So the stage is set and his fate is written in the stars, so to speak.
As X-Men readers await the last breaths of one of the X-Men world’s most permanently popular icons, the plot thickens in the highly anticipated Death of Wolverine 4-part send-off.
The opening two issues of The Death of Wolverine are a fairly good read, a promising ‘beginning of the end’, as it were.
There are some moments of comic-book silliness in DoW #2, such as Viper managing to slip away untouched and ‘off-page’ or the usual silly thing of having multiple dramatic ‘reveals’ in the same comic (in this case Sabertooth, then Deathstrike, and then Kitty Pryde).
But broadly speaking Charles Soule’s writing and Ian McNiven’s art combine effectively to draw the reader in to the situation and into Logan’s grim and deteriorating world, especially in that first issue.
I admittedly approached this situation with some degree of scepticism; but the basic set-up of Wolverine being without his legendary healing factor and now being an open target for every thug and grudge-bearer all over the world is a pretty cool premise to begin with.
We may have become jaded about Wolverine some time ago, but even now there’s something great about that image of the shore of the island he’s hiding on in DoW #1 being littered with the bodies of dead ninja Hand assassins, AIM agents and all the other miscellaneous bad guys who’ve come to (unsuccessfully) collect the bounty on him.
That one image sums up the enduring appeal of Wolverine rather nicely.
I actually think Wolverine being without his healing factor is, thematically speaking, even more interesting than him being without his adamantium (as in Magneto and Fatal Attractions some 20 years ago), though I understand some fans disagree about that.
On some level I also think someone like me reads something like this sort of expecting or waiting for the great iconic or memorable moment to appear; the sort of moment that embeds itself into the mind like the oft-mentioned Magneto assault of Fatal Attractions – sorry to keep referencing it, but it made an impression on my then young mind – or that highly memorable moment in the subsequent Wolverine #75 (where Logan pushes out his non-adamantium claws for the first time in all its bloody, horrific agony).
But then I realise I was thirteen or so back then and probably easier to make an impression on, that being a highly impressionable age of formative influences; it’s too easy to say that classic thing about how comics were ‘much better’ twenty or thirty years ago and had so many more memorable moments or stories, but it might not be true necessarily – there were some awful ideas and stories back then too.
And thirteen year-olds reading something like The Death of Wolverine now may find themselves as blown away by it as someone my age was by something like Fatal Attractions or Mutant Massacre.
We’re older now; we tend not to get blown away in the same way. Which is a shame; I sometimes wish I could read new stuff through the lens of my thirteen year-old self again.
At any rate, that big moment hasn’t arrived yet; what we see so far is a mixture of scene setting, careful plot building and chess-piece moving. There’s a palpable mood of resignation to Wolverine here that’s quite compelling; he seems almost to be resigned to his impending doom already, which adds a suitably grim feel to the story as it unfolds.
This is not a man expecting to survive; not a man expecting good things out of life anymore, but merely going through the motions and waiting for that Damoclean sword to drop. “A bit player,” Magneto once said (while tearing the adamantium from Logan’s body), “in a tragedy far greater than any of us; a tragedy called life.”
That final page of Dow #1, with Viper and her special, shackled friend is a great reveal, whetting the appetite; though it doesn’t pan out as expected in Death of Wolverine #2 where Sabertooth, we learn, is only to play a small part in this storyline; Creed and Deathstrike are both likely eliminated as candidates for delivering the killing blow when that moment comes.
So the intrigue builds; however, the appearance of Kitty at the end of #2, despite being done in a silly way, helps maintain the interest level, as does the indication of Mystique’s possible involvement yet to be revealed.
Meanwhile, having Logan go to Reed Richards in the Baxter Building for help reminded me of one of the more famous – and more impactful – deaths in the Marvel canon; that of Captain Marvell way back in the day. It’s highly unlikely The Death of Wolverine will attain the same mythic status of Jim Starlin’s Death of Captain Marvel, but now that I’ve got that connection in my head I’m instinctively wondering if at the end of this 4-issue send-off we’ll be seeing Wolvie in a bed somewhere surrounded by half the Marvel Universe.
An aside; I like having Richards casually mention “we’re not that close” in regard to his and Logan’s relationship, as this simple sort of realism with inter-character dynamics is always much better than having two people with very little to do with each other suddenly seem like great friends in a time of crisis. Richards informs Logan that the radiation he was exposed to in Nagasaki (a cool reference to Frank Miller’s old Wolverine mini series) may well lead to cancer.
Richards advises Logan to keep a low profile and quit his swashbuckling ways for a while; which of course is like telling Tony Stark to become a Luddite.
On that issue, I’m hoping that Wolverine gets a proper battle-death and doesn’t die, Captain Marvell or Illyana Rasputin style, of illness.
The reason being that I find it ethically questionable to have a character die of something like cancer and then not stay dead, for the simple reason that it’s a very sensitive real-life subject that effects a lot of people, almost certainly including a lot of young readers who will have lost – or will yet lose – people in their own lives to that illness. And the idea of killing off a character via that sort of route and then reversing it somewhere down the line seems like it’d be making light of the subject. The Death of Captain Marvel is exempt from that because it counted in the long-term and wasn’t just a short-term tactic.
The way this story is going, however, it’s likely Logan will fall in combat, at any rate.
Anyhow we shall read on and wait to see what befalls the expiring hero in the next fortnight. It will undoubtedly continue to garner an enormous amount of coverage, reaction and debate. I just hope it’s a fitting finale; as jaded as I’ve tended to be about Wolverine for a long time, I have enough love and respect for the character to want him to be handled fittingly.
Also, fan-boy request: we have Kitty on board already, but I hope Jubilee also gets given a moment in this primary 4-part story, as it would be more than appropriate to the historical character dynamics.
The Death of Wolverine concludes imminently; there are of course other tie-ins and spin-offs going on too and more set for the remainder of the year, but how necessary it will be read absolutely everything is, as ever, questionable.