Wolverine Annual 1997

Issue Date: 
December 1997
Story Title: 
Heart of the Beast

John Ostrander & Joe Edkin (writers), Leonardo Manco (art), Richard Starkings & Comicraft/KF (letters), Shannon Blanchard (colors), Kelly Corvese (editor), Bob Harras (chief)

Brief Description: 

Years ago, in Russia, Logan was given the assignment of protecting a nuclear arms designer. In the process of doing so, he ran into a Russian agent by the name of Volk. Logan was unable to save the designer, but was able to save his daughter and was allowed to leave out of respect by Volk. Now, Volk is hired by an agent of Operation: Zero Tolerance to take out Logan. Upon learning this, Viktoria, the designer’s daughter, contacts Logan and informs him of the situation. She also tells him that she wants to be with Logan when he battles Volk so she can obtain her revenge. Logan declines and makes his way into the streets of New York. Eventually, he makes his way to a bar, where he meets Volk face to face. They begin to battle, but Logan refuses to give in to his animal side. As he leaves, Volk tells Logan that he will take his gift back. Logan realizes that means Viktoria and makes his way to her room. There, he finds it empty and receives a call from Volk, who challenges him to a fight to the finish in Russia. Once he gets to Russia, Logan and Volk engage in a vicious battle. As they do, Volk mutates more and more into a wolf. When the transformation is complete, Volk runs off into the woods. Logan realized what happened and tells Viktoria that all Volk wanted to do was to escape reality. Viktoria refuses to accept this and heads off in search of Volk. Standing alone, Logan thinks to himself that all these years he’s been fighting his animalistic nature but, in actuality, maybe he’s been fighting his human nature.

Full Summary: 

Logan recalls that, years ago, he was up in a tree in the flamin’ Ural Mountains, U.S.S.R., back when it was still the evil empire. One of the Ruskie’s nuclear arms designers, Dimitri Suhkarov wanted to escape from Siberia and defect to the west, along with his daughter Viktoria. He was sent to bring them out. It was mucked up from the start. They’d been followed for days and now the wolves were closing in. Wasn’t the grunts with guns that concerned him. It was their commander he had to watch.

Down below, the commander tells his three armed men that Suhkarov does not escape. If he refuses to come back them, their orders are to kill him. Logan read the commander’s file. His name is Ilya Dubromovitch Skorzorki, code-named “Volk,” Russian for “Wolf” – cold, calculating and lethal. They said he was the best at what he does. But they also say that about him. He had sent the doctor and his daughter ahead to the bridge. It’s the only point within miles of there to cross the Jensei River. The tree was his best defense point.

With the Sukharov’s on the other side of the Jensei, the soldiers would have to go through him to get to them an’ he wasn’t gonna let that happen. On the bridge, Dimitri tells his daughter Viktoria to keep running and not to worry about their friend. He has been trained to deal with men like Volk. Pulling out a gun he says to her that if he fails, he won’t let them take them back to Siberia.

At that moment, Volk informs his men that Suhkarov and his girl are near. He orders them to go ahead and capture them, but be on their guard. The foreigner, this Logan, who helps them, he knows his file. He is a canny adversary. As the men head down the path, they talk amongst themselves that Volk worries too much. What can a little girl and two men without guns do against them?

Dropping down from his position, Logan takes out one of the men. He realizes that they are young, all in their late teens at best, raw and unprepared for a real scrap. Lucky for him, not so lucky for them. Brandishing a large knife, Logan proceeds to tackle another of the soldiers to the ground. He doesn’t like killing grunts, especially baby grunts. But if it’s a choice between them and the mission, well, life gets tough sometimes. Before he can deliver the killing blow to the soldier, another one shoots him and his comrade with his gun.

