For the past year, British writer Paul Cornell has been Wolverine’s worst enemy. As writer of the Wolverine series beginning with Marvel NOW! in March 2013, Cornell has pushed the animalistic anti-hero to his limits by stripping him of his healing factor and putting him in a position where has to go bad to do good. Cornell came to comics with a well-regarded track record on BBC’s Doctor Who, and crafted critically acclaimed runs on Captain Britain & MI-13 and the dark Lex Luthor-centric Action Comics run. Between this current Wolverine volume and the 12-issue volume immediately preceding it, Cornell is crafting his longest – and bloodiest – comics run yet.
In June, the final countdown to Wolverine’s death begins in the “3 Months To Die” arc of Wolverine, culminating with September’s five-part Death of Wolverine series. Cornell, however, won’t be scripting the death itself, and Newsarama talked with him about these final days of Wolverine his decision not to pull the proverbial trigger.
Newsarama: Paul, this Wednesday Wolverine #6 hits, the beginning of a two-part arc titled “The Madripoor Job” with Logan heading to this fabled island nation looking for something. What is he after, especially in his wounded state nowadays?
Paul Cornell: A certain object that Sabretooth is also looking for, and Sabretooth now basically owns the island, so Logan and his people are going to have to be very stealthy.
Nrama: And Madripoor – For Wolverine and X-Men fans it holds a lot of memories, some back to Logan’s days as Patch. Can you tell us about Madripoor from your eyes and why it’s an ideal setting for this story?
Cornell: I love how it became a repository for everything mad and exotic, a kind of summation of foreign parts. I've made it madder than ever, with geography and even speech breaking down, as a result of various science fictional things that have happened there. It's harder to find anything with all that going on, even if you're meant to be in charge of the place. There's one thing I'd like to mention, because I think it demonstrates my attitude towards continuity. When the art came in, I was asked if I wanted to correct Logan's tuxedo from black to white, but I said not to bother. I'm aware Patch always wore white, but as far as I'm concerned, Logan's got limited time and resources, and there's no reason his Patch identity couldn't wear anything he wanted to. To change it to white would just be doing continuity without thought, rather than following reality. I'm sure people will still call it an 'error', but if it doesn't harm the story, I don't care.
Nrama: In Wolverine #4 we learned the truth behind Logan’s villainous turn – that he’s working undercover, ala The Departed, for S.H.I.E.L.D. to track down Sabretooth. Can you tell us about keeping the secret from fans, and now having the fans in on it while Logan still works with this criminal crew of the Offer’s?
Cornell: It's a basic dramatic flip, play the tension one way, then play it the other. Now I get to enjoy getting the readers to worry about Logan, now they're in on it. I think most fans guessed, or at least hoped that, it'd be something like this.
Nrama: In addition to Sabretooth and Wolverine, you have some familiar faces from your oeuvre – Pete Wisdom and MI 13. What can you tell us about their involvement here in this story?
Cornell: I assume that Madripoor is somewhere near former British colonial interests, and S.H.I.E.L.D. have got MI-13 onside to help them find this very dangerous and weird object. So Pete, Faiza and the others are there to be Logan's contacts and back-up. People kept asking me to bring them back, and I decided that I'd now put enough distance between myself and always writing British characters that there'd be no harm in giving the audience what they wanted.
Nrama: After these two issues in May we have June’s Wolverine #8 and #9, delving into “3 Months To Die.” With it only being a month away, can you peer over the fence and tell readers what they can expect from #8?
Cornell: #8 and #9 are a 'game of deceit and death' with an as-yet unannounced guest character from an entirely different area of Marvel, and a surprise from Logan's past.
Nrama: One guest star we do know about is two martial arts masters, in the form of Shang-Chi and Iron Fist. Logan has skills, but I’d argue strictly on hand-to-hand battles those two would have him beat. Can you tell us about this team-up?
Cornell: Logan seeks them out to help him with a very specific problem, and they take him to a very specific (real) geographical location. I've always loved Shang-Chi, and I've enjoyed tweaking him a little this time out. But I do get to use his narration, which is always a joy.
Nrama: This is all leading up to the super hyped death of Wolverine in a miniseries titled, aptly enough, Death of Wolverine. Although you’ve been charting this journey since “Killable” in last year’s Wolverine, you’re not going to be the writer doing the actual killing. Marvel says you passed on writing it – so can you talk about not being there for the seeming culmination of this all?
Cornell: I'm pleased to be finishing my 25-issue story about Wolverine in the way it was intended, without having to bend it out of shape because my bosses decided to kill him. I'm pleased to work for people who let me do that. This story leads into the event in a way which lets both breathe, a natural way, and I think both stories benefit from the separation. I did have a go at killing him, but my heart wasn't really in it, because it changed the theme of my story so much. Like various people have said, I regard this as just business as usual, and nothing to worry about. I think readers will enjoy finishing my complete story knowing they've read something organic and whole. Which makes it sound like a potato.