Let’s be honest, comic book characters rarely, if ever die. Not really. They might take a short vacation from the land of the living but they always come back and the more popular the character, the sooner they return to grace the pages of the comics. It’s a purely financial reason, popular characters sell comics and therefore, the companies can’t afford to let them languish in the grave for long. Still, characters die regularly and return from the dead just as regularly and that brings us to this review.
Today, I’ll take a look at the recent 4-issue mini-series, Death of Wolverine, where one of Marvel’s most popular characters gets killed.
Well, not really. As I said, death really has no meaning in the comics and pretty much everyone knows it. It’s really just a publicity stunt, meant to momentarily boost the sales of a comic, but since we all know that death is meaningless, I have no idea why it still works. In this case, it’s a media tie in. Back in 2013, Fox released The Wolverine, in which Logan lost his healing factor. Immediately, Marvel did the same thing in the comics and this mini-series is really the culmination of that plot thread. With Wolverine no longer able to heal quickly, his rough and tumble lifestyle became mighty dangerous and even unsheathing his claws produced an influx of germs and bacteria into his system. He goes to see Reed Richards who tells him that, like all of the other scientists he’s consulted, he doesn’t know how to give him his healing factor back. He can work on it, but in the meantime, he cautions Logan to take it easy and avoid getting into fights. Sure, we believe that will happen, right? Of course, it’s not all his fault, someone takes advantage of the situation and puts a price on Logan’s head and he has to go searching, first to Madripoor and then beyond, for this mysterious person who wants Logan. This puts him into conflict with some of his most deadly enemies as they all try to cash in on Logan’s bounty and thus, leads to his death.
Unfortunately, it’s all pretty unimpressive, mostly because the modern comic reader is so bored with the whole concept of superhero death. Add in the fact that, in the past year or so that Wolverine has been without his healing factor, he’s never really acted like it’s slowed him down. He still gets into fights that would kill a normal man, he still sustains horrible injuries and he still doesn’t die… until now. Now that doesn’t mean that Logan isn’t slightly less mopey than normal, in fact, he takes a considerable amount of time considering his own mortality, something that is relatively new to the long-time comic reader. After all, when you can regrow your entire body from a single cell, dying isn’t foremost on your mind most of the time. Now, however, he’s faced with the real possibility of being seriously dead and unable to right all of the wrongs that he always thought he’d have time to go back and fix. He has a nice long discussion with Kitty Pryde about his checkered past and his desire to set the record straight, especially now that he might not have a lot of time to do so. In fact, that concept alone could have been really interesting but they didn’t spend much time on his thoughtful introspection, it was all about Wolverine dying, even though everyone knows that it means nothing at all.
Art-wise, it’s a gorgeous book. Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten and Justin Ponsor do an amazing job and there’s a long interview with Wolverine creator Len Wein at the end of the first issue that gives a lot of interesting insights into what brought Wolverine into existence. It’s just that the story isn’t anything special. It isn’t impressive. It’s clear they’re just trying to cash in by “killing” an iconic character but they aren’t serious about it. He’ll be back. In fact, his “death” is just an easy set up for his revival once his healing factor miraculously reactivates. It’ll happen. We all know it will.
That’s really what I wish wasn’t the case. I wish it wasn’t such a blatant cash grab, killing off one of their biggest cash cows. I wish it wasn’t so blatant, that death in comics hadn’t become so utterly meaningless that everyone dies and everyone comes back. Even Uncle Ben. Even Bucky. It makes stories like this have zero emotional impact and no real lasting meaning. I’m sure they’ve already scripted his return, it won’t be more than a couple of months, he has to come back, every issue that he’s gone is money out of Marvel’s pockets.
If you want a good story, this isn’t it. The art is great, the concept not so much. I don’t regret reading it, I regret that such things sell comics to people who ought to know better. That’s why they keep doing it. I wish they’d stop.