Wolverine, Punisher & Ghost Rider: Official Index to the Marvel Universe #5
Note: Despite being clearly printed on the cover, “Official Index to the Marvel Universe: Wolverine, Punisher & Ghost Rider” is not the actual title of this series. The indicia reveals it reversed as above.
The Official Index to the Marvel Universe, or OITTMU, continues in its third incarnation by covering various Wolverine, Punisher, and Ghost Rider series. The first two incarnations covered Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Avengers, Thor, and Captain America. The index contains detailed synopses of individual comics, including all of the relevant data pertaining to the comic as well as a thumbnail of the cover art, 2 issues per page (roughly). Alpha Flight appears in this issue in reprinted art from the covers of Wolverine #142 and #143 (Sep and Oct 1999).Originally, the solicits for this issue indicated it would start at issue #142 for the Wolverine section of the book, but the writers only got so far as issue #133 last issue. The solicits are based on estimated page counts, so it’s typical to be off by a few issues. Since the usual arrangement is for the first indexed issue of the section to be shown on the cover in thumbnail, we would have had Alpha Flight on the cover of this issue had the estimate been accurate! Instead, the cover for Wolverine #134 (not an Alpha Flight appearance) made it to the big show. It’s the second time we were robbed of this distinction, as the same situation happened with issue #3 of this index as well.
The section on the Wolverine titles covers issues #134 through #169 with a few special issues published during that portion of the run. Alpha Flight members appear in issues #142-#145 and the Wolverine & Cable special, also known as “Guts & Glory”.
The covers for #142 and #143 feature some of the team just after Alpha Flight volume 2 ended, with Puck, Northstar, Heather (as team liaison) and one of the two James MacDonald Hudsons. At the time, there were two Macs running around; one being the original Mac who had returned at the end of volume 2 (who at this time took the codename Guardian) and the other being “Synth Mac”, his younger clone (who at this time took the codename Vindicator). Because of similarities in their costumes and the fact that neither one was costumed in those issues, we can’t tell who is who on the cover of Wolverine #142 nor #143. There is also a small flashback panel in Wolverine #145 with a similar ambiguity: an unnamed Mac is shown wearing a cowl with a red stripe but we can’t tell which Mac it is, especially since the flashback is to events in issues #142 and #143 when neither Mac was wearing a costume. The index positively identifies the Mac in that small flashback panel as Guardian but also notes the error of showing him in costume at all.
Why so confusing? For those of you who keep track of these sorts of things: as of Alpha Flight v2 #20, “Real Mac” was wearing an all-white cowl and “Synth Mac” was wearing a cowl with a red stripe down the middle. The next chronological appearance of either of them is Wolverine #142, but again, neither of them are shown in costume in that issue (except in flashback). “Synth Mac” dies in issue #143 (oh sorry, uh, spoiler alert!) and the next appearance of “Real Mac” after this arc is in Generation X #58, where he is wearing an all-white cowl. The confusion starts when we next see “Real Mac” again in Wolverine #171, where he is wearing a cowl with a red stripe, continuing to wear this through several other appearances.
The actual images printed in this index are thumbnailed so here are the insets, magnified to clearly show the red stripe on ambiguous Mac’s cowl, as well as Heather in her “Team Liaison to Department H” costume holding an awesome looking gun.
Unfortunately, the information about the issues in the index doesn’t address the mystery of ambiguous Macs on these covers; perhaps it was too subtle even for the usually insanely detailed writers of the OITTMU series. It’s not too subtle for Alpha Flight Collector to still be worrying about this 13 years later, though. My personal opinion is that “Synth Mac” is on the cover of both of those issues based on the supposition that if he were costumed at the time, he would be wearing a cowl with a red stripe.
The index also helps out with positively identifying Ghost Girl (Lilli Stephens) for the first time in a small flashback panel in Wolverine #142 showing the reorganization of the Beta Flight team after volume 2. This places Wolverine #142 as Ghost Girl’s last chronological appearance, not Alpha Flight v2 #20 as previously thought.
Two known continuity errors in Wolverine #143 are pointed out and sort of explained. The first is when Vindicator (“Synth Mac”), while not wearing his EM suit nor cybernetic helmet, blasts Weapon X (Garrison Kane), which should have been impossible. The index explains this by suggesting, “his synthoid nature may have granted him additional, previously unrevealed powers.”
The second is in the 2nd story of Wolverine #143 when Walter Langkowski tries to explain where A.I.M. could possibly have obtained Snowbird’s body to reincarnate. At the time Walter was in Snowbird’s body but he suggested they obtained the body from her grave. The index notes, “Sasquatch’s explanation here that Snowbird’s body regenerated while in its grave cannot be accurate. [Wolverine #172 (2002)] implies that the Inuit gods had a hand in resurrecting Snowbird, but the exact mechanics of her return are unexplained.”
There was a chance for these continuity errors to be resolved with the publication of this index… but if the information doesn’t exist, the writers don’t have much to give us.