Avengers: 2017 “Where Are They Now?” Update (Jarvis and Agent Murch)

Every good hero needs a supporting cast. Sure, everyone needs somebody but no protagonist worth a damn operates in a vacuum. It doesn’t matter if you’re Don Quixote, James Bond or Batman. Hell, even the Punisher has his tech-savvy pal, Microchip. In this, the Avengers are certainly no different. While the first three parts cover the adventurers themselves (here, here and here), let’s dial it back this time to look at some honorable mentionables running things behind the scenes…

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Words by Stan Lee; Art by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone

EDWIN JARVIS

Active As Of: Tales of Suspense #59 (Nov, 1964)

Current Affiliation: Honorary Member (Active)

History: Earth’s. Mightiest. Butler. (‘Nuff said!)

Perhaps better known these days as either a disembodied voice or Agent Peggy Carter’s lovably bungling tag-along thanks to portrayals by Marvel Cinematic Universe counterparts, the comic book version is really more the spiritual glue of the Avengers’ history and tradition.

The Starks’ loyal family manservant Tony’s entire growing up, Jarvis ostensibly comes as part of the package when Iron Man offers up his ancestral Manhattan townhouse as Avengers Mansion.

However, despite his being the most upstanding of chaps, the straightforwardness with ol’ Eddie ends about there- as he also may very well be the unsung “Patient Zero” of Marvel story retcons…

For those not in the know, “retcon” stands for “retroactive continuity“. It’s a word typically thrown around when a late-breaking story element reframes (or sometimes overwrites) another previously-established work. A great recent example is the referential interaction between Rogue One and the original 1977 Star Wars. Everyone knows which historically comes first yet who among us is going to disavow the new intended viewing order??

So, yeah, think of Jarvis maybe more in those terms and it’ll be easier. Anyway, down the rabbit hole we go…

While Tony’s house may first appear in 1963’s Avengers #2, it’s only ever inferred that there’s an attending domestic staff (if that). That begins to change when the first Avenger takes up residence (Captain America, between Avengers #4 and 5). However, Jarvis doesn’t make an on-panel appearance until Cap (Steve Rogers) gains his own backing serial in the pages of the Tales of Suspense anthology (circa the time of Avengers #10). He’s not actually seen in the pages of Avengers until #16 (May, 1965).

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Words by Bob Harras; Art by Bob Hall and Kyle Baker

Other flashbacks and retroactive “period pieces” place Jarvis on the hero scene even earlier, though- possibly the earliest depicting him absorbing the duties of the other servants who quit in haste over the idea of having to deal with the Hulk!

After Cap, the next live-in Avengers are a trio of young adults and a couch-surfer who just also happens to be an actual Greek demigod. That said, it doesn’t take long for Jarvis to become as much a beloved institution himself as the institution he himself is responsible for dusting.

Indeed, Jarvis is probably the factor that invites the most comparisons to those other (unrelated) “Avengers” of classic BBC-TV fame. It’s probably his apparent British-by-way-of-Brooklyn demeanor.

Yes, to further add to whole snag, there’s J’s actual origin (or definitive lack thereof). Official sources kinda negate one another and offer nothing but speculative conjecture. Furthermore, as Marvel’s “sliding timescale” moves away from World War II, the less plausible the whole “Jarvis ran away as a kid to fight Nazis” angle is. The “ex-Royal Air Force pilot and three-year boxing champ” part’s still good as long as it’s kept flexible.

His mom’s still around (gotta really be up there in age now) but good luck making more of this mystery by finding clues on her…

Regardless, what all incarnations can agree upon is that this man is put into the employ of Howard Stark and dutifully serves above and beyond the call- no matter how weird or mortally perilous his life becomes.

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Words by Mark Waid; Art by Mahmud Asrar

So, yeah, in all the years that the Avengers operate in the greater New York area, Jarvis is usually right there getting their tea tray ready for the big meetings and ops debriefs. Usually he’s in the Mansion but in later years makes the move to Avengers Tower. That is, understandably, except for the times when he’s hospitalized for being beaten within an inch of his life by super-villains or abducted and replaced by shape-shifting aliens.

