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Wolverine: The Best There Is # 4

Issue Date: May 2011

Story Title: Contagion chapter four: All that life

Staff: Charlie Huston (writer), Juan Jose Ryp (artist), Andreas Mossa (colorist), VC's Clayton Cowles (letterer), Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Paul Mounts (cover), Sebastian Girner (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer) with special thanks to Madison Carter, Jeff Christiansen, Mike Fichera, Rob London, Mike O'Sullivan, Markus Raymond and Stuart Vandal

Brief Description:
Winsor has his bunch of unkillables test Logan's healing factor to the limit. Yang Yi in particular enjoys torturing him, though Scavenger doesn't hold anything back. Logan isn't sure of the exact reason that they need to carry out these tests but, as long as he agrees, the child, Flip, is safe. Once he has been through the wringer, Winsor and Ms. Brink deduce that his healing factor has evolved over time and can become extremely resistant to things. This could be potentially very useful indeed. When Wolverine finally decides that he's had enough, he prepares to leave, only for Winsor to infect him with a virus which causes Wolverine to succumb to adamantium poisoning.

Full Synopsis:
After being shot in the face by Winsor, Wolverine lies on a slab, slowly healing from his injuries. Monitoring his progress is Marjorie Brink, who asks him his name to see if he actually knows. Logan replies and Ms. Brink then asks if he knows where he is. Logan replies that he’s at Hunter’s Point with a bunch of crazy unkillables in a secret lab. He’ll be making them uncomfortable when he figures out what their scam is and make sure the kid doesn’t get hurt.

Brink writes some notes up and she explains that he was shot through the eye with a .40 caliber frangible bullet. When it hit the interior surface of his adamantium skull, it shattered into over a dozen slivers of lead and copper, which began to ricochet through his brain. To remove those fragments, she was required to dig through his healing eye, essentially sifting through his grey matter, and pack it back in as best she could. And yet, she adds, he knows who he is. Wolverine begins to sit up and replies that as long as it took him to find out, he isn’t going to forget in a hurry.

Ms. Brink has one question. How does he know? She opens the book and shows him pictures of his brain. She explains that his brain was diced and scrambled but it regrew. That’s simply the nature of Wolverine’s mutation. But his memories? She wonders if his tissue reformed in a pattern that predetermined specific electro signals to re-encode his memories. Or, is some measure of his endurance embodied in a metaphysical form that stores these memories for him? Is his healing a mutation or a spiritual endowment?

Logan says she’s the doctor. She can tell him. Ms. Brink replies that she’s not a doctor. She is a librarian. She read a bit about brain surgery, most of which was useless as it involves cutting open the skull. “Going for your mad scientist merit badge soon?” he quips. No, she replies sternly. But, she thinks that it’s possible that she is destined to lead the last of mankind in their final battle against the demon sun. While she has thousands of years left, there is a great deal to learn if humanity is to survive.

Wolverine says he was about to call her crazy, but he’s seen futures weirder than that. Ms. Brink points out that he remembers them along with everything else, and it isn’t just him. She shows him pictures of the other unkillables in the book along with annotations. She explains that all the others manifest the same phenomenon. None are invulnerable, all can be hurt or at least damaged but, no matter how their brains heal, their memories and personalities remain intact. Mortigan Goth volunteered to be burned to ash. They found him that night, re-coalesced, raiding Winsor’s liquor cabinet as louche as ever. Wolverine replies that he was right first time. She is crazy.

Ms. Brink changes out of her blood-splattered clothes and tells Logan that she has spent a great deal of time alone with her books. Decades. It’s made her a little eccentric and socially awkward. She gets caught up in things and forgets the impression she is making. Logan doesn’t really care. He just wants a shirt to wear. Yang Yi arrives and informs him that he won’t need a shirt. Plunging three blades into his torso, she tells him it would be a waste. In over three thousand years of life, she has made an intimate study of human anatomy and the limits to which it can be stretched. He tries to slash her with his own claws but they simply sink into her hand and out the other side. She ignores them and lifts him from the ground before smashing him back onto the slab. She figures with a subject like him, she’ll be able to add to that knowledge.

