Wolverine (2nd series) #28

Issue Date: 
July 1990
Story Title: 
The Lazarus Project Part Two: The Stranger

Jo Duffy (writer), Barry Kitson (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Jim Novak (letterer), Nel Yomtov (colorist), Bob Harras (editor), Tom DeFalco (chief)

Brief Description: 

As Wolverine pulls himself out of the sea and onto to the shores of Rumika, he doesn’t remember who he is. There, meets up with some fishermen, one of who becomes caught in his net. Moving into action, Wolverine goes to save his life and, upon doing so, he is offered by the others to join them in their village. Wolverine accepts and in the village receives acceptance from the elders of the village. Over time, Wolverine becomes a part of the village. He finds among them friendship and becomes a mentor to the children of the village. His days are wonderful, though his nights are haunted by faint memories. In Madripoor, Karma hears whispers of the Master Form and how there are those that will stop at nothing to possess it. At that moment, Karma realizes that she needs to act and stop thinking of herself. Back in Rumika, the hunters of the village are going out when Wolverine catches a scent - a scent of soldiers that proceed to open fire on the hunters. They are easily mowed down by the soldiers, who are carrying semi-automatic rifles. Wolverine leaps into action but is shot in the head, knocking him down and out. The soldiers make their way to the village, where they massacre the inhabitants, no matter if they are men, women or children. They are all killed in cold blood. Eventually, Karma arrives and does what she can to help save the children. She saves the kids one moment, but it doesn’t last long as the soldiers find them and kill them. Right before they do, Wolverine wakes up and sees the carnage. Enraged, he begins to take out the soldiers ferociously, after which he is met by Karma. He refrains from taking her out as well, as he begins to remember her. Before they can reconnect, they are interrupted by the sounds of a helicopter, from which emerge Target and Captain Merrick. Merrick is unconcerned about the villagers – he is more concerned about the Master Form. When he finds it, Wolverine catches a scent on him that reminds him of what is happening. He accuses him of being the one responsible for the slaughter. Upon hearing this, Target is dismayed and proceeds to shoot Merrick. When he does so, he indicates to Karma that they need to find out what the true secret is of the Master Form. Karma agrees. When Wolverine sees the dead bodies of the children, a tear drops from his eyes. He then pops his claws for he can remember who he is – he is Wolverine!

Full Summary: 

As Wolverine pulls himself out of the sea, he thinks to himself that he doesn’t know who he is. All he can remember is the sea; an endless time of struggle, trying not to drown, to stay alive. Maybe his memories were cut away by the surf and the wind and the rocks. Maybe they were gone before. As he looks around at the men fishing, he continues to think that this place he is looks strange to him. He knows that, if he would have been there before, he would have recognized its scent. Still, he knew he wanted to come here. Fighting the sea he made it bring him here. But why??

The men are all strangers – none of them smell familiar. One of the fishermen asks him who he is. Another, what he is doing in the waters that they fish. Wolverine looks at him and says nothing. In his mind, however, he doesn’t know. On the men, he can smell the fear of a few, the wariness. They stand like fighters. He can almost read their minds – they are trying to decide whether or not to attack him. What happens now is up to them. The fishermen do nothing. They won’t attack unless Wolverine forces them to and he won’t attack unless they make him. Wolverine realizes that they aren’t enemies – they came upon him by chance. He also knows that if they would have attacked him, he would have killed them all. Now he wonders what made him come there.

Before he can think too much more of that, one of the nets is dragged out of one of the fisherman’s hand. He yells to his brother, Jian, to let go of the net. Unfortunately, Jian cannot, as the net is wrapped around his wrist. He calls out for help, as a shark has trapped himself in the net and is trying to get away. The other fishermen realize the gravity of the situation and head in the water to help out Jian. Wolverine realizes to himself that it’s possible that, not only could Jian drown, but the shark could lose his life as well. It’s a waste of two lives – a stupid thing to let happen. With that in mind, he heads into the water to lend a hand.