In the “All-New, All-Different” status quo, the esteemed “Stark acumen” isn’t all that it once was, causing Tony to downsize and liquidate. As a result, Jarvis is offered a sizable severance upon the sale of the Tower.

However, not long thereafter, Iron Man and Captain America (Sam Wilson) resume operations of a new, wholly-unfunded branch of Avengers, taking up in a hangar out in an old Stark Industries New Jersey airfield (the All-New All-Different Avengers series). Unfulfilled in forced retirement, Jarvis returns to the fold.

As this incarnation of the Avengers fluctuates and Stark’s fortune (personal well-being and otherwise) continues to diminish, Jarvis is recast into an unlikely role: mentor to the Unstoppable Wasp, the genius daughter of Hank Pym.

With the extremely recent turnover of Avengers Mansion coming back from the investors that bought it as a superhero “fantasy theme” hotel, there is an air of hopefulness. On the other hand, it occurs at the cusp of HYDRA-makeover Captain America’s Secret Empire outbreak, so who knows how long before we get to see Jarvis reorganize the cabinets just the way he likes them. Undoubtedly, one “gentleman’s gentleman” in particular will be at the ready all the same…

 

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Words by Joe Casey; Art by Scott Kolins

JAMES MURCH

Active As Of: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #1 (Jan, 2005)

Current Affiliation: Associate (Deceased)

History: Special Agent of the National Security Council. The original gruff old dean to the Avengers’ metaphoric party dorm.

Never heard of him? That’s probably because he’s really only ever existed as a retcon character within the two volumes of the “untold tales of yesteryear”-style Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series.

When Tony Stark petitions the US government for official recognition and security clearance for the Avengers, Murch is assigned to further investigate the legitimacy of the “mystery folk” gathering. Needless to say, there’s some convincing…

It’s not even just the obvious Hulk that raises red flags as the agent’s also quick to label Captain America an unfit-for-duty PTSD hot mess upon the living legend’s sudden re-emergence!

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Words by Joe Casey; Art by Scott Kolins

Despite racking up an increasing record of heroic displays, Murch continues to dangle “A-1 Priority Status” in front of the Avengers like some just-out-of-reach carrot. Eventually, repeated military coordinations demonstrate the Avengers’ effectiveness and Murch acquiesces- on the stipulation that, once better-acclimated, Captain America remains forefront in the organization.

Murch backs off for a while and only interjects himself again when, during one of Cap’s leaves-of-absence, a couple of new- if not slightly unorthodox- members join the ranks…

Even though he expresses mad reservations about the synthetic man sent to kill the Avengers that they instead welcome with open arms (the Vision), Murch is actually diplomatically accommodating in assisting a foreign leader (the Black Panther)’s establishment of an American schoolteacher undercover identity.

In this era, S.H.I.E.L.D. begins to overall assert itself as a natural bureaucratic firewall between the Avengers and the government. Murch finds himself more in the role of consulting advisor to liaison, Agent Jasper Sitwell. However, this doesn’t stop the Ron Swanson impersonator from training up his own successor as well. Enter deputy partner and future pain-in-superhumans’-collective-ass: Henry Peter Gyrich.

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Words by Joe Casey; Art by Nathan Fox

Not seen in continuity for years, it’s implied that Murch remains in the intelligence game for awhile, at least. Unfortunately, the next time he appears on-panel, it’s as a severed head- freshly murdered for his knowledge of state secrets. His assassin is a curious flash-in-the-pan anarchist nutjob named “Zodiac” (the final issue of the short-run 2010 Age of Heroes anthology).

Sooo… quite the legacy when the bright side is serving as Gyrich’s personal Qui-Gon Jinn, huh?

Oh, and those secrets Murch dies for? Who can say as Zodiac’s plans are never followed up!

Here lies Special Agent James Murch, truly the Shakespearean bit player. Sound and fury? Check. Signifying nothing? Yeah, big ol’ check right there…

UP NEXT:   The Spangly and The Sporting Goods-y! Captain America! Hawkeye!

