Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Steve McNiven
Release Date: September 3, 2014
So this. Yuck to this. Yuck times a krillion to this.
You know, there’s nothing inherently wrong with crossovers or stunts designed to boost sales and garner media attention. Marvel wants to make lots of money? That’s good. I also want Marvel to make lots of money. They’re turning Thor into a woman? Great! That’s a fresh but not unprecedented twist, and shows the company realizes female characters shouldn’t always be mere second bananas or love interests or impossible red asses. Captain America and Cyclops suddenly hate each other, even though they’ve probably stood shoulder-to-shoulder saving the world together dozens of times? Fine, so long as we get Uncanny Avengers out of the debris. Kill off Peter Parker from Earth-1610? Outstanding! Offing the Ultimate Universe’s Spidey leads to Miles Morales donning the tights. It actually means something. So what does killing the most popular mutant in the 4-part miniseries Death of Wolverine mean if we all know that, not only is Marvel already concocting some ludicrousness to resurrect him, but the Disney-owned company would be financially irresponsible to leave such a venerable brand unexpressed. This is scarcity marketing for intellectual properties.
The premise makes you wonder if Kitty Pryde or Jubilee won’t start Wolverine’s eulogy with, “Look, this seems totally sad, but when one of our friends dies, something absurd happens and they’re back to life good as new within a couple of years…more often than not. Maybe we don’t really need to get bent out of shape about this? No offense, Doug, but if even Cypher turned out to be essentially death-proof, then, well…..”
One legitimate criticism of Wolverine has traditionally been that it’s hard to worry about a guy who’s almost never in any real danger. But that’s not the case anymore! Wolverine is apparently pretty screwed! Thanks to some esoterica about a virus from the Microverse, Wolverine is now as vulnerable as a normal human — a normal human who doesn’t instantly die of blood poisoning when every inch of his or her skeleton is coated in metal. Yes. As if to mollify those of us inclined to complain about medical plausibility in comics, Reed Richards shows up a few pages into Death of Wolverine #1 to inform our hero that a nasty head bump would be enough to snuff him out at this point; also, he’s going to get leukemia. Despite Richards’ sage advice against running around mauling people, the rest of the inaugural issue of this series depicts Wolverine mucking about a small British Columbian town to lay impressive whoopin’s on A.I.M. lackeys, ninjas and Nuke, the pill-popping bounty hunter who’s coincidentally come back from the dead twice.
I don’t want to give the impression that writer Charles Soule and penciller Steve McNiven do a bad job. In fact, if their assignment wasn’t perpetuating an abused storytelling device and if the ending of this mini-series wasn’t spoiled in the title, I would’ve walked away from Death of Wolverine #1 saying, “Gee, that was a neat Wolverine comic,” and probably would’ve given it a good review. Is it unfair to trash the concept of a book when there’s nothing inherently wrong with its artistic execution? Probably! At least it’s not as lame as killing off Wolverine.