Wolverine Annual (3rd series) #1

Issue Date: 
December 2007
Story Title: 
The Death Song of J. Patrick Smitty

Gregg Hurwitz (writer), Marcelo Frusin (artist), Todd Klein (letters), Aubrey Sitterson (assistant editor), Axel Alonso (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

J. Patrick Smitty has a rough upbringing, and gradually moves from being a small-time hustler to being an armed robber. His church-going past doesn't seem to have helped him change his ways, though he�d like to. One day, a friend of his manages to get him into a gang which is pulling major jobs. Smitty becomes one of them, and starts to earn some decent money. All the while, he wants to clean up his act, but with little education and no skills, it's tough. One day, a botched bank job results in the death of an old lady and several people inside a bank. Unfortunately for Smitty, he steps in the old lady's blood, which provides Wolverine, who happens to be in the area, with a scent. He tracks down one of the gang, kills him and heads to an address he finds on a piece of paper. There, he proceeds to kill all the gang members except for Smitty, who he allows to go free with a warning to his boss. Smitty is fearful for his life, and constantly looks over his shoulder. One day, his boss arrives with a pistol and informs him that they need to get rid of a gang member who is about to squeal. They visit the foundry where he works but, before Smitty can shoot the guy, Wolverine slashes him and chases Smitty and his boss through the foundry. Luckily for them, a crane knocks Wolverine into a vat of molten metal. Despite this, the two men are still nervous that he could come back to haunt them. One week later, this is exactly what Wolverine does. After recovering from the fall, he murders the boss and takes off after Smitty. He chases Smitty across the rooftops and catches up with him. Smitty just has time to ask the Lord for forgiveness before Wolverine shoves his claws through him.

Full Summary: 

(New York City)
J. Patrick Smitty sits behind a pile of dead bodies as another joins them. He is petrified, and with good reason. Wolverine is slicing his way through Smitty's friends with vicious abandon, and Smitty knows what�s coming. One guy pleads with Wolverine that they didn�t plan on it coming down so hard. What happened next? We�ll let Smitty tell it from the beginning.

Smitty had a rough childhood. His dad was a drunk who beat him frequently, and his mom was a rock fiend and therefore out of it a lot of the time. At night, sitting in his bed, he could hear his folks arguing. On one occasion, he overheard his father say to his wife that he never wanted a kid, so she should quit the pipe and figure out what to do with him before he turns out like them. They would apologize afterwards and, on Sundays, they even turned out looking respectable for church. Church was a place where Smitty didn�t feel like a lost cause. It was the only place he ever felt safe. Smitty often entered the confessional to make himself pure. It never did.

With his friend, he would trick store owners into pretending one of them was hurt whilst the other swiped beer from the fridge. Another trip to the confessional absolved him of sin. It didn�t get any easier for Smitty. He would steal from record stores, snatch the purse of an unsuspecting victim and commit burglary. Each time, he confessed to the priest, and each time the priest felt less likely that he actually had any real desire to repent.

Eventually, Smitty stopped talking to the church and instead upped his game, selling video recorders from the back of a van and committing armed robbery wearing a ski mask. He knew that what he was doing was wrong, and that he had to clean up his act. He wasn�t a kid any more. He could barely make the rent. He had no wife, no kids, but could barely take care of himself. The thought of sweating out an honest buck turned his gut, but he�d missed the window for him to actually be something. He�d give a tramp a dollar to try and make himself feel better, but he had so little to give.

One day, a friend of his informed him that he had been pulling major-league jobs with some others and he�d try and cut him in. He took Smitty to the gang�s boss, who offered him a lookout position for the next job to see how he worked out. He told Smitty that there was plenty of green to go around, but they had to ensure that there were no witnesses. He joined the gang and pulled several jobs, amassing a decent amount of money.

(present - the city)
Wolverine is out walking in the city. It�s not a place, but a frame of mind. In Logan�s words, �It�s a place filled with soot-spilling chimneys, smoke-spewing pipes and stagnant pools beneath rusty drains. Men shove and bicker in half-deserted alleyways, trying to scrape the street off themselves. Women come and go, talking of cheap dates in a neon cold glow. Yellow smog nuzzles the windows, giving ones face an acid lick.�

He makes his way from the seedy edge of town to a main street, where an old lady approaches him with a white flower. �There is still beauty all around us,� she tells him. �All you have to do is look.� Logan takes another glance, and sees the city as something different� something better. He accepts the flower and thanks the old lady.

Nearby, Smitty and the gang are in the back of a van with stockings hiding their features. They are all armed. They exit the van and rush towards the bank. Unfortunately, the old lady is in their way and she is pushed to the ground. She falls backwards and cracks her head on the edge of the sidewalk. Smitty sees her fall before he enters the bank. �Time to clean up my act,� he thinks again.

Inside the bank, the customers are terrified. The cameras are sprayed with paint. As the gang�s boss orders the cashier to put banded hundreds in a bag, his stocking rips and an easily recognizable scar over his eye is revealed. The cashier covers her eyes and cries that she didn�t see anything. �No witnesses,� the man shouts, and the horror begins. Bullets rip through the cashier and then everyone else in the place. No one is spared. Smitty looks over the scene silently as the gang flee the building. They rush towards their van, but are pursued by one brave security guard who they somehow didn�t manage to kill. He follows Smitty, who is the last man, and aims his pistol at him. Smitty turns and aims his pistol back at the guard. He shoots. For Smitty, this is the straw that breaks the camel�s back. It�s the last bad move he�ll ever make.

