Wolverine Top Ten Graphic Novels
'There's a time fer scrappin' an' a time fer bein' sneaky. Either way, Wolverine's the best there is. '
Wolverine.Weapon X.Logan...or just plain James Howlett. The impact that Wolverine has had as a character since he was created back in 1974 is just astounding. Although created by Len Wein and John Romita, it is fair to say that the Wolverine we recognise today is more the work of Chris Claremont and John Byrne, who developed him during their legendary Uncanny X-Men run. I think Wolverine is quite rare as well in that, as fun as his claws and healing factor are, people connect with his 'attitude' the most - his disdain for authority, his grumpy facade with a heart of gold, the loner. The man maketh the clothes...
I must confess to not being as rabid a Wolverine fanboy as many; I like the character, and when he is done well he is fantastic, but I do think Marvel has overexposed him and made several missteps down the years with him. No matter, lets concentrate on the good. I have picked here ten of the best Wolverine stories out there, all help you understand him a little bit more....
Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)
10. Wolverine Classic, Vol. 4
Writer: Archie Goodwin Artist: John Byrne
Collects together Wolverine issues 17 to 23 (168 pages). What I love about this run is that it is just good ole' superheroics; Goodwin writes, Byrnes draws, Janson inks, they toss in a host of good characters and it fits together perfectly. It is a great run.
The other volumes in the 'Wolverine Classic' editions are all worth picking up, but I just think that no-one draws a better Wolverine than John Byrne. The art really sells these stories for me, although Goodwin writes good mainstream fare. I especially love Wolvie vs Tiger Shark, Tiger Shark being one of my favourite 'B' list villains.
Being the late 80's, the straight superheroics are a little hokey in parts, the villain 'Spore' is a little too cartoony perhaps, and the newly created La Bandera character was a bit throwaway, even for then.
Again, for me, a different take on Wolverine, just as a more conventional superhero, fighting colourful bad guys. No angst, no psychodrama.
Refreshing, and fun.
Spend some cash, bub...
see how his series began!
Great John Byrne cover
9. Wolverine: Logan
Writer: Brian Vaughn Artist: Eduardo Risso
You know with these two creators you are going to get something different, and definitely good. Vaughn and Risso, most at home crafting off-beat Vertigo style tales, here take on perhaps the most mainstream character of them all. Originally published as a 3 issue mini-series, 'Logan' in 2008 this is a book that people love or hate. I've included it as it is a little bit more off-beat than the others, and very distinctive art wise. It has personality.
Vaughn knew the Logan in the past stuff had been done to death of late, so he tries a different angle. It mixes past and present, with the past seeing Logan as G.I prisoner of war in Japan, and the present him in Japan fighting an old enemy. In the past we see him escape (with a particularly nasty fellow POW) and fall in love with a Japanese woman; so what connects past and present? well, Wolverine is in a small town called Hiroshima. As you can imagine, he may be needing that healing factor...
As I hinted at, it is not a perfect read; I found Vaughn's dialogue not totally convincing, and got the feeling the idea for the series was better than the final product. Risso also really goes to town on the artwork, which may not be to everyone's taste.But...
..that's why you should read it. The book takes chances, tries a different approach, tries to avoid formulaic storytelling and gives us a different Wolverine. One I liked.
The book (seeing as the story is a little on the short side at 3 issues) also includes some extras, namely Vauhn's pitch/ scripts and Risso's sketch gallery.
John Byrne's redesign of Wolverine's costume
8. Wolverine: Get Mystique
Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Ron Garney
Sometimes its nice to read a good fun romp of a story, and that's what you get right here. Collected from Wolverine issues 62-65, this 4 issue arc is effectively an epilogue to the huge Messiah Complex crossover that ran through the X-books; don't worry if you never read that though, this stands on its own as well.
The storyline is exactly what it says on the tin, in one respect; Wolverine is out to get Mystique. Why? well, during the afore-mentioned crossover, she betrayed the X-Men and Wolverine is out for blood. Aaron though is smarter than that, and we get a two strand story. As well as Wolverine hunting down Mystique in the present, we see Logan and Mystique working together back in the 1920s (both are actually very old!) before he became Wolverine. The anger Logan feels in the present is counter-pointed by the affection he feels for her in the past. Clever stuff.
