Welcome To The Ex-Men, Wolverine: The Unlikely Death Of Marvel’s Most Unkillable Character
Wolverine, he dead. Almost. Soon. Soon. In a shock headline-grab, the folks at Marvel have announced that the big hand and the little hand have ticked all the way back around to “kill off a major character” o’clock, and the name they picked out of the hat this time was “James Howlett”. And after asking around the office someone confirmed that they’re pretty sure that’s Wolverine. No, not Magneto. Not Rogue. 94% sure that’s Wolverine.
So we come here today at ComicsAlliance not to praise Wolverine, but to promote his comic. But please note that this article contains spoilers for the forthcoming Marvel series Death of Wolverine, and the spoiler is that they kill Wolverine. Wolverine dies, you guys. No more Wolverine.
Just kidding. There will be more Wolverine. A bunch more. Yes, you knew that already, but that’s because you’re paying attention. Never forget that there were people writing keening obituaries and anguished message board posts about the death of Peter Parker when Dan Slott launched Superior Spider-Man. People really thought Peter Parker was dead. People actually sent Slott death threats. Yes, they were so angry that they mistook Dan Slott for a woman.
Guys, don’t worry. Wolverine is not really dead. Firstly because he was never really alive, but secondly and more importantly because even if everyone at Marvel and everyone working for Marvel have all decided all at once, “Screw it, this character is done, there are no more stories to tell about him and we’ve drained every cent we can out of him and he’s probably not going to show up in any more movies or cartoons or over-articulated action figures, so he’s gone, he’s dunzo, we’re 100% finished with this dude”, some freelancer or editor could walk in the door tomorrow and say, “Hey guys, I have a great new idea for a Wolverine story and I think it can sell more copies than a book about Charles Xavier’s kid with the shaving brush hair”.
So, don’t fret. Wolverine will be back. Death in comics is not death, it’s a dramatic pause.Ixnay on the editorial-length Facebook post about how the people who publish all these comics starring your Marvel characters are the worst possible caretakers of the beautiful untrampled platonic ideal of Marvel that exists in your head.
Here’s what we know about the death of Wolverine. First, Marvel has already milked it for months with a story about Wolverine losing his life-saving healing factor. In a clever feint, Marvel paid as little lip-service as possible to this change in the status quo in all the other books, leading us to almost think they weren’t going to kill Wolverine.
Marvel will now milk the death some more in the storyline “Three Months To Die”, before actually getting around to killing Wolverine in Death of Wolverine, by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven, published weekly in September.
Yes, Wolverine will still be around through May, June, July, August and most of September, so you can be sure he’ll have at least fifty more appearances before he dies, and he may drop down to only five or six monthly appearances once he’s dead.
How will Wolverine die? Well, we don’t know. Sabretooth and Mystique certainly have designs on the little dude, but they already took their shot in the story that finished off Wolverine. (The comic. Volume five.) Using them again would seem to lack the necessary scale, and with Wolverine currently playing the role of villain it would be more dramatically satisfying if someone like Kitty Pryde did the deed. Then again, maybe he’ll just be crushed by a falling block of ice from an airplane toilet. He doesn’t have a healing factor now; a slip in the shower can take him out. Anything can happen in the Marvel Universe, and when anything happens in the Marvel Universe, Wolverine always shows up.
Whatever the cause of death, I think we can all agree that Wolverine had a good run. Created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein and John Romita Sr. in the pages of The Incredible Hulk in 1974, Wolvie first appeared as a Canadian government agent dispatched to deal with Hulk’s intrusion into Canada. His first reinvention occurred in his second full appearance, where he ditched the lofty offices of Ottawa for a gig at the newly international Xavier School for Angsty Randoms.
Ol’ Santa Claws has since been churning through reinventions faster than he gets through gloves. Look, he’s a ninja! He’s a school teacher! He’s a secret agent! He’s a clown! He’s a spaceman! He’s an Avenger! He’s a dog! Wolverine is the Barbie of superheroes; a job and a costume for every occasion. Grab the limited edition Pretty-in-Pimp Madripoor Wolverine with Removable Eye Patch before they fly off the shelves! (And stab you in the face.)
In the early days, Wolverine was thought to be about sixty years old, making him old enough to have served in the Second World War. That made sense in the ’70s. Marvel’s sliding timeline managed to add another ten, twenty, thirty, forty years to his age, but somehow Wolverine’s timeline slid in both directions. He’s now so old that the country he was born in almost wasn’t Canada yet.
Wolverine’s long life and the mysteries of his origin contributed to the air of cool that made the character popular. This in turn led to the character’s overexposure, which made him exhaustingly over-familiar. So there’s not much left to do with the character but kill him, especially as it’s clearly his turn to have a big iconic event death.
Not that Wolverine hasn’t died a few times before. He’s even visited both Heaven and Hell. But this time is different because this time it’s the title of a book. That is something you can get actual newspapers to mention on their websites. Those guys still haven’t twigged that superhero comics pull this stuff all the time!
The real story here is that Wolverine’s death might clear out some space in Marvel comics for characters who aren’t Wolverine, and that is good news. So, expect to see a lot of X-23 in the coming year.
Bye Wolverine. Bye. So long and thanks for all the snikts.
Oh, and welcome to the ex-men. We know you’ll survive the experience.
All artwork by Steve McNiven