Spider-Man versus Wolverine #1

Issue Date: 
February 1987
Story Title: 
High Tide!

James C. Owsley (writer), Mark Bright (penciler), Al Williamson (inker), Petra Scotese (colorist), Billy Oakely (letterer), Ann Nocenti (editor), Jim Shooter (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

During the Cold War, Wolverine and his friend Charlemagne fought KGB agents who wanted to see Charlie dead. They won the battle and Charlie disappeared. In the present, Spider-Man is not only having trouble with his relationship with Mary Jane Watson, he also in short succession becomes witness of several people being murdered. Doubting his usefulness, he decides to stop being Spider-Man. In the meantime, reporter Ned Leeds has the theory that those people were ex-KGB and were killed by the legendary freelancer Charlemagne. He wants to travel to West Berlin to find out more. As he needs a photographer, Peter Parker is sent along. The X-Man Wolverine has come to the same conclusion as Ned and takes a leave of absence from the X-Men to go to Berlin. In Berlin, he runs into Peter and identifies him by his scent. He confronts him later at his hotel, takes him for a jaunt outside and suggests he leave, as he is in way over his head. Peter returns and finds Ned Leeds murdered. After the authorities are called, several agents want to know Parker’s connection to this, but Wolverine returns to bail him out and repeats his admonishment. Wolverine finally finds Charlie (who is a woman) in East Berlin and promises to protect her from the agents who want her dead. Spider-Man, who has put a tracer on Wolverine, jumps the Wall over to East Berlin to everyone’s astonishment. Wolverine and Charlie are in a fine restaurant. They soon realize it’s a trap. Their plan to get out is spoiled by Spider-Man, who confronts them. During the battle with pretty much everyone, Charlie disappears and continues her string of killing, something Wolverine blames Spider-Man for. He gets a message from Charlie when she is done killing and finds her in a graveyard. He plans to kill her quickly before the secret services get her but Spider-Man intervenes and fights Wolverine, while scared out of his mind. Charlie makes him believe he is being attacked from behind, causing Spider-Man to inadvertently kill her, as she had planned. Afterwards, Wolverine informs the secret services she is dead. He and a shell-shocked Peter return to the USA as civilians and Peter finds comfort in Mary Jane’s arms.

Full Summary: 

Wolverine recalls: It was a long time ago, him and Charlie. On the bad news side of the Berlin Wall. Fifty Soviet operatives fired a hundred rounds of ammunition at them. They didn’t fall down. Ticked them off. It’s hard to tell your CO you couldn’t take down two crummy agents. Then they came at them with bottles, bricks whatever. Went a little crazy. They still didn’t fall. The Soviets died wondering why.

Then the second string arrived. Covert KGB posing as German townsfolk. Some of them were blowing covers they’d spent years developing. It cost the Soviets a lot.

They wanted Charlie that bad. They wanted Charlie dead. But for that they had to go through Wolverine.

Charlie was his best friend. Charlie’s short for Charlemagne and was a freelance agents working for whoever had the money. Whoever in this case was the KGB. Charlie took the job, despite Wolverine’s warning. Both knew what had to be done.

Charlie asks Logan not to do it, warning him about the cost, but then Charlie realizes this is a waste of time. Wolverine lets the injured Charlie lie there and goes berserk on the agents, smiling all the time.

Finally, Wolverine recovers his sense. He is left with the corpses. Charlie’s gone, leaving behind only a small, golden, heart-shaped charm. Charlie’s way of saying “I won.” Charlie’s corny little trademark. They both survived. Wolverine never saw Charlie after that night again.

New York City, today:
Saturday night: Spider-Man swings through Manhattan, looking for some action to get some photos to sell when he hears a scream. He looks down to see as young teenager running down Ninth Avenue.

Momentarily, he is distracted by the woman the girl jostles, an attractive well-dressed woman with chin-long auburn hair but he decides to focus on the girl, figuring it is nothing worse than a lovers’ spat.

