Does Marvel Comics Still Need Wolverine?

Wolverine has been making appearances around the Marvel Universe for more than six months since he [...]

The Return of Wolverine - Cover
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

Wolverine has been making appearances around the Marvel Universe for more than six months since he was officially resurrected in the pages of Marvel Legacy #1. However, everything up until this point has been teasing. He has only been seen in a handful of pages and has yet to reappear on any team, much less his own title. That all changes this week with the launch of The Hunt for Wolverine #1. This one-shot will launch four additional mini-series, all of them aimed at exploring how Wolverine was returned from the dead and reintegrating him back into the mainstream of Marvel Comics.

Logan managed to stay dead longer than many expected. It has been almost four years since his death was made official in Death of Wolverine #4, and there have been ample opportunities for him to return before now, most notably in the aftermath of Secret Wars. For most top-tier superheroes at Marvel or DC it is difficult to remain dead for a full year, making this almost seem impressive. That longevity doesn't address the real interesting question about this return though: Should Wolverine come back?

It's obvious that sales will be expected on his return considering how it has become an event unto itself, but dollars don't inherently make a good idea. That's why we're looking back at the life, death, and return of Wolverine to see whether this resurrection is really necessary.

The Return of Wolverine - First Appearance
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

The Long History of Logan

Wolverine didn't begin as a popular superhero. His first appearance in The Incredible Hulk #181, where he was created by Len Wein, Roy Thomas, and John Romita Sr., featured him as a secondary antagonist at best. It wasn't until Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975 that the character really clicked, playing up the attitude and violence to become many readers favorite member of the team. Momentum only built from there, first in mini-series like Wolverine and Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, until finally launching an ongoing series in 1988.

Since 1988, there has always been a series at Marvel Comics with Wolverine's name featured on it. Oftentimes there would be multiple miniseries, focusing on his origin or special battles, running alongside at least one ongoing series. That doesn't take into account the diverse array of teams Wolverine was regularly featured on, including the X-Men, X-Force, and Avengers. The character's popularity and publication schedule grew to a level in the '90s and '00s that fans would joke about Wolverine spending all of his time running between teams. When he was killed in 2014, it resembled a well-earned vacation as much as a tragic final victory.

The Return of Wolverine - Old Woman Laura
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

The World Without Wolverine

Just because Wolverine was dead didn't mean that his presence would be felt any less. The weekly series Wolverines followed his death, featuring the allies and villains most closely tied to the character working together to uncover a conspiracy. Until the events of Secret Wars interrupted the entire publishing line, most X-Men titles dealt with his disappearance and eventually revealed death on a monthly basis. He was gone, but certainly not forgotten. Marvel Comics was also sure to provide two significant substitutes for readers.

Following Secret Wars Old Man Logan, a future version of the character from a dystopian era ruled by villains, was brought to the mainstream Marvel universe and given his own series. He has acted as a substitute in series where writers want to include Wolverine. While his additional age and past are referenced, he has been almost indistinguishable from the original version in series like Astonishing X-Men. If anything, Old Man Logan is the Splenda to Logan's sugar.

The more notable replacement is Laura Kinney, who stepped into the costume and role of Wolverine for the X-Men, most prominently featured in All-New Wolverine. She has distinguished herself far better than Old Man Logan, bringing a unique personality, set of goals, and approach to the role. Laura still functions as a deadly protector for mutantkind, but her youth and other differences from the original Wolverine has made her stand out. Her past traumas have led to a focus on doing the least harm, emphasizing the protector portion of her role much more than the deadly bit. Along the way Laura has also accumulated her own supporting cast and pseudo-family. All of this has made All-New Wolverine one of the consistently best titles at Marvel Comics following the original Wolverine's death.

The Return of Wolverine - The Hunt for Wolverine
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

The Need for a Return?

Looking at the past several years of Marvel Comics, it's clear that the world can keep spinning without Wolverine. Teams like the Avengers and X-Men have managed to keep selling copies while making use of other tough-but-lovable outsiders to fill any gaps that Wolverine might have left. Even looking at a series like Astonishing X-Men, characters like Mystique and Fantomex fit the role just as well, even without Old Man Logan adding to the mix. The "Hunt for Wolverine" story will provide a summer X-event, but Wolverine again isn't necessary to find an excuse for that to happen; he just happens to be the excuse this summer. That means the real question as to whether Wolverine needs to return is about the character himself. Do we need or want more Wolverine stories?

The character's return is taking place in four miniseries, each with their own focus. They have each been defined by their tone, broken down as noir, adventure, horror, and romance. All of the miniseries are touching on well-trod ground within the Wolverine mythos. Looking at the extensive number of ongoing solo series, team books, and almost innumerable miniseries Wolverine has received in the past several decades, it's almost impossible to imagine truly new terrain for the character.

That contrasts with the work currently being done in All-New Wolverine. Even as Laura is brought into the future in an homage to "Old Man Logan", it's obvious just how different her character's spin on that concept is. The name Wolverine has elevated her to a more prominent role in Marvel Comics and provided a healthy run so far. Each story, even those that bear comparison to Logan's, has offered something wholly original from any prior series with Wolverine in the title. The simple truth is that Laura has given the mantle new life after decades of stretching the original Wolverine as far as possible in every direction. Future creators may prove this point wrong, but it appears that Wolverine still fits best with retirement, while his successors have a lot more to offer. Perhaps Marvel Comics is still bringing back Wolverine far too early.