Wolverine and His Many Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Days
‘Return of Wolverine’ sees the Ol’ Canucklehead come back from death itself, but he’s actually survived worse.
In celebration of Logan coming back in RETURN OF WOLVERINE #1, we wanted to hit some of the absolute worst stuff that Wolverine has gone through in his many, many years and how he’s come out the other side, stronger in many ways. And are there things worse than dying? Let’s dig in.
OH, and be forewarned: there are spoilers ahead for a number of big Wolverine stories, but they’re older and still just as awesome even if you know what happens.
Let’s start at the start with Logan. Or should we call him James Howlett? In the landmark story ORIGIN, young James was a sickly boy, living a posh but sheltered life in late 19th-century Canada. When the Howlett’s groundskeeper, Thomas Logan (who looks very much like the grown up Logan we now know…), kills James’ father, James explodes in rage and grief… and claws. The trauma of seeing his father murdered causes James’ mutant abilities to manifest -- his incredible senses, his healing abilities, and his trademark claws, which he uses to kill Thomas Logan. While James’ mutant rebirth and the events around it nearly break him mentally, it also causes his own mother to reject him as an abomination and take her own life. His reality destroyed and cast out from his old life, James adopts the name Logan and goes off to live a new life with his childhood friend Rose. Surely nothing would go wrong there…
When thinking of Logan’s lowest lows, those moments often intersect with his many loves. And yeah, things with Rose ended in blood and anguish, but they weren’t in love. Not like Logan and Mariko. It’s tough to get more emotionally devastating than having your dying fiancée tell you she’s finally free to get married, but she then asks you to kill her instead of letting her die an agonizing death from poisoning. That happened with Wolverine and his long-time love Mariko, their visions of life together snuffed out thanks to a poisoned blade.
Cannon Foot! Shadowstalker! Fire Knives! Saw Fist! Gunhawk! Aka the Mongrels! Classic Marvel characters, one and all! Wait? You say you don’t know those characters? Well, neither did Wolverine. Not when he met them, when they immediately attacked him, or when he nearly as quickly killed them. But that was the point. They were fodder, part of a plan by a group called the Red Right Hand to make Wolverine suffer as they had. The Red Right Hand was a group of individuals, each of whom, in one way or another, had lost a loved one because of Wolverine. How then, to extract revenge on Logan when you’ve lost something as precious as family? Make him murder his own kin, of course. The group’s master stroke came by committing group suicide just as Logan reached them, so as to deny him revenge, leaving only a video and details about the plan. The revelation that Logan killed five of his own children he had no idea existed sent him spiraling into a deep almost inescapable depression. But the Mongrels weren’t Logan’s only children involved in that tale. Daken helped orchestrate the whole thing…
Oh, Daken. Wolverine’s son from his marriage to Itsu, Daken only survived his “birth” thanks to the mutant healing factor inherited from Logan. But his early years would be filled with pain, neglect, sadness, and betrayal. Their first meeting went… poorly, with Daken slicing Wolverine’s stomach open and leaving him with the words, “We’ll meet again. ‘Dad.’” But it somehow got worse as they played cat and mouse, Daken often playing aggressor and trying to ruin Logan’s life as best he could. It all came to a head during a massive X-Force mission, with Daken orchestrating potential (and literal) Apocalyptic events to destroy his father. While Logan’s team thwarted global devastation, Daken gave in to his berserker rage and tore into Logan with unbridled fury. Sliced to ribbons, gushing blood, missing an eye, Wolverine made a decision. “No negotiating with it. Only the one resolution -- the hard one.” To save the lives of many -- he knew Daken would never stop coming for him -- Wolverine drowned Daken, the son he should have been there for. The life Daken wished he’d had with Logan flashes between comic book panels of rage and suffocation. Devastated, Logan cradles Daken’s body, only to have Sabretooth waltz into the scene and take a bow for orchestrating the entire plot so he could inflict unforgettable and unending pain upon Wolverine.
Sabretooth’s manipulation of Daken was far from his first foray into doing terrible things to Wolverine. Sabretooth, aka Victor Creed, and Logan first became friends in late 19th, early 20th century Canada while getting each others’ backs in a bar-room brawl. And Wolverine’s birthday soon arrived, so Creed wanted to celebrate the only way that made sense -- murdering Silverfox, the woman Logan loved, and then beating the ever-loving stuffing out of a pre-adamantium Wolverine. A sadistic SOB, Creed knew exactly what to do to drive Logan into a berserker frenzy -- and that’s what he wanted. That first “birthday present,” a horrible act of remorseless evil that crushed Logan emotionally and physically, began a tradition of violence that’s continued for over a century.