When the other fishermen get out to Jian, some of them try to hold his arm steady, the others make an attempt at cutting the net with their knives. When Wolverine gets out there, he informs them that they are too slow and that they will stab him, trying to keep him from drowning. He then informs them that he will save him. As Wolverine grabs a hold of the net, there is the ghost of a thought that passes through his mind as if saving someone is his business. Then the feeling is gone. As Wolverine continues to hold onto the net he knows there must be a faster way of helping him – something else he can do. The only problem is – he can’t remember. He wonders what happened to his mind. Before he can think too much about that, it doesn’t matter, the job is done when the net snaps. The shark and the man Jian are both alive.

On the shore, one of the men ask Jian, his brother, if he is all right. Jian indicates that he is but only thanks to the stranger. Without his courage, he would have been dead. When Wolverine arrives on the shore, one of the men offers their gratitude on behalf of Jian and all the people of the village of Rumika. He then asks Wolverine his name. Wolverine informs him that he can ask away but he can’t tell them what it is, for he doesn’t remember who he is and he doesn’t know why he is there. One of the other fishermen indicates that maybe it doesn’t matter. Since he helped them, they offer to help him. He can stay and be one of them until his mind has healed.

Upon hearing the offer, Wolverine wonders to himself if that is what he needs. Healing? Or was it illness or injury that took his past away? Without his past, with no purpose, is he even himself? Perhaps, belonging to these people he can find a new self. He doesn’t know why he came to Rumika but, if this place was part of his old purpose, maybe it’s the best place to start. As he walks towards the village with the fisherman he thinks that there is something in the name of Rumika and the sound of the word. It has a smell when he hears it. Like the memory of a memory. He’s almost certain it means something and then he’s not so sure.

As Wolverine and the fishermen travel through the streets of Rumika, a young boy approaches them and asks who the stranger is. One of the fishermen inform him, Lum, that he is a stranger that they fished out of the sea after he saved his father from a shark. When they reach the elders, one of the fisherman informs the master that the stranger in their midst is without name or memory and that he saved the elder’s seventh grandson from the sea and the sharks. As Wolverine stands by, he removes his mask and thinks to himself that he likes the sounds and that this village is full of good smells. It is full of people who work hard and respect the Earth. Of women and children, of clean fresh air. He wonders if he has ever known a place like this before.

At the same time, the group of elders have convened and talk amongst themselves if allowing the stranger in their midst is a good idea. One of the elders thinks that he can be trusted and that he doesn’t believe that he is one of the enemies they were warned of. Another adds that if he has come to harm them then he does so at his own peril and if he is what he seems… Still another elder finishes his thought with they should let him join them and allow for him to help guard their sacred trust.

From a little ways away, Wolverine hears those words – “our sacred trust.” He knows that the elders don’t know that he can hear them so he pretends not to. His hearing, like his sense of smell, and his strength, are a lot better than theirs. At the same time, he wonders what their secret is and who they’re so afraid of. The elders return to inform Wolverine that on the hillside stands a vacant hut that belongs to their family. He offers it to him with their gratitude for it to be his home. He offers for him to stay among them as long as he wishes. Living apart from them or as part of them until his mind is whole and he knows what he truly wishes. Perhaps, in time, he may even become one of them.

As Wolverine spends time with the people of Rumika, they provide him with more than just his worldly needs. They also provide him friendship, comfort and laughter. They also provide him with a sense of belonging. He’s also seen his face reflected in a pool of water. It is a stranger’s face. He doesn’t know who he is. It doesn’t matter. He’s content to stay in Rumika. It’s a good place, a place of gatherers and mighty hunters. The youngest of the hunters look to him for approval, as they have decided that he was a hunter too, in his day. As time moves on, he’s beginning to think that day is better off gone. In Rumika, all his days are peaceful. In the night, however, almost a memory – the name of Rumika. It has a purpose, a memory, a smell. It also has the images of a giant robot.

High on a hill, two soldiers are camping out. One of the soldiers asks his Captain if they did the right thing - if it was right to leave the Master Form where they did. Captain Merrick replies to his liege, Target, that there was no other choice but to leave it in Rumika. They are good people there in that village. Besides, if the worst happens they can count on them to keep the Master Form safe. Nothing else matters besides that. Target then indicates to Merrick that he thought he didn’t expect them to have to fight. He thought that was why he picked such an out-of-the-way place because the whole idea was just to keep the Master Form hidden away. Merrick replies that is the best case scenario and that it’s safer for the entire world if the people who are after the Form never knows where they can get their hands on it.

