10. Manifest Destiny
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Stephen Segovia
Run: Wolverine: Manifest Destiny 1-4 (2008/9)
Buy: Wolverine: Manifest Destiny has yet to be collected, pick up the individual issues digitally on Comixology or Marvel Unlimited.
Sneaking into hearts as part of the X-Men’s Manifest Destiny event, which dealt with the team’s relocation to San Francisco, Logan sneaks off to settle some old scores – namely the fact he was the Black Dragon crime boss of the city’s Chinatown underworld 50 years ago. A brilliantly daft kung-fu exploitation epic ensues, featuring a variety of F-list supporting characters from Seventies martial arts title The Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu.
Sandwiched between the usual heavyweight X-Men arcs, Wolverine: Manifest Destiny is a fantastic example of the range of storytelling options the character offers, and a welcome respite from the ponderous tone that constantly rears its shaggy, self-absorbed head over the X-Men mythos.
“You have any idea how many ninjas I’ve killed over the years?” snarls Logan.
“Ninjas are unskilled imbeciles,” replies Master Po. “Any fool can kill a ninja. My dog could kill a ninja.”
9. Coyote Crossing
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Run: Wolverine Vol 2 issue 7-11 (2004)
Buy: Pick up Wolverine By Greg Rucka Ultimate Collection for £14.40 from Amazon.co.uk
Now a somewhat overlooked gem, Greg Rucka’s low-key three arc run on Wolverine came just prior to Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s berserk fan-pleasing battle bukkake of Enemy Of The State.
The first arc set the tone perfectly, but it’s this middle story – following human trafficking both sides of the Mexican-American border – that really delivers on the feral nobility and sense of unflinching justice that really tethers even the most wildly outlandish Wolverine story as Logan carves a bloody path of vengeance through a run-down town where hope has come to die.
See through the eyes of one Rucka’s trademarked dogged lady cops – see White Out, Sumptown and Batwoman – Logan is lean, mean and dangerous – especially in Leandro Fernandez’ (Punisher Max, Incredible Hulk) pencils, which draw out the spring-coiled tightness of his features – but undeniably fascinating.
8. Get Mystique!
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ron Garney
Run: Wolverine issue 62-65 (2008)
Buy: Pick up Wolverine: Get Mystique for £6.37 from Amazon.co.uk
You absolutely don’t need to know why Mystique needs to be got – it’ll make your brain hurt – but determined to get her Logan absolutely is.
The story that made Jason Aaron as a Wolverine writer, Get Mystique is a brilliant and over-the-top chase that shows Logan the consummate hunter, and Mystique the ultimate quarry as she tricks and schemes her way forever our of reach of his claws.
A breakneck thriller that lurches from the present to the pair’s shared past and a secret that binds the two – knowing that Logan always gets his prey doesn’t sap any of the surprises out of an arc that constantly wrong-foots its reader as effortlessly as its protagonist.
Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Run: Logan issues 1-3 (2008)
Buy: Pick up Logan for £7.58 from Amazon.co.uk
There’s a hint of Risso and Vaughan’s bespoke miniseries in The Wolverine’s prologue as Logan finds himself in Hiroshima as a POW – dealing with the bombing with due sobriety, Logan still manages to fall in love and go toe-to-toe with another survivor, an immortal mutant turned radiation monster.
As a showcase for the 100 Bullets veteran’s artwork Logan is sublime, but as deft chapter in the character’s past it presents a more compelling and truthful ‘origin’ for certain aspects of the character – his interest in Japan and Japanese women, and how the confused outcast set off on the journey to hero – than all the other post-Origin series combined.
6. Old Man Logan
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Steven McNiven
Run: Wolverine issues 66-72 (2008/9)
Buy: Pick up Old Man Logan for £15.75 from Amazon.co.uk
Much like Superman: Red Son, the supremely iconoclastic Mark Millar swaggered into the world of the Wolverine and told an incredible – and definitive – story by taking the character well outside his comfort zone.
What makes this tale of an elderly Logan in a world where supervillains won – dominated by inbred, redneck Hulks, Venom-infected Tyrannosaurus Rex, and US President Red Skull – such an effective paragon of all that is core about Wolverine is the simple arc. Beyond all the mythos-subverting clutter is half Spaghetti Western and half 80s/90s action movie as the grizzled old warrior goes from his pastoral retirement to bloody-knuckled retribution – like Rambo by way of Unforgiven, even riding off into the sunset with an adopted baby and new mission.
It also underlines that no matter how old Hugh Jackman gets, he’ll always be welcome in the role of the Wolverine.
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Andy Kubert
Run: Origin issues 1-6 (2001/2)
Buy: Pick up Origin for £8,96 from Amazon.co.uk
It’s amazing how maligned Origin was when in came out, given how it’s become such a universally accepted and beloved part of the canon – responsible for kicking off the single best scene in X-Men Origins: Wolverine in which Logan and Sabretooth run through history.
Finally revealing a concrete beginning for the character – that of sickly heir James Howlett, who pops fearsome bone claws one stormy night in Alberta – Origin is full of wonderful misdirection against a pastoral, period background, and doesn’t give away nearly as much as you’d suspect – the connection between Sabretooth and Dog Logan remaining purposefully ambiguous for a decade, merely foreshadowing – along with James’ red-haired love interest – future conflicts and tragedies.