The writing is excellent, giving real depth to the characters, and Aaron uses Mystiques powers of disguise very well, showing how she manipulates people as much as possible without doing her own dirty work unless she really has to. When she has to, as she does in the absolute 'last man standing' fight between her and Wolverine at the climax, she shows she can be as nasty and dirty as any.
Ron Garney's visuals are a perfect complement to the writing, and just completes a great, fun package. My only real complaint is that we get Mystique is pretty sexy, but at times it was a little like a flashback to the Image Comics 'bad girls' stuff of the 90's. Tone it down next time guys.
Dollars, Bub, Now...!
Get Mystique? get this!
Silver Samurai vs Wolverine fights are always cool...
7. Wolverine: Old Man Logan
Writer: Mark Millar Artist: Steve McNiven
I love the way Mark Millar thinks. Wolverine's past has been done to death, but hey, what about his future? This book collects together 'Wolverine' issues 66 to 72 plus the one-shot 'Wolverine:Giant-Size Old Man Logan'.
Set 50 years in the future, it is a bleak future where the bad guys won, and wiped out most of the heroes. Logan, seemingly traumatised by past events, lives a quiet life as a farmer, a committed pacifist (echoes of Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven) until, short of money (and after a beating by The Hulk Gang, children of Bruce Banner) he goes on a cross country trek with Hawkeye, himself blind. This comic book road movie allows us to see this horrible U.S, now divided into territories like Hulkland Dooms Lair etc, and a territory run by the mastermind behind the whole thing...I won't give him away.
Millar almost writes this in two halves. In the first half, his writing is very unlike him, quiet, restrained, thoughtful, dialogue at a minimum. The second half is when, as in Unforgiven, Logan gets his killing mojo back, and Millar is back to his furious best, McNivens art is superb throughout, subdued when necessary, visceral, bloody and violent when needed to be...which is a lot.
Part Mad Max, part Unforgiven, part Dark Tower, it's a great read, and a new wrinkle on not only Wolverine, but some great villains and the Marvel Universe itself.
see how it all ends..
Writer: Paul Jenkins Artist: Andy Kubert
Well, like it or not (and at the time opinion was pretty evenly split) this 6 issue 2002 mini-series was a game changer; the definitive Marvel take on Wolverine's origin. Although Andy Kubert, a Marvel mainstay and Wolverine artist, was a natural for the series, Paul Jenkins was a surprise choice. They must have really loved his pitch!
We start in nineteenth century Canada, where James Howlett is the sickly son of a wealthy landowner, friends with only two people - Rose, a nanny/ caretaker, and Dog, son of 'Logan', the groundskeeper. Jenkins toys with us a little, and we think 'Dog' will be Wolverine...but he isn't. Bad things happen, James Howletts powers manifest (bone claws!) and James and Rose have to make a run for it.
The rest of the story sees James develop into Logan, going from a civilised well-to -do to a feral dances with wolves type, a cage fighter. Tragedy ultimately strikes at the end when bad things happen to his rock Rose, and his memory loss is made permanent when Rose's diaries, with all the truth inside, are burned.
Jenkins throws in a lot of little easter eggs in here, and we can see why Logan/ James became who he is; it is both clever, and a little forced. You decide.
Andy Kubert's artwork is fantastic, some of the best he has done, and the muted colours give it an even greater look.
Would I have chosen to do Wolverine's origin? No. But, if an origin had to be written, this is probably as good as any, and is essential reading for any fan of Wolverine.
Despite myself, I really enjoyed it.
Is That Cash...snikt!
when we finally find out who Wolverine is..
One of my favourite Wolverine panels ever...
A fun watch
Wolverine Yellow, Wolverine Brown, Wolverine Leather or just Logan?
Help me out!
