Wolverine will die. Now, odds are he is coming back in some way, shape, or form. Maybe he’ll fake his death. Maybe a tissue sample has been kept in the Jean Grey school for years and he’ll be cloned and will only have memories up until the sample was taken. Maybe all the time-splitting he caused in Age of Ultron brought a Wolverine from a different universe back to our universe and our Wolverine will somehow return. It’s hard to believe that one of Marvel’s most marketable properties and a fan favorite will long be gone. With so many miracle return stories, hearing about another death is like the story of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf.” You just don’t believe it any more. The saying among comic fans used to be, “Only Bucky stays dead” until of course he didn’t. Wikipedia even has an entire article devoted to “comic book death” to note the impermanence of the phenomenon.
However, the storyline usually makes for interesting reading and certainly will boost sales of Wolverine’s book making him even more popular than he already is. It’s intrigued me and has made me pick up the book again if for no other reason to see where they go. Like painters and other artists whose fame increases after they pass away, comic book characters get to enjoy it because they come back. Still, if you have not been a huge fan of the comic book version of Wolverine or only recently became a fan, you might want to check out some key stories about his life. He has been in so many books and storylines that it would be very difficult to catch up on all of them, but these stories are ones that helped to define the character.
Title: Incredible Hulk (Vol 1) Issues: #180-182 (primarily #181) Writer / Artist: Len Wein / Herb Trimpe
Why you should read this: This was the very first appearance of Wolverine. If you want to purchase the original book, it can set you back hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And even though it’s been reprinted several times, it doesn’t appear that there are any current reprints of the issue in existence at your local bookstore in trade paperback form.
Title: Uncanny X-Men Issues: #109 Writer / Artist:Chris Claremont / John Byrne
Why you should read this: The first appearance of Weapon Alpha and the first hint that Wolverine’s life was much more complex. The first time he is referred to as “Weapon X” and delves more into Wolverine’s connection to the Canadian government. This leads readers to question Wolverine’s past. Why is he called “Weapon X”? What was the “Weapon X” program?
Title: Uncanny X-Men Issues: #133 Writer / Artist: Chris Claremont / John Byrne
Why you should read this: Often considered the character’s breakout story, it showcased his killer instinct and his ferocity. Some might say that Giant-Size X-Men #1 should be included and in a longer list probably would be as it is the issue that introduces Wolverine as an X-Man. But for a long time, this was considered THE Wolverine story.
Title: Wolverine Issues: Vol 1, #1-4 (limited series) Writer / Artist: Chris Claremont / Frank Miller
Why you should read this: One of the most well told stories about Wolverine, it set the stage for the Wolverine movie adaptation. It was also the series that launched the Wolverine title and is considered to be volume one. It also tells of Wolverine’s great love for Mariko and more about his background with Japan.
Title: Wolverine: Old Man Logan Issues: Vol 3, #66-72, Old Man Logan Giant Size Writer / Artist: Mark Millar / Steve McNiven
Why you should read this: Quite simply one of the best Wolverine stories ever. Also, it tells about the “death” and rebirth of Wolverine. Millar is one of the truly talented writers in comics today (along with Brian Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, and a handful of others). His work on this book is amazing and McNiven was the perfect matchup for this story. A dystopian future finds Wolverine unwilling to use his claws and during the course of the story we find out why, find out who took over the world, and why there aren’t any superheroes out in the open any longer.
Now there are many good stories that “should” have been included. Origins is the one that comes to mind the most, but I felt that it lacked the excitement and storytelling prowess of the other ones on this list. And while it did significantly reveal elements of Wolverine’s life, it didn’t add anything that really impacted the character but was more of a revelation for long time reader’s of Wolverine’s exploits. Another one might have been Schism which saw the X-Men fractured into two teams with Wolverine appearing to be the more level-headed leader. It was a huge shift in the character and unfortunately one that didn’t really stick. It’s hard to be headmaster of a school and also be on the Mighty Avengers and the Uncanny Avengers. If you read these stories, you will definitely have a well-rounded view of one of Marvel’s most intriguing characters. And if you are already a long-time Wolverine fan, which stories would you have picked?