The violent kaleidoscope of Logan’s lives tumbles on in the second installment of X Lives of Wolverine, and true to the linear fashion of this gonzo quasi-event, we’ll start with looking at this week’s release before ratcheting back to the inaugural issue of X Deaths.
I. “The problem is the man.”
Actually, to start things off with minimally stable grounding, let’s take a brief look at the second Infinity issue of Life of Wolverine by Jim Zub, Ramon Bachs, and Java Tartaglia, which concisely but poetically recaps issues #3-6 of the six-issue Paul Jenkins and Andy Kubert Origin of the early aughts…
…before shifting to recap, with blessed simplicity, the Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert Origin II of 2014, which felt wholly superfluous at the time (which was surprising given the stellar creators involved; it was certainly a good-looking and easily digestible comic). Saul and Clara Creed were Sabretooth’s siblings, and both had mutant healing factors like their older brother. If not for Victor’s bullying, they might have had quite different fates, but Victor effectively beat his younger brother into becoming a sorry shadow of himself (which is pretty damning), thus turning Saul’s brokenness and rage onto his sister.
But Victor’s younger siblings were copartners as freelance wildlife trackers, and Clara persuaded Saul in helping Logan escape Mr. Sinister (only after the latter had murdered their carnival-master employer and had his Marauders [yep] kidnap “the clawed man of the woods” himself).
Living together in New York, Clara and Logan fell into an affair, infuriating Saul, who betrayed Logan to Sinister. In the ensuing chaos, Logan kills Saul, knowing that he would forever torment Clara. But Clara only feels betrayed by her lover (pictured below), and the two part ways. In 2020’s Ruins of Ravencroft: Sabretooth one-shot by Frank Tieri, older sibling Victor Creed claims to have brutally murdered her sometime in the past. This is literally the entire history of the younger Creed siblings.
What it allows Jim Zub to do in Life, though, is connect Logan’s increasing anomie (after Clara’s rejection) with the start of his vague and violent years of drifting around the world, no longer just roaming with a pack in the woods. Origin II did the work of uprooting him from his speechless wilderness years and setting him on the path toward years of torture at the hands of the dark side of human civilization. The miniseries doesn’t mention Madripoor, but it makes perfect sense that the “island of sin” represents “Life II.”
II. Exiled Again
Surprisingly, X Lives #2 didn’t open right off in Life VII (Team X), instead going with a fragment of Life I, which leaves off as Logan’s modern-day consciousness “in the body of an idiot #%&@ teenager” sleds away in search of Omega Red.
(Later on this issue, we get what might be my favorite Cassara sequence this week, as Omega Red’s consciousness jumps between a few sailors mutinying against Great(?)-grampy Captain Xavier; the mutineers are hilariously befuddled, with question marks drawn in above their heads.)
The title page promises we’ll get back to the Team X content, but first, we turn to Life V—which we discover is centered on Logan’s sojourn in Jasmine Falls, Japan, where modern-day Logan finds himself in the arms of Itsu, with a tolerantly smiling Jean looking on.
Well, of course, the mature Jean would be; this, after all, is the woman who may already be pregnant here with Logan’s child—both of whom would soon be murdered by the Romulus-controlled Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes). This occurs in 1946, making it one of the Winter Soldier’s first missions, and suggesting that Life V is this Jasmine Falls sojourn, 1942-1946 (introduced and summed up in Wolverine vol3 #40 by Daniel Way, 2006). However, unbeknownst to Logan, Romulus in fact extracted the unborn baby, allowing the future Akihiro (Daken) to live (see Way and Segovia’s Wolverine: Origins #26-27, 2008). Ben Percy briefly recapped this material in Wolverine vol7 #6, when in the midst of X of Swords, Logan went to Hell, seeking a new Muramasa Blade. A what now?
Officially, the Marvel Universe has seen two previous Muramasa swords; Itsu’s murder led to the creation of the second, which Muramasa imbued with a part of Logan’s soul: “A soul lost, an edge gained” (Wolverine vol7 #6).
Immortal demon and master swordsmith Muramasa (now back in Hell) was then living near Jasmine Falls, and Logan, having come to the village in the first place to study the way of the samurai (at Ogun’s advice), found himself exiled after four years in residence after he was startled into popping his claws, injuring another man during a sparring session. (It was, of course, the unseen Muramasa’s doing; in Way’s narrative, everything is the conspiracy of invisible hands.) Following Itsu’s murder, Logan seeks out Muramasa, who promises him a blade for his vengeance. This effectively ends Logan’s attempt at (samurai-style) nobility; he again sinks back into a stew of wounded-animal emotions.