Lying on the ground, Logan says that’s a good little soldier. Kill the enemy even if it means killing your comrade. Maybe he was thinking of the medal he would get for this. Too bad for him he’s not exactly human. When the soldier gets closer, Logan leaps up and slices the soldier across the neck with his knife. He, Logan, is what they call a mutant. His body is able to heal itself at an accelerated rate. It can take all kinds of abuse and it gets a lot of abuse. The gunshot would hurt for hours. It’d slow him down a little, but he’d recover. He had a bigger problem though – Volk.

On the bridge, Dimitri tells Viktoria to keep running. Viktoria asks about the gunshots; what if Logan has been hurt? Dimitri tells her that they can do nothing for him now. They must escape or they will be killed. Just then, one of Volk’s gunshots hits the side of the bridge they are running across, narrowly missing them. Volk calls out to Dimitri that the game’s over. He will come back or does he have to kill his daughter first. Leaping onto him from behind, Logan says to Volk that he will die first.

Logan recalls that getting to the bridge took a lot outta him. The bullet wounds burned like fire and his muscles ached. He wasn’t as sharp as he should have been. Volk was fast, strong, and he there was bloodlust in his eyes. Eventually, Volk knocked Logan to the ground and held his knife over his head. During their confrontation, Logan calls out to Dimitri to get out of there now. Dimitri tells his daughter that they have to run, the plane is not far. Logan realized that if he didn’t take Volk down then, it didn’t matter how close the plane was. Volk was nearly a good a tracker as he. And maybe even a better fighter, it was gonna be close.

Logan was able to knock Volk off of him, but Volk retaliated and slammed his face into the snowy ground. Logan tried to move and stop Volk from grabbing his gun but every muscle in his body felt like lead. His wounds were dragging him down. He willed himself to move and his body started to respond but he couldn’t reach Volk in time. Volk pulled the trigger and shot and killed Dimitri in cold blood before his own daughter. Picking up his knife, Logan tells Volk that he’s gonna regret doin’ that. Pointing his gun at Logan’s face, he tells him perhaps, but not today. He has finished the job he came to do. He then tells Logan that he’s a worthy opponent. As a consolation prize, he gives him the girl’s life and that they may leave the country freely. Remember his generosity should they ever meet again. Logan replies to believe him, he won’t forget anything that happened that day. Putting his arm around Viktoria, Logan tells her that it’s time to get out of there, Volk will have to wait for another day.

Present day, a man informs another that Logan has undergone substantial change since he was an agent for the Canadian government. The man replies that he has followed Logan’s career. It has been, shall they say, a point of professional interest. As he already knew of their Operation: Zero Tolerance and that he, friend Bowser, were its master of hounds, long before he came to their headquarters. He knows how Logan, aka Wolverine, was equipped with an adamantium skeleton and claws. He knows how those claws were revealed to be really bone when the adamantium was extracted. He knows he is one of the X-Men.

What he does not know, and it makes him restless, is what he wants of him. Bowser says to the man that mutants are a danger to normal humans everywhere. They had the X-Men in their grasp and were it not for this Wolverine, they would no longer exist. Their people are spread everywhere. They need one man dedicated to finding this Wolverine and ending his life. Gritting his canine teeth, the man replies that is why they want him. He’ll find him. Wherever he is, he has connections everywhere. He then tells Bowser to have no fear; he’s not the only one who has changed over the years. He’ll deliver his corpse.

In New York, Logan, hiding in the shadows calls out Viktoria Suhkarov’s name as she walks by. Viktoria recognizes him and says that she’s been expecting him. Logan tells her that he got her message and asks her what she’s got. Viktoria replies that given the circumstances, it isn’t safe for them to be speaking in public. She’s got a suite over at the Biltmore hotel. Can he get there in half an hour without being seen? No sooner does she finish asking her question, she realizes that Logan is gone. She then asks herself what the saying is. “Ask a silly question, you get no answer.” He’ll be there before she is.