5. Enemy Of The State
Writer: Mark Millar Artist: John Romita Jr
Mark Millar and Wolverine are a perfect match for each other, in that neither have a subtle bone in their body. That's a compliment, by the way...This is the closest you will ever get to a big budget action movie in comic book form. There's no deep character development, no overly long narratives...just a lot of fighting. Brutal, exciting, amazing fighting!
To give it a tag-line, it is essentially Wolverine vs the Marvel Universe. It ran in Wolverine issues 20 to 32, 13 in total.Brainwashed by an unholy alliance of Hydra, The Hand, and Dawn of the White Light, Logan is told to fight and kill as many as he can...while he goes after the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, even the X-Men, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D, with Elektra in tow, come after him. While many suffer at Logan's hands, a lot is done 'off-screen', but it is great fun. Millar writes a very good Elektra as well.
Logan is finally captured, and deprogrammed, and then sets off on another rampage, this time aimed at the people who brainwashed him. It is over-the-top pure action hero fun, just disengage your brain and you will love it.
John Romita Jr is the perfect artist for this, his larger than life visuals a perfect compliment to the script. Big panels and splashes give this the right 'widescreen' feel.
Fans of Wolverine the scrapper, the sneaky fighter, the loner, will love this. Essential reading.
see the whole story in 1 edition, great stuff.
Five interesting Wolverine's Facts...
4. Kitty Pryde And Wolverine
Writer: Chris Claremont Artist: Al Milgrom
This is a bit of a nostalgia pick for me, I read this mini-series over and over when it first came out, and still love it to this day. When the 6 issue mini-series came out in 1984, it was a bit of a game-changer, as it added depth to both Kitty Pryde and Logan.
Claremont, a bit of a Japan obsessive in the 1980s, goes back to that well again, as Kitty Pryde finds herself in trouble in Japan after following her father there (a banker, he was laundering money for the Yakuza), and being captured by Ogun, a ninja assassin who just happens to be immortal. Kitty ends up being brainwashed and trained as a ninja herself. We learn that Ogun trained Logan in the past, before he became Wolverine, and this was one of the first times ever it was suggested he was a lot older than we believed him to be.
Kitty calls Logan to Japan to help, not wanting to involve the other X-Men, but by the time he gets there Ogun has converted Kitty, and she fights Wolverine with her new skills. He escapes with her and meets back up with Yukio (a main character from a previous storyline) who helps them (and Kitty's father). With echoes of The Karate Kid, Wolverine trains Kitty to use her phasing powers alongside her new ninja abilities, and she takes on Ogun again, defeating him. Wolverine, not wanting her to take too dark a path, deals the killing blow.
By story's end Kitty Pryde has become Shadowcat, and Logan's mysterious past has started to be chipped away.
Al Milgrom's art is not bad, especially considering the amount of speech bubbles that Claremont tends to throw in. A good, solid piece of classic Wolverine.
Hand It Over. Punkin'...!
Great Jim Lee Wolverine sketch
Mark Millar just 'gets' Wolverine
3. Wolverine: The Adamantium Collection
Writer: Various Artist: Various
This is hot off the press, it is not released until June 2013, but when you see what's in it, you'll know its an essential buy for the discerning (and wealthy) Wolverine fan.
Firstly, it.is.HUGE. It weighs 16lbs, is over 1 foot tall, and every purchase gets you a free digital copy as well.It is a lovely looking oversized hardcover, with slipcase. I'm sure you like them apples. So what's in it....
Well, 720 pages of Wolverine for starters! You get, deep breath....Wolverine:Origin mini-series; Weapon X storyline from Marvel Comics Presents issues 72 to 84; Uncanny X-Men issues 162, 205, 268; Wolverine mini-series (1983 ); Wolverine issues 75, 119 to 122; Wolverine (vol 2) issue 32; Wolverine & The X-Men issues 1 to 3.
Marvel have basically put all together, under one roof, as many of the pivotal and important Wolverine storylines as they could squeeze between two covers; many of the major writers and artists that have worked on him are represented here. It is as good a snapshot of his publishing life as you are ever likely to find in print, (in a chronology of sorts), and you probably won't ever find a better looking one!
