Wolverine has travelled all across the Marvel Universe, from wondrous locales like the Savage Land and the homeworld of the intergalactic Shi'Ar empire to the best and worst of the world's great cities to its vast wilderness and jungles. More than merely visiting, he's called many of these locales home, but one place that has truly captured his heart is Japan. While Logan hasn't resided in the country for a long time, its culture, traditions and people are often on his mind and part of his every day life.
As a hero, Wolverine is inspired by the discipline, ethical code and martial prowess of the Samurai warrior class., as he attempts to live his life by the examples they set. But the real reason for Wolverine's fascination with Japan might just be it's women. Several of the great loves of his life have hailed from the country, and much of the trouble he's gotten into in Japan has involved a woman, leaving Wolverine with good memories of the country, some bad memories and many violent ones. Those less-than-tranquil memories are about to increase significantly because in "Wolverine" #20, in stores now, writer Jason Aaron and artist Renato Guedes kicked off an arc that will send their protagonist back to Japan and thrust him into the middle of a violent war between the Yakuza and the ninja assassin cult known as the Hand. CBR News spoke with Aaron about the arc, which was recently announced as his last on the book.
The roots for Aaron's current gang war epic stretch back to the back-up story in the debut issue of this latest volume of "Wolverine." "That was the first part of the 'Wolverine Goes to Hell' storyline, where we saw the Silver Samurai get murdered," the writer told CBR News. "He was the head of Clan Yashida, which was a big player in the Japanese underworld. His death has left that clan leaderless and created a bit of a power vacuum. The Hand and the Yakuza seem to be fighting each other in order to fill that vacuum."
Readers saw further hints of Aaron's plans for the Hand when they popped up in "Wolverine" #5.1 and the recent "Red Right Hand" storyline. Part of the reason Aaron waited so long and did so much prep work for this story is because he knows Wolverine tales set in Japan and feature the Hand have been done multiple times before.
"Wolverine obviously has a big connection with Japan. He spends a lot of time there, and it seems like throughout Marvel history, whenever you do a Wolverine in Japan story, it would have to involve ninjas and guys with Samurai swords. Certainly, those elements are in this story, but I wanted to try and take things further than that and do a story set in Japan that didn't just seem to play off the myths of the past and the usual elements associated with these Japanese stories," the writer remarked. "It's a story about the Hand and Japanese gangsters, but hopefully it's something that advances those stories a little bit and is a very new take on the Hand. We'll see a lot of interesting villains, like Wilson Fisk, who popped up in issue #20."
The involvement of Wilson Fisk, better known as the Kingpin of Crime, involves his current role as leader of the Hand. Aaron has been writing Fisk's Marvel MAX counterpart in "PunisherMax" and enjoyed the chance to pen the Marvel Universe version of the Kingpin.
"He plays a role in issue #20, but doesn't play a big role in this arc. The fact that he's leader of the Hand is why he pops up in the issue. Once we go to Japan, though, he's not around," Aaron said. "He's fun to write, but I didn't get to explore him nearly as much as I got to do with the MAX version. It was still great to get to write two very different kinds of Kingpin/Wilson Fisk stories at the same time."
Wilson Fisk doesn't play a role in the Japan chapters of the current arc because issue #20 revealed that the faction of the Hand that's warring with Tokyo's Yakuza families is a renegade one, not under the Kingpin's control. "Who's running things is one of the big questions of this story. If it's not Wilson Fisk who is it? Beginning with issue #300 we'll be in Japan. So everything is taking place in Japan while Fisk is still in New York," Aaron stated. "There have always been different branches of the Hand that are unified under central leadership. So what exactly is going with Japan based faction of the Hand? Is this an insurrection? The answer of who's really pulling their strings will turn out to be a big surprise."
The story Aaron began in "Wolverine" #20 continues January's milestone issue #300. "It feels great to write the 300th issue of 'Wolverine.' I don't remember if it was me, my editor Jeanine Schaefer or someone else who first realized that we had to be getting close to issue #300. So this is the biggest solo Wolverine story I've ever done. A lot of the things I've set up over the last couple of years are coming to a head, here." Aaron said. "I've been wanting to do a Wolverine in Japan story for a while, and this seemed like the place to do it. We just had to wait a little until we could get there and the numbers were right. It's exciting to get to play with a lot of these pieces, some of which I've never been able to play with before."
When Wolverine arrives in Japan, he'll run into some familiar friends and foes -- as well as a new take on an old enemy. "In issue #300, we see the debut of a brand-new Silver Samurai. For the rest of that arc, we see Wolverine reuniting with Yukio, his former love interest, and Amiko, his adopted daughter. Together, they face some secret villains that include quite a few members of Wolverine's rogues gallery."
The final page of "Wolverine" #20, featured the surprise revelation that the title character's arch-enemy Sabretooth is back among the living. Issue #300 will feature a back-up story, writen by Jeph Loeb, examining how the bloodthirsty villain returned to life and what he's currently up to. Loeb wrote the tale where Sabretooth originally met his maker, and the back-up in issue #300 will serve as a teaser for the writer's next Sabretooth tale.
"Wolverine" #300 is an extra-sized issue featuring work by three artistic collaborators who have all helped bring Aaron's stories to life in the past. "Adam Kubert is on most of the story, but there's also chapters by Ron Garney and Steven Sanders. Then, the rest of that arc, #301-303, will be drawn by Billy Tan and Steven Sanders. The whole story will be broken into lots of different chapters, so it will make sense to see multiple artists on the book," Aaron explained. "Steven is a guy I worked with just a little bit before. He's a good friend that lives in Kansas City, so I see him all the time. We've talked about working in the past, but it just didn't line up. I really wanted him to be involved in this, and in particular, to design the new Silver Samurai. In issue #300, we get just a glimpse of the new character and Steven's design for him. Then, in issue #301, Steven gets to draw him in action.
"All of those artists are great with gritty action scenes -- and there will be plenty of those -- but Stephen is also great at designing crazy high tech stuff," Aaron continued. "So I've thrown a lot of those elements in. This is a brand-new character that becomes the new Silver Samurai, and he's got a brand new costume and armor."
The new Silver Samurai and his Yakuza brethren are locked in a savage struggle with the Hand, but Aaron's Wolverine in Japan story is about more than just a brutal crime war. "I love Yakuza films from the 1970s, and parts of this story will have that type of feel, but it will go back and forth," Aaron said. "Parts of this story are pretty dark, but there are parts that are pretty outrageous. It won't be quite as crazy as the Wolverine arc that just wrapped, but it won't be nearly as dark as the one that preceded that. It will be kind of a mix. We've got big villains, lots of fights, big character moments and ultimately, something that, at the end of the day, will just be fun."
The Japan saga will also be Aaron's final arc of "Wolverine," and the writer plans to go out with a bang. "Everything has been leading towards this. Right after this arc, there's another interesting issue that I'll be doing, but I can't say anything about it at this point," Aaron said. "I can reveal that this will not end with a cliffhanger, though it will hopefully leave the next writer some nice new toys to play with. Some of the threads I've been playing out for a while now will be resolved. Others will find their way into the pages of 'Wolverine & the X-Men.'"
Aaron is the writer of "Wolverine & the X-Men," so he's not saying good bye to the character in 2012, but the writer will certainly miss penning the character's solo title. "I've been writing Wolverine's solo adventures for quite -- literally as long as I've been in comics, so it does feel weird to finally be moving away from that," Aaron remarked. "The old Canucklehead isn't completely done with me just yet, though, as I'm still crazy excited about getting to explore his new role as headmaster of the Jean Grey School in 'Wolverine & the X-Men.'"