In short time, in Viktoria’s suite, Logan tells her she’s got nice digs there. Viktoria informs him that the Canadian secret service keeps it on a permanent basis. She uses it when she is in New York. Convenient, yes? Logan proceeds to ask ‘where is he?’ Viktoria asks ‘where is who?’ Lighting up a cigar, Logan replies Volk – Ilya Dubromovitch Skorzorki and tells Vik not to play games. What other “mutual friend” do they have that would make him send up a flare for him. Viktoria asks that she is so transparent?

Logan tells her only t’ him. After all, he watched her grow up after Volk killed her father. An’ he knows how much she hates him. Viktoria states that he’s right and with good cause. Someday, she’s going to see Volk pay for what he did. Handing Logan a file, she informs him that she’s kept tabs on Volk ever since she joined the service. Opening up the file, Logan remarks that Moby Dick is shorter; how about she gives him the Cliff’s notes version. Viktoria tells Logan that Volk is one of her country’s most deadly assassins – tireless, ruthless, and an excellent tracker, as they learned in the Urals. Sometime after he shot her father, Volk was used as a test subject in a KGB experiment to create genetically enhanced agents. His DNA was combined with wolf DNA which enhanced his tracking abilities and gave him the ability to transform into a werewolf-like creature at will.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Volk has gone freelance. He doesn’t appear to need the money or follow any particular ideology. He takes jobs that interest him. Her sources tell her he was recently hired to kill him, Logan. Word is that Volk is in New York. When he find him, and he will, it’s going to be a fight to the death.

Logan states that she could have sent him this file by messenger or fax, what is it she wants? Viktoria asks he is the best there is at what he does, yes? She wants to be there when he kills Volk. Standing up and gathering his jacket, Logan tells her no flamin’ way. Viktoria tells him that he’s forgetting that she is a fully trained agent. She can help him, she can cover his back. Logan tells her that he’s not forgetting anythin’. But with her connections, she’s been an invaluable resource for the mutant underground. And after all Bastion’s done, they need her in place. He got her father killed. He ain’t gonna let the same thing happen t’ her. As he leaves, Viktoria angrily throws the file at the closed door behind him.

Walking the streets of New York, Logan thinks to himself that in a cat and mouse game like this, you have to play the advantages. Odds are, if Vik heard about this, it’s already a few weeks old. Volk’s already on his tail but the problem is he, Logan, can’t catch his scent in th’ flamin’ city. So he turns to his advantage. Go someplace where he has the home turf advantage. There’s a bar not far from there where he used t’ hang out and the bartender, Bull Hosek, is an old friend of his. The place is a dive but if trouble breaks out, the patrons should be able t’ take care o’ themselves. When he gets near the bar, Logan knows that Volk is close, he can feel him.

Inside the bar, Logan asks the bartender if that was his mother he saw outside makin’ with the locals. The older portly balding bartender asks what th… When he turns around, he sees Logan and greets him. Shaking his hand, he tells him that things have been way too quiet since he don’t come ‘round as often as he used to. Logan tells him that he’s about to make up for that. Bull asks a live floor show? Woo-hoo, sounds good t’ him. He then asks Logan if he wants to warm up with the creeps at his ol’ table.

Making his way over to a table on the other side of the bar, Logan tells the punks sitting there that they are at his table. The head one replies that he ‘don’t see your name on it, shorty.’ Popping his claws, Logan says to him to let him carve it on his forehead. As the rest of his crew disperses from the table, Logan sits down and tells them not to go away mad and asks if any of them wanta thumb wrestle. Settling in, Logan that after the small fry left, it’s just a waiting game. If Volk is as good a tracker as he remembers, he’ll find him there sooner or later.

Just then, Volk enters the bar and says to Logan that they have business, yes? Logan immediately knows that it’s Volk all right but he’s different. He looks different, sounds different, smells different. Somethin’ about his scent that ain’t quite human anymore. But it ain’t quite animal either. It’s very feral and somethin’ in him responded to it. Logan asks Volk what business he’s talking about. The world has changed, the spy game is over. Volk tells him that this isn’t about nations or borders anymore. He is freelance now. He has been hired to kill him and that is what he shall do.