Avengers: 2017 “Where Are They Now?” Update (Ant-Man and the Wasp)

Welcome back! While the first installment opens our series with a pair of instant Avenger icons, this next couple is certainly a little more… involved. With their roles largely farmed out to legacy players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (thus far), they are indeed the least visible *ahem* of the original comic book crew. However, that hasn’t stopped either from being extremely integral to the source material. Let’s take a look!

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Art by Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott

ANT-MAN/ GIANT-MAN/ GOLIATH/ YELLOWJACKET/ WASP (Dr. Henry Pym)

Joined: Avengers #1 (Sept, 1963); Founder

Current Affiliation: Former Member

History:  Size-changing biochemistry and cybernetics genius. Just going off the number of slashes above, it’s probably a sure bet that no one in the history of Avengering has more code-names than ol’ Hank! As it is, a combination of power and mental instabilities causes him to switch up the first four before the title’s even made it outta the ’60s.

During the 1970s, he pairs it down to ping-ponging between only two and falls into his comfort zone of just being a part-time super-hero. He also joins the “hey no worries, we’re sorta like a book club” Defenders.

Feeling like he’s gotta measure up to his wife and the old gang (size joke, again…), Hank re-joins the Avengers in an early ’80s open membership drive. Saying it doesn’t take puts it mildly…

In the new roster’s first field mission, Pym overzealously shoots their surrendering adversary in the back. This results in an official court martial but just hours before the hearing, Hank really loses it and physically strikes his teammate wife! He also builds (another) crazy killer robot to “conveniently” interrupt the proceedings, so that he alone may defeat it and demonstrate his heroic worth. Things don’t exactly go to plan and ultimately cost Pym his membership and marriage. He also shortly thereafter spends a little time in jail.

Retiring completely, Hank resurfaces sometime later as some kinda “Higgins” figure to the Avengers’ collective “Magnum, P.I.” when they open a west coast franchise branch. Eventually he works his way back onto the active list as the Venture Bros.-style speedsuit-wearing “Doctor Pym, Scientific Adventurer”.

Hank stays with the West Coast Avengers until they fold in the mid-90s, even serving turns as a respectable default leader. Returning to the main New York-based team, he makes a breakthrough in his Pym Particle formula and resumes his Giant-Man identity.

The Doc remains firmly in the mix for the next few years of stories, rotating through his costumed “greatest hits” parade until the “classic” Avengers disband amidst turmoil and tragedy.

While back in academia, Pym is kidnapped by alien shape-shifting Skrulls as part of their massive “Secret Invasion” plot. The joke’s somewhat on the invaders as Hank’s history of mental problems prove difficult for their agents to pattern, sending at least one completely off the rails.

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Art by Khoi Pham

Sadly, the climax of this event appears to claim the life of Pym’s ex. Once the abductees return, Hank sets out to pay tribute in what’s clearly the best way fit: by further altering his powerset, growing wings and adopting his dead ex-wife’s moniker as the new Wasp. (Yeah, no looking too closely at any issues here…)

When the Avengers open a school similar to the X-Men’s schtick of “gifted youngster learnifying”, Hank is selected headmaster. Soon after, he resumes his more-identifiable Giant-Man role and proves in short order that he’s just as, um… let’s just say “capable” as Professor X, Magneto or Emma Frost (seriously not a compliment) with many of his young charges abducted for a “Hunger Games”-style teenage death match and a faction of survivors consequently breaking bad. (The exact scenario they built the school to avoid. Irony…)

Compounding this, when multiversal-level time travel shenanigans involving Pym, Wolverine and Pym’s first and historically most recognized deadly killer robot result in a subtle re-ordering of reality (2013’s Age of Ultron event series), Hank is overwhelmed by personal repercussions. Elevated to some sorta elder statesman of all things “The Cyber”, Pym heads a joint Avengers/ S.H.I.E.L.D. task-force to take down a new time-travelling evil artificial intelligence. (Anything to take his mind off those kids misplaced like a set of frikkin’ car keys, I guess…)

