Saturday, May 1, 2010

Claws and Effect

The Obliviscence of James Howlett (inspired by the character of Wolverine from Marvel’s X-Men comics and films) – Antique Canadian explosives crate; faux bone claws; pair of vintage forceps; glass test tube; black rubber stopper; chrome paint; bone specimen microscope slide in plastic case; vintage 1940’s O’Keefe’s Canadian beer bottle cap; genuine Canadian army World War I uniform button; Canadian military dog tag and chain; Cuban robusto cigar butt; rusted tacks; tree branches; pine branches; pine cones; black walnut shell; theatrical snow; theatrical blood; ice-blue LED light; altered art pieces—Canadian army World War I discharge paper, Canadian World War I dental exam paper, Wolverine car advertisement, Second Boer War newspaper article, Canadian World War I recruitment poster, Canadian World War II recruitment poster, maple farm photograph, Xavier Institute for Higher Learning logo sheet, Alkali Lake postcard, slashed manila folder, adamantium beta label, pair of X-rays, cage fight poster, “Lone Wolf” cigar label, Canadian Bohemian Beer label, 1910 Canadian Logging postage stamp, 1926 National Geographic cover, J.B. Laliberte Fur Establishment label, “Lucky Dog” hockey stick label, Valtine Meat Globules advertisement, Adams-Powell Timber Company advertisement

James Howlett.

Weapon X.

Wolverine.

Logan.

No matter the name, he is the most mysterious and singular of the already mysterious and singular faction of avengers known as the X-Men, a cadre of mutants who live among us, fighting with us, for us and against us for their right to share our planet. Such mutants were believed to be only the stuff of comic books, of blockbuster science-fiction movies, of supermarket tabloids—those “people” who could read thoughts, move objects with their minds, control the weather, walk through walls, incinerate or freeze matter with a mere touch—but truth always teaches us that fact is indeed often stranger than fiction.

The perpetual evolution of nature created mutants; all species have their fair share, so why shouldn’t humans, and nature created James Howlett, a man with enhanced senses, a man of extreme strength and stealth, a man who could heal from almost any injury in a matter of minutes, if not seconds, resisting illness, defying time, perhaps even immortal; but it was humans who made him a living killing machine, the ultimate military weapon. Recruiting him, changing him, bonding to his fragile skeleton a metal so dense as to be virtually indestructible—adamantium. A living creature capable of standing in the front lines, ready to be shot, bayoneted, gassed, burnt, or poisoned, only to rise again, phoenix-like from his own ashes.

But Mother Nature had a further trick up her sleeve for James Howlett.

She gave him claws; a half-dozen, three imbedded in each hand, hidden beneath a scabbard of flesh, ready to emerge, catlike from between his knuckles. Those claws were first like those of any animal, keratin, nerves and blood vessels, but humans did Mother Nature one better; they removed his biological claws and replaced them with blades, cast from the same metal sheathing his bones, gleaming, unbreakable, razor-sharp—lethal.

But a man has a conscience; a man has memories, feels pity, remorse, kindness, and love. Such things as emotions had no place in the supreme soldier, so they took his mind, they took everything that made him who he was, creating in the man’s place, a rabid animal hell-bent on destruction—thus his code name, Wolverine. But the rabid animal escaped into the wild, a desperate part of it fighting its way back from the brink of madness, reclaiming its humanity—a daily battle against the beast within.

The old adage says that some people have a mind like a steel trap; James Howlett’s skull was literally that, but what it held was nothing more than fragments, shattered pieces of a life probably never to be remembered. An eternal enigma as much to himself as to others—the others who took him in—the X-Men, who know him only by his self-christened name, Logan, and with whom he found friends, a family, a reason to continue living; the supreme soldier now on the front lines for good, overcoming the evil of which he had been shaped to be a part.

Finding evidence of such a unique individual would be daunting—the place to start, the ruins of an abandoned military base at Alkali Lake in Canada, the site of his physical and mental transformation.

Shifting through the wreckage of a spot not officially listed on any map, presented here is what was found—a smoked and well-chewed cigar stub, “Lone Wolf” brand judging from the label nearby, and an old beer bottle cap, show his long-ago presence. Further digging finds medical equipment—rusted forceps; a microscope slide with a specimen of bone; a test tube almost filled with a viscous silver liquid, marked as “Adamantium beta”; bloodied file folders stamped “Classified,” containing x-rays of a test subject identified simply as Weapon X; a World War I discharge certificate of one “James Howlett,” along with a dental chart from 1914—his life goes back further than one imagined. Here is a Canadian army uniform button from the same battle, there is a torn newspaper clipping on the African Boer War and a World War II recruitment poster—how much fighting has he seen? A dog tag on a chain, bearing his bestial moniker and his ID number; but only one—Canadian dog tags come in pairs, when a fallen comrade is found, one tag stays with the corpse, the other brought back for identification—so, was Howlett thought—or hoped—to be dead once?

Deeper searches find, oddly enough, flotsam and jetsam of his later life—the cover of an old National Geographic, the main story the conquest of Canada’s tallest peak, Mount Logan—surely the name’s not a coincidence; an old postage stamp honoring Canadian loggers (employment in-between wars?); a label from a store in the fur trade; a tattered flyer announcing a cage fight between two animalistic opponents—Wolverine vs. Sabretooth; a sheet of stationery paper bearing the logo of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, located in Salem Center, NY, home it is rumored to those very same X-Men. And, almost comically, a forgotten ginger ale soda bottle from the Wolverine Bottling Works.

Then, the paramount of finds—a trio of claws, those real claws, amputated so long ago, preserved by the cold, by the ice and snow…

All displayed within an antique Canadian munitions/explosives crate.

Proof?

Such conclusions are made by the viewer’s observation alone.