Len Kaminski is one of those little-known big-two comic-book writers that just kind of boggle the mind. Not that his work is particularly good or bad, but how his career could be so devoid of memory in the popular consciousness. Comics, as an industry, is one of those mediums that loves to elevate mediocre writers to the height of super-stardom, so to actually be an unknown once you work for Marvel or DC (or in this case, both) is actually a feat unto itself. At yet, we have Len Kaminski, whose Goodreads profile is about as sparse as one can make it. His pen mostly lends to things like “The Essential Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe” and some runs of third-tier titles like War Machine, along with some back-up runs on bigger titles like JLA. Basically it seems like if you need someone to fill in or fill a page count in an Annual, Len Kaminski is your guy. He kind-of seems like the Brett Ratner of comic books, in that respect.
“The Enemy Within,” a solo Wolverine short story, fits into the latter category of ‘filling in pages in an Annual,’ with the Annual in-question being Uncanny X-Men #15. It’s a fairly simple story with dynamic art, the main drive of which is a dream sequence in which Wolverine is stalked and eventually killed by his clawed adamantium skeleton. Within the dream, the “Logan” persona is represented as animalistic: simple, pushed to the point of being dangerous, but ultimately innocent. It’s the metal that’s the predator, stalking his prey as a living weapon. Thus we get what are, in his mind, the two competing forces of his personality fighting against one another. The “death” at the end is represented by the two merging together right before Wolverine wakes up, implying that they have merged together to form Wolverine himself. Which makes sense. Taking that to its logical conclusion, the dream (and the story) is about Wolverine struggling to reject the weaponized, machinized part of his nature, yet failing to do so. It is that unique blend of Logan (the innocent) and the metal (the weapon) that make him ‘the Wolverine.’ The closing narration as Wolverine meditates, unable to sleep, says as much, but not in a way that beats the reader over the head. It’s done very, very well.
In fiction, dreams are a very intimate doorway into a character’s psyche. A reader is free to explore their fears and foibles free of the logical constraints of the ‘real life’ of the story. This makes it easier to showcase motivation, anxieties, and troubles that the character might not otherwise have shown the fellow characters or the reader. In 5 pages, Kaminski does more for Wolverine’s character than some entire years worth of stories do in his own books. It shows his conflict as a very personal one, devoid of the fisticuffs that tends to dominate his life. These are all very good things.
There are no complaints with this story, save for the fact that it isn’t collected anywhere. It’s just buried in the back pages of the Uncanny X-Men #15 Annual. This is the type of short story that, had they been features in Marvel Comics Presents, that title might still be published. Not serialized insanity: short, complete, well-written tales. Given the subject matter, this story would have fit well with Fatal Attractions as it (intentionally or not) alludes to it. Especially the end of the dream, where Logan and the Skeleton are merging. It so closely mirrors the image of the skeleton being ripped out. There’s also a certain irony, as this is one of the last stories to operate under the assumption that the claws were a result of the bonding process and that he would be “more of a man” without them, when in fact he becomes more feral as a result of losing the metal.
I can’t say enough good about this story. I wouldn’t be able to write something this meaningful in just five-pages. I would consider it impossible. And yet, here it is, as plain as day.