Wolverine (2nd series) #29

Issue Date: 
August 1990
Story Title: 
The Lazarus Project Part Three: The Road Back

Jo Duffy (writer), Barry Kitson (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Jim Novak (letterer), Greg Wright (colorist), Bob Harras (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

In the ruins of what was once known as Rumika, Wolverine, Karma, and Target are working on burning the dead. Once they are done, Wolverine tells them how he came about this whole Master Form and what has happened to him. Karma, as well, tells her side of the story. When Target talks about his interaction with the Master Form, it is not a happy story at all. Once they have finished with their recounts of what has happened, they are attacked by some mercenaries. With their combined efforts, they are able to take them out with ease. After some time, Wolverine indicates to them that it is time to go. Target asks him what they are going to do with the Master Form and he replies that they will leave it there as a monument to the village of Rumika. As they each add a piece of themselves to the monument, Target asks Wolverine where they are heading to now. Wolverine’s answer – Madripoor.

Full Summary: 

What is Rumika? It is an island in the Pacific close to Asia’s coast. A village on that island, passed over by time and technology. What is Rumika? A place Wolverine came to when he had no friends and no memory. A place he reached when he had no self. What is Rumika? An hour ago, it was people who’d take in a lost, lonely stranger and made their home his. People willing to face any sacrifice to protect what they knew was right and good. What is Rumika? A battlefield. An abattoir. What is Rumika? Rumika is now a gigantic bonfire of burning dead bodies. Right now, Wolverine is the undertaker and the chief mourner. Why - because he is the sole survivor of a dead nation. It took a bullet to his head to shake his brains loose and bring back his memory.

If he would have remembered a little sooner, if he’d known who he was and what he can do, he would have been Rumika’s salvation. The worst part is, he doesn’t even know why these people died. He knows they were protecting some fancy piece of hardware – called the Master Form – and that they were killed saving it. He knows they were betrayed but he doesn’t know what the Form does or what it’s good for. He also doesn’t know what made it worth the people of Rumika’s lives. It’s about time he found out from the only other two remaining individuals on the island – Karma and Target.

Once Wolverine tosses another body on the fire, he indicates to Target that he didn’t catch his name. Target defiantly responds that he didn’t offer it and goes for his gun. Wolverine recommends that he doesn’t – he’s not that fast. Target asks him if he’s willing to bet his life on that, to which Wolverine retorts that, if he were an enemy, he’d already be dead.

At that exact moment, Karma jumps in between them both and asks them if either of them have any shame, putting up their weapons in the presence of the dead. This is a time of mourning! Wolverine replies that he lived here and that he has his own ways of mourning. Target responds that the best way to show respect for the dead is to avenge them. Wolverine then indicates to Target that is why he asked him who he was. After all, he was the one who came there with the man who sent the mercenaries.

Target replies that he killed that man for it too. His name was Merrick, his – Target. Karma informs him that she is Shan Coy Manh. Wolverine adds that she is also known as Karma, since they’re dealing with code names, and that she is an old hand at surviving violent tragedy. Target then asks Wolverine who he is.

Wolverine informs Target who he is and what he can do. He is the guy who can do it all. The mutant with the metal exoskeleton, and the claws, and the healing powers, and the animal-keen senses. In Rumika, he was the stranger. In other times and other places, he was known as Logan. Back when this whole thing started, he was in Madripoor – an overcrowded, over civilized, corrupt jewel of a southeast Asian island – he was then known as Patch. Madripoor is heaven, or Hades, depending on who you talk to and who’s being victimized at the time. It suits him, it’s a place he runs to when civilization and all the noble trash his friends talk get him down.

He has an ally there, he continues – her name is Tyger Tiger. She is a crime lord and he is her bodyguard in return for certain considerations including her promise that she’ll stay out of drugs and slavery. As far as he knows, she’s kept her word. Maybe not nice, but what the heck. The man in charge is Prince Baran. He rules his island with an iron hand and lets it known that he wants no vice or corruption of any kind unless he gets a piece off the top. Baran has two of Wolverine’s old friends in his camp. Lindsay McCabe can’t act her way out of a paper bag but the Prince is at the tops of her fan club. The other – Lindsay’s friend, Jessica Drew. She is a lady with a few super talents of her own up her sleeve. She is Baran’s bodyguard and tries to keep him in line, much like what Wolverine tries to do with Tyger.

