X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #50

Issue Date: 
September 2003
Story Title: 
The Swordsmith

Kazuo Koike (plotter), Kazuo Koike and Kengo Kaji (writers), Paul Smith (penciler, inker), Brad Anderson (colors), Virtual Calligraphy's Randy Gentile (letters), Katsuya Terada (cover), MacKenzie Cadenhead (assistant editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Bill Jemas (president) with special thanks to Peter Anshin

Brief Description: 

Wolverine is once again in Tokyo, wandering the city streets, when he comes across a beautiful, young woman, being attacked by three men. She manages to take out two of them but the third, an elderly man called Azuma, bests her and, if not for the timely intervention of Wolverine, would have killed her. Approaching police force them to flee the scene but only after Wolverine receives a wound to the gut for his deeds. The woman, Renge, takes him to her house and explains that Azuma is after her sword, which is called Mikage. It was the finest sword ever crafted and her father knew Azuma wanted it. One day, Azuma murdered her father and Renge fled with the sword, which her father entrusted to her. Azuma has been chasing her ever since. While Renge sleeps, Wolverine takes the sword and heads into the night to see just what all the fuss is about. Surely enough, he is attacked by Azuma’s minions and, during their fight, he encounters the spirits of the people the sword has killed, who try to possess him. He manages to retain his own will but knows a weaker man may not be able to resist their pull. He returns to Renge’s house to find her gone, but discovers a note from Azuma, telling him to deliver the sword, or she dies. Wolverine meets him on a beach. He has Renge held captive and fights Wolverine, who gives him the sword. As they fight, the spirits show themselves again but, this time, Azuma is unable to combat them and has a heart attack when one of the spirits thrusts a sword into his chest. Renge’s guards flee, as Wolverine takes the sword and cuts Renge’s binds. Later, she gives him Mikage and he performs a ritual before dropping it into a vat of molten steel, freeing the spirits and ending their torment.

Full Summary: 

It’s night time in Tokyo, Japan and Wolverine wanders through the neon lit city streets of what is pretty much his second home. He hasn’t been to this part of town before but the second he arrived he sensed something funny. There is a thirst for blood in the air, which is something he knows a little about. As he rounds a corner, he sees a stand-off in progress. Three men dressed as samurai surround a beautiful young woman wearing green pants and top covered by a red overcoat. He notices that she is calm and senses that, despite having smooth skin, soft as fallen snow, this damsel ain’t in much distress.

He opts to sit this one out, just to see what she does. As two of the warriors close in on her, the third hangs back, as she quickly turns and reaches under her coat, producing a sword of her own which he wields with assured professionalism. She removes the helmet (and possible the head) of the first one and thrusts behind her to shove her sword through the second warrior’s gut. With both men down, she glances to her left and says, “Azuma!” The third man is elderly with long silver hair and he also brandishes a gleaming sword. He tells he woman, Renge, that her skills have improved, but then he would expect nothing less from the daughter of a legendary swordsmith. She will however not find him as easy to defeat as his minions.

Their swords clash, steel colliding with steel, but Renge immediately realizes that her skills may not be enough against her more experienced foe. She falls backwards after another clash and hits the ground. Having dropped her sword, she is easy prey. Azuma raises his sword and prepares to bring it down on her but Wolverine decides now is the time to act. He pops his claws and places them between the sword and Renge, stopping it in its tracks. He swings at Azuma with his other hand but doesn’t connect with him. He tells Azuma that he’s not so tough when he’s picking on someone his own size.

Surprisingly, Azuma swings the sword back straight away, almost catching Wolverine out with the speed of his response. He says that he doesn’t know who Wolverine is, but he’ll now find out just how deep his blade can cut. A slice to the stomach rips into Wolverine’s flesh but he only grins at Azuma, telling him that wasn’t bad for an old man. Before any further action can ensue, the flashing red light of a police patrol car forces Azuma to slink back into the shadows as Renge grabs Wolverine and dashes down an alleyway with her arm around his shoulder. She tells him that he fights well for a foreigner. He replies that she does too, for a girl.

Renge leads him to her house where she tends to his wounds. Wolverine has his shirt off and lies on the bed as Renge washes the wound. She has heard the tales of the man with claws on his hands and asks if they call him Wolverine. He confirms that they do, but his friends call him Logan. She replies that she has no friends, and her name is Renge. Smooth as always, he asks her how a looker like her ended up all alone in the world but she says it’s a long story. Logan has time on his hands.


Renge tells him that her father was one of the most renowned swordsmiths in all Japan. One day, he showed her a sword called ‘Mikage,’ which had been passed down in her family from generation to generation. It was the finest sword ever crafted and was rumored to possess mystical powers. According to legend, Mikage had killed gods and devils alike. She continues to say that having heard of the sword’s legendary power, Azuma, her father’s apprentice, decided to try and steal the sacred blade. He struck down her father in cold blood but her father, who had suspected Azuma of evil intentions, entrusted her with the sword and told her to protect it should anything happen to him. She fled the house and Azuma has been relentlessly chasing her, and Mikage ever since.