(Having retrieved the sword decades later, he ends up using it to kill Omega Red (another Romulus pawn) in 2009’s Wolverine: Origins #39—to say nothing of his decapitation of Sabretooth (Wolverine vol3 #55). At least he didn’t Akihiro, whose claws are—you guessed it—coated with Muramasa-forged metal.)
The mystery of Muramasa’s original accursed “Black Blade” was introduced in 1988’s Wolverine vol2 #1 by Chris Claremont and John Buscema, though the sword was secured from an ancient cult two issues later by the Silver Samurai (half-brother to Logan’s ex-fiancée Mariko Yashida). Having bonded with the blade, this samurai mutant has kept the sword in his steadfast possession ever since, even though he’s wielded it openly (in publication history) maybe only twice more, in issues #56-57 of the series, by Hama and Silvestri. However, another character therein, the assassin Reiko working for the Hand, claims to possess a “tanto,” a smaller blade, of the same demonic provenance and given to her by her Hand master, Matsuo Tsurayaba. Mariko Yashida’s tragic death comes not from the blade itself, though, but the poison it was coated with.)
While Logan’s sojourn in Jasmine Falls of course ends in tragedy for himself and Itsu—and their child—ultimately, this period does give us Akihiro, who’s finally found his cool, with Leah Williams’ X-Factor and going forward with Steve Orlando’s Marauders.
Notably, Logan arrived in the village wearing his eyepatch but is addressed by the locals only as “Logan,” not “Patch.” So, is the latter identity from Life IV—or the early phase of this one? I for one am intrigued by this gradual unfolding and mapping out of Logan’s, um, patchwork lives.
III. Skipping Around; Gut-Wrenching Shocks; Bathhouse Revelations
It makes sense that Logan’s time-displaced consciousness would experience these temporal stopovers without a clear sense of sequentiality. But it’s also refreshing that we don’t stick with one “Life” per issue, and it’s wild that none of these three jaunts into the past appear even close to concluding by issue’s end.
Back in Colombia, we find out that Charles has arrived with a large number of environmentalists and humanitarians protesting Amazon deforestation, but we don’t actually see him—because Logan wants to prevent Maverick and Victor from massacring villagers “to send a message” from the CIA: “Fear America more than you fear the cartel.” Of course, he too was part of the massacre he remembers, but now that he’s a different person, (seemingly) in control of his own fate, he’s more determined to stop the atrocity than immediately going off in search of Chuck. He doesn’t heed Jean’s point that “there are consequences to everything you do here.” But she doesn’t know what it’s like living with what he already did do there.
In fact, this issue ends with the sense that each of the three historical periods will experience changes that could very well shift history in significant ways. Marvel’s mainline Earth-616 time travel stories tend to finagle things so that they remain free of consequence or affect only alternate timelines. But already we’ve seen in the Krakoa era that the future, at least, is allowed to change; this was a big theme of Duggan’s Cable (the man from the future now knows, vaguely, something of this new epoch for mutantkind whereas before it simply wasn’t in his native future’s past).
And while the HOX/POX Moira retcon of the Earth-616 history we’ve been reading for decades didn’t involve conventional time travel, with the recent return of Destiny as a major player, there’s the potential that how we understand the historical record (i.e., what’s canonical) will begin to shift even more. In fact, that may ultimately be what the X Lives/X Deaths event is setting up, for the “Destiny of X” era—which could be amazing, potentially surpassing or at least radically complexifying what HOX/POX established. After all, Inferno clearly suggested a more radical rewriting of past, present, and future is already imminent.
Keeping his narrative not merely temporally jumbled up but with its timelines cleverly nested—of course, thematically recalling the matryoshka motif of the XENO murder machines and Mikhail’s machinations—Percy delivers a data page here and there to gradually fill in the gap between Omega Red’s Hatchery hack and the start of Jean and Logan’s mission in time. At the end of X-Force #11, a rampaging nesting doll ran Quentin through with the Cerebro Sword and then shoved him through a gate to Moscow, where Mikhail was waiting. In the next issue, Quentin’s dying act as Mikhail dragged him off to allow XENO to experiment on his corpse was to signal his murderer’s name to X-Force. According to issue #23, Mikhail was behind the theft of the Shi’ar logic diamonds during the Hellfire Gala (issue #20, Wolverine #13-16), but due to Solem’s shenanigans, he never got them and thus could not power the Sword and access its files. However, we know he then sought XENO’s help with that, giving them Quentin’s body in the bargain, so they must’ve figured out how to decrypt the Sword since. Sage registers its reactivation in her logbook here in X Lives #2, placing it somewhere in Siberia (which is hella vast, but a 1,000 square mile patch of it is much less so).
