The Best There Is At What He's Done1 of 12Wolverine is one of the most recognizable and beloved of all of Marvel’s characters. Since his debut in Incredible Hulk #180, he’s become a focal point for not only the X-Men books but the Marvel Universe at large in part due to the fact that he’s virtually unkillable and that well, “samurai Dirty Harry with giant knives coming out of his hands” is a cool concept in any reality.
With Logan set to hit theaters this week for Ol’ Canucklehead’s first R-rated movie outing, Newsarama decided to look back on the best Wolverine stories of all time.
Enemy of the State2 of 12When talking about big, bombastic storytelling in comic books, Mark Millar is the name that almost immediately springs to mind and while "Old Man Logan" might get more acclaim, "Enemy of the State" is one of Millar’s best 616 stories.
It’s essentially a revived, brainwashed Logan under the control of demon ninja cult, The Hand, versus the entirety of the Marvel Universe. Practically every Marvel hero shows up to stop Logan and Ol’ Canucklehead cements his status as one of the most dangerous men in the Marvel Universe. This is relentless action told at a breakneck pace thanks to stellar art and fight choreography on John Romita Jr. This might not be a particularly cerebral Wolverine story but it’s incredibly fun. It’s a popcorn movie portrayed through comic books. Now if only the movies would follow suit.
Wolverine v1 #103 of 12Wolverine and Sabretooth. Chris Claremont and John Buscema. This is a classic story through and through, pitting Wolverine against his tried and true archnemesis.
Sabretooth is one of Logan’s most compelling villains and this is the issue that really sets the stage for their relationship. Sabretooth’s relentless hunt for Wolverine every year on his birthday underlines the animalistic savagery that Logan struggles to keep at bay. On some level, Victor Creed represents the worst of what Logan could become - a man takes sadistic pleasure in killing. He’s the antithesis of Wolverine’s samurai way and he’s one of the few characters who might actually be better than Logan at what he does best.
This dichotomy has been revisited over and over again throughout the years but nowhere is it done better than in this one-and-done story.
Fatal Attractions4 of 12"Fatal Attractions" was kind of created by accident with Peter David admitting that he tossed out the concept of Magneto removing Wolverine’s adamantium as a joke. But if there was any time to tell this story, the 90s were it.
It’s excessive and over-the-top but it’s uniquely a Wolverine story. He’s a character who can be put through a lot of abuse because of his healing factor and that leaves a lot of room for deep explorations of trauma and survival. Plus the image of Magneto pulling the metal through his pores became one of the most memorable in this history. The arc introduced some new ideas, namely that Wolverine’s claws are actually bone underneath, adding another wrinkle to Logan’s mutation that hadn’t been previously known.
Origin5 of 12This might be the worst story on this list but it’s importance to the history of the character is undeniable. With the film rights to Wolverine already in Fox’s hands, Marvel was in a position where they had the opportunity to tell this story or risk having it told on screen first.
Paul Jenkins tries his best to deliver something worthy of a character that had already captured the hearts and minds of many readers while maintaining some of the shroud of mystery that surrounded him. A sprawling, tragic tale, Origin might only dilute the character the same way that seeing a young Anakin Skywalker kind of takes the teeth out of Darth Vader a little bit.
Wolverine’s stops being as effortlessly cool after this story but it does have it’s fans. The importance of this story can’t be denied and it did leave some things left to the imagination although, Kieron Gillen’s ill-received Origin II brought further complications to Logan’s history.
Vicious Circle6 of 12Spoiler alert: we aren’t going to include Wolverine’s debut on this list and that’s because there’s a much better version of two seemingly unkillable characters going toe-to-toe - Incredible Hulk #340, “Vicious Circle.”
From the iconic cover to the early artwork of Todd McFarlane, there’s a lot to love in this issue - a knockdown, drag out slugfest between two of Marvel’s heaviest hitters. When you’ve got two characters who are virtually indestructible, there’s a lot more room for big action and fun fight choreography. Back in Incredible Hulk #180 & #181, Wolverine wasn’t nearly the force that he was to become so revisiting this match-up is a fun way to reference the past and underscore just how far Logan has come.
