When reading about a certain character, it’s helpful to know about the best stories. In this edition of The Essential Reading List, I’m highlighting important Wolverine stories. The character has appeared in a number of classic X-Men stories and in his own series. With his attitude, healing factor and tragic backstory, Wolverine is one of Marvel’s most iconic superheroes. Here are the must-read stories of the man known as James ‘Logan’ Howlett.
Wolverine #1 –#4
To start the list off, I’m going with a classic arc that gets to the heart of who Wolverine is. Wolverine #1 –#4, written by Chris Claremont, revolutionised the character and created a lasting connection to Japanese culture. In the story, Logan returns to Japan to reunite with his lover, Mariko Yashida. They are unable to be together because Mariko’s father has married her off to a rival. Vowing to protect Mariko, Wolverine sets out to do whatever he can to keep her safe.
There’s so much to like about this story. Themes of human nature, honour and duty are explored, with Logan struggling to become a better man. Claremont does an amazing job of capturing the duality of the character and the essence of Japan. Frank Miller’s art makes the story stand out as well. For new and old fans, Wolverine #1 -#4 is an essential arc. You can read my full review of the graphic novel.
Kitty Pryde And Wolverine
Wolverine has established himself as a mentor and father figure to young, female superheroes. A character that benefited from his teaching is Shadowcat. Their dynamic is at the centre of Kitty Pryde and Wolverine. Written by Claremont, the story builds on the connection between Wolverine and Japan.
During the arc, Kitty follows her father to Japan, only to be captured by an assassin called Ogun. She’s turned against Wolverine and he manages to save her. Kitty Pryde and Wolverine is a historically important comic because it set the trend for Wolverine becoming a mentor.
It’s safe to say most fans know how Wolverine got his adamantium bones and claws. If you’re looking for a comic that goes into depth about this dark chapter of Logan’s life, Weapon X should be on your list. Written by Barry Windsor-Smith, the comic examines how Wolverine was turned into a weapon by people like Dr Cornelius and Professor Thorton.
Logan is presented as a blank slate, a side character in his own existence. Windsor-Smith tells the story from the perspective of the tormentors, making it even more heart-breaking.
X-Men: Fatal Attractions
Wolverine’s healing factor has allowed him to survive a variety of extreme situations. One of the most traumatic occurs in X-Men: Fatal Attractions. During a mission with the X-Men, Wolverine fights against Magneto and has the adamantium ripped from his bones.
It’s the kind of over-the-top, excessively violent story that made the ‘90s so appealing. I’m pretty sure writers Peter David and Scott Lobdell laughed maniacally when they came up with the idea for Magneto to cripple the ol’ Canucklehead. Fatal Attractions is a reminder of Logan’s resilience and his ability to overcome pain.
In the early days, Wolverine’s past was shrouded in mystery. It wasn’t until Origin that readers gained insight into where he came from. The arc, written by Joe Quesada, Paul Jenkins and Bill Jemas, chronicles Logan’s childhood. Born James Howlett, the boy grew up as the son of a wealthy plantation owner. After the death of his father, Wolverine’s powers manifest and he’s rejected by his family.
If you’re interested in knowing about Wolverine’s past, Origin is worth reading.
Enemy Of The State
Make no mistake Wolverine is the best there is at what he does. Mark Millar’s Enemy of The State did a fantastic job of reminding readers how dangerous the character can be. In the story, Wolverine is captured and brainwashed by Hydra and The Hand. He’s unleashed against the rest of the Marvel Universe, which leads to plenty of action.
Old Man Logan
Arguably the most memorable Wolverine story of the 21st century, Old Man Logan needs to be read. Set in an alternate future, an elderly Logan is one of the last surviving heroes in the Marvel Universe. Tricked into killing the X-Men, he vowed to never use his claws again. When his family is put in danger by The Hulk and his offspring, Logan has no choice but to break his promise.
Mark Millar brought something new to the character and created a tremendous amount of emotional depth. Old Man Logan became so popular that he served as a replacement for 616 Wolverine up until his resurrection.
Wolverine Goes To Hell
Wolverine’s struggle to see himself as more than a killer is a compelling journey. He’s murdered a lot of people and I enjoy reading stories where he’s forced to confront the choices he’s made in the past. Wolverine Goes To Hell features the character having to own up to his sins.
Written by Jason Aaron, the story revolves around Wolverine’s body being taken over by a demon. With his soul trapped in hell, Wolverine has to fight for redemption. The supernatural themes of the comic are refreshing, as Logan rarely goes on paranormal adventures.
Death Of Wolverine
After years of survival, Wolverine finally met his end at the hands of Charles Soule. In Death Of Wolverine, Logan loses his healing factor and needs to deal with a bounty on his head. The story features friends and enemies, with each of them reacting to Wolverine’s vulnerability. The arc culminates in Wolverine being covered in adamantium and suffocating.
I think Soule does a good job of making the character’s death feel like a big deal. The interactions between Wolverine and his supporting cast make the story worth checking out.
After Wolverine’s death, Old Man Logan joined the main Marvel reality. Ed Brisson penned a brilliant story called Scarlet Samurai that brings together the past and future. The comic features the return of Mariko Yashida as a brainwashed warrior of The Hand. Old Man Logan encounters her in Japan and he needs to deal with the thought of her being alive.
Brisson creates a complicated dynamic between the former lovers. Mariko is faced with a man she no longer knows, while Logan can only romanticise a past that doesn’t belong to him. It’s one of the best Wolverine stories in recent memory. Check out my review if you’d like to know more!
Wolverine’s supporting cast adds to his backstory. His son Daken has played an important role in his life. Be sure to look at The Essential Daken Reading List as well.