Spidey jokingly asks what’s with the water works. Sophie… Burt… the girls sobs and Spidey chides himself an idiot. He swings away toward the mom and pop store Sophie and Burt own. He likes them and figures they are being robbed.

He burst inside the store and finds the middle-aged couple dead, killed professionally, a bullet hole in the forehead each. Feeling ghoulish, Spider-Man nevertheless takes pictures to sell to the Daily Bugle.

Later at the Daily Bugle:
Editor Cate Cushing tells Peter the pics will make the front page and jokes those are good pictures, so who took them? Usually his pictures look like he stuck the camera to the wall and put it on auto shutter.

That moment, J. Jonah Jameson enters and is uncharacteristically nice to Peter. He tells him he needs fine young photographers, experts for his Now Magazine. But since there aren’t any here, he will give Peter a chance. Peter weakly protest that every assignment Jonah sends him on ends with him getting shot at. Jonah won’t hear of it and tells him about a new assignment in El Salvador.

That moment, journalist Ned Leeds urgently needs to speak to Jonah. Peter takes the opportunity to give them the slip. Peter runs to Aunt May’s home. With the train having broken down, he is late for dinner. Mary Jane Watson welcomes him with a grin and a sarcastic greeting. While Aunt May’s roommates argue, she welcomes him gladly. Glory Grant from the Bugle informed her he was at work. May tells him and MJ to go. They are late as it is.

After the action movie at Times Square, MJ suggests they go dancing but Peter’s spider-sense goes on, then off again. It does a few times and he realizes there has to be gun trained at him. There has to be a sniper. He orders MJ to leave the street then ducks into a back alley to change. He suddenly hears screams. He is too late, though. The feeling has passed and now a cop fires at him. He swings away, sick at his inability to do something.

He’s waiting inside Mary Jane Watson’s apartment when she arrives. She doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t let her get a word in edgewise. She looks through the pictures in an old photo album of them and their friends during their college days. She wonders what happened to those happy kids, while he chafes at his uselessness. She gets up and tells him to stop. He is wearing a hole into the carpet. There was nothing he could do. He suddenly kisses her to forget the pain and she reciprocates before breaking it off. Peter realizes he crossed one of the lines. He gets up and leaves.

In the meantime, Ned Leeds is discussing his scoop with Jameson. Has he looked at the list? It’s the same people. The two nice shopkeepers were really KGB. The two pedestrians murdered by sniper fire on Times Square -- KGB. Several other John and Janes Does have turned up at the coroners recently. They are all on the list.

Peter, in the meantime, is throwing a tantrum, vowing he is done with being Spider-Man.

Unusually calm, Jonah warns Ned to be sure of his facts. He asks about the ballistics design. All the same gun, he is told. Nine millimeter. European design.

Peter is packing, deciding to go away. He doesn’t pack his costume. He very deliberately wants to leave Spider-Man behind.

Jonah asks Ned about the charms. Keychains with heart-shaped pendants, he is told. A warning. A trademark. It’s Charlemagne. The mysterious freelance operative from the Cold War days. He is back. And for some reason, he is hunting down his former clients.

Peter has finished packing but still doesn’t know where to go, apart from ‘away.’

Jonah agrees he is sold. What does Ned need? Money and a photo man. One good at dodging bullets…

Peter’s phone rings. He expects Mary Jane, but it’s Jonah with a job offer…

West Berlin:
Potsdamer Platz looks a lot different, Wolverine muses. Back then, nobody would have had the poor taste to put a Burger King here. It’s three o’ clock in the morning. He thinks it’s noon. He’s been here for days but his body still operates on Eastern Standard Time. Not that it makes much difference. He doesn’t sleep anyway, now that Charlie’s back. He got Charlie’s message. Enough people died for it. Course, they were all KGB. All from the same operation years ago. All scum. He wishes he’d done it.

When he heard the news, it didn’t take much for him to put two and two together. He checked with a “pal.” Got the list of the dead. All former spies, now retired teachers and shopkeepers.

He began to pack. The press are looking for a theme to connect the killings. He calls it justice. But he wonders, why now?