Kitty Pryde & Wolverine7 of 12Aside from Wolverine’s legacy of brutality and violence, he’s always had a softer side. One of the aspects of his personality that has endeared him to fans over the years is his penchant for taking younger characters (usually teenage girls) under his wing as a mentor.
Kitty Pryde & Wolverine marks something of a beginning of that trope for the character. Chris Claremont’s affections for both of the title characters shine through here and establish a relationship dynamic that has truly never changed. By making one of the “coolest” and “edgiest” characters in the X-Men simultaneously one of the kindest and most caring, Claremont sets up a dichotomy that allows these younger characters to take center stage and widen the scope of the kinds of stories that are able to be told with Logan himself.
In some ways, it makes Logan’s own history that much more tragic because one can’t help but wonder what his life would have been like if he wasn’t forced to become a killing machine.
Old Man Logan8 of 12The X-Men have never been incredibly grounded in reality. Frequent trips to the Savage Land or space have resulted in some weird and wildly memorable stories. With "Old Man Logan," Mark Millar and Steve McNiven takes things even further.
Set in an alternate future, Millar turns everything about the Marvel Universe up to 11. Supervillains have finally won the day in this dystopia with Wolverine himself tricked into killing his X-Men friends by Mysterio. With only a blind Hawkeye and the Spider-Mobile at his side (and a symbiote empowered T-Rex on this tail!), Logan clings to whatever humanity he has left in the face of tragedy. His quest to avenge his family after they’ve met their ends at the hands of the Hulk’s incestuous family is over the top and intense but falls very in line with the tenets that informed the character from the beginning.
Uncanny X-Men #1339 of 12Imagine having to wait for this issue to come out. Uncanny X-Men #132 ended on a huge cliffhanger with the X-Men captured and Wolverine trapped in a subbasement of the Hellfire Club’s hideout and this issue stands as Logan’s first big put up or shut up moment.
But it’s not just Logan’s physical prowess that helps him escape. Claremont takes the opportunity to show us that Wolverine is a real Clint Eastwood-type, using wit and cunning to intimidate his attackers. In one defining scene, Logan talks through the thoughts the henchman he’s facing is probably having and reminding the would-be attacker that’s “virtually unkillable.” He closes with “It’s your play, hero. I’m waitin’,” which plays as Wolverine’s own sort of “Feeling lucky, punk?” moment.
Weapon X10 of 12In a post-Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns comic book world, it seemed unlikely that Marvel would be able to match the depths of darkness and depravity present in those works.
But enter Barry Windsor-Smith with an intense examination of what and who made Wolverine the man that fans had come to know and love. Wolverine’s dark past had been hinted at before but the torturous methods of the Weapon X program make it clear that Logan has been through the wringer in his life. Windsor-Smith doesn’t shy away from depicting the program’s relentless abuse of possibly the one of the only men who could take it, creating a near perfect killing machine except for one detail - underneath it all, he’s still human.
Windsor-Smith added a new layer to the Wolverine mythos - one that has since been expanded by other writers and allowed for the creation of many other fan-favorites namely, Fantomex and the killer currently under the Wolverine cowl, Laura Kinney a.k.a. X-23.
Wolverine11 of 12Wolverine’s eponymous first miniseries has held up over decades as the character’s most defining tale. Chris Claremont and Frank Miller solidify Logan as a character that is defined by duality. While fans are usually drawn to the X-Men’s resident badass because of his gruff demeanor and penchant for brutality, Claremont makes it very clear that there’s intense emotion at Logan’s core that drives him.
Wolverine sees Ol’ Canucklehead harnessing those emotions as he slices and dices his way through the ninja gang known as the Hand in order to rescue his love, Mariko Yashida. Claremont reveals Wolverine’s samurai past, adding another layer of mystery to Logan’s already mysterious past. Miller’s visceral linework lends itself perfectly to the proceedings as Logan struggles to rein in his ferality and rage but isn’t afraid to take a life in service of his mission.
From the very first panel, Claremont gives us the statements that will become synonymous with Marvel’s most popular mutant, “I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do isn’t very nice.” and no creator since has ever summed Wolverine up so perfectly.
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