In X-Force #12, Beast also explicitly suspects Red of having ties with Mikhail Rasputin, though the two have never previously been connected. In fact, this scene would be well prior to Mikhail’s bathhouse revelation depicted here in X Live #2—which has to take place quite recently, sometime after issue #23. So it’s like Beast’s paranoid suspicions are pushing the suspected and the accused toward resentful acts of betrayal, unsurprisingly!
Speculating as to what’s enabling Omega Red’s own consciousness to jaunt back through time, I do wonder if it has something to do with whatever XENO’s done with Quentin’s corpse. After all, his powers aren’t that different from Jean’s…
We also jump back to a scene directly leading up to Arkady’s Hatchery infiltration—his trial mission chaperoned by Logan and Domino. Yet the wisdom of bringing him to Moscow is iffy since X-Force knows that’s where they lost both Quentin and the Cerebro Sword to Mikhail. Oh well! X-Force’s nemesis would’ve found his way to Omega Red regardless, steamy bathhouse or no.
While initially, it’s hard to imagine the Life I cliffhanger going sideways (Red actually killing Captain Xavier), the next two cliffhanger scenes—first Life VII, then Life V—give us increasing pause—even though it’s equally unlikely Daken will be erased from existence. And also, why would the nigh-unkillable Logan feel the need to kill Itsu at this point, even if he is impaled on a carbonadium tentacle?
And for readers familiar with Logan’s time with Team X, we know that they were all pawns who regularly underwent memory redaction and identity refabrication, so assuming Logan and Victor survive this episode, their handlers will likely just erase it. Heck, their memories are such overwritten palimpsests in this era that none of these characters accurately remembering this particular situation would be surprising. Regardless, this whole Team X op in Colombia has never been mentioned in previous stories, as far as I’m aware, so really, Mr. Percy can conclude this whole situation however he pleases.
IV. Real-World Context: America’s Long Century in Bloodlust for Empire
As for some real-world context that doesn’t greatly affect the story itself, we should acknowledge here that the CIA wasn’t, to anyone’s outside knowledge, really involved in Colombian affairs in the early 1960s. Such brazen interference wouldn’t get started until the late ’70s, when the local cocaine cartels themselves began taking off. Before then, marijuana was the big drug crop, but it hadn’t fueled the kind of violence seen during the War on Drugs era, which impacted Colombia most negatively decades later, in the 2000s, during the extremely bellicose and violently lawless Bush administrations, coinciding of course with the War on Terror—the American Empire’s last great hurrah.
Colombian communist activists and guerrillas started to become intensely active in the early ’60s, but again, their infamous use of coca crops to fuel their operations long-term didn’t start until the late ’70s, and it was specifically the FARC organization and splinter organizations that pursued this. It’s unclear how much American intelligence and/or military was actively involved in Colombia’s internal conflicts at this time. Certainly, those imperial resources were brought to bear much more heavily, and tragically, in countries across Central America, places significantly closer to US territory and interests—and also more vulnerable, very poor, and, for the past 120+ years, entirely in America’s menacing shadow.
Still, depending on Marvel’s sliding timescale, Logan’s missions for either Team X or Department H could’ve sent him to “hotspots” for communist activities/insurgencies across South America, Southeast Asia, and/or Africa. They just probably wouldn’t have involved cartels unless he was still operating for them during the 1980s—which by Marvel timescale logic would now be when the O5 X-Men were in diapers!!! So, maybe don’t worry about it.
V. The Structural Inversions of X Lives/X Deaths Echo HOX/POX
X Deaths of Wolverine #1 is a full speed ahead action-packed kickoff—and its narrative is strikingly linear in deliberate contrast to the kaleidoscopic loop-de-loop of X Lives. Excitingly, it’s not at all clear yet when or how the two narratives will intersect, but I suspect part of the suspense is in the expectation that they will in later installments collide, to perhaps spectacularly disastrous effect. Let’s hope so!