Just prior to the total multiversal collapse predicating 2015’s Secret Wars enormo-tacular, the secretive think tank consisting of Tony Stark, the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, the Black Panther and others (colloquially “The Illuminati”) reach out. Given that Pym’s known for years that his size-changing powers derive from drawing or shunting mass from another dimension, he is a well-regarded expert on the extraplanar. That said, the group conscripts Hank as some kind of human long-range reconnaissance probe into the abstract to explore the very forces behind the assailing utter oblivion. For this mission, he curiously chooses “Yellowjacket”- the most controversial of personas…

After seeing some things and stuff, man, Hank makes it back just days before the final world collision. Unhinged even further from his journey, Pym doesn’t even bother trying to get into a support group with Astronaut Dave from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey much less contend for a spot on Reed Richards’ “Scientists and My Family First” interdimensional life-raft.

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Art by Ryan Stegman, Colors by Richard Isanove

Not long after reality resets into the post-Secret Wars “All-New, All-Different” status quo, Pym (back in Giant-Man mode) and other Avengers take on some long-standing hostile A.I.’s. However, there’s a marked difference in Hank’s approach as he coldly eradicates the antagonists- seemingly backpedaling on his artificial intelligence rights stance. Things really escalate when everyone’s favorite creepy robot uncle/ metaphoric prodigal son makes a timely return (2015’s Rage of Ultron Original Graphic Novel)…

A mishap during the usual “machine vs. creator” showdown causes Ultron to amalgamate Pym into itself, reintegrating the two as a new shared techno-organic form. Put it this way: remember the end of the circa 1980 Disney B-sci fi The Black Hole when the evil scientist merges with his psycho automaton? (No? Just me, then?) Well, think of it more like that than say, the song “Sy-Borg” from Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage. (Still, just a little bit of “ewww” and “yikes!”…)

Horrified, the Avengers battle Ult-Pym all the same until newfound self-awareness catches the cyborg off-guard and it launches back out into the deep space from whence it just came. Indeed, a hollow, fleeting victory…

For all intents and purposes, the Avengers declare Hank dead at this point- creating monuments in his honor and such. Of course, this doesn’t stop Ultron from returning once more. Claiming Pym has civilized the “kill all humans” outta their new collective OS, the cyborg comes back to the heroes as a proverbial wolf in android sheep’s clothing. Needless to say, they don’t bite and fighting ensues (again) until resulting in Ultron being transported to the heart of the Sun.

And there- finally– you’d think that’d be that, huh? Well, not quite. Upcoming solicits for the Summer 2017 Secret Empire event depict that Hanktron is already set to make the rounds again!

However, expect this next go-around to have an additional personal component as it’s only been recently revealed that Hank has (wait for it)… a hitherto unknown teenage daughter from his first marriage: Nadia aka burgeoning size-changing genius, The Unstoppable Wasp! (Comics, people, comics…)

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Art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers

WASP/ GIANT-WOMAN (Janet van Dyne)

Joined: Avengers #1 (Sept, 1963); Founder

Current Affiliation: Active

History: Wealthy insect-themed, size-changing fashion designer and strategist. If Tony’s the traditional backer and Cap the starting QB, then Jan is easily the team’s biggest cheerleader as well as their ace in the hole.

Despite being the one to actually name the group, Jan spends a great deal of her early history as the team’s original second-class citizen. However, by the early 1980s, she weaponizes that constant sense of being under-estimated and arguably becomes the Avengers’ second-most effectively capable field leader (sorry, Hawkeye).

Indeed, until that point, Janet is used more as a plot device to keep Hank Pym agonizing over his revolving door-like membership in and out of the group. It’s not until divorcing him that Jan comes to personify the very ’80s zeitgeist of the quasi-corporate “power leader”.

By that decade’s end, she earns some well-deserved vacation time and fades into the background. Next, Jan resurfaces with the West Coasters- first as “big sis just checkin’ in” but recurring appearances see her surprisingly falling back into romantic patterns with Pym.

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Art by MIke Deodato, Jr.