He continues that Karma is another of the old gang who’s found her way to town. Her uncle, General Coy, was left with no one to exploit when Saigon fell. He found his niche in international crime, eventually ending up in Madripoor. He sucks up to Baran just enough to give Tyger a run for her money over the top spot in crime. Coy is the dirt scum wipes off its feet, but he’s scum with power. When Leong and Nga, the kid brother and sister that Karma looked out for since they made it out of Asia, were kidnapped, Karma couldn’t find any trace of them. Desperate, Karma agreed to come work for her uncle if he would help her try and find them. Surprise, surprise, he’s had no luck. Unfortunately, Karma is in a bind. She has psychic powers and she hates using them to help a man she knows is scum so she holds herself back and helps out Wolverine whenever she can. She also knows that if her uncle ever finds out, it’s bye-bye baby brother and sister.

The day this caper started, all the players were in place – he and Tyger were enjoying a quiet drink at the Princess Bar after routing some muggers. Karma was off somewhere, hoping her uncle wouldn’t know that she had helped them. Lindsay was serving up drinks and Jess was off duty. At that time, Jess and he started talking. About Baran, about Tyger, about what a pain it is sometimes keeping them in line, about whether she’d be up to it if Baran ever crossed the line. Jessica said she would be. That was about six hours before he found her near the waterfront, most of the way dead. She gasped out something about something bad going down at the palace and about some big sucker she called Pinocchio.

Now Jess and Lindsay are a couple of smart mouth pain in the butts and he’s spent more than one night thinking of how much they’d benefit from being bounced off a couple of walls, but they are still his friends. Anyone who hurts them answers to him. After he got the girls safely bundled out of town, he went hunting, and not as Patch. The claws were out as Wolverine. He paid a call to Baran and followed Jess’s scent and the smell of the blood so he could find the guy she had tangled with. In the room where the fight took place, he saw a crazy old babe named Page and he smelled another guy – Merrick, the guy who brought the mercenaries to Rumika.

Pinocchio turned out to be some kind of robot that was bigger and faster than he’d ever encountered. He admits that he doesn’t even know if he could have taken him because Page took a hand and tossed some chemical right into his face. It burned and he remembers the feel of it, soaking into his skin, his mouth, his eyes, like it was eating him away, right to the center. The last thing he remembered as the lights went out was a map of a place called Rumika and he remembered thinking it must be important. He also guessed it was whatever the drug left of that idea that eventually brought him there with no idea why he had come.

Wolverine continues his tale by informing the others that it’s now weeks later and he has lost a big chunk of his life and his chance to save the people of Rumika. Instead, he mourns the dead. Karma then asks the question if Merrick asked the people of Rumika to protect the Master Form, why did he come back with armed men to steal it. Also, if he had already betrayed his trust, why didn’t he simply abscond with it in the first place instead of bringing it there? Target replies that maybe it was because of him. He would have killed to keep the form out of the wrong hands, but Merrick could have killed him or had lied to him about where they were taking it and why. After all, he doesn’t even know what the secret of the Master Form is.

Wolverine then makes the observation that they have three different stories showing three different pictures but they’re all part of the same thing. They’ve all been lied to but none of them is lying to each other now so, somehow, if they can fit all of this together, they should be able to see the truth. It’s all just part of a bigger picture that they thought it was, that’s all. However, what bothers him is that, no matter how it all shakes out, it keeps looking like a bloodbath here was a basic part of someone’s plan. At that moment, Wolverine turns his attention to Karma and asks her how she knew to come here.

