Wolverine, like Judge Dredd, is at his best when he’s at rock bottom.
Like Dredd and like every bottle-fumbling noir detective, Logan carries his pain in his shoulders and his scars. We watch him get tossed around by Magneto, or torn apart by the Hulk in anticipation for that moment when he cracks his knuckles, grits his teeth and begins that climb back up. In a universe of gamma-powered titans and Greek/Norse gods, nothing is more terrifying than a cornered animal with a cowboy hat and razor claws..
With the character’s death on the horizon (obviously it won’t be permanent, that’s not the point – comics are about the journey, not the destination) there’s a palpable sense of uncertainty about Wolverine: Killable, which collects Wolverine #7-13 (2013/4).
Sure, we know Logan will survive so that he can be killed later on, but everything else feels suddenly imperilled and peril is the bedrock of truly great superhero storytelling.
After a bumpy start alongside veteran Marvel artist Alan Davis (Excalibur, Uncanny X-Men), writer Paul Cornell (Captain Britain And MI:13, Action Comics) picks up the newly vulnerable Wolverine as he bristles at every jibe, suddenly so sensitive to his own morality. Logan takes the path of emotionally illiterate alpha male, he drops out, he drinks, he fights and he talks to Nightcrawler’s grave, reaching out for his dead friend before his living ones.
Like the woozy Micky Rourke in The Wrestler, Logan’s ego can’t take the strain of not being the best there is – called out by Sabretooth,Mystique, their pet Ninja and a bundle of hired guns, he willingly walks into a trap. Suddenly we’ve cut right back to the feral Logan of Claremont and Windsor-Smith’s Weapon-X as corralled and cornered, he becomes nothing more than a wound beast, a once-proud pack-leader harried by hunting dogs, bleeding from a thousand bites.
The setting, the Howlett farm last seen in Origin – now a shopping mall – lends real poignancy, underlining his emotional fragility as much as his physical. Wolverine’s long been a character bogged down by overwrought Dark Secrets™ and Tragic Backstory™, but we’ve rarely dwelt on on Logan’s childhood. It’s powerful, setting up Killable as the start of something destined to be a classic, and the ending of this chapter is genuinely affecting.
We all love Logan when he begins that climb back up – and we come to expect it. The rules have changed and now we don’t just love him – we fear for him.
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