Death of Wolverine (Comic Review)

2014

110 Pages

United States

Writer: Charles Soule

Artist: Steve McNiven

Inker: Jay Leisten

Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Release Date: September 3, 2013


Things come full circle for Wolverine and there's poetic justice to be had for such a prickly and misunderstood character. 

Wolverine died on Wednesday. How have you been holding up?

 

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If you've been in the comic shop this year there's a decent chance you've seen the cover(s) of Wolverine, with each issue ominously counting down to the character's death. Wolverine, the most famous of the X-Men and one of Marvel's most renowned and beloved characters, saw the beginning of his ending on Memorial Day with Death of Wolverine #1, the first of a four issue run that makes an accounting of his last living days. I picked up the first issue on that day and have been looking forward (with due respect and curiousity) to when he met his end this week.

Outside of the classic Claremont/Miller arc (Wolverine's adventures in Japan, which was made into The Wolverine film last year), I hadn't read any Wolverine comics before now. Those who had been reading the most recent Wolverine series will undoubtedly have a much better grasp on what he's been up to and who he's been calling "Bub," not to mention the emotional toll that aforementioned countdown must've had on the reader.

 

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Even with all my lack of knowledge and preparation, Issue 1 had no problem bringing me into the sunset of Logan's life. It's quickly established in a visit to Mr. Fantastic himself that Wolverine has lost his iconic healing powers. How else could this mutant die? What's more, someone's put out a price on his head leading bounty hunters and villains galore out on his tail. The recipe for an eventful and climactic finale is set forth and the reader can only guess how the death of Wolverine will be ultimately realized.

Over the four issues we get cameos, appearances and references to several Marvel celebs (and I'm sure there's several more I didn't pick up on). Viper, Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike and more show up to boost the threat list. Kitty Pryde shows up to give some emotional and possible romantic closure. The series had the right balance of not overdoing it with a parade of characters while also giving fans some recognizable and meaningful appearances each issue.

 

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I found Issues 2-3 to be especially rewarding as they are set in Madripoor (the fictional Southeast Asian city in Marvel comics) and Tokyo respectively. Logan has roots to this part of the world, as he does in Canada where we first find him in Issue 1. Claremont/Miller's Wolverine was an excellent study in the character's contrast with that of a ronin. One of many such moments of fan service is when a fight moves into a exhibit allowing Wolverine to dawn the feudal Japanese garb. So satisfying. If this was a video game I would never take that costume off.

Charles Soule is the man Marvel deemed worthy to kill off one of their poster heroes. He has a great grasp on the inner-dialogue, name the concise descriptions that come to Logan's mind thanks to his animal-like instincts. Soule had not written for the X-Men previously, but moved right in as someone who had clearly done his homework and deserved to belong. 

The series won Steve McNiven as penciler, Jay Leisten as inker and Justin Ponsor as colorist. It's pretty standard art, which for Marvel is to say quite high in quality, with the faces acting as the canvases of vast detail. The wear and tear on Logan's mug over the course of the event is the recipient of much hate from the baddies (and therefore much love from the artists). It's not meant as a complaint to say the artwork doesn't blow me away. It does its duty and service by not stealing the show but by supporting the story the entire way through. There are stand-out panels in each issue: a glimpse from the helmet of Iron Man (Issue 2), the cherry blossoms of Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens (Issue 3) and the beautifully tragic image that ends it all.

 

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I've heard some disappointed reactions to the final issue of Death of Wolverine. It's safe to say he doesn't go out in the battle of the century. In fact, what does happen is surprisingly small and intimate. Things come full circle for Wolverine and there's poetic justice to be had for such a prickly and misunderstood character. Call me old fashioned, but I thought it was a lovely form of sacrifice when you consider who and what this character is and from whence he came.

Marvel and DC superhereos have died in the past, but has there ever been so much build up beforehand and outright blatancy in naming? It's easy to dismiss the entire affair as a gimmick to sell comic books (and it certainly did push issues off the shelves), but I hope the above review proved it was a well-handled and artful endeavor. The only sourness of this whole affair is that lingering feeling of Marvel taking advantage of fan devotion to one of the legends. This was only magnified for me by an ad at the end of Issue 4 reading "Follow the repercussions of Wolverine's death in these upcoming titles from Marvel," encouraging customers to check out some nine other books, including all-new series like The Logan Legacy and Life After Logan. Damned if they do, damned if they don't. After all, an event like this should make waves. I suppose the ultimate factor will be when Wolverine comes back with an all-new series in an alternate timeline or otherwise. No rush though, there's plenty of Wolverine history in the comics to catch up on (personally speaking). Besides, Logan deserves a break. Rest in peace, Wolverine.

Did you have a chance to read Death of Wolverine? Share any of your own thoughts in the comments below. Also, feel free to recommend any other Wolverine comics while you're down there. I started reading Origins this weekend (what better way to cope with the end of a character than to go back to his beginning?) and it's remarkable. Look forward to my review of that sometime soon.