Karma informs him that she and her uncle were in the palace and there was a man they called the Broker. He was working on some special project for them, something they called the Lazarus project. It was something he designed and told them how to implement based on something they told him they wanted. They were always very discreet in what they said before here so she didn’t know what the projects overall aim was. She did know that the safety of the Master Form was something they considered essential. Captain Merrick was in her uncle’s employ and it was his job to find people who were willing and able to guard it. When a tracking station picked up a large boat heading for Rumika and when scanners indicated that it was a boatload of mercenaries, they were all horrified. Her uncle then ordered Merrick to do what must be done. Karma, as well, did what she felt must be done. She proceeded to steal a boat and made her way over to Rumika as fast as she could. Unfortunately, she was too late.

After hearing Karma’s tale, Wolverine informs her that she shouldn’t beat herself up. If someone in her uncle’s camp had gone over to the other side, they’d have made sure she didn’t get notified until it was much too late to do much good. He then turns his attention to Target and asks him if any of what he heard has given him some bright ideas about what went on there. Target begins to stammer when Wolverine refines his question and asks him how he first got involved with the Master Form.

Target begins his story by telling Wolverine and Karma that he first got involved with the Master Form years ago, at home, in another lifetime. He was a kid back then and he was playing catch in the front yard with his cousin Ricky. Inside the house, some men, including Merrick, were in a meeting with his dad, a professor. Merrick was indicating to him that they knew they were asking a lot of him and that if there was anyone else… He was then cut off by the dad, who informed him that he understood the circumstances when the mayor explained the dilemma when he was first informed that he would be having a visitor.

As Merrick and his men are leaving the house, they indicate to Target’s dad that they knew they picked the right man. Target’s dad then replied that he hopes they understand that he hopes he never sees them again. One of the men adds that that is all they can hope for. At that moment, Ricky throws the baseball to Ted (Target), but overthrows him horribly. While Ted runs into one of Merrick’s men, Merrick catches the ball with his bare hand. When he gives it back to Ted, he mentions to him that he wishes he could join them in their game of catch but he cannot.

Later that evening, Ricky and Ted are watching television while the mom is reading a book. All is peaceful when Ted goes to look for his dad. He finds him in his study, looking at the Master Form and talking to himself about all that’s needed for evil to flourish is for men of conscience to do nothing. Upon entering the study, Ted asks his dad what the strange item is on his desk. His dad informs him that it is the Master Form and it’s what they agreed to look after. He then laments to Ted that he hopes he made the right decision. Ted replies that, if it’s important enough that the mayor and Senator Delman called, he must have. His dad then replies that he hopes they never have to find out. After that, the father quickly changes the subject and asks Ted if he and his cousin Ricky have completed their homework.

While hearing Target’s tale, Wolverine thinks to himself about baseball in the suburbs, hot dogs, mom and dad and apple pie and he wonders how much of what he’s hearing is the truth and how much is the kind of memory that everyone turns their childhood into. Where every day is a Saturday, sunny and warm, and all funerals are always in the rain. He then notices that Target is trying to lose himself in the good things without feeling any of the hurt and that his narrative is a little spare but it doesn’t keep the things he’s after from coming through. It’s like a picture he can’t shake, of good old Merrick, the family friend. So noble and trusting – it’s too bad the murderer’s already dead. He then smells something on the kid that lets him know that he’s not going to like what he’s going to say but that he needs to hear him out.

Target goes back to his story. It was late at night and he was sleeping in his bed when Ricky came in to wake him up. When the family all gathers together, the mom indicates that it’s a nightmare and that soldiers are in the street - a tank specifically. Target’s dad informs the rest of his family that the mayor thinks that they’re heading to their house to gain possession of the Master Form. Outside of the house, the tank makes its way down the street when a police car makes the attempt at pulling it over. The mercenaries in the tank ignore their requests and instead shoot the police car, causing it to explode.

When that occurs, panic abounds on the street. The residents of the neighborhood attempt to escape but are unable as they are mowed down with machinegun fire. Inside the house, Target’s mom orders Ted and Ricky to leave the house and run. No sooner does Ricky and Ted exit the house, it explodes – killing all of Target’s family. At that moment, Merrick shows up and indicates that he got there too late. Ted replies that it was too late for the people and for his mom and dad, but not too late to save this. He then pulls the Master Form out of his shirt and gives it to Merrick.

