X Lives of Wolverine #4 // X Deaths of Wolverine #4
[cover by Adam Kubert and Frank Martin Jr.]
Wow. Last time, I said Moira had gone full evil. But with X Deaths #4, it’s clear she’s gone well beyond, and we’re meant to understand she had already left any sense of humanity behind (let alone mutant kinship) long before she decided to track down tech mogul Arnab Chakladar in her crazed eagerness to give herself over to the Phalanx, clearly with her own purpose in mind—as if she could beat them at their own game, somehow. Never let it be said that Moira’s ego is lacking!
This is quite a change from the woman we knew before HOX/POX. But with Hickman’s retcon, we should really understand that she actually completely lost touch with valuing individual life after her first few lives, and most certainly by the end of her thousand-year Life VI.
It’s just that now, in her last life (without external assistance this time), the mask has slipped off—and, ugh, that metaphor has tragic and grotesque resonance later in X Deaths #4.
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But first up—X Lives #4. I haven’t looked up what the holdup was last week, but a supply-chain issue wouldn’t be surprising. So, we get two Wolvie books on the same day, plus Sabretooth. Woo wee!
I. “A Quintillion Consequences”
I’m still enjoying the dark straight-ahead thrill of X Deaths more, but issue #4 of X Lives really starts to weave the disparate threads of Logan’s many “lives” back together by the end, with his inner narration balancing the urgency of the moment(s) with the contemplativeness of an old man’s world-weariness and disappointment in himself.
Throughout, though, Percy proves that there are still small but effective surprises to be wrung from Logan’s very long life. First off, for anyone who read 2018’s Web of Venom: Ve’Nam one-shot from Donny Cates and Juanan Ramírez, Logan going full symbiote here won’t be too surprising—but for me, at least, it was still unexpected, something I hadn’t thought about since 2018! There, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury had convinced a distrustful but ultimately amenable Logan to accompany him to remote Vietnam to retrieve or eliminate the results of the US government’s successor to the Super-Soldier Program, a darker project following the recent Arctic discovery of the frozen Grendel monster. S.H.I.E.L.D. quickly discovered that it was an extraterrestrial buried for the past millennium (its fate sealed by Thor in Venom vol 4 #1); they essentially shaved off samples, becoming mini-symbiotes, and soon bonded them to elite soldiers, ready for deployment on anti-Vietcong black ops. Of course, it’s a bloody disaster, and Fury and Logan’s mission is almost swallowed up in the carnage, as well. But even as Logan is briefly overtaken by a symbiote, obviously he gets out alive, while his old army buddy or whatever turns out to have been only a remote-accessed LMD and the one surviving soldier is secretly the same symbiote that had gotten frighteningly intimate with him.
Hence, years later, Logan still has traces of the symbiote in his blood.
But I don’t think we’ve seen him overtaken by the symbiote again until much more recently. So it’s a treat to see Josh Cassara play up the SF horror thrill of this brief lost chapter of Logan’s Weapon X history. Moreover, Percy retcons here the impetus for the chillingly coldblooded senior scientist Dr. Cornelius turning to adamantium bonding in the face of the symbiote’s hazardous intractability.
Still, what’s not clear is the exact logic at work here, for if the reason no one recalls these moments when Logan and Omega Red mind-hop through the past, then what happened once Red’s possession ended? Whatever happened, Cornelius at least saw the destruction wrought by Logan’s symbiote and must have buried the evidence deeper than his captive subject’s other memories (lol, of course—being such a late retcon!). Even so, setting aside telepathic best practices regarding tampering with the timestream, surely, Jean and Xavier aren’t simply given the witnesses and victims of this bizarre and savage cross-time battle anything so simple as a sense of drowsy, amnesiac befuddlement.
After all, how many were in the middle of something that might have caused one or two accidental deaths, much less lifelong trauma for just about everyone? I mean, Xavier’s parents must have been horrified finding their midwife defenestrated after what should have been one of the happiest moments of their lives (Charles’ birth). Did they have to explain anything to the authorities? How about the woman’s families? Wouldn’t any of this inexplicable horror have driven those involved nuts? What of Grampa Xavier and his crew or Itsu for that matter? For even if we’re used to Logan’s memory being Swiss cheese, most people don’t have that issue—and he himself didn’t until his Department H days!
So, even before we get into the nitty-gritty of the lesser impact of Jean and Charles’ mass mindwipes (compared to the far greater consequence of not doing so while mucking with temporality), their convo recorded on this data page is darkly hilarious—Jean is still learning from her mentor, who has undoubtedly, since 1963’s X-Men #1, been the most ethically compromised and compromising telepath who is nevertheless on the side of the angels (I guess 😉):
The second big little surprise this issue is the pilot of terror, or “divine wind” (kamikaze), Kenji Oyama, father to the future Lady Deathstrike, one of my all-time fave villains. As seen in his twisted 1983 debut, Daredevil #196-199 by Dennis O’Neil and Klaus Janson (some classic material here), to his undying shame he failed to fulfill his role as kamikaze and lived on for decades as an extremely bitter man—ultimately killed by his own daughter, Yukio, whom he had tormented and tortured since childhood.
