Happy Canada Day Folks! Hope you’re having a good one. In honor of this great day for our nation, I thought it would be best to revisit the list of greatest stories of the best there is at what he does, Wolverine! I know the guy’s been dead for a year, but he’s kind of back with the appearance of Old Man Logan during these Secret Wars shenanigans. And hey, the old man is sticking around after Secret Wars with his very own ongoing series by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. Hey, isn’t Jeff Lemire Canadian? Double-score! What follows are 7 of the best Wolverine stories in his varied history. Some are classic tales. Others, hidden gems. All are MUST reading for any fan of Wolverine out there. So take a look, dear readers. You might just learn something.
Wolverine (Wolverine Vol. #1-4 – 1982)
Creative Team: Chris Claremont (writer), Frank Miller (artist)
The first ever solo story for the ol’ canucklehead, this miniseries showed off the true star power that awaited Logan in the coming years. Branching out from the pages of Uncanny X-Men, we find Wolverine making his way to Japan to confront Mariko Yashida, the woman he loves who has fallen out of contact with him. When he arrives, he finds her betrothed to a Japanese businessman. This has been arranged by her father, Lord Shingen. After failing to defeat Shingen in combat and being utterly humiliated in front of Mariko, Logan gives up at first.
Over the course of the rest of the series, Wolverine must confront who he truly is: a savage or a samurai, a man of honor or an animal? At the end of this introspective journey, he’s able to confront his problems head on and fight for his soul mate. Of course, the bodies pile up along the way as he must fight hand ninjas, samurai and Shingen once again. Not only is this a concise and engaging story with some great character development for Logan, but also some of both Claremont and Miller’s best work. This is back when Chris was firing on all cylinders during his red hot run on X-Men. Miller’s art gave the story a strong resonance and weighty presence with his dark and mysterious style. Also, the attention to detail when it came to Wolverine’s facial expressions are impeccable. You can actual feel Logan’s heart break when Mariko calls him an animal at the beginning of the story.
This story was the main basis for the 2013 film, The Wolverine, and while it didn’t really stick to the story, it conveyed emotional resonance of this story.
24 Hours (Wolverine Vol. 2 #10 – 1988)
Creative Team: Chris Claremont (writer), John Buscema (artist), Bill Sienkiewicz (cover artist)
If you’re looking for an arch enemy, look no further than Victor Creed, aka Sabretooth. Over the years, Sabretooth has been an ever-present thorn in Wolverine’s side. For the most part, there really aren’t a great deal of memorable match-ups between these two former Department H rejects. Over-exposure and rehashing of story beats have really put a damper on this rivalry. This was not the case back in the late eighties. The feud was fresh and new. Only meeting a couple of times previously in the pages of Uncanny X-Men, this issue marks the first time within Wolverine’s own series that he clashes with Creed. And it’s the first time they ever meet…kind of.
Told through a series of flashbacks, Logan recounts the first time he fights Sabretooth after the death of his then girlfriend, Silver Fox. As this story takes place in the past, things are just as busy in the present as Wolverine saves a couple of private detectives from their demise at the hands of drunken sailors as well as takes care of a couple of bruisers that he fought in a bar. The final moments of the tale not only touch on the timelessness of Wolverine and Sabretooth’s endless struggle but also the strange bond these two men share. “Nobody kills you but ME”, is a sentiment that Creed holds dearly in his heart. It’s not only the best depiction of these characters’ blood feud but also their bro-mance.
Weapon X (Marvel Comics Presents #72-84 – 1991)
Creative Team: Barry Windsor-Smith (writer/artist)
The first major revelation in Logan’s back story was how he became the adamantium-laced warrior that we all know and love. Running through the Marvel Comics Presents Anthology series, Barry Windsor-Smith revealed just how a soldier was turned into a savage weapon. The story begins with Logan’s capture and takes us through the many months where the program’s professor along with his assistants, Dr. Cornelius and Miss, break Logan down, stripping him of his memories in an attempt to turn him into a mindless killing machine (also lacing his skeleton with adamantium).
This was the first Wolverine story to delve into the science fiction realm. It’s dark and gritty but also clinical and sterile. Wolverine was never presented like this before and really opened the door to a vast amount of story opportunities. The downside of this story was that in the fallout, a lot of Logan’s memories were written off as “memory implants” placed during the Weapon X experiment. Wolverine went from being a man with a mysterious past to a man with a confusing one. Regardless, this story stands as one of the darker and more interesting takes on a Wolverine story. And the fight with the bear is pretty awesome.