By the mid-’90s, Marvel really gets into re-inventing a “totally extreme” wheel with all the classic 1960s Silver Age properties (to speak in the parlance of the time). In this, perhaps nobody receives a more radical makeover than Janet! When fatally wounded, Jan winds up back on Hank’s operating table. Desperate to save her life, he opts to double-down on Jan’s original power formula. Pym instead turns his ex-wife into an actual human-sized, literal mutated wasp-lady! (Also, serious missed opportunity for a new Hank Pym identity: “Doctor Ooops!”…)

For some reason, this doesn’t really last all that long (can’t imagine why…). Thankfully, after a couple of near back-to-back reality resets, Jan returns to her “classic” look. By the early 2000s, she’s steadily co-leading the Avengers again.

By the end of this era, she begins diversifying more into Pym’s territory: operating under interchangeable code-names and becoming the self-evident “Giant-Woman” as needed.

After one of the alien Skrulls impersonating Pym ends any chance of the exes permanently rekindling their relationship, Jan stays away from supering for a while. Eventually, she aligns with Stark’s pro-registration forces in the first superhero civil war and rejoins the “Mighty” Avengers as they rebrand under the umbrella of the government-sponsored Fifty-State Initiative.

During this time, Jan takes things a little more passive. In boasting a starting seven-person line-up featuring four current and former field leaders, maybe it’s not wanting to add to a “too many chiefs” scenario but regardless, the most Jan contributes is staging a fashion intervention and delivering kinda ditzy one-liners.

When the shape-shifting Skrulls finally make their invasion plans not such a secret and (surprise!) meet a great deal of resistance from Earth’s superhuman population, the final Yellowjacket impersonator kicks in a failsafe just as the aliens lose their cause. Months before, still utilizing the guise of Hank Pym, the Skrulls offer Jan a seemingly harmless power “upgrade”. In reality, she’s become some sorta literal living weapon-of-last-resort…

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Art by Leinil Yu and Mark Morales

Fearing the worst as waves of unknown energy pore out of her, Janet acquiesces that her own sacrifice may be needed. Creating an interdimensional vortex with his magic hammer, Thor heavy-heartedly responds- saving the day while seemingly dissipating Jan into the nether.

So, for a while everyone think Jan’s dead and she doesn’t appear in any new comics for like four years. But is it ever that simple? Nope. Turns out what really happened is that she got theoretical-particle-microscopically small, visiting a dimension called “The Microverse”. Eventually, she gets word to the Avengers and a rescue is staged.

When Captain America establishes the Avengers Unity Squad as the premiere symbol of human-mutant relations (the ongoing Uncanny Avengers), Jan soon joins the organization. Originally intending to work with the group in a support capacity as public relations and branding “mutant chic” as commercial fashion, it’s not long before Jan becomes romantically interested in the field leader, Havok- best known for being X-Man Cyclops’ little brother.

As expected, the Jan-Alex courtship isn’t your typical “whirlwind, storybook romance”. All the same, their relationship covers a near-literal lifetime of shared experience in a very rapid and compressed manner.

Trailing the Apocalypse Twins to their space ark (yeah, ‘cuz that’s how you sentence…), the mutant portion of the Unity Squad (along with a stowaway Wasp) are transported away from Earth before the giant Kirby space robot gods, The Celestials, show up to trash it. Apparently spending five years on a dystopic mutants-only “Planet X”, Jan and Alex have a daughter, Katherine (“Katie”), who is named after Alex’s mother. Along with resistance sympathizers such as Hank “The Beast” McCoy, the family manages to elude the Apocalypse Twins’ totalitarian regime.

In the course of hitting the “undo button” on this reality, the Avengers don’t do the standard time-travel thing. Instead, the survivors have their consciousnesses sent back to their old bodies- five years of life experiences intact– to inform the others to make different choices. Unlikely ally, the usually untrustworthy and self-serving Time Master Immortus, swears he can make it so Jan and Alex can still be a family with Katie- but first the Avengers need to take down the real architect behind the Apocalypse Twins: their old time-travelling arch-nemesis, Kang The Conqueror…

During this skirmish, Alex is severely wounded- with the left side of his body critically burned and disfigured, forcing him into a protracted medically-regenerative stasis as Jan also takes some understandable down-time.

