Wolverine vs. the latest Pokemon addition

Ryhmä-X 9/85 Cover
Ryhmä-X 9/85 Cover

Still loving the X-Men: First class movie, I grabbed the next Ryhmä-X, and what a magazine it was.

The Plot

In Ryhmä-X 9/1985 Jean Grey has been dead for some months now and the X-Men are still recovering from the loss. Angel has returned to Ryhmä-X and after Scott left the group, Storm has taken the leadership position in the group. After losing two valuable members and having a new member, who hasn’t been involved with much action lately, the group is still in shambles when it comes to battling as a group.

Since things are quiet, Wolverine decides to make a visit to Canada and the Alpha Flight in hopes of settling old matters with the team and the  Canadian government.  Xavier proposes that Wolverine take someone with him and Wolverine asks Kurt/Nightcrawler to join him, which he is happy to do. Well, he’ll regret that later, because once they make it there, the are faced with Wendigo – a human who once resorted to cannibalism and through a curse turned into Wendigo: a monster living on human flesh. Wendigo has just recently attacked a family camping nearby, killing the father and taking the mother and their newborn baby to his cave for later supper. Their young boy managed to escape and told the sad story to the officials, who alarmed the Alpha Flight. Too bad the group is divided with only Guardian, Snowbird and Shaman present to take care of Wendigo, so when Wolverine and Kurt arrive, their help is greatly appreciated.

Ryhmä-X 9/85 Wendigo turned back to human
The strange part is, in this sequence Baptiste has considered his time as Wendigo like a nightmare, so I sort of feel bad for him having to have to pay for everything he did as Wendigo, but 1) he would not have turned into Wendigo if he hadn't already eaten human flesh, and 2) if you drink so much alcohol that you lose your memory and wake up to find out you have killed somebody without recalling it, I bet you'd be sentenced for at least killing, if not murder. So even though it seems Baptiste didn't know what he got himself into when he turned into Wendigo, he definitely is up to some point responsible for his actions as Wendigo.

Not very surprisingly, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and the Alpha Flight run into Wendigo, fight with him and – surprise! – win the beast, turn him back into human and turn him over to the officials, who will charge him with his crimes he did as Wendigo.

When is it justified to kill another human being?

It’s no surprise superhero comics are usually full of fighting, if you think about the powers they were given. What else could Wolverine do except fight with his regenerative powers and those sharp blades coming from his knuckles? Well, I suppose he could work as a can opener and that healing power could come handy if he accidentally got cut by those sharp edges. Despite all that fighting, superhero comics are about the battle between the good and the evil, and about protecting humans from evil too powerful for them. So when you see a page like this in a superhero comics it’s worth to take a closer look.

Ryhmä-X 9/85 Right to kill
Nightcrawler has a talk with Wolverine. When does a person have a right to kill another with no consequenses? Is there ever an excuse good enough?

Panel #1
Vartija: I know arresting Baptiste seems cruel, but I can’t do anything about it. He turned into Wendigo on his free will, which makes him guilty of all crimes he did as Wendigo.
But I think justice will be lenient on him because his decision was not that of a sane person and his memories will be a more severe punishment to him than imprisonment.
Thank you for your help, Wolverine. We could not have done it without your help. I spoke with the prime minister. You can forget all your troubles with the government.
And now that you are a free man, please, come visit me and Heather more often. We are your friends.
Wolverine:I know… I will.

Panel #2
Kurt: When I looked at Baptiste I could only think of how crazy this world is.
Wolverine: Why?
Kurt: Baptiste killed as Wendigo and now he has to pay for it. But shouldn’t you, too, be responsible for your actions?

Panel #3
Wolverine: Kurt, in my life I have been either a soldier or a secret agent. As a soldier my government paid me to kill. As a secret agent they made me kill and gave me the right to kill. I was good at my job. I got glory, medals, etc.
Kurt: Maybe, but…
Wolverine: I’m not finished yet.

Wolverine: A man attacks me with his fists, I fight him back with mine. But if he has a weapon or if he threats those dear to me… then I’ll feel no mercy. He lives – or dies – according to his decision.
I use my blades only on those who try to kill me. Self-defence.

Panel #5
Kurt: I understand, what you say is logical.
But still, is it right?
Narrator: Wolverine doesn’t answer and for a long time there is silence.

This isn’t the sort of dialogue you would except to find from a superhero comic, making the question all the more important.

First of all it takes a lot of courage to say things like that out loud to a person whom you are indirectly accusing of being a killer and thus deserving some kind of a punishment. Wolverine gets a bit defensive at first, but to his merit, when Kurt asks if his reasons for killing still make it right, he does stop to think about it. And I must also point out that Kurt’s questions don’t come out of nowhere. In the X-Men comics Wolverine is the one who portrayes the animalistic, wild side of humans. Something dangerous and dark, yet in a way admirable as he is free to do as he likes. In previous issues of Ryhmä-X Wolverine’s actions have already caused alarm in his team members. They are not sure if he can be trusted or if he’ll turn into some crazy wild beast and kill them all in the heat of the battle.

Ryhmä-X 9/85 Snowbird turned into a white wolverine
Snowbird turned into "the most fearsome beast of the forest", the white wolverine.