He then indicates to Target that he knows what’s at stake here just like the folks in the village do. That’s why they agreed to bear that responsibility. Target responds that no one else alive, except maybe his cousin, knows what’s at stake better than he does. He wishes he didn’t – that’s how come he’s worried. Merrick tries to calm him down as he informs him that the rest of the intelligence task force is keeping an eye on their enemies and they will let him know if there’s any danger of them getting to Rumika. If there is, they can get back to the village in a matter of hours. He then indicates to Target to try to get some sleep and to remember – if they’re lucky, nothing bad is ever going to happen.

As Wolverine stalks a boar in the forest, he thinks to himself that, by night, Rumika is still a place of hunters and that the people there have been good to him. Because of that, he always pays his debts. In this case, it is a gift of a dead boar for them. Then again, maybe he just likes to kill.

In Madripoor, Shan Coy Manh – known to some as Karma – walks down the halls of her uncle’s quarters. As she does so, she thinks to herself that for much of her life she has styled herself as a hero. Now, it is time she faced the fact that she has been living a lie. For many long months, she has set aside the good of the world at large and concentrated only on obeying the wishes of her family. For their sake, she serves only the will of her uncle. However, terrible rumors have come to her ears. It is whispered that the item in the photograph she is holding, that of the Master Form, holds some terrible secret. There are those who will stop at nothing to possess it and that they care not about the cost of innocent lives. She realizes that she cannot waste time concerning what her uncle would wish, or consulting him. If her belief in herself as a hero is to have any meaning, she must act now!

In Rumika, members of the village are going out hunting. They offer Wolverine to come along but he declines. He is going to wait for Lum to teach him the mysteries of kites and pinwheels. Suddenly, on the wind, Wolverine catches a scent of a smell he knows. He calls out to the hunting party that there is danger up on the hill! Further up the hill, soldiers are surprised that their cover has been blown and wonder how he knew. Doesn’t matter, the order is given to attack! When the hunters of Rumika meet up with the soldiers they are ready to defend themselves. It makes no difference as the soldiers begin to mow them down with their semi-automatic rifles. Wolverine is in shock as these are now his people, his home and leaps to assist them. He is unable to get very far when he is shot in the head. With Wolverine down, the soldiers proceed to take out the rest of the hunters with ease. With them down, they head towards the village itself.

At that very moment, Karma arrives at the docks of Rumika to hear the sounds of gunfire and realizes that she is too late.

In the village, the elders are taking action. They call out for the strong to look out for the weak and for those who can to flee to the hills. One of the elders asks aloud if they have come to steal the Master Form. Another elder indicates that is the case, just as Captain Merrick warned them. Just then, Jian arrives with the Master Form in tow. He informs his grandfather he has it to which his reply is to protect it at all costs. No sooner does he finish his thought, as the soldiers arrive at the village. One of the ladies of the village charges them with a sickle but she is quickly taken out with a rifle shot. Just like the other members of the village. It doesn’t matter if they are men, women, or children - each of them is massacred in turn.

One of the soldiers points out to the other that that Jian has the Master Form. Upon hearing that, one of the elders informs Jian to run away. Some of the soldiers are killed out by the villagers with their spears, but the villagers are no match for their rifles. It is a complete slaughter!

In another area of the jungle, Karma hears the sounds of a struggle and thinks to herself that she can still save some of them. She can hear the sounds of children in the village and it reminds her of her brothers and sisters when they were children. Of how their father, a professional soldier, vanished into the jungle and was never seen again. Her mother was murdered by those that claimed they were there to liberate them. For the sake of her brother and sister, she is bound to her uncle’s will and has ignored the world too long – she must save the children!

Back in the village, Lum calls out to one of the other children that they need to make their way out to the stranger. He is strong and will be able to save them, just like he saved his father. Unfortunately, his friend doesn’t make it when he is shot in the back. Lum drops down to check on his friend when one of the soldiers asks the others if they can hear the kids crying. Karma notices this and is able to use her power over the will of others to have the child sleep and be safe. With that, Karma realizes that while her power may be limited, she can still put it to good use there.