There is still an interesting thematic circularity that seems to be happening here in this debut issue. Indeed, Mr. Percy has a penchant for narrative structuring that many fans have underappreciated or just not seen. Looking back at his Krakoa work, you’ll certainly find at least a few patterns, not just circular but nesting, like a matryoshka doll, fittingly enough. There’s also the “turnstile” motion to his ensemble book, which can create various effects, bookending what’s come before, portending what’s around the corner, amplifying or refracting certain themes and motifs. He is, after all, an accomplished novelist. (If you haven’t done so already, definitely seek out his recent project, “The Comet Cycle,” which, starting with The Ninth Metal, melds the propulsive strengths of the prose SF thriller with a 21st-century take of a world-changing event that sparks the advent of metahumans in our contemporary globalized world.)
Of course, the clear structural inspiration here is the nested and staggered narrative structure of Powers of X and the comparatively straightforward House of X, but we also saw those twin narratives progressively braided together while still maintaining distinct identities (in both form and function). However, none of this is to say that X Lives/X Deaths should be expected to match the revelatory nature and historical impact of HOX/POX!
VI. Death Drives: Countdown to Extinction
Here in X Deaths #1, we have Moira fleeing from the Krakoan “tumor” of her No-Space bubble and finding herself very sick with cancer—and what must be some kind of future techno-organic Wolverine emerging from what Black Tom calls both an “intruder” and a “tumor,” risen from beneath the surface of Krakoa (while another sudden growth, I suppose some other kind of “tumor” towers overhead, what looks like a kind of massive butte, a patch of Krakoa’s soma gone suddenly tumescent).
Recall that Black Tom saw Krakoa disgorge a similar growth back in X-Force #15.
But what a delightful surprise to see Moira seeking out cancer survivor Dr. Jane Foster, who is also secretly Valkyrie, seer of impending death and guardian of the newly dead. Appropriately enough, she saves mutantkind’s betrayer from Mystique (not that Moira’s own secret life is known outside the Quiet Council), possibly intimating further inadvertently calamitous collisions between Krakoa and the wider MU (ahem, Judgment Day? Which surely promises not to be the simply bad kind of calamity—i.e., AvX).
More subtly, it’s fascinating to get a glimpse of Moira’s thoughts, to see recent events from her perspective—not that it leads to greater sympathy for her, just that it’s interesting get a sense of her own righteousness; clearly, she’s incapable of seeing her goal of “curing” mutantkind as anything but the highest good. And that will make her a much more convincing and therefore frighteningly real nemesis.
So, with the sense that the wider MU may be colliding with or intruding upon Krakoan affairs, I wonder if Moira might be interested in paying a visit to Reed Richards, whose designs for his own mutant “cure” (intended “only” for his son Franklin) Xavier erased from his mind (at the end of X-Men / Fantastic Four by Chip Zdarsky and Terry Dodson, 2020). Perhaps with Moira’s knowledge and Reed’s resources, mutantkind will find itself facing another “soft” apocalypse (as opposed to the hard variety in the mode of Orchis and Nimrod).
But do recall that Logan has the extremely rare blood-type E+ (for Endless! Wolverine vol7 #1) and that Moira has the same—allowing Logan’s regular blood transfusion to her in Moira’s Life VI (Powers of X #6), allowing her to live for a thousand years. It’s clear that Erik and Chuck don’t want her to die, and thus, Wolverine is once again being used as the proxy vehicle for her salvation, just as he is for Chuck’s and all mutantkind’s (over in X Lives).
As to techno-organic Logan, he’s a complete cipher at this point; we don’t even know if at issue’s end, he actually has the power to psionically erase Jean’s sudden awareness of him much less what the full extent of his powers might be. But it seems clear he’ll be integral to what Percy has planned for “Omega Wolverine.” In fact, he might’ve been sent back in time in the wake of the future Omega Sentinel doing the same, though whether for congruent purposes, who can say! (Interestingly, he arrives knowing about No-Spaces, or at least Moira’s, unless he’s simply some kind of super-tracker, immediately able to sniff her out in a way our present-day Wolverine could not.)
Meanwhile, Black Mirror-like Apple-analogue Epiphany and its CEO Arnab Chakladar are entirely new. Will he become a witting or unwitting ally to Moira in her coming war against mutantkind?
Lastly, CIA agent Delores Ramirez was last seen in Wolverine #18—where she was sniped in the upper arm by a Legacy House goon. Agent Bannister made clear that she wasn’t dead, that she needed help; however, many readers assumed she’d been killed. Not yet! (Notably, Percy’s characterization of her is more rounded but neutral than Duggan’s; her memos in Marauders made her out to be a rather sympathetic character.)
NEXT: LIVING IN THE PAST (X Deaths #2); HUNTED (X Lives #3)