This bleak scenario serves as the starting point for Barry Windsor-Smith's bold take on one of the most famous Marvel characters ever created. I think it was clear, ever since the late 70s, that Wolverine was destined to greatness; and when he appeared for the first time in the pages of X-Men, the history of mutantkind would be forever changed. Perhaps, what was most alluring about this Canadian warrior was his past, a mystery to which not even the clawed mutant would be privy to.
Wolverine's flawed nature, his constant struggle between his human side and his berserker rage, would often put him at odds with his fellow X-Men. And even Professor X would have a hard time trying to help Logan, a man too old to be one of his students but also too unstable to be left alone.
So what happened to Logan? What sent him over the edge? The answer can be found in Weapon X, an extraordinary miniseries (originally published in Marvel Comics Presents # 72-84, from March to September 1991) that focuses on Logan's early days, before entering into the superhero business. Barry Windsor-Smith shows us a man with a serious case of chronic alcohol abuse, a drunkard that is kidnapped by a secret branch of the Canadian government. The task: to conduct a series of experiments on him; the goal: to turn him into the most lethal killing machine, to replace the man with a perfect weapon.
We can see the pain inflicted on Logan, the adamantium grafting process is a terrible torture that only a mutant with a healing factor could survive. But those healing abilities work exclusively on the body. What happens with the mind? Simply put, Logan loses his sanity, and in that vulnerable state he is brainwashed by the scientists in charge of the project. “His subconscious stripped bare... Cut from his soul... And scored to the bone”, Logan is forced to act like a beast, fighting constantly against wolves, bears and Siberian tigers. Of course, once he has crushed these wild animals, he begins hunting down humans.
Weapon X is an incredible artistic feat and a technical prowess on its own. Barry Windsor-Smith, the best artist of the 70s, surprises us with a graphic innovation that differentiates this work from his legendary run in Conan the Barbarian. It's not entirely unexpected to observe how the beautiful lines and meticulous attention to details from Conan give way to rougher-looking finishes. If in the 70s Barry Windsor-Smith was like a Renaissance artist doing comics, or like a Durer working at Marvel, in the 90s he is an artist that has fully embraced the Expressionism movement, he is like a Francis Bacon returning to Marvel after a prolonged absence. Artistic evolution, after all, is what defined the career of a British artist that drew his first Conan issues imitating Jack Kirby before discovering his own (and magnificent) style.
For this particular project, Barry Windsor-Smith went against the rules. And the result was all the better for it. First, he reduced the amount of splash pages considerably, and then he designed pages with 10 or even 11 panels, something rare in the day and even rarer now. So whenever a splash page shows up, it is a tremendously shocking and intense image; this serves as a contrast compared with the other pages, in which every panel serves as a puzzle that we must complete in our head. Let’s take, for instance, a 10-panel page that offers significant visual information: from a close up to Logan’s face, to a small detail of the wires that will be connected to him later on, from the cells as seen through a microscope, to the nightmares Logan will remember after the experiments, from the laboratory to the Canadian cheap hotel room. Of course, the violent scenes are spectacular, although my favorite is probably the last one, where we get to see the clawed mutant maiming and killing dozens of soldiers. An excellent composition.
As Larry Hama explains on his introduction, Weapon X “is such a seamless melding of writing and drawing that one cannot be separated from the other and it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other picks up”. Indeed, when Barry Windsor-Smith was invited to revitalize the Wolverine universe, he decided to do something he had never done before at Marvel. Instead of playing one role, as a writer or as an artist, he did it all. He is the writer, penciler, inker, cover artist, colorist and letterer. There is not a single aspect of this book that he did not take into account, so everything works in perfect unison, the coloring and the lettering, the writing and the illustrations... What we get to see is what the British master envisioned, unblemished by the intervention of other people. Weapon X has a “cohesion and a structural integrity” impossible to achieve otherwise.
|Logan's dark past / el oscuro pasado de Logan|
Mucho antes de convertirse en Wolverine, y años antes de encontrarse con el profesor Charles Xavier, Logan era simplemente un hombre sin propósito. Deshonrosamente expulsado del ejército, él deambulaba por las calles más sórdidas de la ciudad, peleando en bares y encontrando alojamiento en los más miserables y asquerosos albergues.
Este escenario sombrío sirve como punto de partida para la audaz propuesta que Barry Windsor-Smith prepara para uno de los más famosos personajes de Marvel. Creo que estaba claro, desde fines de los 70s, que Wolverine estaba destinado a la grandeza; y cuando apareció por primera vez en las páginas de “X-Men”, la historia de los mutantes cambió para siempre. Tal vez, lo más cautivador de este guerrero canadiense era su pasado, un misterio que ni el propio mutante con garras podía aclarar.
La naturaleza defectuosa de Wolverine, la constante lucha entre su lado humano y su rabia de Berserker, provocarían a menudo conflictos con sus compañeros X-Men. E incluso para el Profesor X era difícil ayudar a Logan, un hombre demasiado viejo para ser uno de sus alumnos, pero también demasiado inestable como para ser abandonado a su suerte.
Entonces, ¿qué pasó con Logan? ¿Qué lo llevó al borde del abismo? La respuesta se puede encontrar en “Weapon X”, una extraordinaria miniserie (originalmente publicado en Marvel Comics Presents # 72-84, de marzo a setiembre de 1991) que se centra en los primeros días de Logan, antes de entrar en el negocio de los superhéroes. Barry Windsor-Smith nos muestra a un hombre con un caso grave de abuso crónico de alcohol, un borracho que es secuestrado por una rama secreta del gobierno canadiense. La tarea: llevar a cabo una serie de experimentos en él; la meta: convertirlo en la máquina de matar más letal, reemplazar al hombre con un arma perfecta.
|the experiment begins / el experimento comienza|
|Wolverine versus wolves|
|Logan breaks free / Logan se libera|
|the massacre is about to end / la masacre está por terminar|