Deaths in comics are a common trope. At this point, most of us who read them don’t take them too seriously because sooner or later, the character finds a way back to the living (I mean, how many times has Jean Grey died only to come back). Then you have characters like Wolverine, who are near immortal and unkillable. So how does one go about orchestrating their death?
I’m going to get this out of the way: Wolverine is one of my top, favorite superheroes. So of course, when Marvel announced the death of Wolverine, I was both shocked and upset by it (fanboy problems). How can they kill off my favorite guy? Doesn’t the money I give to them to read comics with Wolverine, no matter how bad they are, warrant his survival? Of course, rationally I know they don’t care about that. By the same logic, I know that Wolverine is a money-maker, so he won’t stay dead for long. I do secretly hope that they can go back and try to establish his clone/daughter Laura (X-23) as a prominent female character with the characteristics of Wolverine during his time away. Of course, the question still remains… how do you kill the unkillable?
If you haven’t seen the movie “The Wolverine” with Hugh Jackman (my admission is that I’ve never watched it and still refuse to watch it; fanboy problems again), there was a plot point where he loses his healing factor. It was a plot point I didn’t like, and of course, it made its way into the comics. Wolverine no longer has his healing factor, which of course makes so many things wrong with that picture. His bones are made of Adamantium, he still pops his claws, and he still fights like always. He was given a suit to help protect him, but that only goes so far. If there is one thing Wolverine knows, it is that he has made a lot of enemies. Once word gets out that he can no longer heal, plenty of people will come after him.
So in this four part series, Issue 1 began that way. In order to keep innocents safe, Wolverine takes off to a secluded island, and there he’s made quite the mess. He finally comes to the conclusion, if someone has a bounty on his head and he’s going to die, why wait for them? He decides to go on the offensive. Through four issues, Wolverine is making his way through some dangerous parts of the world looking for the person who put a bounty on his head. He finds out it was Dr. Cornelius, the Weapons X Dr. who bonded Wolverine’s bones with Adamantium. Already worn down, Wolverine finds the doctor’s lab and makes his way inside. He discovers people undergoing experiments like he went through. He knows what is going on. Dr. Cornelius is trying to create the perfect weapons who, unlike Wolverine, would be able to be controlled. He views Wolverine as nothing more than an animal that knows one thing and one thing only, to fight to the death. To Dr. Cornelius, Wolverine is nothing but a killer and unworthy to wear bright colors and be a hero. There is only one thing the doctor needs to finish his creations, Wolverine’s healing factor. With that, his legacy can now be forged as not the guy who made a killer unkillable, but who saved the world. Of course, he has been so busy in his work that he failed to find out that Wolverine can no longer heal. He has one of his “super soldiers” fight Wolverine, only to find out that it doesn’t matter how perfect a fighter one is, experience in combat and smarts always win out. In a last ditch effort, Dr. Cornelius starts the Adamantium bonding process and takes off. Wolverine has no choice but to break the glass holding the liquid Adamantium. The hot liquid falls on him, and he musters the strength to inject the patients with a regeneration formula, catch Cornelius and put an end to him. With the sun setting, and a last heroic act, Wolverine is no more.
Was this one of the best “death” issues ever written? No. I think the best one remains the death of Nightcrawler (who is back of course). However, it was a fitting death for Wolverine. He’s the best at what he does, and he died being the best at it. No, it’s not that he’s the best killer, it’s that despite being an “animal” his heart is the biggest amongst the heroes. He could’ve saved himself and viewed others as already lost, but he didn’t. Dr. Cornelius, before he met his doom, told Wolverine that all he was trying to do was save the world. He asks Wolverine, “What have you done?” Well, he fought in wars, he became an X-Man, he became an Avenger, he loved, he started a school, and he became a father and was a father figure to many. In other words, he actually did a lot more than just kill. Wolverine is one of the most popular X-Men without originally being made for them.
What I love about the character is that through all the darkness he was dealt, his heart stood out the most. Beyond the rough exterior, he was a big softie. If you read the tie-in issue Wolverine & the X-Men # 10, his friends’ and students’ reaction to his death is heartfelt and warming. The task is, how do we let the world know who Wolverine really was? Reason being, he’s a perfect example of not letting his past define his present or future. He realized that although he was forced to be an animal, he could find a way out. No matter how many bad cards he was dealt, he overcame it. Wolverine is a dangerous killer, but that is not what defined him. Just like we are all sinners, but we don’t have to let it define us. We can look up at the impossible mountain to climb, and turn around and let it defeat us, or we can do as the Psalmist does “…I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth…”
Wolverine, to me, is a perfect example of turning tragedy into hope. He’s also a perfect example of unconditional love. He always had a big heart, and he had no quarrels with sharing it. X-23 could not be a hero had Wolverine not become a father figure to her. Jubilee could not have gone through all she went through without Wolverine. The students at the school could not survive as mutants, had it not been for Wolverine. His best friend Nightcrawler said (Nightcrawler #7) it best in this statement, and his prayer:
“The Wolverine touched so many souls. He made mistakes and tried his best to set them right. He fought for his friends and tried his best to make their world a better place. He never gave up, and never backed down. He would go to the wall for those he cared about. He would even forgive you if you couldn’t match those standards. All he demanded in the end, was that you try.”
“…When you build a house for the dead, you must remember not to bury the living there as well…”
“If you brought me back to life for no other reason Lord, I pray it is to prove myself equal to that challenge. Logan deserves no less. He was my friend”