wolverine a chance to segue into X-pository dialogue in his narration boxes, explaining that Kojima is the personal secretary of Mariko Yashida, a Japanese crime boss and Wolverine’s true love that he can’t be with because she thinks he’s too honorable and she wants to prove she’s as honorable as him first. He likes to brood about this regularly.

We should mention that all the while Wolverine is delivering a monologue explaining his investigation into Kojima’s disappearance, his association with Mariko, his own character, and the X-Men, he’s ruthlessly slicing up pirates, efficiently combining a ton of X-position with an action-packed fight scene that lasts nearly half the issue.

Eventually, Wolverine kills them all, leaving the pirate captain alone. Wolverine closes in, but Banapur grabs a hostage and jumps on a speedboat.

But then a gunshot rings out and Banapur falls into the water. The woman from the flight crew earlier was hiding in the cabin, waiting to take him out. Wolverine knew, he explains, because of his heightened sense of smell.

Wolverine heads back to find Kojima, who’s still alive, but barely. Kojima dedicates his dying words to deliver some much-needed X-position. The pirates were working for The Cult of the Black Blade, an ancient cult looking for the Muramasa Sword, a legendary evil sword that eats souls. Two couriers are bringing it to Madripoor tomorrow, but Kojima dies before he can tell Wolverine their names. Wolverine says he died like a samurai.

The next day, American actress Lindsay McCabe, who the X-Men knew from the time they were hanging around San Francisco, arrives at the Madripoor airport and quickly gets through customs. It was the 80s, when it was as easy to fly internationally as it is to buy a gun today. Lindsay’s roommate back in San Francisco is Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman, currently working as a private investigator.

Wolverine bumps into Lindsay, but she doesn’t recognize him. He’s wearing his Patch costume, which he uses to disguise himself so he can have adventures without blowing the X-Men’s cover.

Wolverine just wanted to lock onto her scent, which he accomplished, and he’s relieved she didn’t recognize him. He notices some goons following her, so he slashes their tires with his claws.

Lindsay makes it to her posh hotel in Hightown. Wolverine explains that Madripoor is divided into two extreme opposite economic centers. Hightown is the nice part for the super wealthy. Lindsay checks into her hotel to be ambushed by cult members pointing a gun at her. They think she’s the courier. “Patch” kicks open a wooden door, shattering it to pieces, a fight ensues, which is ultimately won by Lindsay, who picks up the gun and points it at Wolverine, demanding an explanation.

Wolverine tells her Kojima sent him, and also that Kojima has been dead for a week. Lindsay claims to have spoken to him yesterday and reveals that she’s only a decoy. Jessica is on her way to Madripoor, and she’s the one carrying the real sword.

The issue ends there, but you can continue reading Claremont and Buscema’s entire run here on Marvel Unlimited. The first few Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine stories can also be found on Marvel Unlimited and can be read alongside this series. Lindsay McCabe and Jessica Drew stick around in Madripoor as recurring characters, the Silver Samurai, Tyger Tiger, “Mr. Fixit,” Karma from the New Mutants, and lots of other characters show up. Hard-boiled fun and hijinx ensue. It’s well worth the money.

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About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.

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