It’s amazing that one of Logan’s many nicknames isn’t “the Tragic Romantic” considering how many loves he’s had to bury, mourn… and kill. Okay! So -- Jean Grey and Wolverine went to space to learn about the Weapon Plus Program -- how Wolverine became Weapon X, other experiments, and details about Logan’s past. That sent him down a spiral. But, worse, it was all a trap by Magento, separating Logan and Jean from the rest of the X-Men and sending them off in a space station headed for the sun. Logan's been through so much, so he braved their impending doom fairly well, but the intensely growing heat soon became too much for Jean. Growing delirious and clearly suffering, Jean whispered, “don’t leave me…” Cradling Jean in his arms, and closing his eyes, Logan said, “Never. I’m right beside ya. I’d die to save yer life, Darlin’. I’d take all yer pain on myself. But I can’t. I can only take it away.” He then ended her suffering, distraught at what he had to do for one of his dearest friends -- and another woman he’d loved. He opened the doors of the ship, carrying her body, and let the sun take them both.
Wolverine wasn’t born with unbreakable adamantium covering his bones and claws. Oh, no. Sure, he had the healing factor and incredible senses, and was awesome, but he didn’t become the Wolverine we know without going through one of the most horrible experiences in his long life. The Weapon X project drugged Logan, essentially tortured him in the process of coating his skeleton with adamantium, and then put him through countless psychological experiments. The original Weapon X story by Barry Windsor-Smith is one of the most gorgeous Wolverine tales, but easily among the most haunting and disturbing Logan’s ever had to endure.
So, if putting the adamantium into Logan’s body was a traumatic experience, at least taking it out would be easy, right? OH LORD NO. Magneto has caused worldwide calamity with a massive EMP, killing at least hundreds, and the X-Men race to battle. In orbit above Earth, the X-Men launch their assault, with Wolverine grievously wounding the Master of Magnetism. Seeing the gravity of the battle, and his potential end, Magneto goes further than ever before. Mustering all his might, Magneto enacts his metal-controlling powers over Wolverine’s adamantium. With a tug, a pull, a yank, a tear, Magneto destabilizes Logan’s adamantium, ripping and forcing it through Wolverine’s flesh in the most excruciating way possible. Professor Xavier puts Magneto down, but it’s too late -- the adamantium has been removed, and Wolverine’s healing factor struggles to keep up with the wounds. Logan’s narration explains how horrible it was:
“You ever been hurt so bad, you couldn’t hear anything but a high-pitched roar… and then you realized that it was the sound o’ yourself screamin’?”
It’s only through the love and support of Jean Grey that Wolverine makes it through. And even then, he was a very different warrior.
We’ve seen lots of Old Man Logan running around the Marvel Universe of late, fighting alongside Alpha Flight or battling Bullseye, but the story that started it all is key here because it details two of Wolverine’s lowest moments. The first, told in flashback over the course of the story, is how the villains broke Logan. In the big takeover, Mysterio goes to the X-Mansion and uses his illusions to trick Logan into thinking the X-Men are being attacked by all manner of villains. And with Wolvie fighting alone, trying to keep kids safe, he cuts loose and murders every damn villain. But… he was actually killing his friends and family, with
The illusion breaking as Jubilee dies in his arms.
The world falls apart around him and he crumbles, sheaving his claws for good and ghosting the world. But 50 years later, we see him and he’s finally happy. Yeah, it was the Wasteland and the villains won, but Logan had a family -- his wife Maureen, and kids Jade and Scott. Unfortunately, his world comes crashing down again when Hulk’s twisted, inbred offspring gets bored and murders his wife and children. Then the claws come out.
This is just a handful of Wolverine’s lowest lows. We didn’t include Wolverine (literally) going to hell, getting crucified by the Reavers, getting infected by the Brood, getting blown up by Nitro, getting brainwashed (again) and turned into a killing machine (again) by the Hand, dying from adamantium poisoning, or tons of the other events that would have completely destroyed a lesser man.
At the end of the day, part of what makes Wolverine so special is that he can bounce back from just about anything. We’re so excited for the Return of Wolverine, because the Marvel Universe just isn’t the same without the Ol’ Canucklehead.
Want to hear an extended discussion of Wolverine's most harrowing moments? Listen to the latest episode of This Week in Marvel hosted by Ryan "Agent M" Penagos and Jamie Frevele! You can download the whole episode below!
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