As Marvel has made very clear over the last several months, Wolverine is most definitely not dead, and you have to read through multiple events and tie-ins to figure out exactly how the comic giant's most over-utilized character is going to return to the greater X-Men universe. All of those various tie-ins and post-credits teases have been leading to this week's debut of Return of Wolverine, where all mysteries will be solved and all questions will be answered. Except, neither one of those things actually happened.
It's the first issue of the Return series, so I understand that it was never meant to put a bow on everything right away. But there is still one major, glaring question mark with this series that has yet to be answered, and this issue does little to even hint at a reasonable conclusion.
Why? What is the purpose in bringing Wolverine back, and why is seemingly every Marvel series involved in the comeback? There is so much pomp and circumstance, with little evidence that any of it is actually necessary. Don't get me wrong, this book is mostly well-written, and McNiven's art is some of his best in recent years, but it's hard to understand what the effort is actually for.
Understand, my goal here is not to diminish the work of any creator. I don't want to come out and say, "This comic doesn't matter because no one asked for it. No one wants this." That's not at all where I'm coming from. The work that McNiven, Charles Soule, Jay Leisten, Laura Martin, and so many others put in to make this comic has my utmost respect. As creators, they've more than earned it, and it's not the place of any critic to say that that work is invalid. I very much appreciate what they've done.
What I'm trying to explore here, is why this comic, and this entire Wolverine event, exists from a story perspective. Wolverine's death had meaning, it had an impact. However, in the four years since the Death of Wolverine, the entire Marvel Universe has moved on. Laura stepped into the Wolverine role and did it better than Logan could have ever dreamed of, at least in his own solo series, Cable took over the X-Force, the entire X-Men team sort of moved on, and Old Man Logan took over the role of "character that unnecessarily appears in basically every Marvel book being published," so all of the bases were covered. Wolverine was dead and gone, with absolutely no loose ends to tie up. There were no lingering questions about his past, no relationships that needed hard closure, nothing.
There was no Wolverine, and none of the characters needed him to return. He doesn't need to come back. Unless, of course, the overall story of the universe reveals a reason for him to do so. Herein lies my problem with Return of Wolverine.
Through all of the Hunt for Wolverine limited series, Marvel built a grand mystery surrounding the disappearance of Logan, and they all lead to Return of Wolverine. Now, Return of Wolverine is actually here, and it does nothing to add to the tale. It simply just exists, if for no other reason than to get fans to buy more comic books. Which, if we're being honest, seems like the entire purpose behind Wolverine at this point. He exists quite purely for economic reasons. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it doesn't help write good comics.
There will certainly be a point to this series by the time it's said and done, I'm sure, but this first issue doesn't do anything to convince me that it will be worth the money or time spent on this event. Soule puts together a pretty fun script, full of surprisingly introspective dialogue, and McNiven delivers a bloody work of art that will certainly be talked about. But all of this hard work seems to have been in vain, and that's a damn shame.
Published by Marvel Comics
On September 19, 2018
Written by Charles Soule
Penciled by Steve McNiven
Inked by Jay Leisten
Colored by Laura Martin
Lettered by VC's Joe Sabino