With the All-New Marvel NOW! Relaunch of Wolverine #1 hitting this week, Marvel Comics brought Paul Cornell, Ryan Stegman, editors Jeanine Schaefer and Tom Brennan, and Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso together for a conference call about the ubiquitous mutant. Of course, if you think you know Wolverine, you may not be entirely correct. SPOILERS ON for the first issue here on out, folks.
Wolverine's new status quo of no longer having a healing factor isn't his only change. The first issue sees him wearing a new armored costume, and out on a mission with what sure seem to be mercenaries... helping to break out one of Sabretooth's personal Hand ninja from captivity.
As crazy as it sounds, Wolverine has joined a small team of supervillains run by a man named the Offer. The first four issues of Wolverine will be split between showing Logan’s actions as part of the Offer’s gang and also flashback to the circumstances which led him to jump into a life of crime in the first place.
“The Offer has the small but special power to make any one the best possible offer at the best possible moment,” says Wolverine writer Paul Cornell. “The Offer is looking to parlay his small crew into something bigger, and Logan is part of his strategy.”
Cornell says that while in the beginning readers won’t be certain as to where Wolverine’s ethics lie at the beginning of this new season of Wolverine, the end of the first issue features him expressing his current state more.
Joining Cornell for this relaunched Wolverine series is artist Ryan Stegman. Stegman has openly admired the Wolverine character as a fan and a creator for years, but this series is the artist’s first chance to draw the character beyond a few covers he’s done in the past. The chance to draw Logan’s solo series and with a story so pivotal to the character was ideal, says the artist. When asked how he determined what the visual tone would be for his run on Wolverine, Stegman says it’s a back-to-basics approach.
“I wanted to kind of make Wolverine my own, or at least take him back to what he was before: a little shorter, a little uglier, so to speak,” says Stegman.” As far as the storytelling tone, for the most part I’m trying to continue to do what I do well, specifically dynamic stuff and little acting flourishes. With Paul’s script, the characters have a lot of character, so to speak, so I’m just trying to bring that out.”
Stegman does point how that he’s using less black in his pages that in previous work, due to Wolverine colorist David Curiel who is “good at adding texture and tones with the coloring.” Acclaimed inker Mark Morales is also joining Stegman for this book, whom editor Tom Brennan calls one of his favorite artists to work with at Marvel. Cornell chimes to give Stegman praise for the work turned in so far on Wolverine, both with the released first issue and the advance Cornell has seen this week of #2.
“I love how lumpy your Wolverine is, Ryan,” Cornell explains. “I should say what a huge fan of Ryan I am. He injects so much energy into the story; it’s awesome.”
Although Kris Anka designed the new costume Wolverine wears in this series, Stegman got to do a bit of character design himself in that of the Offer and his gang.
“The first time you see the gang, even before they talk you have a feel for who they are based on how Ryan has designed them,” says Brennan. “He always does a good job of giving specific characters look that lets you know who they are and what kind of person they are.”
The next subject brought up is about the mindset of Wolverine without the healing factor he’s relied on for so long and what’s happened to take him down the road of a criminal. Cornell states that Wolverine is trying to find that out just as much as the readers surely are.
“Logan is trying to find out what his rules are now,” says Cornell. “As Sabretooth pointed out in the last arc, Wolverine has always said he has a code of honor but whatever it is, he hasn’t said it. Now is when we’ll find out exactly where the line is for Logan and what his rules are.”
Cornell says this second “season” of his Wolverine run beginning with this new #1 is about “finding some understanding” about what the titular character stands for and “what sort of man he is.”
“So many times we’ve seen Wolverine savage, or loose control or be dangerous, but I’ve never seen him as emotionally cold as Paul and Ryan are crafting here,” says Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso. “We’ve seen him screaming, losing it, and coming after people, but in Wolverine #1 you see him as a cold, calm killer – and that’s chilling.”
Wolverine’s editors say that they’ve already received a bevy of fan letters about the events of this week’s first issue. As expected, the response runs the gamut from excited to angry – but angry “in a good way” says long-time Wolverine editor Jeanine Schaefer.