Storm angrily demanded he stay. She reminded him they had been infiltrated… attacked. They don’t know who to trust. They must stay together! He replied he had to go. Charlie’s a friend. Havok’s point that they are his friends too fell on deaf ears.

Logan feels bad for leaving his family when they need him most but tells himself he is doing the right thing. He’s spent days in Berlin, looking for Charlie. No trace but then Charlie is good. If Charlie doesn’t want to be found, Charlie won’t be found.

He realizes two men have been following for several blocks. Too clumsy for KGB. He pegs them for ordinary muggers. As he attacks, he is actually trying to save their lives, attempting to get them to flee before his KGB tails become interested in them, but the would-be muggers run in the wrong direction and the KGB finishes them off.

The two KGB men address him in Russian. He tells them to back off. They aren’t impressed. He begins to smile…

However, the two men aren’t stupid and get the message. They walk off. Soon there is a familiar scent on the wind. Charlie! He follows the men into the bushes, to find their corpses. Two more for the list… Charlie allowed him to get the scent. Charlie is here in West Berlin, settling old scores.

Later, he is on the crowded Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s answer to Broadway. He avoids the tourist traps and fights off a bout of depression. Where the heck is Charlie and why do they have to play this stupid game? It’s been days now and he’s starting to worry about the folks at home. He’s starting to think about leaving. He can’t pick out his new KGB tail yet, but is sure they are in the crowd. He’s genuinely surprised when he picks up another familiar scent. Past him walk Peter Parker and Ned Leeds. Ned tells Peter to stay calm. Ninety percent of investigative journalism is waiting. Pete impatiently replies he has a life stateside. They’ve been here for days and no sign of this Charlemagne guy.

Logan has never seen Spider-Man without his mask before but identifies him by scent.

Later, in his hotel room, Logan meditates wondering what Spider-Man is doing here. He’s been on their side before but is he connected to this spy thing? Has he been turned? He is too strong and dangerous to walk around loose. He has to check him out. Either he’s clean or…

In his hotel room, Peter is calling Aunt May and assures her he is eating right and he brought a sweater. His hopes that Mary Jane may have called are not fulfilled, however.

He has barely ended the phone call when Logan announces his presence at the window. He states they have to talk. But not here. Peter plays dumb and Logan searches though his luggage. He shows him the web shooters and announces he knows who he is. Let’s go. Peter admits he has not brought a suit. He doesn’t need one, Logan replies and jumps out of the window.

Peter follows and, as they swing and jump around the roofs, Logan informs him about the two would-be muggers who were killed at the Tiergarten last night. He doesn’t know why Peter is here but things are gonna get ugly. Logan orders him to return home. Forget him. Stay alive. That a threat? Peter demands. No is the reply. Peter asks if this has to do with the Charlemagne guy Ned is after. Logan repeats his order and suggests he take his reporter friend along. He warns him, he is way in above his head.

Twenty minutes later, Peter is walking barefoot through his hotel lobby. He decides to tell Ned he is splitting. Not so much because Wolverine rattled him, but because he has to fix things with Mary Jane. Soon, he stands at Ned’s door and notices it is open. When Ned doesn’t reply, Peter enters.

He tries to scream but can’t. Ned sits tied to a chair, his throat cut. Peter can’t breathe. He doesn’t even notice his Spider-sense until he sees the armed men surrounding him and Ned’s corpse. “Bist du veranwortlich für das?” one of them asks. “Für wen arbeitest du?” Peter doesn’t understand the German. The man repeats his questions in Russian, again asking if he did that and who he works for.

That moment, Wolverine comes slamming through the window. He stands between Peter and the goons. When they fire, he quickly takes them out. He grabs Peter and drags him outside, announcing that reinforcements are coming up. He tells him again to get lost before he vanishes.

Peter is at the bus station, planning to get a bus to the airport. Only problem: if Wolverine hadn’t led Pete away from the hotel earlier, Ned might not have got killed. He can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys anymore. But he can’t forget Uncle Ben’s words: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ He is standing in line, lost in thought, while a growing line of impatient Germans behind him is telling him to move along. Peter leaves the line. He has decided. He can’t leave Berlin yet.

