X-ual Healing – It's Wolverine's Birthday in True Believers: Wolverine vs. Sabretooth #1

Sworn to sell comics for Marvel executives who feared and hated the fact that Fox owned their movie rights, The Uncanny X-Men suffered great indignities, but with a corporate merger on the way, the X-Men can finally get back to doing what they do best: being objectively the best franchise in comics.

Each week, armed with the joy, heartbreak, and frustration of 30+ years of reading X-Men comics, we read every new X-book that comes out, recap the events, provide the historical context so you can read it on Marvel Unlimited, and wonder when Marvel will let Chris Claremont write something again.

It's the way X-Men comics were meant to be read! It's the column that can only be known as…

For more about the column, check out the reboot issue here.

True Believers: Wolverine vs. Sabretooth #1

Writer: Chris Claremont
Penciller: John Buscema
Cover Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz
Reprinting Wolverine (1988) #10
32 PGS./Rated T …$1.00

(Note: for this recap, we read the original Wolverine #10 on Marvel Unlimited)

The comic opens up in the middle of a bar fight in Madripoor's Lowtown. Wolverine, in his Patch persona, is just trying to mind his business, in a saloon far from anyone he cares about, and smoke his Marvel-approved cigarette when he segues immediately to a flashback to another saloon, a long time ago, and a classic moment in Wolverine lore…

Well, that gets retconned in another 40 issues or so. But this is the first time we've seen Silver Fox, and the first time we get a glimpse into the long and dysfunctional relationship between Wolverine and Sabretooth. Speaking of which, Sabretooth is in the saloon, and he tells Wolverine that's what happens to "squaws" who are "uppity enough to say no," establishing him as a racist, a sexist, and a rapist. Lots of rape in these old Wolverine comics. Sabretooth tells Wolverine that he'll be happy to fight him, but Wolverine won't like the results.

Back in the present, Wolverine tries to break up the fight when the clock strikes midnight. This worries Wolverine for some reason. A little expository dialogue reveals that Wolverine and Sabretooth had a history before the Silver Fox incident (though Wolverine didn't seem to remember much of that when the X-Men crossed paths with Sabretooth during the Mutant Massacre). Back in the flashback, Wolverine and Sabretooth go at it, as more expository dialogue establishes that Wolverine had no adamantium-laced bones (true) and no claws yet (well… in the 1990s the claws were retconned as part of Wolverine's skeleton — see X-Men [1991 series] #25). In any case, Wolverine's narration implies he's not winning this fight.

Back in the present, Wolverine stumbles upon another sex crime about to be committed…

Wolverine lectures the thugs on hospitality and takes a few bullets before breaking one of their arms, which sends the others scattering. There was a man with the woman, bleeding from the chest, but Lowtown doesn't have good healthcare options. Wolverine picks the man up and says he knows a place they can go.

Back in the flashback, Wolverine and Sabretooth's brawl has spilled outside of the saloon, and Sabretooth is still kicking his ass. In the present, Wolverine brings the injured man and his girlfriend to Madam Joy's brothel. The place isn't that busy apparently, as Madam Joy presses her girls into service as nurses. Jessica Drew happens to be there too, so she and Wolverine head back to her apartment/office (which is above the brothel) to meet up with Lindsay McCabe. They climb the wall to get there, in order to segue neatly into the next Flashback…

Wolverine is limping through the snow, trying to escape Sabretooth. He comes to a cliff and begins to climb. In the present, Lindsay McCabe tells Wolverine to stop drifting off so he can get a tour of the office. The group discusses Madripoor politics explored in previous issues here and in Marvel Comics Presents involving the Prince of Madripoor, as well as rival crimelords Tyger Tiger and General Nguyen Ngoc Coy (the Uncle of Karma from the New Mutants). The Prince wants Drew and McCabe to keep an eye on things for him. After their chat, Wolverine excuses himself for a mission he insists is "private business." There's no way Jessica will follow him after that, right?

In Flashback land, Wolverine makes it to the top of the cliff only to find Sabretooth waiting for him. Sabretooth gives him the choice: die on his belly, or on his feet "like a man." In the present, Police Chief Tai enters his Lowtown office to find "Patch" sitting in his chair. He's fine with it since Wolverine did prevent a rape earlier in the evening after all. Tai warns Wolverine that the thugs he stopped earlier are out for revenge, and also informs him that an unnamed man Wolverine asked him to look into is "dead." Wolverine is a member of the X-Men, so he knows that means nothing. Before Wolverine leaves, Tai reveals that he knows a secret: today is "Patch's" birthday.

In the flashback, Sabretooth beats up Wolverine some more. In the present, Wolverine is skulking around the docks when he senses someone following him. It's Jessica Drew, who's worried about him. Why? This is how he always acts. Anyway, Wolverine says she won't have to worry much longer. It's almost midnight. Drew reveals she also knows it's "Patch's" birthday. Can't sneak one by Jessica Drew. She also knows that Patch is Wolverine, though she won't reveal it for a few more issues.

The attempted rapists from earlier show up and begin shooting at Wolverine and Jessica Drew with an uzi from their car. Uzis are tough to aim when you're not firing from a moving vehicle, so as you can imagine no one is hit. They have more luck with a rocket launcher and a flamethrower, sending a flaming Wolverine hurtling into the sea. Back in the flashback, Sabretooth has had enough of playing with Wolverine and is ready to finish him by ripping his throat out with his teeth. In a last-ditch effort, Wolverine tackles Sabretooth and they both fall off the cliff. In the present, Jessica Drew pulls Wolverine out of the water. The bad guys have been defeated, but it wasn't Jessica that did it.

Who could it be?! In the flashback, Sabretooth is laying on top of Wolverine at the bottom of the cliff in the snow. He wakes up, pleased with himself, and alludes to his history with Wolverine.

In the present, Wolverine returns to the Princess Bar, a local saloon he owns a share of and his home base in Madripoor. Inside, he finds the thugs from earlier, dead and hanging from the curtains. Attached is a "birthday card," which reads: "Nobody kills you but me — especially today." Awww. Wolverine vows to kill Sabretooth first. How cute. The story ends here, as does Chris Claremont's run on the title. Within two years, he would leave the X-books entirely.

This is a pretty important issue, establishing Wolverine and Sabretooth's relationship, something that will be mined for decades to come (in fact, we just saw a Wolverine/Sabretooth birthday fight in Weapon X). The relationship between these two might feel a little played out today, but it was fresh in 1989.

Further Reading:

You can read Wolverine #10 on Marvel Unlimited, though you might as well start at #1 and read the first couple of stories in Marvel Comics Presents as well. This story continues into the Gehenna Stone Affair, a six-part story by Peter David and John Buscema, which takes a completely different tone and also contains the amusing revelation that pretty much everyone knew Wolverine was Patch all along.

Read more X-ual Healing here:

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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