The Many Deaths of WOLVERINE

Credit: Marvel Comics

On Wednesday, October 22 of 2014, the comics character Wolverine died. Unlike some deaths, Marvel didn’t treat it as a surprise – but rather the culmination of a widely publicized parade of books from a countdown in his ongoing series to the culmination in a four-part series, aptly titled Death of Wolverine. Death is a revolving door in the superhero world, but for Wolverine with his over-active healing factor and his bloody tenacity, it’s build up to mean something major. With a tenacity only matched by his healing factor, Wolverine was thought to be unkillable by some fans, and by some writers; remember, he survived an atomic bomb in 2013’s The Wolverine movie. But this isn’t the first time Marvel’s most popular mutant has died; Logan has died 20 times in comic books, both in alternate realities and Marvel’s home universe dubbed the "616." In fact, if you read comics closely there’s a strong argument that the classic Wolverine died months before Death of Wolverine without anyone noticing.

Art from Death of Wolverine #4 by Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, Justin Ponsor
Art from Death of Wolverine #4 by Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, Justin Ponsor
Credit: Marvel Comics

If you’ve been a fan of Wolverine for some time, you’ll realize that when Marvel tells alternate reality stories he doesn’t do so well. It seems while Wolverine would be missed (as would sales) in the course of Marvel’s primary universe, killing Wolverine in a sideline timeline is an easy way to up the stakes and add drama to the story. But in the litany of deaths Wolverine has had, it’s grown increasingly harder for him to die. In earlier stories Wolverine might be felled by a laser from a Sentinel or a fiery demise, but as time went on Logan’s last breaths would only happen from higher and higher stakes.

So here and now, Newsarama will look back at some of Wolverine’s most memorable deaths, from What If? Realities to stark futures, and find that more times than not the person holding the smoking gun in the death of Wolverine is Wolverine himself – some by accident, but some on purpose.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Days Of Future Past

It’s one of Wolverine and Marvel Comics’ most iconic images of death, all rendered expertly by John Byrne and Terry Austin. Chris Claremont’s story in Uncanny X-Men of a future where mutants had been hunted to near-extinction was a riveting tale that influenced the X-Men and the superhero genre as a whole ever since, and a major facet of its impact was because of an elder Wolverine being mutilated by the energy blast from a Sentinel.

Interestingly enough, a similar visual fate occurs for Wolverine in the sequel “Days of Future Present” in Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley’s New Warriors run, but this time the blast coming from the Egyptian god Horus.

Credit: Marvel Comics

The First “Death of Wolverine”

As we’ve said, Death of Wolverine isn’t the first time Marvel has killed the Canadian hero – and it’s not the first time Marvel’s published a book called “Death of Wolverine.” Back in 2008, “The Death of Wolverine” arc ran through the Wolverine title and authors Marc Guggenheim and Howard Chaykin, and in it Wolverine is killed by Shogun and goes into the afterlife and makes a deal with the angel of death to get a second chance at life – with a little help from Doctor Strange.

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Dead By His Own Hand

Way back in 1982, the alt-reality cavalcade series What If asked the question “What if Wolverine had killed the Hulk?” and found out that the mutant’s bloody trail would end up at his own doorstep. In this story by Rich Margopoulous and bob Budiansky, Wolverine’s debut against the Hulk sees him kill the Green Goliath, starting him down a dark road that led him to join Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and become a double agent inside the X-Men. Ultimately however, Wolverine’s animal magnetism towards Jean Grey leads him to turn against Magneto – an action which leads the master of magnetism to turn Wolverine’s metal-laced claws against him in an off-screen stabbing. Wolverine’s lived through multiple stabbings, but in this case one (or three, if you count his claws) does it – he truly is the best there is at what he does.

Credit: Marvel Comics

How To Build A Better Deathtrap

Fred Hembeck sang to a different tune than other denizens of Marvel’s creative compliment, and in 1989’s Fred Hembeck Destroys The Marvel Universe he reveals the best way to kill Wolverine is by combining two of the things he kills the most: ninjas and sentinels.

Credit: Marvel Comics

His Skeleton Will Go On

Superman has shown weakness against magic, and in What If #6 back in 1989 that same proves true for Wolverine – especially a demon-powered Wolverine. In this forgotten classic by Danny Fingeroth and Ron Lim, the “Inferno” crossover ended up with S’ym and Masdelyne Pryor winning and killing all the X-Men save Wolverine, whom they make a subservient demonic pet. He follows orders until he impales Kitty Pryde, whose demise shakes him back to his heroic self only to by killed by a fiery magical spell from Baron Mordo which kills him to the bone. The climax sees Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton re-animated with the spirit of someone else, but Wolverine is long gone by that time.

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No More Mutant Anti-Hero

Scarlet Witch is a divisive figure among her fellow mutants with the whole “No More Mutants” thing, but back in an alt-reality version of “Atlantis Attacks” she kills off what in many ways is the face of mutantkind: Wolverine.

In 1991, Jim Valetino and Rik Levins What If #29 posits a world where Set won the “Atlantis Attacks” crossover and proceeds to kill a superhero on every page of the book. Scarlet Witch, who was mind-controlled into becoming a bride of Set, turns Wolverine’s entire body – down to the molecule – into antimatter.

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Are Friends Electric?     

If anyone knows how to kill a superhero, it’s Garth Ennis. And in 1995’s Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe, he puts Frank Castle on a murderous spree which not even Wolverine can avoid. After nuking the X-Men on the Moon (you have to read this story), the Punisher tracks down Wolverine to Japan and ends up killing the seemingly unkillable mutant by simply throwing him into high voltage wiring. While not as awe-inspiring as other deaths, Doug Braithwaite’s panels here make this for an amazing death scene.

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Exile On Main Street

Wolverine never fares well in alternate realities, and in a book like Exiles that’s all there is. That being said, it’s the death (and the build-up) in Tony Bedard and Paul Pelletier’s Exiles #86 which ranks up there. In this story, the Exiles become an all-star team of alt-reality Wolverines  to fight off a version of Wolverine that merged with Magneto and a host of other mutants. So Wolverines die – lots of them. By one account, 17 Wolverines die in total in just one issue.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Ultimate End

What better way to make a point than to kill a bunch of characters? That’s seemingly the thought behind 2009’s Ultimatum event from Marvel’s Ultimate line. Over 30 characters die over the course of Jeph Loeb and David Finch’s universe-redefining story, and Wolverine’s death – with one last hurrah – is a major moment in that story. Finch excels at depicting this type of granular, gritty death – in some ways giving him the death scene some fans were disappointed not to see in this year’s Death of Wolverine.

Credit: Marvel Comics

The Trouble With Time Travel

To stop Ultron in the comics event Age of Ultron, Wolverine comes up with a plan to murder his creator: founding Avenger Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man. But after doing that he finds the world even worse shape without Pym’s continued role in it, and goes for a second jaunt to stop himself from doing the original act. To do that, this future Wolverine kills himself at an earlier age – very early on, in comics history – before he would have killed Pym. This new Wolverine then takes that role, with the timelines merging in some respects to leave a Wolverine in the 616 still alive – but perhaps, even if forgotten – not the Wolverine that the 616 started with.

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