She slices him apart; blood spurting all over the lab. He growls but she tells him to shush. He must be calm and docile and cooperative. He doesn’t want the sweet child to lose his precious head. She motions to a window where Flip is seated, looking a little bored. Ms. Brink tells Wolverine that Yang Yi isn’t lying. It’s crude methodology, but she is meant to be testing the limits of his healing factor. Technically, she adds, it’s within the bounds of his compliance agreement with Winsor. The boy’s life is forfeit if he doesn‘t. Logan replies that he’s playing along, but it ain’t gonna last. She can put that in her notebook. Yang Yi grabs a blowtorch and says it’s nice that they’ll be able to work together amicably. Logan tells her to do her worst and not to be surprised if he doesn’t scream. Yang Yi replies that she’ll do her best. Using the claws and the blowtorch she begins to go to work on him. She asks how she looks. “Look like… somthin‘… somthin’ I’m gonna.. Kill.” he replies, weakly. She starts again and this time, Logan screams.

Watching events on a monitor are Winsor and Victor Slaughter, along with the rest of the unkillables. Vic says he’s got to get himself some of that. Winsor replies that he’s afraid he won’t get the opportunity to abuse Mr. Wolverine. He’ll be asking him to eat a small but of him, but just enough to determine how digestion affects the tissue. Slaughter replies that he means Yang Yi. That chick is hot. Winsor replies he would feign an appalled reaction, but he does see the attraction. Mortigan Goth says she’s a total Asian cougar with a serious S&M thing on the side. Suicide says she’s a three thousand year old cougar. There must be a better euphemism. For the record, he tells Slaughter and Scavenger that they are sick ####. Madcap agrees, but then gets into a pointless argument with Scavenger about his sister with each man threatening the other. Winsor interjects, trying to calm things down, and explains what he is thinking.

Lying back in his chair, he says he is thinking about a virus, a retrovirus, fast and aggressive. One that kills several key bacterium of the lower intestines causing a severe loosening of the bowels. Infected with the virus, a person would literally #### themselves to death in less than an hour… first solids, then loose stool, then blood. Self-healers like them wouldn’t die, but, it being rather more subtle than a knife wound, their systems would not recover quickly. Indeed, he continues, the person who died after a single hour might be considered luckier than the self-healer who would have to endure a day or more. A day or more of blood-####. Winsor closes his eyes. He can see it quite early now - the form of this virus and its components. He is well served by the years of isolation in his uncle’s laboratory. He reckons deep meditation and focus are skills best mastered in solitude.

Winsor adds that, with enough practice, one’s body becomes responsive to one’s thoughts. The mind can employ all the physical tools at hand. The compendium of contagion that is in his DNA is excellent source material for an educated and imaginative child with time on his hands. He digs deep within himself and finds what he’s looking for… Meyer lemon, ambergris, civet urine, paint thinner and a hint of bile duct. It’s an acquired taste, no doubt. He tells them that if he was to cough now, the virus would dislodge from the back of his throat where it has cultured. Before they could leave the room it would nestle happily on their lips or in the cilla of their nostrils. Soon, they would be searching for the bathroom cabinets for ### tampons, which they do not have.

Madcap and Scavenger step away from each other and Scavenger says he’s cool. Madcap admits he is curious about what that experience might be like but he’s gonna take a pass as he’s down to his last pair of drawers. Winsor stands up and tells them all that he has no illusions about the volatile mixture of personalities that he’s brought together, but he won’t tolerate undo friction. Something might ignite, there would be chaos and chaos is an element in which Wolverine is very much at home. He informs Scavenger that he can take over when YangYi finishes up. The rest of them can leave the room for now. Scavenger smiles. He’s been waiting for this.

Winsor wanders over to where Sikes is cowering in the corner of the room. Winsor tells him that having concocted the bug, he would hate not to see it work. Unfortunately for Sikes, he is the only one with a healing factor strong enough to recover quickly. “Gunnhunah?” replies Sikes. Madcap jokes that he loves that about Sikes - always a snappy comeback. Winsor tells Mortigan Goth that even he would find it unpleasant. Goth has no doubts he would. Blood-#####? It’s too esoteric even for him. Once outside, he hears Winsor cough up the bug and Sikes screams.