By the time he finds a costume shop in Berlin, it’s closed but luckily the shopkeeper is still there. Peter pleads with him to open - it’s an emergency. The man sighs and opens.

They don’t have shoes, he announces in German with a look at Peter’s feet. Not understanding, Peter replies, same to him. Skimming through his dictionary, Peter tries badly to explain he needs a black body suit. Mercifully, the man replies in in perfect English that he doesn’t have any bodysuits at all. All sold out. In fact, the only thing like that in the store isn’t for sale. It’s for his son who is wearing it at a party tomorrow. But it’s not black and it is rather silly looking. He brings out a red and blue Spider-Man suit. Peter inwardly wishes to die.

Peter manages to convince the man to sell him the outfit and he soon swings over the rooftops, the words die Spinne on his back. He had put a tracker on Wolverine earlier. Following the tracker, he soon realizes that Wolverine has gone over the Wall into East Berlin.

A pair of West German border guards walk by, talking about the one man’s wife’s abysmal Strudel. Not understanding German, Spidey figures they talk about the number of people they shot trying to cross the Wall. When they pass by, he makes his attempt to cross the Wall. That moment, the guards return, one of them having lost his lighter. “Die Spinne!” one of them shouts. Spider-Man wonders if he will get shot when he jumps over the Wall. But the guards just stare in disbelief, as do other locals as he quickly jumps, wondering why nobody is trying to stop him.

As he jumps over the wall, his danger sense tingles as two East German guards on a watchtower try to shoot him He lands in no-man’s-land between the two German states. He realizes it’s a mine field. Still fired at, he crosses over to East Germany, scared out of his wits. He runs into an East German border patrol. He uses their confusion cracks some jokes and races over their heads.

Spider-Man follows Wolverine’s tracker to a hotel and crashes through the window, demanding some answers. The couple in the bed is very confused. He finds his tracer on a chair pinned to a note with the message “You’re in way over your head, bub. Go home.” Angrily, Spidey rolls it up and crunches the tracker.

Wolverine, in the meantime, is in what used to be a steel mill outside East Berlin. But actually it was a KGB front. All the people who worked there are dead. He counts up to the double digits. The kills are fresh. He follows the scent and finally finds Charlie in an office, calmly sitting on the desk, dressed in overall, cap and sunglasses, just like old times.

Is that get-up for his benefit? Logan snarls. ”You’ve been ying-yanging me all over this burg for too long. I ought to punch your lights out!” He takes off the cap and sunglasses to reveal the beautiful auburn-haired woman Spider-Man noticed on Times Square earlier. Charlie greets him with a hello and a kiss then takes him to her large house in the hills outside East Berlin.

A servant brings her a robe, while Charlie explains she made a lot of money on her assignments, stored in several accounts. She is leaving it to Logan when she is gone. He ever run through the fields at springtime? she reminisces. Taste the air, that sweet atmosphere? The hills are gone now. Someone put up an office building. They were so young; they lived life on the edge. He warned her of the price such a life entailed. She should have got out long ago, he agrees. She loved the life of danger, Charlie admits. More than she loved him. Now she knows too much. She’s too hot. She’s been marked. Every intelligence agency in the world is after her. She won’t be able to hide. He carries her up the stairs as he promises she won’t need to hide. He’s here now.

He stays with Charlie for a while. He contacts the X-Men, who are as okay as they can be at the moment. Charlie is going stir-crazy, so they go to restaurant, the Ganymed in Friedrich-Strasse. Wolverine feels the place is too high profile. Charlie retorts that the bad guys will find them eventually either way. He wonders if she can still tell who the bad guys are.

They try to enjoy dinner. When dessert comes, Charlie stops smiling. A few seconds later, Logan realizes why. The fruit he is holding is poisoned. Sloppy. He announces, they better go. And ruin their meal? she asks, then informs him that everyone in the room is heavily armed. They will attack soon enough. Let’s not spoil things.

