Back to Basics is the second installment in the Wolverine Epic Collection which includes a myriad of stories from 1989 to 1990. Where the first installment covered the first 16 issues of Wolverine’s solo run, this picks up right where that left off and includes a couple of additional adventures. The goal behind Epic Collections are to bring a compilation of titles which are generally not found in previous collections. While this is basically Wolverine issues #17 through #30, unless you were a reader of his early stuff you’ve most likely never come across these story arcs. I don’t want that to imply a bad thing, because while most of these issues involve C-class characters, this to me is what embodies the adventures of Wolverine.
The opening story, Wolverine/Nick Fury: The Scorpio Connection is probably the weakest out of the bunch in my opinion. However, keep in mind this was praised at the time for what it did for the character of Nick Fury. To me, it was a little too Nick-centric, and really culminates in story building for him with Wolverine as a sidekick. It’s also hard to get invested in older Nick Fury content knowing his character changes so much throughout the years. This crossover especially develops some plot points that I’m sure have been entirely abandoned after the original character was retired. The main antagonist, Scorpio, is also pretty ridiculous looking. I know Wolverine runs around in a brown and burnt orange jumpsuit during this time, but it’s even more hideous than that.
Despite my complaints, it’s a decent read although it goes on a bit too long. The most redeeming aspect to come out of this is the illustrations. I love the look of early modern era comics and think it should be classified on its own. The coloring and style is very representative of the time period and barely reflects what we see today. The most important part and why The Scorpio Connection was included in this compilation is to show the friendship between Wolverine and Nick Fury. While he would consider himself a loner, Logan is someone who has a deep history with a lot of people and that’s what I like most about the character. He’s not always running around solving crimes and beating people up (which is always fun) but getting involved in their lives and, for better or worse, making a difference.
The followup story is one I had never read before, but is a great example of why Wolverine is one of the most unique and flexible characters in the Marvel Universe. The Jungle Adventure involves him traveling to the Savage Land in search of answers. After an encounter in the US, he smells something very familiar on a robotic body that reminds him of himself. Apparently the original intent was for Apocalypse to be the one behind Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton. This context is good to know because otherwise Wolverine’s motives make little sense. Despite the original plot never coming to fruition, this is still a fun story of Wolverine letting it all go for a while and living amongst Neanderthals. He quickly rises the ranks and becomes a god in their eyes. After an encounter with a Robotic T-Rex, he discovers the lab of Apocalypse which leads to further questions (only in a comic book, am I right?). While I’m glad the Weapon X project played out the way it did, I quite like the idea of Wolverine being the experimentation of Apocalypse. They even set up further threads with Apocalypse apparently being the one on the other end of the phone berating the Weapon X professor. This ultimately ends up being another story with no followup, but plays into Wolverine’s frequent desire to revert to his animalistic self.
The final arc that includes issues #17 through #30 is of a time when the X-Men are believed to be dead and Logan is hiding out in Japan going by the name of Patch. A friend of his, Roughhouse, goes missing and becomes the experiment of a former Hitler advisor by the name of Geist. Using a mutated form of cocaine, Geist uses this to try and transform unwilling subjects into a new kind of superhero; pitting Wolverine against his ally Roughhouse. Joined by La Bandera, they face off against the villain Tigershark and eventually an ancient bio weapon known as Spore. The nice thing about the Wolverine solo run was that a lot of the issues continued off of one another and always told a more fleshed out story. They also brought him to new and interesting locations while matching him up with a slew of different characters. He was like a shorter, hairier James Bond. This selection of issues may not showcase the best of Wolverine, and you’re not getting much background or world building, but just like James Bond the funnest aspect of the character is when he’s kicking butt.
I’d say if you are a fan of Wolverine and have read a lot of his stories so far this would be a good place to go next. I wouldn’t recommend starting here if you’re fairly unfamiliar with everything he’s been through because there are a lot better places to start. You’re not going to get real in depth with the character and learn all about his back story but this is a good series of adventures that flow one to the next. This collection of issues are a fun read that is easy to pick up and put back down and are a great example of the kind of antics Wolverine finds himself in on a regular basis.