Back inside the lab, Yang Yi finishes off by telling Wolverine that she doesn’t dwell on the past, of which she has plenty. She exists in the moment, and only hopes the pearl of her existence glowed brightly enough to distract him as it passed by. Wolverine doesn’t reply as he’s almost comatose. She licks some of his blood and asks him to remember not to dwell on their time together. She asks him to relax before departing. Scavenger enters immediately and tells Wolverine that he hates him. He hates what he just went through, not just because people think he’s so cool, but because he himself has been robbed of every physical sensation. He doesn’t hate him because he’s lived so long and felt so much. He hates him because he breathes. He is warm. He has people who care about him. So, he’s gonna take all that away from him, chew it up and spit it back in his face. Logan is unable to move as Scavenger places his clawed hand over his face and proceeds to drain his life force. “It doesn’t make you happy anyway,” he growls, “So give it to me, ####.”

Scavenger is overwhelmed by the power of Wolverine’s life force, and wonders how he doesn’t love life with all that inside him. He has so much energy and sensation inside him. What a waste. Standing over Wolverine’s emaciated body, he tells him that he has all that inside him and he spends all his time moping. He doesn’t deserve life, thinks Scavenger. He asks Logan to do the universe a favor and give it to somebody who does. He places his hand on Logan’s face once again and feeds. He does this all night, eleven times in all.

(the next morning)
Winsor is with Ms. Brink. She explains that Wolverine’s recovery periods decreased with each successive absorption as Scavenger became sated. “He is never sated,” replies Winsor. Brink feels that bloated might be a better word for it. He vomited at one point. Winsor finds a surfeit of life force interesting. Brink explains that Scavenger required greater intervals to regain his appetite as Wolverine healed more quickly. “Resistance?” asks Winsor. Brink says he displayed a similar reaction to Yang Yi’s ministrations. As she employed increasingly baroque techniques, he healed at a complementary increased rate.

Winsor finds it remarkable, though it does validate Marjorie’s theory. Brink agrees. It indicates a correlation between the strength of his healing and the demands put upon it, but the testing has been far from scientific. Still, replies Winsor, her eye for detail in the written record has helped. She says it’s been difficult to glean details about his medical records, injuries sustained, time elapsed between eyewitness accounts etc, but it seemed that his self-healing was becoming far stronger over time. It’s as though his mutation was adapting to the ever-increasing strains put upon it.

Victor Slaughter emerges from the lab having digested some of Wolverine’s flesh. He hands the result to Ms. Brink as she and Winsor deduce that if Wolverine can become resistant to Scavenger’s power, he should develop resistances to anything. Marjorie doesn’t want to overstate the possibilities, but Winsor tells her that her conservative nature flatters her. As Slaughter walks off he tells them that Logan must live on tequila and jalapenos. That burned like hell!

Mortigan Goth visits Logan and offers him a drink; not that it will help a great deal, but the centuries cannot erase the manners that go with good breeding. Wolverine doesn’t respond, and Goth explains that his thirst will return. His did. Then again, he adds, he was only drained once by Scavenger. He volunteered so that Ms. Brink could get a baseline measurement from another self-healer… one who could give her a verbal account. Sikes had been useless. He recovered even quicker than Logan but couldn’t comment on the experience. He looks at a container which holds a section of the Lizard’s tail. He finds Ms. Brink very resourceful. Her research not only allowed Winsor to expand his collection of self-healing and infectious ephemera, but she also recovered relics as obscure as himself and Yang Yi. Sikes, however, is genuinely unique. From what he gathers, he once drank the only dose of an immortality serum and promptly fell into a pit of quicksand. He is quite possibly the most potent self-healer in the world and it seems, as dumb as a stump even before he went mad. Though, adds Goth, there is a vintage wanted poster that proclaims him ‘Public Enemy #1 of 1953.’

Wolverine asks him to do whatever he’s gonna do to him before he gets his #### together. Goth feels that due to being tortured by a sadist with three thousand years experience and having his life force consumed eleven times in one night, he is experiencing a high level of existential despair. It’s sourceless anxiety, he adds, always particularly alienating for individuals rooted in the physical. He hands Logan a jacket and says it helps not to be naked. Logan thanks him and takes the bottle. Goth asks him to help himself. He has cases of the stuff. Logan asks if the stuff is going to get Goth’s soul tortured. Goth says no. Ultimately, he is just passing the time. He doesn’t particularly have Logan’s wellbeing at heart. Logan tells him it’s good to know. He doesn’t want to be slowed down by regrets when he comes to rip his guts out. Goth replies that he is feeling like his old self already.