In the village, one of the elders is shocked that the soldiers are killing children and responds with a knife to the back of one of them. In response, he is quickly taken out with a rifle shot. One of the soldiers calls out to mow them down and that their orders were to allow no survivors. With that, the rest of the villagers are mowed down along with Jian, who was carrying the Master Form. Once he is taken out, the soldiers are proud of themselves and call out that “It’s Miller Time.” As they start to make their way out of the village, one of soldiers hears the sounds of kids and indicates to the others that they need to go finish them off. There can’t be any witnesses!

As the soldier goes to finish the job, Karma is able to control the mind of one of the older soldiers and uses him to raise his rifle to shoot him. He is quickly taken out by another of the soldiers. That blow is able to incapacitate Karma, who loses her grip over the soldier. At that very moment, Wolverine begins to wake up. He begins to remember smells. Smells of the giant robot, smells of his place here on Rumika, smells of Doctor Page, of blood, of gunpowder, a smell on the men. As he begins to rise, he sees the soldier murdering Lum and his friend in cold blood.

Seeing this drives Wolverine into a frenzy. He immediately leaps into the group of soldiers and starts to take them out. A couple of the soldiers are in shock as they had shot him in the head earlier. As one of the soldiers goes to shoot Wolverine, he is taken out by another soldier that is being controlled by Karma. After taking down the rest of the soldiers, Wolverine focuses his concentration on the mind-controlled soldier. When he snaps his neck, Karma calls out in pain. Wolverine spins around and meets face to face with Karma. Wolverine is about to attack Karma when she attempts to use her powers on him. She informs him that she is not his enemy and that she didn’t come there with the soldiers. She came there to try and save the people. She then asks Wolverine if she recognizes her. Wolverine stops in his tracks and remembers her smell – and that she is Karma.

At that very second, they are interrupted by the sounds of a helicopter landing. As Target gets out of the chopper, he informs Captain Merrick that they are too late – there’s only two people left standing. The rest of them are all dead. Much like his family died to protect the Master Form. He adds that the people who did this must have the Master Form. Merrick replies that, once they’re certain of that, he will radio the intelligence net and see if they have a plan for getting it back. For right now, they need to see what they can do for the survivors.

After a little while, Merrick finds the Master Form next to the dead body of Lian. He indicates that their trust in these people wasn’t misplaced and that they managed to protect it for them, despite the cost. Finding the Master Form safe makes everything that happened worth it. Upon hearing that, Wolverine angrily asks him if he was the one that did this. Merrick, shocked, asks him what he is talking about. The people of Rumika were working for him and that Target and him were coming there to warn them. Wolverine indicates to Merrick that he knows his smell even though he doesn’t know his face. There were traces of him on all of the men that came there and that they were working for him too!

When Target angrily asks what Wolverine is saying, Karma informs him to listen to him. His senses are as keen as an animal’s and, when he says he knows a scent, he’s always right. She adds that if he says his captain sent those men, it is the truth. Merrick turns and calls out Target’s name. Target cuts him off before he can speak and accuses him of setting these people up, of setting his family up and that he killed all of them. He then takes out his anger by pulling out his pistol and shooting Merrick dead.

When he is done, Target indicates to Karma that he wants to find out the real secret of the Master Form. Karma replies that she thinks that’s what they all want. While they are talking, Wolverine sees the dead bodies of Lum and of the other children. These were his people, his home. As a tear falls down his cheek, he pops his claws and remembers who he is – he is Wolverine!

Characters Involved: 


Shan Coy Manh (Karma)

Captain Merrick

Elders of Rumika (unnamed)
Various residents of the village of Rumika (Lian, Lum only named)
Various soldiers (all unnamed)

In Wolverine’s memories:
Doctor Page

In Karma’s memories:
Karma as a child
Leong and Nga
Karma’s mother and father

Story Notes: 

In the New Testament of the Bible, Lazarus was the name of a man that Jesus raises from the dead. In more modern times, the name "Lazarus" is popular in fiction to name anything relating to reviving the dead or prolonging human life.

Wolverine “lost” his memories as a result of having a yellowish liquid poured on him by Doctor Page in Wolverine (2nd series) #27.

“It’s Miller Time,” was a former ad campaign for Miller Brewing Company’s product, “Miller High Life.” While the campaign itself was discontinued well before the publication date of this issue, it had by that time been cemented in pop culture for the generation who had seen it run. A notable example is Billy Murray’s character of Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters.

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