She adds that he will pursue the sword until it is his and she is dead. If he ever comes to possess it, then he will use its power to turn the world into a living hell. However, before that, he will have to pry the sword out of her cold, lifeless hands. She holds Mikage in front of her, admiring its beauty.

Later that night, while Renge sleeps, Wolverine decides to see what all the fuss is about. He takes Mikage and heads out into the night before stopping and removing it from its sheath. He holds it vertically and waits to see what all the fuss is about. He admires the craftsmanship on the sword’s blade but hears a faint noise nearby. Before long, he is surrounded by a group of men, at least one of whom is dressed in a ninja outfit and who all wield swords of their own. They attack Wolverine but he is quick and skilled, managing to take down nearly each and every one of them. When two men fall, he finds out what the fuss is all about. Spirits begin to emerge from the metal, skeletons of many dead people who, though they appear unable to touch him, begin to haunt his imagination. He concentrates with all his willpower and continues to swing the sword, killing the remainder of his assailants. The spirits vanish.

As the last man falls, he realizes that the power of Mikage comes from its victims; the blood of the people it’s killed; their very souls that still inhabit the sword. They’re looking for a host, a body to possess through which they wish to exact their revenge. He strokes the metal and knows that someone more easily tempted than he could easily cause a lot of trouble with it. He reaches for the sheath.

Back at Renge’s apartment, Wolverine returns to find the place has been turned upside down and there are signs of a struggle. He finds a note which reads, ‘We have the girl. Bring Mikage to me and I will spare her life.’ He scrunches the note and heads out into the night once again.

On the shore, the waves lap at the beach as Wolverine shouts for Azuma to show himself. Azuma is standing right behind him and his men hold a dagger to Renge’s throat. Azuma asks him to give him the sword and they will allow the girl to live. Regardless of the threat to her safety, she shouts for him not to do it but Wolverine tosses the sword towards Azuma and it sticks in the sand in front of him. Azuma grins as he takes Mikage in his hand and charges Wolverine, who runs to meet him, claws at the ready.

The two warriors meet in the middle and Wolverine crosses his claws to stop Azuma’s first attack. He takes a kick at the old man but Azuma is more agile than he appears and avoids him, retaliating with a crunching smack in the face with Mikage’s handle. Wolverine again strikes but is fended off and Azuma swings at him, narrowly avoiding his ribcage. Instantly leaping back towards Azuma, Wolverine thrusts his claws at him, but Azuma rolls to the side and the two men face each other in the shallow water; Mikage dripping as Azuma grips its handle with both hands. “That all you got bub?” Logan asks. “Hardly you lowly dog. I’ve merely been toying with you. Let’s finish this.”

Wolverine charges him, still with all his claws showing but before he reaches his opponent, Azuma encounters the same phenomenon that Wolverine did earlier as the spirits of the dead emerge from the sword. He swings wildly as their ghostly faces mock him, their eyes burning with hellfire. Renge and her captors watch as the power of Mikage devours Azuma and he struggles as the spirits slash at him with their swords. He fights back but to no avail and Wolverine can only watch as a samurai stabs him through the chest. Azuma clutches his chest and says, “My heart…”

He falls to the ground. His death probably comes as much from having a heart attack as from anything physical but the result is the same. Wolverine wanders over and picks up Mikage and asks Renge is she is okay. Her captors flee as she says that she is and she thanks him as he cuts her binds. Logan takes one more glance at Azuma’s body before leaving the beach with Renge.

The next day, the couple are in Tokyo center again, Wolverine with his backpack and Renge with Mikage safely boxed up, now safe from the nefarious hands of her father’s murderer. She tells him that she is forever in his debt. He had involved himself in a battle that wasn’t his and is an honorable warrior. He replies that there is still one more thing that needs doing. She agrees. She has done what her father asked her to do, and kept Mikage from Azuma all these years but for the final leg of the swords journey, she now entrusts it to him. She hands the box over and kisses him on the cheek, hoping that heir paths will cross again one day.

Sometime later at a steelworks, Logan holds Mikage in front of him as the soothing orange glow of molten steel lights them both up. “Born of fire, bathed in blood, bred in vengeance. Sleep forever more with the spirits in the flame Mikage.” He lets the sword go and it drops into the vat of lava. The spirits of the dead can at last rest in peace.

Characters Involved: 




Two budding samurai

Swordsmen working for Azuma

Spirits of the dead Mikage has killed

Citizens of Tokyo

Steel worker

(in flashback)


Renge’s father


Story Notes: 

When Azuma slashed Wolverine across the stomach, it must have caught him just above the groin as in later scenes, his T-shirt and jacket appear intact.

This is the last issue in the series.

The issue also contains portraits of several X-Men: -

Wolverine by Zin Mera

Rogue by Natsuki Sumeragi colored by Joshua Middleton

Storm by Mizuki Sakakibara

The X-Babies by Emiko Iwasaki

Issue Information: 
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