There will be a lot of extra bonus content in here as well,but not yet fully confirmed as I write this. A cool feature that will be in there is unique Marvel AR 'augmented reality' content , including cover recaps, behind the scenes features, sketches etc
As I said it's not cheap, but it is a handsome devil and with all the extra bells and whistles is definitely one every X-fan or Wolverine fan should get on their shelf pronto!
can there be too much of a good thing?
2. Weapon X
Writer/ Artist: Barry Windsor-Smith
In many ways this book redefined Wolverine more than any other; originally it was not even published in mini-series form, but as a one of a couple of strips in Marvel Comics Presents (issues 72-84), a title I was lucky enough to be buying at the time. It was jaw-droppingly good.If you saw the Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman you'll recognise much of this, as it was heavily referenced.
The main point of the story is to show us, for the first time, how Wolverine came to have he adamantium in him, both his skeleton and claws. It is brutal, harrowing stuff; Logan is captured, taken to a top secret facility where he is experimented on, and has the adamantium bonded to him. Despite the unbearable pain and the fact the process would kill most people, his healing factor keeps him alive. Once bonded with the adamantium, the scientist behind it wants to use Logan as his puppet, but it all goes wrong, Logan kills everyone in a slaughter and escapes into the wild, amnesiac.
The story itself is quite minimalist, I suspect partly because of editorial mandate to not give too much away; who are these people? who built the facility? how do they know so much about Logan? we never find out. Subsequent stories have, of course, chipped away at the mystery and we now know a lot more. The stories sole purpose is to show us how Logan became today's Wolverine, how he was bonded to the adamantium, and why he had no memories of his past.
The artwork is sensational from Windsor-Smith, absolutely fantastic. His depiction of the 'Weapon X' Logan, almost a feral steampunk look with the metal helmet, wires coming out of his body etc is now iconic. He draws a mean Logan. This is essential reading for not only fans who want to see a major part of Wolverine's backstory, but also fans who want to see a well drawn, well conceived story.
Logan was never the same.
Money of wallets past...
one of the all time great Wolverine stories
Wolverine, now with extra adamantium...
Writer: Chris Claremont Artist: Frank Miller
Despite being 30 years old, 'Wolverine', by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, remains the gold standard for Wolverine comics. Claremont took a very simple idea, that what makes Logan Wolverine is not his claws, his healing factor, his being a mutant, but his character. Using their mutual love of Japan and its mythology, Logan was cast as a 'ronin', a samurai without a master. A good, decent man fighting inner demons, a civilised man permanently keeping the animal at bay. Get away from the cocky superhero, and you have the classic tragic hero.
To my mind, the character journey is more important than the actual 'story' here, but the story sees Logan travel to Japan to see love of his life Mariko. Mariko has been forced into a marriage by her crimelord/ ninja father, and a confrontation between him and Logan sees Logan all but dead. Luckily Yukio, a friendly if not half mad ninja, helps Logan though does not prove the best influence. Lots of ninjas, lots of fights culminate in a Logan Mariko's father rematch, which Logan wins. Yukio kills Mariko's husband, and the circle of civilisation is complete when Logan gets engaged to Mariko.
This was Claremont and Miller at the absolute top of their game. Claremont, although slightly wordy on occasion, captures Logan's voice, as narrator, perfectly as well as scripting a great character piece. Miller, before the excesses crept into his art, draws a fantastic Japan, and his panels and layouts are excellent.
This collection also throws in, as well as the original 4 issue Wolverine mini-series, Uncanny X-Men issues 172 to 173, which served as an epilogue to the mini-series. In this Wolverine's wedding is due to take place before various shenanigans ensue, ending in a fight between Wolverine and one of my all time favourite villains, Silver Samurai. Although written by Claremont, this part was drawn by Paul Smith, still very good art but lacking the sheer energy of Millers work.Oh, and did I mention the X-Men are all in there. Yep. Nice stuff.
The best ever.