Winsor and Ms. Brink appear at the door and Winsor thanks Goth. He tells Wolverine that one thing they’ve learned about the Scavenger’s psychological effect is that victims recover more quickly in the presence of some degree of human warmth. Goth asks Logan to keep the coat. He adds that if it smells familiar, it’s because it came off the corpse of a man Logan killed several years ago back when he used to keep count. If anyone needs him, he will be in his room, drinking away his self-loathing. Winsor informs Logan that it was a guard at the Hellfire Club. They had to go back in the records and find specific mention of ‘claw-like lacerations.’ Ms. Brink looks at a book and tells Logan that such notations are fairly common now. Hundreds of autopsies mention similar wounds. They’re often redacted by S.H.I.E.L.D. but time and effort can bring just about anything to light.

Between Winsor and Brink, they add that newer corpses carrying his DNA were easy enough to track down. But, they needed an older sample for comparison. It’s amazing how much tissue gets lost in ‘super battles.’ All those explosions, flames, lasers, impacts of unearthly force. People will scoop just about anything blown off a hero or a villain. It’s the cult of celebrity at work. Winsor opens a case which has several samples inside. He explains that Wolverine is known as a ‘fan-favorite,’ though truth be told, he’s left so much of himself scattered around his prices are somewhat bargain basement. The Hulk’s toenail cost more than Logan’s entire catalog, Ms. Brink interjects. The Hellfire Club guard was a very rare find. It was one of his only kills in an extended period and an excellent place to look for his DNA.

Ms. Brink then continues to point out that it’s very rewarding that they have a sample from Weapon X. They’re easy enough to come by and there is little change in his mutation between that and a bit from his early X-Men period. However, since then there seem to have been some radical changes. His senses, speed, strength and healing factor in particular have all undergone additional mutation. Winsor thinks it’s evolution, as if, the more Wolverine has been beaten and burned, the faster he heals from the burns and beating, until, dropped from orbit naked, he survived both the heat of re-entry and terminal velocity impact. He has developed resistance and he is very interested in that.

Logan stands and tells Winsor that he’s done. He asks what Winsor did to make the kid, watching from behind the window, smell like his son. Winsor replies that records suggest he has a thing for father-son relationships. Logan asks if the records mention how he isn’t a guinea pig for bad guys to harvest x-genes from so they can cure their own damn sickness. Flip laughs and then apologizes for doing so. He tells Logan that he’s so wrong it‘s not even funny. Winsor places his hand on Logan’s shoulder and asks him what if there were a virus, very specific. An x-gene resistant virus that caused an allergic reaction?

Logan asks what if Winsor didn’t have a head. Winsor replies that he would die but, as mentioned earlier, so would a sizeable percentage of the local population. It would be better if Logan wanted to kill him that he choke him to death and seal his corpse in lead and concrete. “Thanks for the tip,” replies Logan. Winsor then mentions his allergy virus. Logan asks what virus is that. “Adamantium, of course,” he smiles. Wolverine grabs his throat and warns him that if he coughs, he dies. “Logan, truly, I’m sorry,” Winsor tells him as Wolverine’s skin rapidly bubbles and he collapses to the ground. “But I’ve been breathing in this room for several minutes now." Flip sighs. “Seriously, so wrong.”

Characters:
Wolverine

Contagion (Winsor) and his companions, Marjorie Brink, Immortalis (Mortigan Goth), Madcap, Scavenger (Robert Nicolle), Harold Sikes, Victor Slaughter, Suicide (Christopher Daniels) and Yang Yi (all Unkillables)

Flip

Notes:
In Winsor's lab, a tail section from the Lizard, a Spider-Man villain, can be seen.

Hunter's Point is an area south of San Francisco center, near to where the San Francisco 49ers play.

A Cougar is a term for an older woman who goes after younger men..

Meyer lemons are native to China but were brought to the US in the early 20th century by Frank Nicholas Meyer, from whom the name of the fruit originates. Many of these trees were destroyed in the United States when it was discovered that many of the trees that were being cloned were symtomless carriers of the Citrus tristeza virus which had killed trees all over the world.

Ambergris is a waxy substance created by a Sperm Whale.

Civet urine has nothing worse than a pungent odor. Civet faeces, however, is often used to make very expensive coffee!

Issue Summary written by: Fantomex


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