THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE BY CHARLES SOULE, STEVE MCNIVEN, JAY LEISTEN, AND JUSTIN PONSOR
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE is a major event in Marvel's recent history. It's a stark, brutal, and yet eulogizing story that sees Wolverine's final adventure as he takes down his foes without his healing power. Writer Charles Soule sends Logan out with dignity and strength, as Wolverine shows how tough he is even in death.
93 %
Strong Passing

Wolverine posed a unique problem for Marvel in 2014. The character was one of their most legendary creations, regarded by many as the most popular X-Man. However, Wolverine had problems as a result of his popularity. His character was involved in several X-books, had gone through multiple solo and group films, and had generally been overwrought in the company’s eyes. It’s safe to say Marvel felt the character needed a rest, and began a series to give Logan just that. Thankfully, THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE proved a fitting end to Logan’s current run (he’s come back to life recently), and proved so influential, it was partially used to create the equally heralded LOGAN feature film in 2017. So what made this series so influential? Let’s take a look.

Winding Down

Killing Wolverine seems impossible at first because his healing power is legendary for saving him. How Marvel dealt with that would set the tone for the series, and thankfully they did a commendable job. Prior to the series, Marvel set the stage by infecting Logan with a microverse virus in WOLVERINE #5 (2014). This virus burned out his healing power, leaving Logan vulnerable for the first time. The opening of THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE takes this and sets the tone for the entire series in just the first page.

THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE
THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE #1 page 1. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

The page above showcases the genius of both writer Charles Soule and the art team of Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and Justin Ponsor. The artwork is incredibly stark and grimy. There’s nothing extra or creative about what we’re seeing here. It’s a bloody, battered Wolverine and nothing else. It’s familiar, but the new context gives the book a sense of bleakness that fits perfectly with its subject matter. We’re here to see the death of Wolverine. Nothing is going to distract us from that.

Soule builds on this by keeping the text to a few short captions. Logan’s thoughts are short, almost feral, and they’re perfect for the state of mind he’s in. All he registers is the environment around him and his own feelings. However, it’s the last few words that say everything. Wolverine’s claws, his trademark, are actually causing him damaging pain. It tells us how much Logan has changed, and already sets a feeling of finality for what’s going to happen as the book progresses.

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Last Rounds

DEATH OF WOLVERINE #1 continues to set up the themes of the story, as we get a deeper sense of foreboding. Reed Richards notes all the things Wolverine is now vulnerable to, even warning Logan not to use his claws for fear of infection. However, Logan continues to do what he does, though there’s a tinge of nostalgia now. He revisits a pub in Canada, with flashback panels showing it in the 40s. It reminds us of how long Logan’s been around, but feels like the last time he’ll be there.

This sense of finality gives the journey more meaning. Logan goes through Canada, Madripoor, Japan, and one last surprise visit. It feels like a trip down memory lane, like Logan is saying goodbye to each of the places that have shaped him. It shows how well Soule understands Logan’s history, and what made him who he is today. There’s no stop at the X-Mansion, but truthfully, it isn’t needed. Logan’s association with the X-Men is constantly shown. These other places have done just as much to shape the Wolverine, so they deserve one last go-around. And it’s not just old places Logan deals with but old faces.

Soule gives Logan a perfect reason to make such a journey — there’s a final bounty out on Wolverine’s head. Logan travels trying to find out the who and why, and it allows for interactions with plenty of old foes. Viper, Sabretooth, and Lady Deathstrike all return for a final altercation with Wolverine. The art team never forgets the violence that’s always been part of Wolverine, and the fights show all the blood and gore you’d expect, even without the claws. Soule never forgets his ‘pain captions’ either, so we don’t forget that this isn’t the usual Wolverine fight.

 

DEATH OF WOLVERINE
DEATH OF WOLVERINE #2 , page 14. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Saying Goodbye And Final Rest

It’s not just villains Logan deals with. He also has one last adventure with Kitty Pryde. Kitty was the first person to bring a mentoring side out of Logan, so it’s beyond obvious she should be there at the end. It adds more potency when they go to Japan and Kitty is possessed by an evil spirit. Logan says that he knows Kitty will fight her way back. And she does just that. This moment showcases Kitty with a toughness we all know blossomed because of Logan. The whole scene feels like a father seeing his daughter grow up and take his teachings to heart.

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Kitty also gives the clue that sets up the finale of THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE. The man that put the bounty on Wolverine is Abraham Cornelius, the man who placed the adamantium inside Wolverine. The symbolism of Logan’s story ending where it began is clear, but Soule adds new twists. Like Logan, Cornelius sees himself as trying to make up for past mistakes. His way of doing this, however, is creating more efficient soldiers. It shows what Logan might have been if he didn’t have the moral support to deal with his failings.

Logan manages to get the last laugh on Cornelius, who says he wants Logan for his healing power. This leads to a huge fight that allows Cornelius to start the adamantium bonding process. Logan responds by popping his claws in a final epic equaled only by the similar scene in “Old Man Logan” by Mark Millar.

THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE
DEATH OF WOLVERINE #4 page 15. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Logan saves the subjects but is coated with adamatium. He still manages to kill Cornelius, and then kneels on the room as the metal hardens. Wolverine dies, encased in the metal that has both shaped his life and ended it.

Final Thoughts on THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE

THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE is a comic that fully lives up to its title. It weaves a final redemptive journey into a gritty superhero mystery, while paying homage to the life of Wolverine. Every Marvel creator involved clearly knew the character’s history and wanted to pay homage to it one final time. All the elements that made Logan are acknowledged, and while it doesn’t touch on the more public X-Men ties, it doesn’t need to. The X-Men made Wolverine a hero. This story focuses on what made Logan a man. It’s a bloody, poignant goodbye to a beloved Marvel icon and Soule and the creative team deserve all the praise in the world for their work on it. Every Wolverine fan should have this book on their shelves, next to OLD MAN LOGAN.

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