To be clear, jetfighter Logan does not change the timeline here. Oyama does not die. In Daredevil, we see that his “honorable sacrifice” was a failure due to the explosives packed in his jet failing to detonate. Still, Logan’s contribution is in saving Xavier’s father—who was never before to my knowledge established as taking part in WWII at all. Still, neatly retconned connections on Percy’s part!
Again, though, the highlight of this issue is Logan’s narration as three separate lives play out these moments lost to his mind-hopping time travel and Jean and Charles’ psychic tampering. It’s a dark rumination on memory—how it’s the bad (being so heavy and irrevocable) that sticks more than the good (often being so ethereal and fleeting). None of this is particularly original but it’s well-told, though likely more powerful for newer readers. Still, there’s also the sense that maybe the timeline was changed in some way?
Whatever the case, the bad guys, perhaps exasperated by failing to kill Xavier’s forebears, land in Krakoa via Logan’s bodies—and his claws.
So, in the final chapters of both titles, we’ll get a double “homecoming.”
Ouch. Just so you know, I’m not going to include the grisliest images from this issue—but overall, Vicentini again delivers some indelible visual gut punches. And we begin with a grizzled future Forge putting out fellow not-quite-Old Man Logan’s eye to hide away—the Time Stone?!
Lol, no—I only wish. Seriously, I did at first think Forge’s potential future Krakoa tech invention was instead the Time Stone. I let the excited fanboy in me get carried away.
But it would have made some satisfying sense, a clever deus ex machina. After all, back in 2019 when Logan was newly returned to life, he was sorta buddy/pupil to one Hector Bautista in the miniseries Wolverine: Infinity Watch by Gerry Duggan. Going by Overtime nowadays, this interestingly conceived quasi-hero has recently shown up in Black Cat. He has yet to be that captivating as a character, but still, it would’ve been cool if in the future, he had passed on and his old mentor had kept it stored with Krakoa. Oh well!
After all, if Logan had the Time Stone, he could’ve done a lot more in combatting the inevitable coming of the robopocalypse—and this would be a very different tale!
The real conundrum here is what medium-term future this must be. Is it still a world in which Moira was forced on the run but no T-O Wolvie came back in time to hunt her down pretty much right away?
There’s a paradox! If T-O Wolvie is preventing the future in which his younger old self gets that time gem from Forge then how did he come back in time and successfully complete his mission?
Surely, all will be revealed next issue! 😉 No, seriously, it’s just possible that the resolution may very well be the classic—Look! He’s fading away!
But, no, that doesn’t seem likely. Because next issue seems like it will be a battle against the T-O set free by the future Logan’s cliffhanger death—his time was already short.
Vicentini continues his amazing dynamic figure work—his expressions are on point, too. Another example: he really sells the moment future Logan humanizes his family before the foolish Chakladar.
Now, I agree with many readers that the one drawback visually is the T-O/Phalanx circuitry looking flatly overlaid instead of integral to the original penciling. It’s especially odd after a decades-long tradition of artists doing their own signature takes, from Sienkiewicz, Davis and Madureira back in the day to Larraz and Silva more recently.
Still, it’s interesting to see this version of Wolverine’s claws able to hack both software and wetware (Chakladar’s brain)—although I’m unclear if Chakladar will now be a vegetable or will just no longer recall what he and Moira had been working on.
Either way, it’s all overshadowed by what Moira does next—to the man she was closest to in this life, at least superficially! Poor, poor, poor Sean Cassidy. You know, I feel like he hasn’t gotten a fair shake since, um, Generation X? Wow.
I mean, I’d say he got to happily fade into the background with Moira—but dear god, it was all a façade for her! Ach! She is so evil!
And what she does here!!! The mask slips indeed. I’ll say no more. Except that Moira X is beyond evil.
Destiny is rattled, apparently seeing less clearly the closer Moira gets. Frickin’ creepy!
With Moira back on Krakoa, the intensity ratchets way up. Forge and Xavier’s trap goes awry quickly, and she takes off in the woody but insectoid biotech battle armor Forge built early on in Percy’s X-Force.
She’s so unhinged by now, that seeing her take off in this monster suit with a captive Destiny was hysterical. This must’ve been played for laughs! And why not? It just makes her look more desperate and crazed, which works here.
The only thing that was a little off here was Destiny’s mask—it was too expressive! It’s supposed to be more abstract and enigmatic.
Oh, well—no matter. She’s got bigger concerns, standing next to the Phalanx commandeering the corpse of the Wolverine. R.I.P. buddy, and shortly, Krakoa itself?
NEXT: Time’s Up!
Not having looked at the solicits recently, I’m just going to guess that X Death #4’s cliffhanger occurs moments before or just as the end of X Lives #4 pops off—and the two narratives will now collide, with Logan waking out of his bloody cross-time caper, however possessed, and duking it out with his corpse from the future. Wild!
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