When Paul Cornell returned to Marvel, it was with a pitch that would transform Wolverine’s life. With the benefit of hindsight, this series began an arc that would culminate in Wolverine’s death; and yet, when you read through interviews from the past few years, you don’t get the sense that this was always as inevitable as it now seems. Cornell’s aim was not to kill Wolverine, but rather to change his status quo; to introduce an element of ‘threat’ to Wolverine’s life that had always been missing.
At the same time, Cornell challenged himself to write both a story rooted in the wider Marvel Universe – featuring characters ranging from the new Nick Fury to Batroc the Laper, and heading to locations like the Microverse and Wakanda. And yet, he aimed to make the book extremely accessible, deliberately choosing to avoid flashbacks or deeper narratives, at least until the final ‘Killable’ arc.
The series only lasted thirteen issues, and in truth it told a single story; a sentient virus from the Microverse threatens the world and builds in power. By the mid-point, in ‘Drowning Logan’, the virus has stripped Wolverine of his healing factor; by the conclusion, in ‘Killable’, this becomes permanent. Remarkably, the series is truly self-contained, with no crossovers or tie-ins. It’s an excellent, and rather fun, series to read.
CORNELL’S WOLVERINE TIMELINE
- ‘Hunting Season’ (#1-4): Wolverine and S.H.I.E.L.D. face a deadly threat, a virus that seems to be ominously sentient!
- ‘Drowning Logan’ (#5-6): The virus’ origins are revealed, and Wolverine is stripped of his healing factor.
- ‘Mortal’ (#7): A single issue, in which Wolverine deals with the emotional impact of losing his healing factor.
- ‘Killable’ (#8-13): As S.H.I.E.L.D. work against the virus, Wolverine’s enemies pull him into a trap – on the site of the old Howlett Estate.
The series is collected into two graphic novels:
Cornell takes Wolverine through the wringer, facing him with his own morality – even such basics as shaving become difficult, as he’d never bothered to be careful before. The emotional centre of the story is undoubtedly in ‘Killable’, where, wisely, Cornell teams Wolverine up with Kitty Pryde and has him face off against a wide range of threats. In Wakanda, Cornell draws upon the Black Panther – Storm – Wolverine triangle to see how a berserker rage would work for this Wolverine; then, he has Sabretooth pull Wolverine into a devastating confrontation. By #13, Wolverine is emotionally broken, defeated as never before.
Cornell’s view on this was simple: change is good. At this stage, Cornell had no idea where that change would lead, and had his eye on a long road – but, of course, Marvel’s plans coalesced in a very different direction. This is the story behind the death of Wolverine, and it’s an essential part of the modern X-books.