Editor's note: So seriously this is seriously spoilery so the entire article is hidden behind the break. Click to find out more as our intrepid comic aficionado dissects the issues.
Whether killing off Wolverine is just a stunt or not, Soule and McNiven gave us a pretty great story, that started off pretty strong, if it didn’t quite stick the landing. We get a showcase of Logan’s enemies as well as some resolution to story threads that started as far back as Barry Windsor Smith’s Weapon X arc. Soule’s wrtiting is superb, and McNiven’s detailed art is a treat for the eyes, and that’s really what you want with this kind of thing: a great story. The death of a character to have some impact and meaning, When Steve Rogers died in Brubaker’s run on Captain America we got a catalyst for putting Bucky in the costume, and it was also the impetus for a very different post-Civil War Marvel universe. With the Human Torch in Hickman’s Fantastic Four run we got to see just how his death would rock his family, and be what causes Mr. Fantastic to start the Future Foundation.
Readers don’t want the death of a character they care about to be pointless or underwhelming. A prime example of how a death can fall flat is when Green Arrow died. Stuck on a plane with Superman, Arrow must keep his hand on the detonator or thousands of people below would die. Superman offers to cut off Green Arrow to save him, but Ollie chooses to die rather than be crippled. That’s right, in a world filled with robots and cyborgs Green Arrow would rather be blown to bits then have. ONE. ARM. Or hey… how about Superman - the man who is faster than a speeding bullet - yank him out of there faster than the explosion? Another crappy death? The last time Thor died (it’s happened a few times) at the end of Fear Itself when he was killed by the Serpent. He died in the 7th issue only to be resurrected in issue 7.2. In fact the 7-point issues also revealed that Bucky faked his death, and all of Paris was cured after all being turned to stone. Proving that not even the French are safe from crappy resurrections.
There’s definite fanboy burnout with hero death happening every few months. There was a time when a hero dying was momentous thing, like Jean Grey at the end of the Phoenix saga, or Flash at the end of Crisis. But, Jean Grey’s died so many times that it’s become a bit of a joke in comics. And with Marvel’s rumoured policy of a death a year it’s easy to see why this is met with ire, and rings a bit hollow. Publishers can be going in with all the best of intentions but if a character’s death is done poorly fans are going to let you know about it.
To me Marvel’s choice to kill off Wolverine seems to tie in to something I’ve touched in before in a couple of articles, is the fact that Marvel is really f-ing with the lives of their characters. A new Captain America, a new Thor, a dickhole Iron Man, Namor teaming with Thanos to kill planets that encroach on our reality, Spider-Man fighting alongside every other Spider-Man against Morlun, Invisible Woman teaming with S.H.I.E.L.D. to hunt down her husband, and now this… the death of one of their most prominant characters. Marvel’s building to something. Something big. Between the tearing down of their characters, the recently announced Secret Wars, a year long maxi-series (mini-series…? maxi…? I can never get that straight) by Johnathan Hickman and Esad Ribic that allegedly all Marvel books in 2014 will tie in to, and the bevy of teases of new takes on classic Marvel crossovers, the House of Ideas feels like they’re leading to something on a Crisis On Infinite Earths levels. I’m still holding to the idea that Marvel is going balls to the walls with their stories just before they wipe it all away and start all over again.
Of course Marvel is going to bring back Wolverine, no matter how much Axel Alonso says he “has no exit plan for Wolverine’s death”. This is one of their most popular characters. It’s not like they put D-Man on the cover of other titles to help sales. The question is really when and how. If Marvel does relaunch their continuity, Wolvie’s death is an easy fix. If a linewide reboot isn’t coming, then it’s an opportunity for creators to tell a hopefully interesting rebirth story. Granted comics have had their fair share of resurrection missteps before. Like the supposed “coincidence” when both Batman and Captain America were thought to be dead but were in fact dislodged from time, and had to fight back to the present. Or Hawkeye who was killed by the Scarlet Witch, the resurrected by her, then killed by her again, then resurrected… by her… again. BUT, a character being brought back from the dead CAN be done right, Colossus in Astonishing X-Men, Bullseye in Daredevil. I absolutely loved how Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness brought Nightcrawler back in Amazing X-Men, a fun pirate story set in Heaven that was totally in-keeping with the character.
If you’re a fan of Wolverine, go do yourself a favor and go read Death of Wolverine. It’s a good read, and is a fitting send off a loved character. While the 4th issue isn’t the strongest, it still is a better story than most deaths in comics. Charles Soule is writing Legacy of Wolverine, Weapon X Program, and Wolverines, so he seems to be building a much bigger story than what we saw in Death of Wolverine. Hopefully the industry has learned something, that a major characters death should be a story worth telling rather than a something they have to do every year to sell some issues. But lets be realistic... this is comics.