“To Have and Have Not”
Whereas the previous issue’s power was in its perfectly executed clockwork plot mechanics, the joy of “To Have and Have Not” comes in watching the character dynamics unfold. Claremont has particular fun with Wolverine’s cold attitude toward Rogue. When she unknowingly sets off a trap that might kill her, Logan narrates (even as he saves her), “I’m tempted to let her take the shot ... to find out what her limits really are ... but I may need her later on.” Later, when Rogue plays at kissing Logan, which would let her absorb his power, he threatens to put his claws through her throat. She notes that she didn’t mean any harm, and his reply -- off-handedly tossed back even as he walks away -- is a terse: “That’s why you’re still breathing.” Wolverine is hard-edged throughout the story, providing proof that the layering of “Shogun”-inspired traits into his personality have not ruined Wolverine’s tough-guy core.
At the same time, the above scenes are setting the reader up for a precisely conceived narrative reversal at the climax: Rogue takes a shot intended for Mariko and is mortally wounded – Wolverine has thus learned “what [Rogue’s] limits really are” after all. Now, however, honor-bound to save her after she saved Mariko, Wolverine deliberately lets Rogue absorb his healing factor: the very thing he had threatened to kill her for. The level of reflexivity here becomes more astounding the closer it’s examined: In the opening scene of the previous issue, Wolverine’s first line of dialogue regarding Rogue was the brutal assertion that he’d like to “cut out her heart.” The cruelty of the sentiment prompted Mariko to offer a courteous welcome. That moment informs the climax of the present issue, as Rogue explicitly states that she’s willing to sacrifice herself to save Mariko -- specifically because of that initial kindness -- and Rogue’s selflessness in turn leads to the reversal in Wolverine’s attitude. The arc is a textbook example of shrewd storytelling: neat, clean and perfectly logical in conception, yet quite surprising as it actually plays out.
And in between the set-up and the execution, Claremont and Smith even make room for a dynamic four-page homage to the climax of the Frank Miller Wolverine miniseries: this time, Logan’s opponent is Mariko’s brother (in the Miller mini, it was her father), and the duplicated layout – multiple pages of four stacked horizontal tiers – creates another layer of symmetry in an issue already dense with it.
Claremont’s use of Yukio in “To Have and Have Not” is rather canny. She is a particularly contrived character, used in the Wolverine miniseries as a plot device that tempts Wolverine toward the more animalistic, less noble aspect of his character. Since Wolverine triumphs over that darker self at the end of the mini, the appearance of Yukio in issues 172 and 173 would seem redundant, so Claremont plays with expectation and instead makes her a foil to Storm. Where once Yukio tempted Logan toward a dark side of his nature, she now tempts Ororo. Logan ultimately refused what Yukio had to offer, but Storm “welcome[s] it!” That choice gives us one more instance of symmetry to bring the two-parter full circle: We opened with an image of Wolverine – the X-Men’s most psychologically unstable member – in a kimono, looking uncharacteristically civilized (as Nightcrawler explicitly notes on Page 2). We end with the shocking sight of Storm – traditionally the team’s most serenely balanced character – gone totally punk, sporting a Mohawk and dog collar. (Peter David, who was following Uncanny month to month at the time, cites the first appearance of “punk Storm” as a hugely surprising moment in the comic’s history, and characteristic of Claremont’s dynamic, “anything-can-happen” style.)
This and the previous issue make for one of Claremont’s best small-scale stories in the entire Uncanny X-Men canon, memorable enough that Bryan Singer even cannibalized it – specifically lifting the “Wolverine lets Rogue take his powers” dramatic beat – for the first X-Men film, made over 15 years later.