One of the big trends in comics in the past few years has been “event comics.” No publisher is more adept at this than Marvel comics. Large, universe spanning events involving dozens of the imprint’s most popular characters are not exactly a new concept, but starting with Marvel’s Civil War in 2005 there has been seemingly one or two events to follow in the Marvel universe each following year. One such event this year is Death of Wolverine.
This four-part series is certainly not the first time Marvel has killed off a popular character. Civil War’s Captain America was assassinated, but as expected Steve Rogers returned after some time. The main draw of Death of Wolverine is the fact that aside from Wolverine being an exceedingly popular character, and some would even say overexposed, his superpower is a healing factor that makes him pretty much impossible to kill. Surely even skeptical fans who are tired of the death and resurrection of multiple characters are curious as to how the writers will decide to eliminate Marvel’s most popular mutant.
Wolverine has technically died multiple times in his 40 years of comic book stardom, however most of those story lines were not part of the regular continuity. This is the first time that Marvel is advertising a demise for Wolverine and claiming it to be permanent. In each of his previous deaths, Wolverine returned within the issue or story arc. After the four issue Death of Wolverine ends in September, the character will most likely stay absent from regular continuity for at least a year. Most fans would argue that a year-long vacation from the Marvel Universe is hardly a permanent change however. Some readers have become tired of the constant events and impermanent changes, citing a lack of true character development when any major change is rewritten within months.
Death of Wolverine is Marvel’s chance to regain credibility with longtime readers who have caught on to the tropes of modern comic books. Wolverine fans will surely miss the character, but if Marvel can make this story arc meaningful, fans could very well appreciate the craftsmanship required to give an indestructible a proper, if not truly permanent, send off. Writers have stated that during the arc Wolverine will lose his trademark healing abilities, which is more or less a given if he really does perish by the end of the series.
The purportedly permanent death of the most popular member of the X-Men is said to have a large effect on the entire Marvel Universe, much like the death of Captain America. Wolverine is just as, if not more, connected to all corners of the comic universe, so Marvel will get a lot of story mileage even with other characters. With one more issue left in the mini series, fans are eager to see if their favorite comic imprint has set a new bar for radical character development. By September, readers will have to get used to Wolverine going from overexposed to vacant spot on multiple super team rosters.
By Matt Isaacs