Putting Wolverine in Harms' Way

Marvel's most popular mutant may be known as the best there is at what he does, but when he's forced to do his worst work at 30,000 feet, things can get a bit tricky.

In this week's "Wolverine: The Anniversary" one-shot from Marvel, Logan squares off against a band of terrorist hi-jackers while aboard a commercial jetliner en route to Japan on the anniversary of his lady love Mariko's death. One of two stories presented in the issue, the close action fisticuffs on display in the short tale will hopefully prove a change of pace to readers inundated with Wolvie comics in the ramp up to the X-Man's May 1st film, or so hopes writer William Harms, who landed the Marvel gig after his creator-owned vampire series "Impaler" caught the eye of editor Axel Alonso.

Harms told CBR News that the hook that drew him into Logan's world came with his connection to a lost love, much like the lead character of "Impaler." "Logan's history and the pain he feels from the death of Mariko definitely plays a major factor in the story. He knows what it's like to lose someone you truly love, so when he thinks about all of the families that would be impacted and devastated in the event the plane is destroyed, it makes him that much more determined to track down and punish everyone involved with the hijacking."

Of course, the tight confines of an airplane cabin don't quite match the specifications of the Danger Room, which became part of the fun for both Harms and his artist, Jefte Paolo. "One of the things I really enjoyed about writing this story is that the situation Logan faces forces him to use all of his abilities, so it's not just claws and slicing and dicing," the writer explained. "He's stuck in an aluminum tube flying through the air, and one mistake means certain death for everyone onboard. So he has to tap into his senses, even his sense of hearing, in order to stop this disaster before it happens and make sure that the people responsible can't try it again down the road.

"[Jefte] had a pretty taunting task in that so much of the action is confined to the tight spaces of an airliner, and he pulled it off flawlessly. I don't want to spoil anything by naming my favorite scenes, but when things come to a head on the plane, Jefte really nails what I was looking for."

The quick, visceral feel of "The Anniversary" should come as no surprise to readers of "Impaler" - the modern day vampire military epic whose brief run at Image led to a trade paperback and ongoing series at Top Cow late last year. With two issues on the stands and a third on the way, Harms expressed confidence that the book would soon resume a regular publishing schedule after various delays tripped up the final artwork by Matt Timson.

"Things are moving slowly but surely. Issue #3 is running behind, but Matt is busting his hump with the art, and the pages he's turning in are amazing," Harms said. "We're not going to solicit issues #5 and #6 until later this summer to make sure Matt has enough time to get them done and to also get the schedule fully back on track.

"I know the gap between issues can be hard for readers to take sometimes, but Matt's doing all of the artwork himself, and it's taking longer than we originally planned. It's the age-old conflict of 'do you want it fast or do you want it good?' and we definitely want to deliver the best book we can. And the folks who email us or talk to me at conventions seem to agree that the wait is worth it."

Harms is enthused about the story prospects for "Impaler" moving forward, since the vampire plague at the series' heart wasn't stopped by a nuclear bomb being dropped on New York City at the end of the first trade. Instead, an out-of-their-depth team of military types currently scramble to stop the spread of the monsters past New Jersey. Meanwhile, the best hope for stopping the vamps - the ageless warrior Vlad and his former NYC police detective partner Victor - remain hopelessly behind the push of the bloodsucker hoard.

"When I was writing the first arc, I originally had a different ending in mind - something with Vlad and Victor fighting a guerilla war against the vampires, flooding subway tunnels with water in an effort to force the vampires up into the daylight, things like that," Harms explained. "But when I was writing issue three, I got this image in my head of the military nuking New York City, and as soon as I had that image, I knew that was the direction the story had to take. So it was pretty much decided right there.

"One of the guiding principles behind 'Impaler' has always been: What if this was real, how would the world react? And I honestly think that if something like this did happen, the military would adopt a scorched earth policy and blow the living hell out of everything."

Harms continued, "Moving forward, 'Impaler's' story is basically comprised of three different legs - Vlad and Victor, Lt. George Wagner and his men, and Wagner's wife. Although there will be crossover between those three legs, each represents its own story arc. The thing I love about writing George is that he's a hardened soldier, loves his country and the men under his command, and will take on any mission, but he's also deeply cynical. He recognizes fairly early that the conventional combat methods the military wants to deploy against the vampires aren't going to work. Because of that, he's already making contingency plans in his head, as seen by him telling his wife to flee Texas and ordering his men to be ready to retreat from the defensive line that's been established around Philadelphia. He recognizes that what's important is winning the war, not the battle.

"I don't want to ruin too much, but Vlad and Victor will link up with George and his men in the ruins of Washington, D.C. Adding to the fun is the fact that Vlad's pissed off, undead brother Mircea is also chasing Vlad and Victor. It's going to be quite a gathering."

Speaking of the odd couple who kick-started "Imapler's" storyline, the ancient vampire slayer and his radiation-poisoned compatriot hardly present a dynamic duo of vampire killing perfection, which Harms chocks up to the former's personality and the latter's demons. "My original plan was to have Vlad soften up a bit over time and come to see the others fighting by his side as partners, equals," the writer said. "But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that approach would be a lie - Vlad is who he is, and he'll never change. In his eyes, the ends justifies the means and if he has to personally murder a million people to stop the vampires, he'll do it without a moment's hesitation. In many ways, Vlad is the most difficult character I've ever written because he's so (intentionally) one-dimensional. He doesn't believe in small-talk, doesn't care about your family, doesn't care if you're heart-broken, etc. All he cares about is destroying the vampires. And that attitude is a great source of conflict within the story, especially between him and Victor. It's not a stretch to say that Victor hates Vlad's guts."

But Vlad will be saving Victor's guts, as they've been irreparably harmed by the fallout from the NYC bombing. "When Vlad cures Victor's radiation poisoning, he saves Victor's life. But sometimes the cure is worse than the illness, and in this case, Victor will feel the long-term ramifications of Vlad's 'cure' for a long time," Harms explained. "As Vlad says, 'everything has its price,' and before this arc ends, Victor will have his first inkling of what that price entails. And worst of all, Victor didn't ask for it -- he would've been content dying from the radiation poisoning. But that's the core of his arc as a character -- Victor is a man who simply wanted to crawl away and drink himself to death, but fate has other plans for him, even if he has to be dragged kicking and screaming the entire way."

Despite the fact that things only look worse and worse for the cast of his series, Williams Harms continues to look up with "Wolverine: The Anniversary" on stands now and work in the gaming industry just around the corner. "I just finished writing the script for 'inFamous,' a PS3-exclusive open-world game that'll be shipping on May 26. It's the fifth game I've written, and it was a blast."

Harms continued, "I certainly hope to do more stuff for Marvel in the future. I've sent them a few pitches at their request, so we'll see what happens. I'd love to try my hand at 'Tomb of Dracula' or 'Blade,' especially 'Blade.' The hardcore vampire action is right up my alley, and I'd love the challenge of taking what made the movies so awesome and doing that in the comic book version. Outside of the horror stuff, I really enjoyed writing Wolverine and would love to revisit him in the future. I'm also a huge fan of The Punisher."

"Wolverine: The Anniversary" is in comics shops now and features a second story by Jonathan Maberry and Tom Coker. "Impaler" #3 is slated to go on sale in May from Top Cow.

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