When it comes to the representation of Japan in comics, Wolverine is the ideal character for providing a Western perspective. The Land of the Rising Sun is an essential part of Logan’s backstory, and I’ve waxed lyrically about how important Japan is to his identity. Many stories have been told about Wolverine and Japan, showing the divide between man and beast, ronin and samurai. The Comic Vault is listing five key stories that will give you an idea of how Wolverine fits into Japanese culture.
Wolverine #1 – #4 by Chris Claremont
The man responsible for turning Wolverine from campy hardman into gritty warrior is Chris Claremont. His original run on the Wolverine solo series will go down as one of the greatest comic arcs in history because of the themes and authenticity.
Wolverine goes to Japan in order to reunite with his lover Mariko Yashida. Instead of a happy reunion, Logan discovers that she’s been married off by her father to strengthen his criminal ties. To get to the love of his life, Wolverine slices his way through ninjas and Yakuza hit squads.
Claremont’s story established Wolverine as a failed samurai looking to restore his honour. This is the perfect arc for anyone who wants to be introduced to the character’s journey through Japan. The original solo run has been collected in a graphic novel and you can read my review of it.
Kitty Pryde and Wolverine by Chris Claremont
Not satisfied with his stellar opening run, Claremont continued to build on Wolverine’s Japanese mythology. Kitty Pryde and Wolverine is an arc that involved Kitty Pryde following her father to Japan after he got in trouble with the Yakuza. However, she was captured by the deranged ninja Ogun and turned into an assassin. She was sent to kill Logan, but he helped her break out of the conditioning.
Kitty Pryde and Wolverine is an important series because it gave Kitty character development and deepened her bond with the feral mutant.
Wolverine: Back In Japan by Jason Aaron
Logan has acted as a father figure to many young women and his dynamic with adoptive daughter Amiko Kobayashi is a major relationship. This connection is at the heart of Wolverine: Back In Japan. Amiko has been dating the new Silver Samurai, but she’s quickly pulled into a web of deceit. Wolverine reunites with old lover Yukio to save Amiko from a war between Clan Yashida and The Hand.
Jason Aaron writes a good story, but I’d say it’s my least favourite on the list. Be sure to check out my review to learn more about the arc.
Old Man Logan: The Last Ronin by Jeff Lemire
When Wolverine died, an older version from an alternate reality ended up in the main Marvel reality. OId Man Logan: The Last Ronin sees Wolverine do battle with an organisation called the Silent Order. The story plays out like a version of The Terminator in Japan. Time travel, blood and claws are guaranteed.
The Japan of Old Man Logan’s timeline is a dystopian wasteland. What I like about the story in particular is the idea of choices having consequences. Through his actions in the present, Wolverine is able to change his future for the better.
Old Man Logan: The Scarlet Samurai by Ed Brisson
Wolverine’s love for Japan is best represented by his relationship with Mariko Yashida. The two of them are brought back together in The Scarlet Samurai, only both are different. Mariko is resurrected to serve The Hand, while the older Wolverine needs to face up to his demons.
The sense of nostalgia is one of my favourite parts of the graphic novel. Seeing Mariko again gives Wolverine a chance to relive a happier moment, even though it’s fleeting. Japanese culture celebrates the beauty of rebirth, and I’d describe Mariko as symbolising a cherry blossom. When the cherry blossoms bloom they are beautiful, but they don’t last forever. In the same way, Old Man Logan’s relationship with Mariko is transient because the original Wolverine has returned.
Do you have any favourite Wolverine stories?