Sadly, what goodwill Origin earned was later sapped by the ghastly Origins series, Wolverine: Evolution, a time-travelling Dog Logan and ugly attempts to add ever more contrived layers to an already dense and contrived origin story.
4. 24 Hours
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: John Buscema
Run: Wolverine issue 10 (1988)
Buy: Pick up Wolverine Classic vol 2 for £17,99 from Amazon.co.uk
Still shocking and still reference – it was even abridged as a goodly chunk of X-Men Origins: Wolverine – 24 Hours cuts between Logan slumming it in Madripoor on his birthday, when he rescues some wanderers in Lowtown from a mob of US Navy scumbags on shoreleave, and a flashback to a 19th Century frontier where Sabretooth viciously murders – and perhaps rapes – Logan’s First Nations lover Silver Fox, prompting a vicious street brawl.
Back in the present, Logan finds his would-be attackers – the gang he thwarted earlier – strung up and mutilated with a note reading “Nobody kills you but ME… especially today!”
Buscema’s scrappy, muscular artwork perfectly captures the violence and the rage of the two characters and this definitive encounter between them, while Claremont’s effectively visceral and disturbing tale – a rude awakening to readers still building up a view of Logan’s world outside of the X-Men – broke down the never-ending cycle of hatred and violence at the heart of the Wolverine/Sabretooth relationship.
3. Wolverine/The Marriage Of Wolverine
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Frank Miller
Run: Wolverine issues 1-4 (1982), Uncanny X-Men issue 172-173 (1983)
Buy: Pick up Wolverine By Claremont & Miller for £8.96 from Amazon.co.uk
Now collectively known as ‘the Japan saga’, and perhaps the single greatest influence on James Mangold’s The Wolverine, the original Claremont and Miller miniseries took Logan away from the X-Men for the first time since his first appearence battling the Hulk and Wendigo, to create a far more nuanced portrayal of the character than we’d seen until that point – one that would define him well into the decades that followed as a man balanced between his animalistic id and his human ego.
The two-issue follow-up to the classic miniseries brought over the rest of the X-Men for Logan’s nuptials to Yakuza princess Mariko Yashida, including controversial new member Rogue – then only recently brought over from Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, where she’d stolen the powers of Carol Danvers, aka Ms Marvel.
Silver Samurai, furious at Mariko’s ascension to leadership of Clan Yashida, and Viper poison the X-Men, leaving only Wolverine and Rogue to take them on. The two form a bond, and in a scene that would find its equal in Bryan Singer’s X-Men, Wolverine allows the fatally wounded Rogue to leech his healing factor at the risk of his own life.
An amazing character moment beautifully rendered by Smith, preceding as it does such incredible tragedy and heartbreak as Mariko turns away from Logan, it’s a potent reminder of not just what king of hero he is, but of where his true family lie.
2. Kitty Pryde And Wolverine
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Al Migrom
Run: Kitty Pryde & Wolverine issues 1-6 (1984/5)
Buy: Pick up Kitty Pryde & Wolverine for £19.11 from Amazon.co.uk
A key moment in the development Kitty Pryde, this often overlooked miniseries is also the best example of Wolverine as father/older brother/mentor, that would increasingly come to the character’s fore – especially now, where he’s the not-as-unlikely-as-you-might-think headmaster of the Jean Grey School in Jason Aaron’s brilliantly anarchic Wolverine And The X-Men.
Migrom’s art might turn some off, but it fits the scratchy ugliness of this world as Kitty finds herself well out of her comfort zone, following her father who she suspects is being bullied by the Yazkuza back to Tokyo. With Logan on her heels, Pryde falls under the thrall of malevolent swordsman Ogun, who once trained Wolverine and since fell from grace to become an underworld enforcer – in a Karate Kid-style training montage Logan teaches Kitty to overcome Ogun’s mind control.
Pretty hokey in parts, the depiction of Logan as a masterless Samurai was a huge part of his backstory in the late 80s, rising to a lurid fever pitch in the 90s with Elektra, Stick, the Hand and more, and it’s nice to see it back at the heart of the character with The Wolverine. Much like the original Claremont/Miller Japan saga, Kitty Pryde & Wolverine shows Logan as a troubled, debased soul aspiring to be better than that, but through Kitty’s eyes we see just how incredible that journey really is.
1. Weapon X
Writer: Barry Windsor-Smith
Artist: Barry Windsor-Smith
Run: Marvel Comics Presents issues 72-84 (1991)
Buy: Pick up Weapon X for £4.16 from Amazon.co.uk
Forget the ancient society of wolf mutants or bone claws, this bleak and harrowing tale was as much as anyone really needed to know about the pain at the heart of the Wolverine – influencing not just X-Men Origins: Wolverine more than any one title, but also X2.
Following a group of increasingly sympathetic scientists as they turn a down-on-his luck, drunken bum into the ultimate killing machine, Weapon X is one of the comics’ ultimate meditations on the banality of evil, clearly taking nods from the darker phases of medical history. So engrossing is the world of Weapon X – and so brutally divorced from any Wolverine story we’d seen before – that when this razor-clawed beast comes for his captors and torturers, we can’t help but feel for them.
More than any other book, this is Wolverine’s Dark Knight Returns – that one book you pushed into the hands of a non-reader and watch as they become utterly captivated.