Already having a hard time adjusting, it doesn’t take much to send Alex over the edge. Shortly thereafter, the Scarlet Witch and Dr. Doom unite forces, casting an “inversion spell” in an attempt to liberate the mind of Professor X from the body of the Red Skull (2014’s Avengers and X-Men: Axis event). A great deal of heroes and villains are also caught in the “down is the new up” wake and consequently Havok officially secedes the mutant faction of the Avengers as the X-Men take on a more villainous air.

By the end of the event, most everyone goes back to their old ways. However, Alex is one exception- apparently kidnapping Janet in a misguided attempt to bring their family back together or something. It’s never really followed up on and before long, the whole Marvel multiverse ends with 2015’s Secret Wars

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Art by Pepe Larraz

After reality resets in its current incarnation as the “All-New, All-Different”, Jan is among the Avengers when Hank Pym effectively ceases to exist. To no one’s surprise, she is left in charge of all of his patents and holdings and begins transitioning into being more of a “behind the scenes” businesswoman.

When “Hanktron” briefly returns to Earth, she effectively rejoins the Unity Squad. However, Pym’s “whack-a-mole” pop-up legacy just doesn’t stop there- shortly thereafter, Jan gets a very unexpected front door visitor: a mysteriously-never-mentioned teenage step-daughter?!?

Turns out young Nadia has Dad’s proclivity for super-science and is already trading on the name the Unstoppable Wasp when the Avengers’ butler introduces them. Like most things, Jan takes all this in stride and simply folds her costumed namesake into her adventuring.

During the second superhero civil war, the X-faction of the Unity Squad run some pro-mutant “extracurricular activities”, making temporary alliances with unsavory bedfellows. Secretly-a-HYDRA-agent Captain America catches wind of the unsanctioned ops and officially disavows the entire Unity Squad.

However, the team stays together- placed in a position of clearing their names while continuing to fight the good fight. Although the most seasoned active Avenger, Jan remains content to let others lead. Evidently, this doesn’t stop Steve Rogers from recognizing, as upcoming solicits note Jan as one of his specific Secret Empire targets…

(What’s that axiom about power and responsibility again??)

UP NEXT: Don’t Make Him Angry (you know the rest…)- The Incredible Hulk! Plus Teenage Singing Sensation, Rick Jones!

“What’s so Civil about War, Anyway?” Looking Back on Marvel’s 2006 Mega-Event (Prologue Segment, Part 2)

Things may happen quickly in the Marvel Universe but they rarely come out of nowhere. The first part of this series deep-dives into some of the earliest examples of the Marvel heroes gradually pushing toward their Civil War. Let’s jump back into it now and examine the next batch of cases…

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Cover to Wolverine, Vol.3 #20, cover-dated December, 2004. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts

WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE/AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Wolverine, Vol. 3 #20 – 31 (2004 – 2005)One-part spiritual homage to a discarded Chris Claremont X-Men plot. One part swipe from Akira Kurosawa. Prior to properly writing the MU’s “cast of thousands” in Civil War, Mark Millar backdoor-pilots his ambition through this saga (accompanied by future Kick-Ass co-creator, penciler John Romita, Jr.). Spread out as it does over twelve issues, it actually has more in keeping with Kill Bill.

Like Quentin Tarantino’s cinematic two-parter, each half has its own distinct flavor. You don’t exactly get a grindhouse-esque “revenge flick/cowboy flick” but what you get is a super-hero “action/suspense/horror story” followed by a “action/spy-fi/revenge-thriller”. And ninjas. Such ninjas, omg…

If you have a penchant for crying “Rip Off!”, please note that Millar springboards the entire run by wholesale lifting the logline from the 1963 Japanese film High and Low (well, maybe not the “shoe company” part). Wolverine easily grafts into the scenario: the chauffeur of the wealthy businessman is the cousin of Mariko Yashida, Logan’s deceased ex-fiancee. Wolverine feels honor-bound to get the cousin’s abducted-in-a-case-of-mistaken-identity kid back BUT- Admiral Ackbar-senses tingling– It’s a trap!!