“We always want to evoke passionate emotions from fans, and we’ve been able to really tap into something that’s gotten people really fired up,” Schaefer states. “We’re really excited to see how people react as we go along.”
Stegman, who last year worked last year on Superior Spider-Man which engendered significant responses from fans, says that he feels a similar thread with this Wolverine story.
“When Superior Spider-Man happened, I thought the rage some fans had was going to tank the series,” Stegman admits. “But now I understand that it’s just fans who are passionate about characters and that means they’re invested in the story, which is good.”
Inside the Marvel Universe Wolverine has earned the ire of others as well, both in the regular population as well as his fellow superheroes. When Wolverine took up with the Offer’s supervillain gang, it meant essentially that he’d gone to the other side – and his former colleagues don’t take that too lightly. In Wolverine #5, which will be drawn by Gerardo Sandoval, Logan finds out what his former Avengers teammate Thor has to say.
“In Wolverine #5, we’ll see Logan going back to the superhero bar that he’s hung out with in the past; it’s the same one in which Thor paid him a visit in the last arc,” Cornell reveals. “But now, Thor doesn’t fancy sharing space with someone who’s left the fold. Thor’s reaction is a really good signifier of the life Wolverine has left behind. Thor is perhaps one of the most innately noble heroes at Marvel, while Wolverine is not.”
Alonso chimes in to state that while Thor is noble, he isn’t a dignified stoic hero all the time.
“Wolverine #5 will feature a good old-fashioned bar fight over the perceived betrayal by Wolverine to heroes,” says Alonso. “Thor wants to remind Wolverine that although he might believe what he does only affects him, but that there is a whole world of heroes he’s betrayed and let down. The worst person to show up and take you to task for letting people down is the God of Thunder.”
But if readers want to see how this darker Wolverine will act when he comes to meet other heroes, you don’t have to wait until Wolverine #5 as in the #2 will see Wolverine cross paths with Spider-Man … Superior Spider-Man, that is. Cornell says that this meeting between Superior Spider-Man and Wolverine is a reversal of the standard situation between the two heroes.
“Peter Parker used to follow Wolverine around, but now Doctor Octopus is in there and Logan is following him to ask him very specific questions,” reveals Cornell. “They have a very interesting conversation about big personality changes by superheroes. And it’s a conversation I wanted to have between those two for the longest time, and I’m really pleased we got it done.”
Of course the heroes readers will be most notably interested in learning their reaction to Logan’s choices here is his fellow X-Men. Cornell says we’ll see Logan interacting with his fellow mutants in detail in upcoming issues, and describes those relationships as a whole as “strained and distant.” Brennan says that while Wolverine is planned to be in new issues of Wolverine & the X-Men, by the end of the first arc of Wolverine readers will see how things stand in terms of his participation in the X-Men and the Jean Grey School.
“Fantomex is playing a role in the school as is Storm, and even Quentin Quire will play a more mature role,” says Brennan. “You’ll learn that Wolverine has been thinking about who is going to replace him after he’s gone. He has plans to leave that school sooner rather than later.”
Alonso says that this relaunched Wolverine series is the beginning of some “pretty big stuff” planned for the character later this year.
“I’ll just say that if fans are yelling and are angry now, they’re going to be much angrier towards the end of the year. People will be talking about Wolverine even more by the end of 2014,” says Alonso. “I don’t want to give too much away, but Paul is building two stories here and is teeing up something massive.”
When asked how Alonso first felt when the idea of stripping Wolverine’s long-held healing factor was proposed, Alonso was honest that he was against it.
“My response was very similar to the one where Dan Slott pitched Superior Spider-Man: No f-ing way,” Alonso says, bluntly. “But once I learned the direction of the stories I was all for it. The reason we did Superior Spider-Man and the reason we’re doing this is because we knew the story in totality; Dan could tell us where the story was leading and how it would pay off. This is very similar.”
Cornell states that his impetus for doing a story of this nature comes from his idea of defining a hero.
“My feeling is you can’t be a hero unless you’re under threat and doing brave things.”