That moment, the doors from the kitchen burst open and some of the kitchen staff are thrown into the room by Spider-Man, who asks what one has to do to get a menu. He greets Wolverine. Did he know the fruit were poisoned? Yes, is the reply. Did they know they are trapped? Yes. Did they know everyone in here is packing hardware? Yes. Just how bad has he just screwed up? Spidey asks sheepishly. Real bad. What should he do now?

Duck! Wolverine shouts as they are attacked. Spidey jumps to the ceiling and wants to stay there. Seeing the others taking cover and Charley taking out her gun, he figures this is their idea of a good time.

Wolverine extends his claws and grins and the fight really starts. Spider-Man tries to keep out of harm’s way and is really creeped out by Wolverine’s smile.

He tells Wolverine he can’t find his lady friend in the smoke and is told she disappeared some time ago. So why was he still fighting? Spidey asks as they jump outside through a window. Wolverine explains that Spider-Man goofed up real bad. He had to take his anger out on somebody.

Wolverine changes into his costume and they begin their search for Charlie. Logan explains that she’s scared. She knows she is as good as dead and has nowhere to run. Way back when a core group of KGB agents hired her for a gig and tried to terminate her afterwards. She took that real personal. She’s going around killing all the members of that group before she is killed.

Some of those agents are holed up in the basement of that house. They are armed. So what’s the plan? Spidey asks. He knows what the plan is, comes the reply and with that Wolverine springs into action. Hiya Heinrich, he greets one of the men inside. It’s been a while. Can’t say he’s missed them. He tears into the men without hesitation, while Spider-Man freezes up, afraid of killing someone.

With the fight over, Wolverine kicks in a door and orders him to shine the light he saw on his bat-belt earlier. If Charlie’s here, she’s probably down there. There are a few dead bodies at the bottom of the stairs, causing Wolverine to figure Charlie’s already been here. She’ll keep killing. She’s desperate now. Even though the guys are all scum, she has to be stopped. He tells Spidey to come on. They have work to do. Spider-Man hesitates, wanting out of this. But then he remembers Ned.

They visit several spy fronts Wolverine knows. Charlemagne is always a few steps ahead of them. Wolverine admires her and Spider-Man worries about him.

The last front, the last bodies. Angrily, Wolverine states she’s got all the names on her list and it’s Spider-Man’s fault - if he had gone home like Wolverine told him to, he could have kept a lid on her. Then he comes with his cute little song and dance at the restaurant.

Angrily, Spidey shouts he was trying to save Wolverine’s life. Far as he is concerned, Wolverine and his lunatic bimbo ought to be locked up! Wolverine warns him not to push it. Spider-Man turns around announcing he’s out of here.

Later, Wolverine meditates and admits to himself he was too hard on the kid. If he’s smart, he’s halfway back to New York now. He’ll look him up there later and explain things. Charlie killed everyone on the list. Her life ain’t worth a nickel. He knows what she wants with him now. The game makes sense now. He is waiting for her to contact him. That moment, the phone rings.

In the meantime, Peter tosses and turns in his bed. He struggles with Wolverine’s accusations; that those deaths are his fault and he can’t stop thinking about Ned Leeds.

The Soviet cemetery at Treptow:
Wolverine greets Charlie. She got them all. Happy? Phoning him was stupid. They’ll find out. She doesn’t have much time. He figures they would kill her slowly and painfully. Sooner or later, her luck will run out. She’s facing the inevitable. If she has to die, she wants to die in his arms. They embrace. She tells him, if he ever loved her, he will spare her the KGB torture camps. She is his best friend . He loves her very much but, when he tries to kill her, he flinches.

Before he can work up the conviction to go through with it, his arm is caught by Spider-Man’s webbing. Spidey accuses him of being absolutely nuts. Killing his own girlfriend? What maniac is he? Logan tells him to back off. He is doing this for Charlie! No chance, man! Spider-Man shouts and jumps at him. He dodges Wolverine’s blow and tells him he’s gone completely bonkers. He won’t let him kill her!

