Rivalries make heroes compelling. Conflict drives stories. And while we may like the kicking and explosions, what motivates the character to fight is what makes the fight worthwhile. What creates the friction between hero and villain cannot be stopped, that’s why there hasn’t been a real heart-to-heart between Iron Man and Captain America these days. If the two just listened to one another, this whole War might just be put to bed.
But if you can count on two people not listening to one another, it’s Wolverine and Sabretooth. Let’s take a look at Wolverine #50, shall we?
After a bit of reflection on a reoccuring dream, Wolverine heads to the X-Mansion where, to take an aside for a moment, he just doesn’t seem like he belongs anymore. Personally, the more I see of him out of the X-titles, the more I wonder how he even fit in with these people in the first place. He forces his way in by ruining the front door lock, an odd move for a man who keeps at least a bed there, and heads straight for Sabretooth.
Fighting ensues, with Victor Creed taunting Logan about how he remembers everything else about his life now except for the one crucial thing that this storyline revolves around. Quick aside #2: how does Sabretooth know that Wolverine has his memories? Was there a memo? Did the X-Men tell him? Anyhow, Logan recounts the Silver Fox story as an example of how wicked and violent Sabretooth can be. The short version of this particular tale being that Logan and Silver Fox lived in love in a cabin in the woods when Sabretooth came in and murdered her on his birthday. Turns out that this whole scenario was an induced memory from Weapon X and Silver Fox was an agent for them as well as Hydra. The end of all this has Sabretooth killing her for real this time and Logan burying her where they may or may not have had a happy life together. Touching story but best left as a great example of how much of Logan’s life is split between fact and fiction.
He uses this story to illustrate how much Sabretooth is an animal and how that one moment of peace was ruined by only evil intentions. That alone should be enough for Wolverine to hate his guts, right? But with a simple turn of a Latin phrase, Sabretooth explain it much more simply. “Quod sum eris”, Sabretooth tells Wolverine amidst kicking and punching, “I am what you will be”.
And that’s it. This is why these two, no matter what background is developed between them through the course of Jeph Loeb’s run, will forever be at each other’s throats and would actually be lesser characters from the battle being over. Wolverine is a slow and controlled burning rage, used and abused to kill time after time again until he was finally able to take some modicum of control over his life and attempt to take it into his hands. The berserker rages are still there, but there’s at least some evidence of trying to reign it in sometimes; I know Jubilee and Kitty Pryde have had a couple touching moments putting the beast back in the box.
Sabretooth has no such control. In fact, one could say he revels in that very lack. The rather senseless killing of Silver Fox (whether or not it actually happened) is a prime example of how Victor Creed has no regard for ‘reining it in’ and has proven as deadly an adversary as any ‘man without fear’, to use a popular phrase. This is a man without control and as hard as Logan works at keeping his, there’s is always Sabretooth to remind him of what he could be without that thin streak of humanity. A beast that works to be a man rather than a man that willingly becomes a beast.
Quod sum eris, I am what you will be. And so they fight and will continue to do so, a never ending struggle between being human and being a monster.