Flipping the table over, Logan tells Volk that sayin’ ain’t doin’. Popping his claws, Logan asks does he get him. Preparing for battle, Volk replies good, this is what he had hoped for. Logan asks izzat right and tells him that he’s happy to oblige as he leaps towards Volk. Even as they lock together, Volk’s scent was changing along with his features. Less human, more wolf, as if the adrenaline was triggering the change. Volk welcomed it but for Logan, it was always a struggle to keep his animal side in check; especially now, when he really wanted to tear him apart.

As they continue to battle back and forth, causing damage to both the bar and its patrons, Logan thinks to himself that it’s really hard to fight yourself and somebody else at the same time, especially when your opponent isn’t holding back. And the beast within your soul starts to howl, and scratch to be let free to rend, to kill. Eventually, Logan pins Volk to the ground and points his claws at his face. Before he can deliver a slash, Volk kicks him off of him. When he does, Bull, holding a shotgun, tells Logan to look out, he has him covered.

Turning his attention to Bull, Volk slashes him across the neck and tells him that he’s got nothing. Enraged, Logan leaps at Volk and curses him. This is just between them, he didn’t have to kill him. When he does, Volk growls to Logan that he wants him to fight harrrder. Logan proceeds to slam Volk’s face on the ground and then slashes him across the chest. As he continues his mutation into a wolf, Volk tells Logan not to stop, not when he is so close. Stopping his assault, Logan tells Volk so is he. He’s closer than he wants to what he doesn’t want t’ be. He then tells Volk that whatever game he’s playin’, he’s not playing along. Leaping out the window, Volk tells him that he will; he is making him. He may be struck through his friends. And if he will not cooperate, he shall take back his gift.

Looking out the window after Volk, Logan wonders to himself what Volk meant about taking back his gift and why he quit when he was supposed to kill him. He then realizes why – Vik! With that, Logan rushes through the streets of New York yelling out Viktoria’s name.

Across town, Viktoria makes her way towards her room. As she does, she thinks to herself that she doesn’t care what Logan says. She’s not going to stand by and do nothing while he hunts for Volk. Volk is her kill, her right. She’s going to… going to… Once she reaches her room, Viktoria sighs and states that she’s going to take a hot bath. Whatever Volk and Wolverine are doing, it is far away from there. Entering her room, Viktoria is shocked to see Volk sitting there. Volk proceeds to greet her and tells her that she’s grown into a beautiful woman. Pulling a handgun out of her coat, Viktoria exclaims that God is just and attempts to shoot Volk. Dodging her blast, Volk smacks the gun out of her hand and calls her a foolish child. He bears her no ill will towards her. She holds no importance to him save his ploy. Viktoria proceeds to kick Volk in the face and tells him that he underestimates her. For what he did to her father, she swears she will kill him. Volk tells her that he believes that she will try. Grabbing her in a reverse bear hug, Volk tells Vik that she takes her father’s death too personally, it was only his job. Volk then knocks her out and tells her that is as well.

Out in the streets of New York, Logan continues to make his way to Viktoria’s suite. As he does, he thinks that in wolf form Volk may already be over at Vik’s. He’s got to get over there before he kills her. He determines that the ground is no good and proceeds to leap onto a moving box truck. While it makes its way through the streets, Logan finds that its better but still too slow. If he’s too late, he’ll make Volk wish he’d never been born. Eventually reaching the Biltmore hotel, Logan leaps onto the fire escape and makes his way up to Vik’s room, determined not to fail her again. Once he enters the room, he finds it empty and the room a mess. Just then, the phone rings. Answering it, Volk informs Logan that he has taken back his gift. He will give it back at the stone bridge. He knows where. This time, they fight to the death, yes? Logan replies ‘yup.’

