Something’s going on with Wolverine.
Though he was arguably Marvel’s flagship character for most of the 1990s and into the 2000’s, Logan (at least the original, main Logan) has been mostly out of commission since his death in 2014. Wolverine’s back now, but he’s not the same guy we saw get encased in molten adamantium back then. For one thing, he’s got little memory of his recent past (what’s new?) and his claws now have the power to heat up with white-hot energy.
Those hot claws, while controversial among fans, may actually be the most apparent clue as to what’s going on with Logan – both to how he came back, and to what may lie ahead for James Howlett, a.k.a. Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine.
Wolverine’s return is technically still shrouded in mystery. Though numerous lead-in limited series have come and gone, the story of his actual resurrection hasn’t been told yet. But what we do know points to something downright cosmic going on with the usually down-to-earth Logan. From the moment he returned around a year ago in 2017’s Marvel Legacy #1, Wolverine has been operating on a different scale. His first appearance in the aforementioned one-shot revealed him in possession of the Space Stone – the first time the mainstream Wolverine stewarded one of the vaunted artifacts.
The only other clue present in Marvel Legacy #1 was a glimpse at the melted-down remains of the adamantium husk that previously encased him. But there’s more to that scene than immediately meets the eye.
In the sequence, the adamantium husk is discovered empty by the young, time-displaced Jean Grey. Text narration in the scene draws a connection between Wolverine and the young Jean, saying “Sometimes the dead can rise from the ashes. That was her legacy, her past and her future. And now, it’s his too.”
Maybe you can already see where this is headed. Marvel Legacy #1 arrived just ahead of Phoenix Resurrection, in which the younger Jean Grey confronted the Phoenix Force – and her older self (as in, the one Logan was in love with) returned from the dead after nearly a decade. And, upon her return, she divested herself from the Phoenix Force completely, forcing it to leave her behind as its favored host.
So now we’ve got a resurrected Wolverine – someone who, like a Phoenix, rose from the ashes – and a Phoenix Force with no host.
Sure, the Phoenix usually gravitates to powerful psychics as its host, but who better to wield the flame of rebirth than the guy most synonymous with regeneration in the Marvel Universe?
Then there’s the matter of the future – the far-flung future that is. In this year’s Thor #5, Thor confronts a much older (like, in the order of several thousand years older) version of Wolverine who is a full-blown Phoenix host. This version of Wolverine also appeared in Infinity Wars, using his Phoenix power to split some of the “Infinity Warp” mash-up heroes and offering some warnings about the Infinity Stones before departing - along with a version of the Power Stone.
And then, in last week’s Avengers #10, it finally happened . Wolverine – seemingly the mainstream Wolverine, appearing exactly as he looked in Marvel Legacy #1 - showed up to confront the Celestials and rescue Loki from their clutches. In the course of that scene, Wolverine manifests the full-on power of the Phoenix Force, scorching the Celestials and fleeing with Loki – apparently putting them on the path to 2019’s announced Wolverine: Infinity Watch series.
That may seem like a mystery solved – Wolverine’s got hot claws now that he’s back because he’s got a connection to the Phoenix Force (there, we said it) – but those hot claws pose a little more significant problem. Remember how we said he has no memory? Well the guy flying around in space and manifesting the Phoenix Force certainly doesn’t have that problem. What’s more, in the currently ongoing Return of Wolverine, the adult Jean Grey appears, psychically tracking the revived Logan – meaning the story must take place after Marvel Legacy #1, in which the fully-formed Logan appeared months before her resurrection (and apparently his own).
That may seem like a No-Prize worth continuity issue, but what if the answer is right under our noses? In that same Avengers #10 scene we previously mentioned, the seemingly young Wolverine tells Loki he’s been around for “eons" – just like the much older Phoenix/Wolverine who appeared in Thor - and that he's part of the cause of trouble that's coming in the future. So is the guy we’ve been following for just about a year now since Marvel Legacy #1 actually a millennia-old future version of Wolverine?
And if that’s the case, what’s the deal with the hot claws guy who’s showing up in Return of Wolverine? Does this mean there are two (or two more) Wolverines running around in the Marvel Universe?
And if there are – and this is the big question – has the “real” Wolverine even actually returned yet?