About ten years ago, Marvel had a habit of releasing “The End” comics, where writers who had some kind of stake in the characters would write their final adventures. It gave us the depressing last stories of Hulk and the Punisher, the uplifting story of the Fantastic Four, the less-said-the-better story of the X-Men, and…Wolverine. Paul Jenkins and Claudio Castellini’s Wolverine: The End was a mess that overloaded Logan’s last hurrah with half-baked mysteries that would never be answered, nor referenced ever again. They decided that Logan’s lack of closure is what defined him, even in a 6-issue miniseries that was, by design, meant to give his character closure.
I’m glad to see that Charles Soule and Steve McNiven are able to get their own shot at this. By the first issue of Death of Wolverine, we understand that the character isn’t defined by his search for answers, but by his nature as a man who fights. Logan is a guy who has had tons of tragic backstory and mental trauma thrown at him to offset how awesome his powers are. In a vacuum, having his powers means having to put up with quick-healing knuckle pain in return for bones that will never break, being able to win virtually any fight, the ability to cut through anything, and an excessively long lifespan bordering on immortality.
The guy is a street-level Superman. No wonder he always gets into scraps. Unless he’s up against a heavy-hitter, the man’s outright unbeatable.
Only now he doesn’t have all those tools. He’s recently lost his healing factor and while he still has the strength, claws, skeleton, and senses, he’s actually in a much worse place. He used to be a man who could withstand several rounds of gunshots, but as Reed Richards points out, he’s more vulnerable than your average person. Not only is he prone to radiation-based illness, but if he gets any kind of brain injury, there’s no way to get through his skull to treat it. Reed could conceivably fix him up and reactivate the healing factor, but that means Wolverine needs to lay low and not get into adventures for a while, which is simply against his nature. People need stabbing!
Logan will fight, even without his eternal safety net, which is what makes this story interesting. When not describing the smells of his environment, the constant narration is mostly one-word boxes that point out his body parts as if to explain the insane pain and damage he’s experiencing without his mutant magic putting him back together immediately. It certainly makes him come off as more of a badass, mainly in the issue’s major action sequence.
McNiven is a perfect choice for this story, building on his work on Old Man Logan, another “final adventure” take on the character. I’ve admired McNiven’s depiction of Wolverine, always piling on the scruffiness and visceral dirtiness that comes with Logan being Logan. Especially with the lack of healing, the dirtiness is increased for the sake of showing how his current status has moved away from the classic, clean superhero design into something ever-so-gritty and in desperate need of several showers.
The villain of the issue is Nuke, the Daredevil villain and member of Weapon Plus. McNiven’s redesign is interesting, especially when you read Soule’s description as a “past-his-prime wrestler” in the backmatter of the book, but it’s hurt by the annoying miscommunication between writers and editors. Not only did Nuke recently show up in Rick Remender’s Captain America with a completely different MO (insane, well-meaning, gullible, patriotic soldier compared to the pro-America, mercenary jerk in Death of Wolverine), but he’s been excessively killed. Not the, “he got better,” kind. There’s enough of a grace period between the stories that this problem should have come up because at the end of the day, Nuke isn’t really anything more than an interchangeable first-level boss here and could have been replaced with nearly anyone.
As a first issue, it works well enough and I have enough faith that Soule can deliver in the end. We’ve yet to really get an idea of what makes this final adventure so much more special than the others outside of Wolverine’s death, but the weekly release of the miniseries certainly helps. If Wolverine refuses to slow down, it’s fitting that the series refuses to rest several weeks to a month.