Logan hears the shot and returns to the scene, which the cops have now cordoned off. He sees the old lady lying on the ground; a pool of blood surrounding her head. A bloody footprint provides Logan with a clue. He sniffs the air and catches the blood�s scent before clenching his fist and walking away.

Later, in costume, Wolverine arrives at the home of one of the gang members. He smacks the guy around the head and picks up a slip of paper with an address on it. The guy asks what he wants. Wolverine tosses a blood-soaked white flower at him. Her? So some old broad dies in a gutter. Does he think that matters? Wolverine grabs his hair and jerks the guy�s head backwards. �Say it again,� he snarls. The petrified guy replies that she was just some old broad. Wolverine snikts his claws clean through his head, chin first, killing him instantly.

At the hideout, the Silent Sea Hotel, the gang are having a laugh over a game of cards. They might not have managed to get any cash in the botched bank raid, but one jokes that at least they got some target practice. As they laugh, the door bell rings and they wonder who the hell it is. One of them gingerly opens the door, pointing his pistol through the gap. ��the hell are you?� he asks, an instant before his slashed body is hurled back into the room. Wolverine storms inside with his claws at the ready. He means business, and they know it. In a flash he slashes one guy�s throat and puts two claws through the back of another�s skull, so that they emerge through his eye sockets. Another is stabbed in the chest.

Smitty crouches down behind the bodies, unable to even contemplate making a stand. One of the gang grabs a broken bottle and stumbles over his words as he tells Wolverine that they didn�t plan on it going down so hard. His head is decapitated as he speaks. Wolverine sniffs the air and picks up Smitty�s bloody shoe. His shadow looms over Smitty as he scrambles as far as he can against the wall, covering his face. �Tell the others I will kill them. And then, I will kill you.� He then allows Smitty to leave.

Predictably, Smitty heads straight to his employer�s place and informs him of what happened. He doesn�t think Wolverine can be handled, but his boss, a man with a scar over his left eye and sporting an eye-patch, replies that everything can be handled. Smitty departs and heads home to his apartment. He now knows that he will die; maybe a month from now, maybe in two minutes time. Maybe right now. He grabs something to eat and grabs a corkscrew. He thinks about Wolverine. Will his claws pin him wriggling to the wall like a cockroach on a thumbtack?

He takes a walk, wondering if the eternal footman will open the door for him; his face flushed from the flames licking through. Or, will it be peaceful. A sleep and a forgetting? A drowning into darkness. He arrives at the church he frequented as a child and sees the old lady�s face looking back at him from the statue of an angel. He walks to a park where he watches the sunrise. Tears trickle down his cheeks. It�ll be his last sunrise.

Back home, he sits in the dark awaiting the inevitable. A knock at the door makes his heart race, but it�s only his boss. He tosses Smitty a pistol and informs him that one of the gang, Tarell, has caught word of the slaughter at Silent Sea. He�s getting wobbly. Word is, he�ll turn himself in just to get protection. They need to ensure he doesn�t squeak. �Catch my drift?�

Smitty and his boss make their way to the foundry where Tarell works as a welder. The boss tells Tarell that they�ll pull a few more jobs so he can skip out on the workaday grind. Tarell replies that he might want to sit it out for a while. The boss glances at Smitty, who pulls out his pistol. Tarell raises his arms and assures them that he isn�t going to sell them out or anything. Smitty sees the security guard�s face on Tarell�s body as he pleads for his life. The boss reminds Smitty that they don�t have all night.

Before he can shoot, Wolverine appears and slashes Tarell across the back. He screams in pain and both Smitty and his boss take off. As he chases them up a staircase, one of them flicks a switch, and Wolverine is knocked off the staircase by a crane, and he falls into a vat of molten metal. The boss grins. �Like I said. Everything can be handled.� Smitty looks into the vat and sees Wolverine�s skeletal arm rise from the liquid before going under again. His heart begins to slow down.

(one week later)
The boss is at home and getting ready for bed. Despite seeing Wolverine fall into the vat, he is still on his mind. He tells himself that he ain�t afraid of no kitty cat. Three claws through his back from underneath the bed remind him of why he should have been.

Meanwhile, Smitty knows that it�s time to clean up his act and straighten his ways. He thinks of all the people he has wronged and wonders if he is past forgiveness. A loud crack shocks him, and he looks up to see Wolverine standing in the doorway. He immediately makes a run for it, running out onto the fire escape and across the roof. Wolverine gives chase, leaping from building to building. As he runs, Smitty slips on the wet surface and falls. He picks himself up and sees a cross in front of him. Wolverine slowly approaches. �Forgive me father, for I have sinned,� thinks Smitty. Wolverine�s claws in his gut ensure that it�s the last thing he ever thinks about.

Characters Involved: 


J. Patrick Smitty
Gang members including Tarell
Gang leader and girlfriend

New Yorkers and prostitutes
Flower lady
Bank staff, security guard and customers
Police officers

(in flashback)
J. Patrick Smitty
Smitty�s mother and father

School friend
Convenience store owner
Record Store customers

Bag-snatch victim
Video recorder customers
Gang leader and gang members including Tarell

Story Notes: 

This annual is listed as #1, though there have been numerous Wolverine annuals prior to this one.

The whole story, starting with the title, is an allusion to T.S. Elliot's famous poem "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock". Many of Smitty's narrative lines are variations of lines from the poetry, or taken right from the poem.
(Thanks to John Balliro for that info)

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