Later on, Ted and Ricky are in a boot camp type thing where the instructor indicates to them that they need to be serious about this and asks them if they think they really want to join the fight against the people who killed their families. They didn’t have much of a choice. Their lives were gone along with their homes, their record collections, and their little league trophies. It was time to start writing a new biography on a brand new blank page.

After hearing Target’s tale, Wolverine thinks to himself that he’s a tough kid. Not as tough as he likes to think but tougher than someone that young should have to be. He can also tell that he told him more by what he didn’t say that he could have wallowing in it. He also realizes that they each have three different stories and three sets of lies with a little bit of truth thrown into each of them if you know where to look for it. When they started their stories, he was hunting for the truth. He was able to find it in what he could smell but couldn’t place. In Karma’s past, as much as in what she told him, she was a refugee who can never hear about someone losing their home and family without reliving the bloodbath where she lost her own. Families, and pain, and how that pain gets channeled are the key. Now he has what he’s after and wonders how he ever could have missed it. He also knows that the truth isn’t the only thing that is right in front of him.

At that moment, he senses someone walking through the grass towards them. He had been expecting them. He knew that someone was bound to show up wondering why Merrick hadn’t come back with his trophies. Wolverine decides that nobody will be coming out of this with any trophies. Just then, the gunmen open fire. Wolverine is able to react and moves Karma and Target out of the way. Target and Karma are in shock but Wolverine informs them to stay quiet and move when he tells them to. As the three mercenaries are standing before the fire, they have no idea at what hit them or what’s about to until Karma if they were looking for her or the Master Form that she is carrying. As the mercenaries go to take it, Wolverine surprises them from behind. As they prepare to take him out, Target kills each of them with one shot apiece. Wolverine congratulates him on the shooting, to which Target replies he doesn’t miss. Wolverine indicates to him that he will keep that in mind.

Karma then asks about the men that they took out. Wolverine informs her that they won’t be moving this side of paradise. She then indicates that the fire is still burning and asks if they can toss their bodies on it. Wolverine agrees for alive they were just scum, but there’s no point in judging the dead. He thinks that Karma may be right and even scum deserve some kind of send-off. Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter because the time for funerals is over. The hunt is still on.

After some time, Wolverine informs Karma and Target that it is time to go. Target asks him what they should do, and what they should do about the Master Form. All of the responsibility and they still don’t know what it’s for. Wolverine takes it out of his hands and places it on the ground. He informs him that Rumika died to protect what it represents so they should let it stay there and represent Rumika. There’s no place it would be safer.

As Wolverine places it on the ground he adds to it his wrap that the people of Rumika gave to him. It will represent the family that he lost there. As Karma adds flowers to the monument, Wolverine asks Target if he has any problems with leaving it there. Target replies that he doesn’t and adds his knife. He then asks Wolverine that if he knows so much, where do they go from there? Wolverine replies with one word – Madripoor.

Characters Involved: 


Shan Coy Manh (Karma)


Captain Merrick (dead)
People of Rumika (dead)
Mercenaries (unnamed)

In Wolverine’s flashbacks:
Tyger Tiger
Prince Baran
Lindsay McCabe
Jessica Drew
General Coy
Leong and Nga (Karma’s brother and sister)
Doctor Page
Captain Merrick
People of Rumika

In Karma’s flashbacks:
General Coy

Prince Baran
The Broker

In Target’s flashbacks:
Ted (Target)
Ricky (Target’s cousin)
Target’s mom and dad
Captain Merrick
Captain Merrick’s men (unnamed)
Mercenaries (unnamed)
Various residents of his neighborhood (all unnamed)
Drill instructor (unnamed)

Story Notes: 

An abattoir is a slaughterhouse or something likened to a slaughterhouse.

All of the inhabitants of Rumika were all slaughtered in Wolverine (2nd series) #28

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.

Wolverine’s recount of what happened is from Wolverine (2nd series) #27.

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