Wolverine shouts that she is suffering! She is dying slowly and painfully and he has to end her pain! Even if he’s gotta go through him!

Spider-Man is frightened, realizing Wolverine is like nothing he’s ever fought before. He’s scared and out of his depth and finally manages to throw Wolverine against a headstone. He hits him again and again but Wolverine just doesn’t stop smiling. He finally realizes there is only one way to stop him. That one of them is going to die tonight.

He lets Wolverine tackle him. Wolverine is above him and Spider-Man realizes he has to snap his neck. Wolverine tells him he hasn’t got the guts to kill, whereas he just needs to pop his claws. He told him: he was in way over his head. Wolverine coulda cooled Charlie down, stop the killing. Now they are coming to kill her slow and painful. He can do it quick. He calls Spider-Man a little snot and tells him to stop judging him. His principles don’t apply here. There ain’t no right or wrong. There ain’t no law.

Then they hear the helicopter. Wolverine slinks back into the shadows but Spider-Man is paralyzed. Suddenly, his spider-sense alerts him to a danger behind him. Believing it’s Wolverine, he hits… hard. Only to realize a moment later that it was Charlie.

Wolverine gathers her in his arms. Weakly, she tells him they did it. Their enemies never won. He tells her it didn’t have to be that way. They could have walked away. He’s a poor liar, she chuckles. There’s no place for them in this world. She’ll meet him in the next. With that, she dies.

Wolverine knows that she died on her terms. Charlie used Spider-Man to commit suicide. She got what she wanted. And he’s going to spend the rest of his life coming to terms with this.

They’ve got other problems now, as agents from every agency close in. Wolverine realizes the kill order was international, a joint effort. He’s angrier than he’s been in years and wants to show them what is inside of him. Instead, he gives them what they want. She is dead, he pronounces. The lights go out and then they are gone.

Wolverine tells Spider-Man they have to leave. The best way is through customs. Nobody risks their lives going over the Wall anymore.

Spider-Man is too depressed to be embarrassed. Wolverine gets them fake passports. While he passes the border, the situation replays in Peter’s mind. Logan is taking a later plane, saying he’s got things to do. They don’t say goodbye. Not much point in it. Again and again, Peter relives the memory of Charlie’s death.

He makes it home around ten. The bills got there first. He gathers up the costume, trying to blame this on him. But there is no point: Spider-Man and he are the same person. He looks at the phone. It rings. He takes the call, expecting more bad news.

It’s Jameson and he’s in a good mood, having gotten the film in an overseas pouch. Charlemagne is real and he’s a she and she’s dead. Maybe Peter isn’t such a bad photographer. So where’s Ned? Peters ends the call. He should tell Jameson before the authorities do but he can’t.

Somebody knocks at the door. It’s Mary Jane. He figures he’s not ready for this but she smiles and asks if they are still friends. He could use a friend right now, he replies. She hugs him and welcomes him back to his world. He holds her tight. He closes his eyes. They make the pain go away.

Characters Involved: 


Aunt May
Mary Jane Watson

J. Jonah Jameson
Ned Leeds
Kathryn Cushing

Victor and Rose Palermo
Nathan Lubensky

In Wolverine’s flashback:

Story Notes: 

The story takes place after the Mutant Massacre, specifically between Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #219 and 220.

Jameson’s proposal of sending Peter to El Salvador was almost certainly a humorous juxtaposition of Peter’s complaint about James sending him on assignments in which he was shot at. At the time of the issue’s publication, El Salvador was going through a civil war that would not end until 1992.

At the time of the issue, Spider-Man’s adventures were published in Germany under the title Die Spinne (The Spider).

Nobody stopped Spider-Man when he crossed the Wall because people usually were trying to get out of East Germany, not into it.

The death of Ned Leeds was at the hands of the Foreigner, as revealed in Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #289. Said death came as a huge surprise, since there was a plotline going on at the time about whether or not Ned was the villainous Hobgoblin. Spider-Man: Hobgoblin Lives #3 revealed that Ned was framed by the real Hobgoblin.

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