Hugh Jackman will make his final outing as Wolverine in the newest film from the X-Men franchise, Logan, coming out March 3rd. In preparation, I will delve into Wolverine’s past and dig up 5 of his best comic storylines. (Note: I won’t be counting any of his adventures with the X-Men, just his solo titles.)
- Wolverine: Civil War
Written by Marc Guggenheim, drawn by Humberto Ramos
I know what you’re thinking. He opens this list with a tie-in comic? Hear me out. Wolverine: Civil War is set during the Marvel Comics event, Civil War, which concerned Iron Man and Captain America fighting over a disagreement in political ideology. Wolverine ultimately sides with neither, choosing instead to track down the supervillain who started the war by reducing the town of Stamford, Connecticut to ash: Nitro. What starts as a simple revenge story quickly turns into some interesting commentary on war profiteering and the pain of being immortal. The heaviness is nicely balanced out with kickass fights and witty dialogue as Wolverine slices and dices his way to his goal, caring little about the consequences or who he pisses off along the way. Plus, Wolverine puts on Iron Man armor and FIGHTS IN IT. Need I say more?
- Wolverine: Enemy of the State
Written by Mark Millar, drawn by John Romita Jr.
No real profound character study awaits you here: just Wolverine being the best there is at what he does. In this story, Wolverine is brainwashed by the villainous organizations HYDRA and The Hand, setting him on a collision course with the rest of the Marvel Universe. As the body count piles up, so does the intrigue of seeing just how Wolverine will come back from this. Beyond the obvious appeal of seeing Wolverine unleashed against your favorite heroes (from the Fantastic Four to S.H.I.E.L.D.) the story gets even more exciting when (spoiler that’s not much of a spoiler) Wolverine gets freed from the brainwashing and exacts bloody vengeance on HYDRA the only way he knows how. Thrilling action set-pieces (especially the fight against the Fantastic Four) muted and gritty art, and an intense story seal this firmly in spot #4.
- Death of Wolverine
Written by Charles Soule, drawn by Steve McNiven
Wolverine has lived a long and brutal life, and that is beautifully encapsulated in 2016’s Death of Wolverine, where a bounty has been placed on his head, and his old enemies are hunting him down. As Wolverine fights to survive this onslaught (it bears mentioning that due to a past storyline, he no longer had his ability to heal from any wound) we’re taken through a veritable road trip of Logan’s past as he confronts his own mortality. McNiven draws the story beautifully, and Soule balances the action with quiet, reflective scenes quite nicely. The ending is immensely powerful, and taking the trip down memory lane with Wolverine is as thrilling as it is emotional. My personal favorite moment (beside the ending) is Wolverine’s return to Japan, where we see a Wolverine far removed from the untouchable berserker everyone sees him as.
- Wolverine: Old Man Logan
Written by Mark Millar, drawn by Steve McNiven
Ah, the gateway drug to Wolverine. How heart-wrenching it still is. Set in an alternate future where super villains have killed all the heroes and now rule the world, Wolverine has survived this apocalyptic event and is now a pacifist farmer. However, a call to arms by a now-blind Hawkeye brings him reluctantly back into the action. The whole book has a glorious Western feel to it, encapsulated by the brutal violence and stark desert landscapes, and even the dialogue feels very Unforgiven-esque. You feel the pain of every wound and death, and this story holds back on neither. The re-imagining of many Marvel characters is what you come for, but you stay for the tale of a man who’s lost everything struggling to survive in a world that doesn’t care.
- Weapon X
Written and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith
“Nature made me a freak, man made me a weapon, and God made it last too long.” Never has there been a story that better illustrates this quote than the tragedy of Wolverine that is Weapon X. One of the key elements of Wolverine’s character is that he constantly struggles between his animalistic side and his honorable, “human” side. Telling the story of how he became the ultimate weapon we know today through the eyes of the scientists who forged him into it, and how they see him as little more than an animal that can be controlled and pointed like a gun, is a chilling and magnificent tale (the sterile lab and uncaring manner of the scientists add to the terror). The tension is sufficiently ramped up as the book goes on, and seeing Wolverine as the force of nature unleashed is a sight we don’t get to see too often. The writing is top-notch, and the art hits the right balance between realistic and traditional comic book-y. It’s an excellent read, and I would even go so far as to call it one of the top 5 comic books of all time.