It’s now been four months since Wolverine became the latest Marvel character to fall into the embrace of the Grim Reaper. Four months in which the heroes of the Marvel Universe have had to cope without the ubiquitous clawed mutant. No longer is he a member of multiple teams, no longer is he a school headmaster, no longer can he refer to people as “Bub” or appear as a guest star in numerous titles. What a glorious four months it’s been.
Does anyone actually miss Wolverine? Most of us are probably in agreement that Hugh Jackman is a supremely enjoyable Logan on the big screen, but who would miss the version recently portrayed in comics? For the past decade, even as the character grew in popularity amongst moviegoers, the version in comics has been on a downwards spiral, leaching away piece by piece all the goodwill and interest that the character had built up since his inception. What’s to miss? For so long the Wolverine we’ve been presented through the comics has been nothing but an overexposed, hypocritical, self-righteous, apparently schizophrenic Stabby Joe. Good riddance, that’s what I say.
Admittedly I haven’t always felt this way. When I first began reading the X-Men titles in the early 90s, I liked Wolverine just fine. He was never my favourite mutant – that position was held by Cyclops – but he was an enjoyable part of the team and, like everyone else, I was intrigued by the removal of his adamantium and the reveal of his bone claws. Since then, though, his comic appearances haven’t exactly portrayed him at his best. Losing his nose, fighting far too many Ninjas, alternating between wise old man/uncontrollable savage or loner/team player seemingly depending on what day of the week it is – for me, Wolverine seems to be the perfect example that sometimes less is more.
The overexposure of Wolverine is something that’s often been joked about, but it’s striking how much Marvel relied on him in the 1990s and 2000s to sell comics. When I began reading comics it was virtually a given that Wolverine or Spider-Man would be trotted out as guest stars in the first issues of a new title or to help galvanise sales in a lower-selling one. As well as his solo title and his appearances in the main X books, he also headlined Marvel Comics Presents and appeared in a succession of limited series and Bookshelf editions. By 2006, with Joe Quesada’s stated desire of reducing the number of mutant titles long since forgotten, Wolverine was everywhere. On the roster of three different X-Men teams, a New Avenger, headlining multiple solo books, appearing as a guest star throughout the Marvel Universe – what’s interesting about this period is that his ubiquity suggests that Marvel were still under the impression that Wolverine was a proven money maker. The ever declining sales on his solo titles from that period on – which would be expected to offer the truest indication of his impact on sales – suggest that the opposite was true, and that the comic reading public were becoming increasingly fed up with his constant presence.
For me, a large part of the problem has been in the reveal of Wolverine’s past and all the stories that have spun off from this. It’s true that the mystery of his past has, in itself, led to numerous convoluted stories. How often in the 80s and 90s were we introduced to a face from Wolverine’s past and the untold story of his time as a soldier/samurai/government operative/lingerie model? However once the trigger was pulled with Origin and a clear starting point for Logan’s adventures was finally established, things became even more confusing. The most notable thing about Daniel Way’s Wolverine Origins wasn’t the fact that it promised to fill in the blanks in Wolverine’s history, it was the fact that it took this huge potential and emphatically wasted it, offering readers a convoluted, mind-numbing snooze fest that failed to hit almost every target.
One thing that I will definitely not miss about Wolverine is the way in which his staggering incompetence and constant need to “stick them with the pointy end” invariably leads to more harm than good. Look at three recent Marvel events, which all see events getting worse thanks to the furry one’s continued incompetence. In Age of Ultron he is told not to kill Hank Pym as this will make things worse. He kills Hank Pym: things get worse. In Children’s Crusade he repeatedly attempts to kill The Scarlet Witch and her teenage son, Billy, when Billy really hadn’t done anything wrong [really, the fact that they let Wolverine be around teenage girls, never mind run an entire SCHOOL, is a constant source of wonder to me.] In Avengers vs X-Men he tries to kill Hope Summers, making a bad situation worse and directly leading to the chaotic events thereafter.
The reason that Wolverine’s passing has gone relatively unremarked is twofold. Firstly, I don’t believe that there are many comic fans who view it as any more than a temporary state before his inevitable return. Secondly, his sanctimonious douchebaggery since the schism in the X titles has caused great harm to the character in the eyes of many readers. It’s possible that Wolverine’s initial conversion to the idea that children should not be combatants could be sold to the readers. Despite him arguing the reverse when Kitty Pryde first joined the team and having a long history of taking youths into battle by his side, his slaughter of his children in his solo title would have had a dramatic effect on his mindset. However, as that wasn’t even referred to in the Schism miniseries or the core X books, readers were exposed to a man who spoke about the need for nonviolence even as he prepared to blow Cyclops to smithereens. When it’s noted how much of X-fandom has taken Cyclops’ side in the schism, the attitude of many in the JGS – and Wolverine in particular – has presented them as exceedingly petty and obstinate. After all, Wolverine, it’s not like you’ve ever been mind controlled/possessed and in need of a second chance, right? Well, not more than a couple of dozen times or so.
I will admit that Logan is successful in one area, even though it’s utterly baffling given that he has enough hair to clog any plug hole and probably smells like a wet dog. He has had great success with the ladies of the Marvel Universe, enjoying liaisons with a range of characters including Dazzler, Mystique, Domino and Storm. I know, I can’t understand it either. His idea of foreplay probably involves crushing beer cans with his skull and he probably thinks that a safe word is something that’s been implanted by the Weapon X programme. Ladies of the Marvel Universe, you’re selling yourself short.
So I bid you farewell, Logan. I wish I could say it’s been fun, but it hasn’t. I wish I could say I’ll miss you, but I won’t. However I do have one request. Any chance that your four month sojourn could be extended indefinitely?