Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown (Marvel) (Ltd. 1988) [COMICS]

Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown definitely stood out from mainstream Marvel superhero comics when it came out.  A four-issue limited series, the comic was published by Marvel's Epic imprint, which allowed it a more mature tone and adult (read: sex & violence) content.  Visually, it was quite different with fully painted covers and interiors.  I remember reading it years ago and thinking the artwork was ugly, but today I appreciate it more.  As the title indicates, fellow X-Men Havok (Alex) and Wolverine (Logan) team up in the issue; it's not a natural or familiar pairing, so it was interesting to see what writers Walter and Louise Simonson would do with it.

Issue # 1 begins with a conversation between the series' two main villains:  a manipulative Russian strategist named Dr. Neutron and his ally, a super-powered figured named General Meltdown.  It turns out they arranged events to cause the Chernobyl crisis in a bid to slow down Gorbachev's reforms, and now they've turned their attention to Havok for a reason that won't yet be revealed.  The scene then shifts to a small town in Mexico where Wolverine gets into a bar fight while Havok watches, bemused.  Good artwork and fun banter make it work.  The pair end up getting chased by gun-toting thugs and steal a car with a woman inside, just as some sort of cyborg with a laser rifle opens fire.  Basically, it's all a trick to get Wolverine and Havok to reveal their superpowers, and then the female driver (whose code-name is Quark and who works for Dr. Neutron and General Meltdown) tranqs them.  Logan eventually wakes up in a hospital and is told Alex is dead; but smelling a rat, he digs up Alex's "grave" and finds it full of rocks.  It's an interesting, fast-paced, and intriguing beginning to a series that is definitely different than the norm.

In Issue # 2, Logan is on the kidnapped Alex's trail.  He busts up that same Mexican bar for info, and then interrogates a taco seller for information.  It's a really fun scene, and quite bloody, justifying the Epic treatment.  Meanwhile, Alex wakes up in a weird, fake hospital.  Quark wears a disguise and gives her name as Scarlett and pretends to be a nurse at the hospital.  She tricks Havok into thinking Wolverine has been captured and brainwashed by a nefarious organisation--perhaps the CIA!  The bad guys' real plan is revealed to the reader:  General Meltdown wants to absorb the full force of Havok's radiation power to become invincible, but the only way Havok would ever let loose enough is if he thinks Meltdown has been responsible for Wolverine's death.

Issue # 3 starts with a nice piece of irony:  Alex flies with Scarlett on the way to "rescue" Logan, while Logan is actually tracking the plane to rescue Alex.  Logan gears up, and in a fun and gory scene, impales a fellow in the eyes with his claws (from behind!)--try that in a Comics Code Authority approved book!  I have to admit, I'm starting to get into the moody painted artwork.  Anyway, Wolvie gets caught in a barbed-taser trap and gets brainwashed for real--when he and Alex track down each other, Wolvie attacks and Alex has to blast him to what is apparently death.  He vows revenge on whomever set up the whole thing, and General Meltdown assumes his plan is going to work.  Only, Scarlett seems to be falling for Alex for real, and I don't think Alex really thinks he killed Wolverine so easily . . .

In Issue # 4, Scarlett literally stumbles over a "clue" (a partially burned diagram of a nuclear reactor in India) to lead Havok to the site of General Meltdown's planned endgame.  After burying Wolverine in a shallow grave, Havok and Scarlett board a plane from India.  There, they find the reactor is melting down and Havok absorbs radiation to try to stop the problem but General Meltdown attacks.  There's a cool battle in the middle of a live nuclear reactor, which I can say I've never seen before.  Seeing that Havok still won't unleash his full power on him, Meltdown kills Scarlett.  Havok blasts Meltdown and is weakened, but then Wolverine arrives!  It's a tough, well-depicted battle that sees Wolvie impaling Meltdown with multiple control rods to sap his inner reactor.  Wolverine and Havok escape, having saved the day, and in a sweet moment Logan decides not to tell Alex that his beloved Scarlett was in on the whole thing.  There's an interesting and foreboding epilogue featuring Dr. Neutron, but I'm not sure if anything ever comes of it . . .

All in all, a really good limited series pairing two heroes who don't often adventure together in a novel setting.  The painted artwork can be a bit off-putting at first, but it really grew on me.  Final verdict: an interesting and successful experiment.

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