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So on Wednesday the final chapter in the Death of Wolverine mini-saga was finally released and fans of the X-Men franchise’s most famous poster-boy at last got to see how the immensely popular (and equally divisive) character meets his ‘end’.
I’ve yet to read that final piece of the story; I’ve read the first three issues over the passed few weeks, but I’m putting that final moment off until I’m ready for it. Below are some of Wolverine’s greatest stories/covers. First, in the meantime, I use this post to pay (mild) tribute to the adamantium-clawed X-Man; or more accurately to come to his defense somewhat in the wake of a lot of Wolverine hate that’s been building for a long time.

The Death of Wolverine story hasn’t been anything special or mind-blowing, in fact it’s been markedly downbeat and uneventful (which is perhaps appropriate in its own way). The story itself aside, however, it’s been interesting to note not just the obvious scepticism many comic-book readers and X-Men fans have towards the ‘death event’ – understandably, of course – but the renewed expressions of dislike towards Wolverine in general.

Which isn’t something new exactly; Wolverine has always been a divisive figure within X-Men fandom, due to his over-popularity and the enormous amount of coverage he receives at the expense of other (arguably better) characters. I get that, of course; I’ve felt the same way for years. And yes, I’d rather read more of Magik or Psylocke, Archangel, Chamber or a dozen other coverage-worthy X-Men characters. But this is more a reflection of how writers choose to portion out story time and coverage and not a reflection of how good or bad Wolverine is as a character. If you remove the image from your mind of how many covers he graces or how his name gets into the titles of comics and cartoon series, etc, and just look at Wolverine as a character in basic terms, I’m not sure anyone could legitimately write him off as a ‘bad’ character by any stretch or bring into question his worthy place in the tapestry of the X-Men world.

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Wolverine was admittedly never one of my five to ten favorite X-Men characters, not even when I was getting into X-Men comics as a teen; I’ve always felt he is at his most effective as a character when he’s part of a larger dynamic and he’s playing off other characters, whereas I’ve never found him that interesting as a solo character and I rarely read his solo title unless it was necessary reading in part of a crossover (1993’s Fatal Attractions, for example). But for all that, Wolverine has never felt like anything less than absolutely essential to the dynamic, to the foundation, of the X-Men world.

And without question, Wolverine is one of the X-Men world’s best characters; he is certainly one of its most defined and idiosyncratic characters – you think of him and a dozen traits and associations come to mind immediately, the character having such a substantial individual mythology, which isn’t necessarily the case for every character. Even reading something like X-Men: Second Coming (2011), which I adored, I can’t imagine that series without Wolverine in it, even though he isn’t very important to that story.

The key to why Wolverine is so important to the X-Men world is in his connection to and dynamics with other characters; the vast tapestry of the X-Men world may thread out in two dozen different directions and encompass multitudes of characters, but there are a few key figures at the very centre of that tapestry and Wolverine is one of them.

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That’s the best thing about Wolverine for me; his presence in relationship to broader stories and to other characters such as Jean Grey, Kitty Pryde, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Jubilee, X-23, etc. Even in something like Generation Hope from a few years ago, Wolverine, though not important to that Hope Summers centered story, was the best-placed character to get through to the odd and otherwise alienated loner-type characters in the story and speak to them on their level. He is a character that often brings out the best dynamics from other characters. Something is missing from how we think of Cyclops if you remove Wolverine from that dynamic, for example; the same would hold true for several characters, even including Professor X.

I submit that the vast, rich X-Men canon of the past 20 – 30 years would feel and seem vastly different if you went back in time (DOFP style) and removed Wolverine from the equation. No matter how over-used or over-hyped he is, that is still the mark of a quality fictional character and a very important presence. That’s Wolverine.

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Memories of a Milestone Mutant: Classic WOLVERINE Moments in Time…

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From his debut in the pages of The Incredible Hulk #180 – exactly forty years ago this October – and his proper X-Men debut in 1975’s legendary and game-changing Giant-Sized X-Men #1, everyone’s favorite adamantium-clawed, spandex-clad, cigar chomping, Canadian was set on a path to becoming one of the Marvel Universe’s most popular front-line characters.

Though clearly his creators didn’t at all envision this new character joining the likes of Spiderman, Captain America and the Hulk within a decade or so as one of the company’s most famous, recognizable and marketable assets. Conceived initially by writer Len Wein and designed by John Romita Sr (though penciled by Herb Trimpe in that November ’74 Hulk debut), Wolverine made his first full appearance the following month in Incredible Hulk #181. Far from a case of ‘destined for greatness’, with hindsight its remarkable to note that Wein and Trimpe didn’t have any great ambitions for Wolverine at his point of conception. “It was just one of those secondary or tertiary characters, actually, that we were using in that particular book with no particular notion of it going anywhere,” Herb Trimpe said in 2009. “We did characters in The Incredible Hulk all the time that were in issues and that was the end of them.”

It’s also an amusing bit of historical trivia that Gil Kane, who drew the cover artwork of the legendary Giant-Sized X-Men #1 illustrated Wolverine’s mask incorrectly, but penciller Dave Cockrum liked this error so much that he made it Wolverine’s definitive look. Even more interesting than that is the fact that as the revitalized X-Men series under Chris Claremont’s stewardship moved forward, Claremont contemplated dropping Wolverine from the mix entirely, this being at a time where Nightcrawler (my personal favorite) was the much preferred character.

To mark his (temporary – I don’t care what they’re saying to the contrary) ‘death’, here is a covers representation of some of Wolverine’s greatest moments down the years…

 

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