Turns out the gangsters actually kidnapped the right kid. The ransom was never the thing- they wanted the one with tangential ties to Logan. Double twist: these goons are also the little fish. The real masterminds: a diabolical consortium of HYDRA, the deadly Hand ninja cult and a nihilistic extremist mutant faction called The Dawn of the White Light (which actually sounds more like an underground gothcore band that releases all of its music exclusively on hand-written cassettes…).

Triple twist (the really sad one): They killed the kid off-panel prior to the ambush…

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“This is how boastful The Gorgon is, defeating you in the third person!” (Wolverine Vol. 3 #20, cover-dated December 2004. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

Thanks to the Hand’s ninja magic (as seen on the Netflix Daredevil series), the bad guys resurrect Wolverine after somehow killing him. Don’t ask how one sword to the back is supposed to take out a guy with a mutant healing factor, shown to have taken far worse on multiple other occasions. But, okay, disbelief suspended for the sake of seeing where this is going…

Brainwashing the ol’ Canucklehead into being a cybernetically-monitored murder puppet, he’s Trojan-horsed back into the world. Picked up by a S.H.I.E.L.D. freighter, Logan feigns injuries acquired during a falsified escape from captivity. Taken to the infirmary, he soon unleashes a campaign of bloody hell while gathering intelligence data and sinks the ship! Old white Nick Fury appoints unlikely anti-hero, Elektra Natchios, freelance field leader of a special task force and places all of herodom on double-dodeca super-secret lockdown.

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Better get used to these guys and their “big ideas”… (Wolverine Vol. 3 #22, cover-dated January, 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

One of Wolverine’s next big targets is the Baxter Building- home of the Fantastic Four- to steal as many theoretical designs for potentially-destructive superscience gadgets as he possibly can (like a terraformer that Reed Richards just happens to be working on at the moment). While this infiltration is happening, Reed is seen in virtual teleconference with Tony Stark and Hank Pym. Seems incidental in the moment but it’s a think-tank gathering that Millar revisits at length during Civil War.

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“Gratuitous appearance?! Do you know whose book yer in, bub?!?” (Wolverine Vol. 3 #24, cover-dated March, 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

During a(nother) fake-out ploy to bring Daredevil over to the dark side (‘cuz Matt Murdock versus The Hand is such low-hanging fruit), The Gorgon and company acquire their real objective: killing and resurrecting Elektra. (What was that about low-hanging fruit, again?)

Bringing the nightmare to a crescendo, Wolverine is outfitted with a weaponized version of Reed Richards’ terraformer. Utilizing it as blackmail, he stealths his way back into the X-Mansion and demands that one of the resident psychics (Rachel Summers/Grey) use the X-Men’s Cerebra telepathic amplifier to remote-control mentally kill the US President.

Being telekinetic as well as telepathic, Rachel turns the tables by mentally contacting Reed Richards instead and learns how to safely dismantle the device. Wolverine begins cutting a destructive swath across the school and its grounds, pursued by a combination of X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and heroes such as Cap and Iron Man.

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“Oh my god, you killed Northstar!!” (said in mock ‘South Park’ fashion. By no one ever…) (Wolverine #25, vol. 3 #25, cover-dated April 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

Eventually, their efforts prove to be enough to take Wolverine down (Cap gives him a pretty fierce slam with the shield from behind) but not without casualty. On-loan Alpha Flight mutant speedster, Northstar, is fatally stabbed during the round-up. (Canadians sticking together, eh?)

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Side ‘B’. (Cover to Wolverine, Vol. 3 #27, cover-dated June, 2005. Cover art and colors by Greg Land and Richard Isanove. Homage to cover of 1968 Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 by Jim Steranko)

Back in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, Wolverine undergoes a rehabilitative process to dial him back to pre-abduction levels of hairy mutant psychopath. During this time, the bad guys change up tactics. In addition to absconding with and resurrecting Northstar’s body, they begin “recruitng” from the less-organized costumed villain population. Amassing a small army, The Gorgon then turns his legions onto S.H.I.E.L.D. and its Helicarrier as either a manuever to liberate Wolverine or to outright cripple the organization. Either way…

Fury is severely injured in the raid but not before Wolverine gets commissioned to get back into the field as the best there is at what he does. What he does next is criss-cross the globe  with fully-sanctioned S.H.I.E.L.D. assets, kicking ass and taking names.