And in this issue we are faced with a similar question when Snowbird, a shapeshifter, turns into a white wolverine in order to bring down Wendigo. The other members are worried since she also psycologically turns into the animal whose form she takes. And in the heat of the battle Snowbird loses herself and almost attacks her teammates in order to protect her spoil. Wolverine, having that same animalistic side in him, is able to talk her out of it, remembering how Scott could momentarily reach Jean when she’d turned into Dark Phoenix, in the same way by “opening his soul” to her. And it works. Previously Snowbird had shun away from Wolverine because of his animalistic side, but after this experience she understands him, having herself gone through the same experience he has to live with his whole life with.

Ryhmä-X 9/85 Wolverine talks Snowbird back into human
The 2nd panel: Wolverine thinks: "No violence, no fear. I have to reach Anne with words and emotion, like Scott reached Jean when she turned into Dark Phoenix. I'm not good at talking and my insticts call for a fight. I want to show that beast I'm better than it is by killing it. But I know it's not the right path. I won't do it." He says: "Anne, it's me, Logan. Hear me. Remember who you are. What you are..." The 3rd panel: Narrator: "Wolverine doesn't know how long he talks and what he says. He only knows he's revealing himself, the wild and free soul, to her."

But back to the question – is it OK ever to kill? I’d like to think all of us humans feel killing is wrong. I’d love to add to the word “always” to that sentence, but sadly I can’t. With so many wars and conflicts going on and the death penalty still legal in so many countries for the most ridiculous “crimes” like homosexuality, I’m afraid it seems people think it’s OK to kill people for almost nothing.

In my opinion there is never a good enough reason to kill another human being. Life is sacred and we have only one life. Some believe in life arter death, but we have only this one life here on Earth for certain. No-one has the right to take that life away.

Wolverine speaks of being a soldier (or mercenary, depending on the translation) and a secret agent “with licence to kill”. I understand that in war you either kill or be killed. But is it right? No, of course not, but I’ll put the blame on those who orchestrate the war, not on the soldiers – except when they commit war crimes, at which point it’s up to them to decline or refrain from those actions. And as a secret agent, possibly assassinating people… I think it’s always wrong, but I can sort of understand it, but can’t understand people who’d still do it. To kill a human might be alright to save thousands of others, but can you ever really tell if you could have achieved the same results some other way – or if you really are assassinating people to save others and not just for political reasons?

Wolverine also mentions self-defence as an excuse for killing. I definitely think it’s acceptable to defend yourself, but there is a limit to it. Wolverine has healing abilities which make him basically indestructible. Of course getting shot hurts like hell and those people shooting him don’t know he’ll survive it. But does it give him the right to kill them? Probably not. There is a thing called excessive force, even if it’s used in defense.

The great thing about Wolverine is that he is a character with many flaws, but he also has an ability to change and to learn from his experiences. He has already learned from dealing with Jean/Dark Phoenix that showing your inner self might work better than hitting them with your bare knuckles. Maybe this is yet another learning point for Wolverine. I’m eager to find out how things will develop in the future issues.

Something good, something…

As I briefly mentioned in one of my first posts, I have always liked Wolverine a lot, but he has one major flaw: he calls women with demeaning names. Which, by the way, is ridiculous! He’s that one person who has real appreciation for women (remember his first meeting with Mariko) and yet he’s the one whose language gets me from 0 to 100 mph in record time. Before this issue I had caught him using a demeaning word only once and I can’t even find it. And once he calls Jean “Jeannie” in the story where Jean turns into Phoenix. I’ll forgive him that, since he has a habit of calling everyone with a variant of their real name like Charles -> Charlie.  But still, he has been acting very nice until this issue.

It all begins quite innocently when he calls Archangel “pellavapää” (eng. goldilocks, literally “flax head”) on page 6. I think it’s not that bad and is a direct reference to his haircolour and the Finnish word “pellavapää” is not demeaning. But when he goes on his own adventure he forgets his manners in Xavier’s mansion, because the very first minute he meets Heather (Guardian’s wife) he calls her “hunajapupu” (eng. honeybunny, literally “honeybear”). On page 36 he calls Snowbird “prinsessa” (eng. princess) which is OK if she really is a princess, which to my knowledge she isn’t. I know some women like to call themselves princesses, but I have always found that word utterly demeaning and offensive – except when used in the presence of actual royalty. If used on normal, non-royal women, the word comes with a connotation of a stupid, imbecile creature, who is either too stupid or made-to-be-too-fragile to do anything herself, or who has very superficial values.

Ryhmä-X 9/85 Honeybunny
Wolverine greeting his old friend by calling her "honeybunny"

Ok, so it was “only” two demeaning words in a comic magazine and it could very well be the word princess was solely a positive word back in the early 1980s  when this story was written. And that honeybear-thingy, I suppose it could have been only him friendly teasing Heather when she thought there were burglars in her home. I think I will let it go for now, but knowing his future behaviour I’m already getting agitated. Wolverine, watch that tongue of yours!

Comic relief: the Pokemon fight

You know Pokemon, how they talk? They always just keep on repeating their names. Koffing says “Koffing”, Squirtle says “Squirtle”, Pikachu usually says “Pika” leaving the “chu” out. I’m not an expert, far from it, but to my knowledge only Meowth of Team Rocket says something else than just repeats his name. Well, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking of all those lovely Pokemon, when I saw this…

Wendigo is a Pokemon
Need I say more?

One last thing…

Ryhmä-X 9/85 Setinel greeting
The last image of Ryhmä-X 9/85: Title: "Next issue: Sentinels Attack!" A chirpy setinel: "Hi..! We have killed every single X-Man! You better believe me! Except for Kitty, but she's so tiny..."

The magazine ends with this.