It’s been only forty-eight hours since Volk kidnapped Viktoria. Throughout his flight to Ul’Yanovsk and his drive up the mountains to the bridge, he has to wonder what Volk wants. When he first found him in the bar, Volk seemed intent on killin’ him. But somewhere in the middle of the fight, the rules changed. He wants something more important than his head on a stake. He thinks he may know what it is. But there’s only one way to find out for sure. He has to face him once and for all. He has to come ready to spill blood, his or Volk’s. He has to be ready to unleash the beast inside of himself to face the beast inside of Volk. Lord help Volk if he’s hurt Viktoria because he’ll tear him apart.

With that, Logan, wearing his yellow and blue costume makes his way to the stone bridge. There, he finds Volk holding Viktoria hostage with a gun pointed at her head. Volk tells Logan that they’ve been waiting for him and that he sees he’s come dressed to kill. Logan asks just them, right? When Volk tells him if he fights, Logan pops his claws and says oh yeah. At that moment, Volk, mostly wolf than man, leaps at Logan and howls.

As soon as Volk tossed Vik to the ground, Logan quickly learns that he is fighting for his life and that the beast within begins to claw his way up. Beginning their battle, Logan hears a deep guttural laugh of berserk joy and he doesn’t know if it’s him or Volk. On the other side of the bridge, Viktoria goes for the gun, but slips and grabs hold of the side of the bridge before she plummets below. She then proceeds to utter that Volk is hers. Continuing their fight, Logan sees that the harder they fight, the more animal Volk becomes and the close he comes to giving in to a berserker rage. The beast is coming out in all of them. Volk proceeds to fully change into a wolf, while Logan loses control.

Viktoria saves herself and picks up the gun and shoots at Volk. Undeterred, Logan and Volk continue to slash away at each other. Eventually, Logan jams his claws into Volk’s gut. All he can see is red, his pulse pounding in his head. The beast howls, but he does not surrender, the beast will not win. Pinning Logan to the ground, Volk goes to bite him in the neck, but Logan knocks him away. He determines that they are so close, now it’s time to finish it.

At that moment, Logan locks eyes with Volk and he understands. There’s no more malice anymore. Logan then tells Vik to lower her gun. When Vik asks what, Logan informs her that Volk got what he wanted. He’s no longer a danger to them. As Volk runs off, Logan tells Vik that he figured it out on the way over there. If he really wanted to kill him, he’d have done it in the bar when they fought. Something sidetracked him. The more adrenaline he pumped, the more wolf-like he became. He went back over his file and saw Volk only took assignments that would challenge him like that. Humanity meant nothing to him. He didn’t belong, he didn’t fit in. he wanted to escape himself. He wanted to become a full wolf. He was looking for a fight that would trigger the transformation. So he gave it to him. As long as he doesn’t feel threatened by them, he has no reason to attack. It’s over for him.

Turning to Viktoria, Logan asks what about her. Vik angrily asks him to just forget what he did to her father? No, she can’t, she won’t! Getting into a car, Viktoria adds that she won’t have peace until she’s hunted him down and made him pay for father’s murder.

Watching her drive off, Logan sees Viktoria pursuing the wolves, feeding the beast within. S’funny, all these years, he thought his anger and berserker rages were the animal side of his nature that he had to fight in order to remain human. Watching Volk run off with the pack of wolves made him remember that animals kill only for survival. They don’t kill out of anger or vengeance. Maybe what he’s really been fighting is his human nature. The cruelest, the most unnatural beast on the face of the earth, the one most likely to destroy everything – is man.

Characters Involved: 


Ilya Dubromovitch Skorzorki/Volk
Viktoria Suhkarov
Bowser, operative of Operation: Zero Tolerance
Bull Hosek (bartender) and various unnamed patrons and employees of a bar in New York

In the Past:
Ilya Dubromovitch Skorzorki/Volk
Dimitri Suhkarov
Viktoria Suhkarov (Dimitri’s daughter)
Three unnamed men under the direction of Skorzorki

Story Notes: 

Operation: Zero Tolerance was an anti-mutant organization whose plans were covered in a line-wide X-Men crossover of the same name.

Written By: