Wolverine: Black Rio

Issue Date: 
November 1998
Story Title: 
Black Rio

Joe Casey (writer), Oscar Jimenez (penciler), Eduardo Alpuente (writer), Gina Gong (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Emerson Miranda (lettering), Comicraft’s John Marasigan (design), Zena Tsarfin (assistant editor), Ruben Diaz (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Logan visits an old friend of his in Rio, named Antonio ‘Tony’ Vargas. After a joyful greeting, Logan discovers that Vargas is investigating what are being called ‘vampire killings.’ Logan joins him at the latest murder scene, and they find that someone is draining blood from their victims. Meanwhile, in a deserted church, an aged man called Saint Cyrus Leviticus speaks with a voice that appears to be in his mind. Antonio’s wife, Ezra, is also there. She now looks different to when she was married, and is also a vampire. Logan later enjoys the Carnaval but, as he rests, he is attacked by a gang called the Bate-Bola Boys. He beats them quite easily and, the next day, meets up with Antonio. They chat about Ezra, and how she disappeared. The Bate-Bola Boys lick their wounds and look for revenge against Logan, but, as they talk, Ezra attacks them and kills every last one. In the evening, Antonio and Logan get roaring drunk, and return to Antonio’s apartment. There, they see Cyrus and Ezra, but Logan is knocked unconscious before he has time to act. Ezra then attacks her ex-husband. Logan awakens to the sight of Antonio, with his blood all over his apartment. He attends his funeral and, instead of the usual talk of payback, Antonio’s police colleagues are apprehensive about continuing this investigation. They are superstitious, and Logan is happy with that. It means the case is all his. He tries to follow Ezra’s trail, but instead comes up against the Bate-Bola Boys, now counting themselves among the undead, along with many more zombies. They manage to overpower him with intoxicating fumes, and they take Logan to the derelict church where Ezra feeds on him as he sleeps. Logan wakes in chains, to see bites all over him. Cyrus speaks to him about immortality, and how he is destined for greater things. Underneath his cloak, he reveals that he is host to an alien parasitic symbiote which has been his inner voice. His intention is to have all the revellers at Carnaval murdered, so he can feed off their psionic turbulence as they go through their death throes. Logan knows he’s crazy enough to carry this through. Cyrus departs, and Ezra feeds on Logan once again. However, Logan manages to free himself and he fights Ezra, despite her being the wife of Antonio. She flees in the face of execution, and Logan decides to let her go. Cyrus is more important. As he makes his way downtown, he catches up with the zombies, who await Cyrus’s word. He takes them on and, in his rage, slices and dices his way through the lot of them. He then catches up with Cyrus on a rooftop and informs him that his plan is in tatters. The two men fight and, during the skirmish, Logan manages to find the alien and slash at it with his bone claws. The alien perishes, and Cyrus opens himself up to attack. Logan obliges, killing him where he stands. He looks at the crowd below, and knows they will never understand how close they came to losing it all. Later, he visits Antonio’s grave and says his farewells. He promises to avenge his death the next time he meets Ezra, and rides away. Ezra watches him from the trees, looking none too happy.

Full Summary: 

(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Detective Antonio Vargas is having lunch with a man named Omar, and their conversation turns to the subject of vampires, zombies and immortals who walk the Earth. Omar seems to know more than he’s telling about these things, but Vargas doesn’t have time to play games.

Wolverine arrives in Rio by plane and, as soon as he gets off, the very smell of Carnaval hits him. He spent a year in Rio, back before he started keeping track of what year it was; back before he joined the X-Men and people started calling himself Wolverine. Though his eyes see nothing unusual, his mutant senses tell him that something heavy is going down tonight. He can smell the stench of death underneath the scents of the numerous tourists. Welcome to Rio!

At this time of year, the city welcomes you like no other, with open arms. The word carnaval derives from the word, carovale, meaning ‘goodbye meat.’ In Italian, it translates to ‘farewell to flesh.’ Logan heads from the airport, straight to the central police precinct. He enters the office of Detective Vargas. After a feigned initial squaring up, the two men hug one another. They are old friends, and haven’t seen each other in many years. Logan recalls the last time they met, when Vargas owned the Devil’s Grill. Logan was employed as a bouncer for a year, and they had so many good times. Vargas wasn’t always the respectable police officer he is today. They even wrote a samba about Logan’s reputation back in the day, called ‘The man of harsh business.’

Logan relaxes, and informs Antonio that he’s there for the carnaval. He never expected to find him working on the right side of the law for a change. Vargas replies that his days as a shady club owner have long gone, and he asks about Logan. He replies that he banged around for a while before he finally put down some roots in Salem Canter, New York.

A plain clothes officer enters Vargas’s office and, in Portuguese, informs his boss that a call just came in from a cove near Sao Conrado. There have been some more murders. The fact that he mentioned murders, plural, makes Vargas think it sounds like a perp he’s been after for some time. Logan enquires as to the killings. Vargas tells him that they’re calling them ‘vampire killings.’ Someone with a serious wild streak is running around the favelas, emptying blood out of people’s veins with no rhyme or reason that he can see. He grabs his pistol and holsters it. He then asks Logan if he fancies coming along; just like old times. Logan replies sure; the party will still be there when he gets back.

At the cove, the water swilling around beside the floating path is red with blood. Ten bodies float in various states of dismemberment. Vargas informs Logan that there have been many slayings like this over the past year, but this is the worst yet. Logan replies that whoever did this doesn’t care who knows it. Vargas pulls an arm from the water and points out the slashed wrist. It looks like the same type of attack as the others he’s investigated. There are bites all over them, but their wrists are slashed as well. The murderer is not drinking the blood.

Logan sniffs the air. There are all kinds of scents floating around the cove; blood, death, decay, and something familiar. He can’t quite put his finger on it. Vargas has no leads, and some of his colleagues on the force are wary of investigating these murders. They’re superstitious, and these killings are ritualistic. Vargas, however, is not afraid, and in some strange way he is drawn to the case.

Logan is barely listening by this time. He has spotted a danger much more imminent. Before he can warn Antonio, a shark, attracted by so much blood, leaps from the water and through the floating path. Logan calls for Antonio not to shoot it. The shark’s only acting on instinct, and so is he. He extends his bone claws and leaps at the shark. As it grabs a body in its huge mouth, Logan leaps on top of it, much to Antonio’s surprise. It only takes a few minutes before Logan stands victorious. Antonio, despite being surprised by Logan’s claws, isn’t fazed. “There have been some… changes in your life, eh, Logan.” Logan explains, and Antonio takes it well. He grew up in the favelas, in the slums of Rio, and he’s seen the dark side.

Meanwhile, in a derelict church, a body lies on one of the pews as a madman rants before an image of Christ on the cross. He asks his companion, Ezra Asher, to look at him and tell him what she sees. Before she answers, a voice in his head replies, “You are Saint Cyrus Leviticus.” He replies that he is, indeed, and normally that would be enough. Ezra tells him he’s talking to himself again, and he needs a stiff drink. He smashes the mirror she is holding; the last one in the place. The voice says she is disrespectful, and Cyrus tells Ezra that her feminine ceremonies will not be tolerated. Look at me, he insists, is this the face of a king? Ezra walks away without replying. The voice tells Cyrus that she does not understand them. Indeed, he replies.

As she leaves, Cyrus grabs her arm and gets in her face. The voice tells him that she is radiant in her insolence. Ezra tells Cyrus that she is on his side, but the voice orders Cyrus to kiss her. Against her will, he presses his mouth to hers, telling her, “You have tasted immortality; now taste power!” He then turns and releases his grip on her. The voice tells him to be repentant, and he duly apologizes to Ezra. He asks for forgiveness, and releases her from her guilt.

Cyrus then turns to Ezra, and says that he understands her pretty motivations, and excuses her for them. She thirsts for a blood that will satisfy her desires. He also has a thirst; a thirst to meet his destiny in the proper manner. His destiny, he continues, is larger than the known universe. It spans light-years, and she simply has no concept of that. He motions outside towards the sprawling city. He explains that this city produces an unparalleled energy in the weeks before the celebration of the resurrection. That energy will be his; it will restore him. The voice in his head calls for him to gaze over his foothold, which he does. He will be restored for his ultimate ascension upon this lonely mudball.

Elsewhere, Logan is enjoying the atmosphere as the carnaval gets into full swing. He revels in the danger and the weirdness of it all. He parties like he hasn’t partied for some time, and the women of Rio certainly get plenty of attention. By the time he reaches his limit, he hardly knows what day it is. He rests against a wall in an alleyway to recover his second wind. The party’s better than he remembers.

As he sucks in air, a voice behind him provides a grin for his aged face. A bunch of thugs called the Bate-Bola Boys are gathered close by. Their leader, with green eighties’ hair leads a gang of kids whose disguises are designed to scare the tourists and locals during carnaval. To Wolverine, they are little more than fodder. After some carefully designed belittling, the fight begins. Wolverine is on the leader in no time, and doesn’t think he even needs his claws. The rest of the gang join in, and soon, an almighty brawl breaks out, with the weapons carried by the gang having little effect if they can’t reach their target. It doesn’t get much better than this, thinks Logan.

Later, the sunrise opens a new day, and Wolverine finds himself outside a bar. Antonio Vargas arrives and tells him he looks like he’s been enjoying himself. Vargas informs him that the search for the ‘vampire killer’ continues. Logan pours the last drop from a beer glass and replies that he’s all done there. He might as well see what he can help dig up.

Rio gets busy quickly and, as Logan and Vargas wander through town, Vargas mentions that his wife hated this area. Logan replies that she was a class act, no doubt about it, and he asks Vargas how he’s holding up. Vargas says it’s years since she disappeared, but he still misses her every day. Logan then enquires about the murders, asking if Vargas is positive about them having an ‘undead’ angle to them. Vargas is convinced of nothing if he doesn’t see it with his own eyes. He merely suspects, but he wouldn’t be on the side of the angels if his suspicions didn’t serve him well. His scent of confidence has Logan convinced. Logan says that, since they last met, he’s seen a few things, and vampires don’t mean a thing to him. He’s looking forward to meeting whoever’s responsible for this mess. “Could be an even better party than last night…”

The Bate-Bola Boys have returned to their squat to lick their wounds. They’re convinced that they could take the short guy next time. As they chat, a woman’s voice comes from nowhere. “Tough talk boys. Bom dia.” Ezra appears upside down at their window, and she asks if they care to show her a few of their moves, or are they still too drunk to dance? The boys grab their weapons and prepare to whup Ezra, but she bares her teeth and leaps at the gang’s leader. She bites him on the arm, and proceeds to wade through them in much the same manner as Logan did. The only difference is, she leaves them dead. Their blood is satisfying, but they haven’t lived. They’ll do for now, though.

Logan and Vargas retreat for a drink at the Hotel Dix. Their investigations have thrown up nothing, and Vargas would like to forget the investigation for now. He says, “I look different don’t I? Older…” Logan can’t lie, and replies that he’s put on some mileage, but there’s something to be said for soldiering through life. He’s a survivor. Vargas asks about Logan. He tells him it’s been years; decades since he saw him, and he doesn’t see any more lines on his face than the last time. Long story, replies Logan. It’s not important; it’s still him. Vargas is thankful for that. Good friends are hard to come by these days. Logan suggests they get back to their scotch before all this sentiment ruins his mood.

By evening, the two men are drunk, and they make their way back to Antonio’s apartment, singing songs in Portuguese as they clamber up the staircase. Antonio opens the door to his apartment and, to his horror, sees Cyrus standing in front of his window, with Ezra sitting on the couch. He asks what they’re doing in his home, and Wolverine can only manage, “That woman on the sofa… Tony, it’s your...” before he is smashed over the head by a zombie. Vargas reels in horror, and asks the assailant what or who he is. The zombie tells him to mind his own business. Logan falls unconscious to the ground, and the voice in Cyrus’s head informs him that it senses and old soul in the bestial one. Indeed, Cyrus replies. Vargas is surprised by this, and asks if he’s talking to him. No, replies Cyrus.

The voice orders Cyrus to make his speech and exit. Again, Cyrus does as he is told. He turns to Vargas and tells him that his keen detection skills have only served to being him to their attention. His plan, his destiny, has no room for meddling policemen. He now leaves him to deal with his own destiny, and thinks Vargas’s circle is about to be completed. Ezra approaches him, and smiles. “My dear Antonio; alone at last.” Vargas cannot resist as she slides up to him and kisses him hard on the mouth. The kiss is hypnotic, and Ezra pulls away and tells him to gaze into her face and see the truth. Slowly, her face metamorphoses into that of his beloved wife. But you’re dead, Vargas tells her. Very true, she replies, and now, so are you. With that, she attacks him without mercy.

By the time Wolverine wakes, the sun is up. His healing factor has taken care of his hangover, but the crack on his head still stings a bit. As he shakes off his miasma, he receives conflicting scents, and realizes that most of the blood around him isn’t his. He sees the body of Antonio Vargas sat in a chair; a ghastly sight even for someone as used to death as Logan.


Logan attends Antonio’s funeral, attended by many of Antonio’s fellow cops. When a cop is killed, there is usually talk of payback, but in this instance they don’t even know where to begin. How could they, because Logan never told them a thing. He didn’t mention anything about Ezra, his wife who disappeared years ago only to return as some kind of bloodsucker. As far as they’re concerned, Tony’s just another on a long list of these so-called ‘vampire killings.’ Afterwards, he heads to a bar to drown his sorrows. No one’s anxious to continue Tony’s investigations anyway, mainly due to superstition. This is fine with Wolverine. It means they’re all his.

He heads into the night, heading from building to building looking for Ezra’s scent, but like a pro, she hides it well. As he passes a tunnel, his senses pick up a faint scent in the air; the scent of death. He ventures into the dimly lit tunnel and realizes he’s hit paydirt. He soon finds himself surrounded by a large gang of kids, some of whom he recognizes as being the Bate-Bola Boys. Of course, they weren’t dead last time he tangled with them, but Ezra’s got to them, and a whole bunch of others. He quickly thinks of a plan.

Logan can tell by the way they move that they want him alive. That’s fine by him, but he doesn’t have to make it easy for them. He extends both sets of bone claws for the battle, and is soon set upon by the zombies, who hammer at him with bats and bolas and all kinds of assorted weapons. He manages to keep it together, and holds his own, but slowly, intoxicating fumes emanating from a mummy’s threads begin to take their toll. As he fights to the last, he feels the darkness closing in. As he passes out, he thinks of Tony, and wonders if he’ll ever wake up at all.

When he finally awakens, Logan finds himself bound in chains like an animal. He sees bite marks all over his body, with traces of dried blood on his skin. He knows Ezra’s been feeding on him. He gets a fix on his position without being too obvious about it. They think they have him where they want him, and he’s happy to let them think that. Around him is the church with the figure of Christ dominating the wall behind him. “Comfortable?” asks Cyrus. Logan replies that he’s a little hungry, and asks if there’s anything on the menu besides him. Cyrus tells him that he will soon be far beyond these pale concerns. He is insignificant, and should face that truth.

Cyrus proceeds to ramble on about accepting ones place in the natural order of things. Immortals like him are placed in a higher state, he says, and the natural order no longer applies. He points at Logan, and informs him that there are levels above and beyond the pathetic limitations of the mortal coil. For mortal men, their destiny is death, but for an immortal, destiny can be something greater. It takes a great will to fulfil that destiny, and it’s not for the weak.

As he speaks, he opens his jacket to reveal his chest. His body is twisted and rotten, but more importantly, he is revealed to be hosting a small parasitic alien being. He tells Logan they are joined together as Saint Cyrus Leviticus. The creature is not of this world. It travelled here from across the cosmos to bestow upon him a most precious gift: immortality. In return, he shall feed it the psionic turbulence of thousands of dying souls. Just as there is truth in blood, there is truth in the eternal pain of death.

He adds that the symbiote has made him whole, and is the shepherd of his consciousness. The symbiote tells Cyrus that it is flattered, but Logan will never understand. Cyrus agrees. He closes his jacket, and Logan tries to rattle him. “Yer hearin’ voices are ya? I think yer just a nut, pal. Get some help.” Cyrus isn’t bothered by his remark. He replies that Logan is short-sighted to say the least, but he also knows something of longevity, and what it takes to achieve and maintain it.

Cyrus explains that his agenda is a simple one. As the unwashed masses gather for their hedonistic celebration, his subjects will slay them in their stupor; an exquisite mass murder. Dozens of zombies move slowly through swirling mists, awaiting their orders. As he walks away from his captive, he adds that, through a hundred thousand deaths, he shall live anew; a beautiful king, divine in his inspiration. He orders his ‘children’ to follow and then departs. Logan knows he means it, and if he sits there and does nothing, he thinks Cyrus will get away with it.

First things first, though. Ezra watches him, menacing in her stillness. Logan can smell her now, underneath the masking scent of decay. It’s definitely Tony’s wife. To him, she’s the ultimate betrayal. Maybe he can even the score. Ezra asks him if they’re going to dance, for old times sake. He tells Ezra that she’s too far gone. Ezra runs her fingernail down his cheek, and informs him that he’s full of surprises. His blood is unlike anything she has tasted. So much truth contained within. It’s positively exquisite. She says he’s been around, and could probably give Cyrus a run for his money. She then digs her teeth into Logan’s neck. He can feel her drawing out more than blood. Like they said, thinks Logan; there’s truth within the blood… the juice of life. Ezra loves it.

She smiles as the blood trickles down her chin and neck. There’s so much about Logan that he himself probably doesn’t know. It’s too bad, says Ezra, that he’s too weak to share it. Wolverine proves her wrong, and yanks the chains from the wall in one almighty push. Ezra attacks and uses both punches and slashes from her elongated nails to punish Logan. He reacts by swinging the chain across her face, and overpowering her physically. He doesn’t like doing this, but knows that the Ezra he knew is long gone; replaced by something inhuman. It makes fighting her a little easier, but not much.

He pops his claws, and prepares to end her existence, but she isn’t ready to go just yet. She crashes through the window and flees, but Wolverine has no time to chase after her. Cyrus is his main concern. He sprints through the village, and even up there he can hear the unsuspecting crowds dancing to the samba. He makes good time, and leaves the favelas behind as he enters downtown Rio.

Meanwhile, the alien symbiote tells Cyrus that they are so very close. Cyrus replies that his tongue has tasted nothing but dust for so long. He fears he will become drunk with his own greatness. Youth can taste so sweet when you have been so old. Cyrus looks at his intended victims below in the streets. Through their agony, he tells the alien, and the sting of death, his glorious reflection will once again become the source of his power. Then, they can leave their mighty footprints upon this rock.

Wolverine finally arrives and spots Cyrus atop the building. He knows Cyrus is crazy, but then that makes him more likely to follow through with his plans. He can’t have that. As he watches Cyrus, he is approached by a very large group of zombies, including some of the Bate-Bola Boys. ‘I can’t be this lucky,’ thinks Logan as his claws snikt from his wrists. The lead Zombie informs him that they’re just waiting for the signal to kill everyone in town, but in the meantime, he’ll do. Logan replies that he could use the warm up.

Cyrus, meanwhile, is spotted by some of the crowd, but isn’t interested. They can see his decrepit form, as it will be the last sight they see as his children sweep through the crowd. As they die, he will ascend. The gods will gaze upon his beauty and tremble, because the beautiful shall inherit the Earth. “Very profound,” says the alien. Cyrus thanks it, courteously.

Wolverine has made quick work of the zombies. He appears behind Cyrus on the roof, and the alien senses his presence. Wolverine is dressed in some of the threads of his victims. He informs Cyrus that his friends are in the alley, in pieces, and his business is done here. The party’s over. Wolverine leaps at Cyrus with all six claws at the ready. He can feel his rage building inside, rising to a fever pitch. He’s uncontrollable, but gives in to it, as he thinks he may need it.

The two men face each other in physical combat. Logan slashes Cyrus, but the alien orders his host to take him and own him. As Wolverine closes in, Cyrus throws his cloak over Logan’s face, and the alien tells him to go for the body. Wolverine collides with Cyrus, and is thrown to the ground. Cyrus is quickly upon him, and clamps his fingers around Wolverine’s throat. “This beast’s life is forfeit for a greater glory,” says the alien. “Yes!” Cyrus replies. ‘No,’ thinks Wolverine. He uses his claws to reveal the underneath of Cyrus’s cloak, and discovers what he’s looking for. With one swipe from his three claws, he rips the alien symbiote into several pieces. The alien is exposed, but it is too late. With a scream, the alien is destroyed.

Cyrus throws Wolverine away from him, asking what he’s done. He loses all sense of sanity, and clutches the void in his chest. He is a sitting duck, and Wolverine decides to make this quick, and merciful. He slams both fists into Cyrus’s stomach; the claws extending right through his body and out of his back. His body slides off Logan’s claws like a lifeless sack of old meat. Logan tries not to breathe too deeply. The scents in the air are intoxicating. Ether and perfume, smoke and sweat, gunpowder and alcohol, and the smell of flesh that could be a thousand years old. But whose flesh?

Logan looks down and sees the audience applauding his efforts. They think it’s part of the Carnaval; a show to be witnessed. Maybe they’re right, he thinks; maybe it is. He looks into their faces, and can’t help but think that each of them has a destiny to fulfil, be it large or small, and they don’t know how close they came to losing it all. What they don’t know won’t hurt ‘em. He then wonders if this is why he’s here. Is this part of his destiny? He doesn’t want to think about that. He may have saved a city, but he’s buried a friend.

(sometime later)

Logan visits Antonio Vargas’s gravestone. As he moves through life, those around him never remain constant. A lot of good folks pass on before their time. You’d think he’d be used to it by now. Hardly. He pours a few drops of spirit onto Antonio’s grave, and tells him to enjoy it. He won’t be the last guy who marries the wrong woman, and doesn’t live to regret it. He doffs his hat, and gets on his bike. As he speeds away, he thinks about Ezra. Maybe he’ll run into her again someday. Then, Antonio will see some payback. He can count on it. From the bushes, Ezra watches him depart, and she looks none too pleased.

Characters Involved: 


Detective Antonio Vargas


Diner staff member

Air passengers

Police officers

Saint Cyrus Leviticus and the alien symbiote

Ezra Asher

Bate-Bola Boys

Carnaval revellers and Rio residents

Hotel Dix bartender and customers

Bar staff and customers

Funeral mourners

Rio street sweepers



Antonio Vargas

Devil’s Grill customers

Story Notes: 

Detective Vargas’s name probably derives from Antonio Fargas, who played Huggy Bear in the original Starsky & Hutch television series.

At this point, Logan’s claws are simply bone as his adamantium had been stripped from him by Magneto. [X-Men (2nd series) #25; Wolverine (2nd series) #75]

The song Logan and Vargas sing upon returning to Vargas’s apartment appears to be a football song for his team, the Rio based Vasco de Gama.

The favelas are the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Cidade de Deus (City of God), as seen in the 2002 film of the same name, is an example of such an area.

At the time of writing, Ezra and Wolverine have not met for a rematch.

Issue Information: 
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