Blood Debt (Wolverine Vol. 2 #150-153 – 2001)
Creative Team: Steve Skroce (writer/artist)
Logan heads back to Japan for this story and what starts as a personal visit turns into business as usual. When the life of Amiko, Wolverine’s adopted daughter, is put in danger, Logan finds himself dragged into the middle of a blood feud to protect her. A story of honor and betrayal (is there any other kind when dealing with Wolverine and Japan?), Blood Debt takes from Asian action films to bring a story that has a hyper-reality element and really showcases how well a character like Logan fits into a crime comic. The art and writing by Skroce is spot on and it’s a shame that he did not have a longer run with the character as he nailed Wolverine’s internal struggle perfectly.
If Marvel was in the habit of making direct-to-DVD cartoon features ala DC, I would strongly suggest this one as a prime candidate. What’s also cool about this story is that it illustrates that while he might have a handle on saving the day, Wolverine is not very good at being there emotionally for someone. You’ll race through this story but wish it would never end.
The Brotherhood (Wolverine Vol. 3 #1-6 – 2004)
Creative Team: Greg Rucka (writer), Darick Robertson (artist)
Wolverine vs. a Cult. That’s the easiest way to describe it. The story kicked off a new series for the Canucklehead and was Rucka’s first crack at the character. After the young woman who lived next door to him is murdered, Wolverine tracks the killers and unearths a secret organization that’s up to no good. While the first issue is a bit odd in it’s storytelling choices (the girl continually refers to Wolverine as “Mean Man” in her diary), by the end of this tale, we see that Logan is experiencing a crisis of faith. He might be the best there is at what he does, but “does he want to keep doing it?” is the question.
With some great visuals by Darick Robertson, this story set the stage for some great introspective storytelling throughout Rucka’s run.
Enemy of the State (Wolverine Vol. 3 #20-32)
Creative Team: Mark Millar (writer), John Romita Jr. (artist)
What if the best of the best was turned against you as a weapon of evil? This is a common theme in a lot of stories involving Wolverine but none do it better than this superhero epic. After years of stories that took Logan away from the world of heroes and villains, Millar and Romita Jr. drop him right in the middle of the Marvel Universe with a story that includes Hand ninjas, Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D. and a wackload of Earth’s Mightiest. When Wolverine is killed and resurrected by The Hand, he opens the door for Hydra to gain all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets.
What follows is a whale of a tale involving a fall from grace and a shot at redemption. With great supporting appearances by Elektra, Northstar and more, this story really shows off the importance of this hairy, Canadian hero in the Marvel U. Add to it that it’s one of Romita Jr.’s best works and you’ve got a stamp of instant classic almost immediately. Miller and JR Jr. would go on to create Kick-Ass together and over time the awesomeness of this initial collaboration has been overshadowed. But it still stands as one of the best moments in the career of the world’s favourite X-Man.
Old Man Logan (Wolverine Vol. 3 #66-72, Giant Sized Wolverine: Old Man Logan)
Creative Team: Mark Millar (writer), Steve McNiven (artist)
Speaking of Mark Millar, the awesome doesn’t stop with Enemy of the State. Millar would return to the character, this time with Steve McNiven on art, to tell a dystopian future tale where it’s like Marvel meets Mad Max. The U.S. has been taken over by super-villains. The bad guys won….and Logan actually had a hand in their victory. So now he’s a pacifist. He’s also a working joe who’s got make ends meet to pay off his landlords. He lives in “Hulkland” and it’s a shitty existence. But to make his rent for the month, he accepts a job helping Hawkeye (who’s now blind but as rambunctious as ever) to get to the other side of the country and deliver a special package.
Run-ins with Super-villains, betrayal by “heroes” and a showdown with the Hulks waiting for him at home all contribute to one of the more interesting future stories in the life of this not-so-merry mutant. The story is unpredictable, switching gears from dark and gritty to hilarious on a dime and does so with ease. Hawkeye steals the show for most of the book but Logan also has some fantastic moments, dealing with his greatest mistake and looking for redemption once again. With this tale, Millar cemented himself as one of the quintessential Wolverine writers. He’s one of the best there is at what he does and what he does is write Wolverine!
Fitting that we end off on the Old Man Logan story. What wonders does Jeff Lemire have in store for us this fall? Time will tell. In the meantime, you can always go back and check out these awesome tales. Check ’em out and have a happy Canada Day!
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!