Before we get to the nitty gritty of The Death of Wolverine, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Even if Wolverine dies in this mini-series, which I would imagine he will given the title and all, he will be back. Not maybe, not “who knows, possibly someday?” – he’ll be back, and probably within a year of his dying. Just like Spider-Man, Captain America, Batman, Superman, and everyone else. It’s merely time for Wolverine to be dead for an extended period. It’s a superheroic right of passage, and it’s just Logan’s turn now.
Complaining about superhero deaths not being permanent is like complaining about that part in the murder mystery story where the killer is revealed or the part in the romantic comedy where the couple ends up happily ever after. Superheroes dying and then returning is a trope of superhero mythology and heroic mythology in general. No, Superman’s death didn’t render death meaningless in comics, regardless of what anyone says. It’s been a comic book trope for decades well before that. So, before we continue on, let’s not make a big stink over the idea that Wolverine is eventually coming back. That fact has no bearing on whether or not this issue, or even this whole series, is good or not. Just needed to get that out of the way.
As the issue opens, Wolverine’s healing factor has been missing for a while now, leaving him with his metal claws and skeleton, but not much else. Wolverine visits Reed Richards in the Baxter Building, the last of the super geniuses that he has yet to see regarding his condition. (I don’t know about you, but I’d probably see Reed Richards before I see Hank Pym or Tony Stark, but that’s just me.) Reed doesn’t have good news for him; the radiation he was exposed to in Nagasaki (a callback to the Frank Miller Wolverine mini-series, and the most recent The Wolverine movie) will likely give him cancer, or possibly an infection will take his life from bacteria that enters his wounds every time he pops his claws now. Reed is fairly convinced that Wolverine’s mutation can be restored, but he needs to lay low and quit superheroing in the meantime. But laying low and staying out of trouble are not in Logan’s nature. Besides…in the hundred plus years he’s been around, Logan has made many, many enemies. Once word gets around that he’s vulnerable, he knows they’re going to come for him.
Logan then goes into one of the seemingly hundreds of seedy dive bars out there where everybody knows his name, and basically lets the bar keep know that if anyone comes lookin’ for him…he leaves them a map telling them exactly where to find him. (It appears to be a small island off of British Columbia somewhere, for the record.) When former Weapon Plus test subject Nuke, he of the metal skeleton and the American Flag tat on his face, comes looking for Wolverine to collect the sizable bounty on his head, he finds that a lot of people have tried to come at him first…and failed miserably. The shore of the island is littered with the bodies of dead ninja Hand assassins, AIM agents, and other random bad guys hoping to take out a powerless Wolverine. Logan might be without his healing, but 150 years of getting into brawls have taught him how to fight, and fight well. It’s during the fight with Nuke that Logan learns who has been actually behind the giant bounty on his head and been sending all these goons for hire, but I’m not going to spoil that surprise for you. If you’re a longtime Wolverine fan though, the answer is pretty much a no-brainer.
I’m not the biggest Wolverine fan outside of his exploits with the X-Men. I tend to find that his character works best when bouncing off other people, but writer Charles Soule has a way of making me like just about anyone, or enjoy reading situations I would otherwise hate (like the Superman and Wonder Woman romance, a concept that I still hate on principle, but man, do I enjoy how Soule writes their dynamic in the pages of Superman/Wonder Woman). I love the way Charles Soule writes Logan here as well – not as a man who is giving up on life, but one who is well aware that he’s long outlived his expiration date, and is just ready to accept whatever fate throws at him. But that still doesn’t mean he’s not going to go without putting up some kind of fight. It’s just what he does.
Even better than the writing in this instance is the art (and that’s tough for me to say, as I’m a big Charles Soule fan) but this is maybe penciller Steve McNiven’s best interior work since maybe Civil War, or at least since the Old Man Logan series. I’ve always loved McNiven’s pencils, but in my opinion, his most recent work in Uncanny Avengers was not up to his usual standards. This is, and the opening pages alone, of an exhausted Wolverine falling apart after a battle for his life, is some of my favorite work of his in years. So bravo, Mr. McNiven.
Issue #1 of The Death of Wolverine has provided for an interesting start to this story, but I could also see how it could get tiresome very fast, or how it could overstay its welcome (four issues is a bit long for a story like this after all, one that so far is mostly fight scenes, although cool ones.) But for a first issue, I have to say that the combo of Soule and McNiven pulled me in, and I’m at least on board for the first half of this story. I only hope it all doesn’t lost steam before all is said and done.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Burritos