Of all the X-Men, the one people are undoubtedly most familiar with is Wolverine.
Something about the character has such universal appeal that he shows up in almost every Marvel title at some point or another, purely because he sells comics. Want to shift that Cloak and Dagger miniseries? How about: issue 2, guest-starring Wolverine!
Still, there’s a good reason for this – the character and concept have incredibly wide appeal without the setup being too patronising. Over the years, Wolverine has been placed in an incalculable number of situations. While these days he comes across as more of a corporate brand than a character, it took a lot of excellent moments to get him to that position. Here are some of the best:
3. Wolverine kills Jean Grey, New X-Men #148
Wolverine’s unrequited love for Jean Grey is well-documented – when Grant Morrison took over the title, he set about turning Jean into the Phoenix again. Trapped on the remains of Asteroid M, Jean and Wolvey were plunging into the Sun with no way of escaping. Deciding that they’re both done for, Wolverine fatally stabs Jean out of mercy, to prevent her from suffering. As a result, she almost immediately came back as the Phoenix, powerful enough to take them home across space.
Obviously killing Jean worked out this time, but it also set up his unique position of being the only person Jean trusts enough to kill her if she needs it (and, being the all-powerful and unstable Phoenix, she often does.) It’s a difficult place for him to be, given how he feels about her. Still, Wolverine has always been the kind of person who’ll do whatever it takes, and despite the pain it causes him, he’s already ready to do what has to be done… which is why he’s actually killed her a few times since as well!
2. Wolverine pops bone claws, Wolverine #75
Everyone’s familiar with the powers Wolverine has – Adamantium claws and skeleton given to him by Weapon X, and a mutant healing factor and enhanced senses. But even Wolverine wasn’t prepared for what happened when Magneto ripped the metal out of his skeleton.
After his healing factor brought him back from the brink of death, Logan had recuperated and now that he was well enough, was ready to return to active duty with the X-Men. A Danger Room training session made it look like things were going badly, until, clenching his fists, he caused razor-sharp, BONE claws to shoot from his hands. It was eventually discovered that his claws were part of his mutation, not implanted by Weapon X – but at the time, no-one was more surprised to see those claws than the readers.
1. Wolverine tears through Hellfire club guards, Uncanny X-Men #133
These days it’s virtually expected that Wolverine will rip through hundreds of disposable henchmen, but it wasn’t always like that. In the early days of his tenure, the X-Men found themselves beaten and imprisoned by the Hellfire Club. Luckily, Wolverine was still free, and rising from the sewers below the Hellfire Club’s headquarters, he single-handedly fought his way up to the place where the X-Men were captured and free them. It’s nothing unusual now, but at the time this level of brutality was virtually unprecedented for Marvel, and in addition, finally paid off years of teasing about just how badass the character really was.
So, next time Wolverine shows up to play Wise Uncle to the next neophyte superhero, remember – he’s cool for a reason.
Read James’s last Alternate Cover here.