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“Shut your eyes, Marion. Don’t look at it no matter what happens!” (Wolverine, Vol. 3 #31, cover-dated October, 2005. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

Eventually, he catches up with the bad guys. It’s revealed Elektra’s been a deep-cover plant since her abduction (because Elektra gets brainwashed by The Hand?! Pffftt– sooo been there, done that…). Wolverine also manages to turn The Gorgon’s mutant “turn you to stone” stare back on him using the old Clash of the Titans trick and the reflectiveness of his metal claws.

So, all’s well that– oh wait, the kid’s still dead. Man, kinda hard to put this one in the “win” column, huh?

The impact on the Civil War landscape: This is probably the last story wherein S.H.I.E.L.D. operates in a “passive alliance” capacity with individual masked heroes. Certainly the last with “classic” old white Nick Fury at the helm.

Time was, the Old Warhorse would just show up with his red shirt bit players, roll up his sleeves and lend a helping hand to whatever shenanigans were going down- didn’t matter if you were Cap, Kitty Pryde or frikkin’ Howard the Duck. Sure, he’d grumble about loose-cannon vigilantism but everybody’d just go on their own way at the end of the adventure. After this story, though, seems like it might not be the case much longer…

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“Why don’t you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?” (Wolverine, Vol. 3 #30, cover-dated September, 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

The idea that “capes” would just organically fold into a paramilitary organization as superhuman “assets” is one Millar institutes in his Ultimates run and it kinda seeps in here- particularly the expeditious and somewhat offhand manner in which S.H.I.E.L.D. “deputizes” not only Wolverine but more questionable costumed characters such as Elektra, Rhino, Tombstone and the Constrictor. This trend of using villains willing to play ball with “the man” is one that will prevail into Civil War and beyond. But yeah, Millar is sure chomping to push some big, unified “us versus them” super-police force thing…

Another sign of that this indeed a “through the looking glass” post-9/11, post-Ultimates Marvel is the facility with which superscience equals WMDs; particularly that of Reed Richards, which, until this point, always held a certain naive/kitschy retro-tinged panache. However, the 21st Century seems to be all about pervasive notions and the air is now rife with conceptual genies that refuse to go back in the bottle. Indeed,  it’s at the very core of  the current Invincible Iron Man series as Brian Michael Bendis ramps into 2016’s Civil War II.

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Wolverine is an evil bastard man. (Wolverine, Vol. 3 #25, cover-dated April 2005. Words by Mark Millar. Art and colors by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson and Paul Mounts)

Final note on this story: Wolverine as a villain is one scary mofo! You get impression that the regular people of the Marvel Universe probably should get up every morning and thank him just for fighting on sides of angels. Just sayin’. Oh, and he does go back and rough up the White House again later, though. That’s all with the intent of smoking out operatives of a guy named Romulus responsible for jerkin’ Logan’s chain since his near-literal Day One. Given how long Wolverine’s been around, that’s a long-ass time. This is all chronicled in the Wolverine: Origins series…

Couple of parting sidebars: Elektra  drops off the grid during the big final boss battle with The Gorgon. Some time later, she evidently reappears, having reorganized The Hand around her. In actuality, Elektra is kidnapped and replaced. The reordering is really the handiwork of shapeshifting alien Skrulls, playing a “long-game” revenge against Iron Man and Reed Richards. Hank Pym is also swapped-out for a Skrull shortly after this story. This is all detailed as part of the Secret Invasion saga, though. Maybe we’ll talk about that one day…

Note: The Gorgon in this story (stone-stare mutant Tomi Shishido) is not to be confused with the classic Lee/Kirby cloven-hooved, stompy Inhumans character of the same name. In fact, the article “The” serves as clear and commonly-recognized distinction.  At any rate, The Gorgon reconstitutes and goes on to serve on HYDRA’s high command council in Jonathan Hickman’s 2009 Secret Warriors series, wherein Baron Strucker turns up as well (as not a clone. Not like in this story…). You can read more about that here.

Speaking of “Secret Warriors”(but not the ones you’re probably thinking of, though)…  [MORE→]