How Did Marvel Lose Control Of Wolverine?

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If you plan on attending any of the Marvel Comics panels at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, here’s a question you may want to consider asking: Why does the company not seem to have any idea what to do with Wolverine?

I ask because not only is the character getting killed off so that his soul can go and get into a few fights in Hell in a new series launching in September, but it now looks like he’ll also be turning into a vampire as a result of the newly-launched “Curse of The Mutants” storyline at the same time. Oh, and in a third series, he’ll also be fighting immortals and a guy whose blood is some kind of killer virus… and that’s before you get around to any alternate universe Wolverines (Although, interestingly enough, both Marvel’s Ultimate and Forever lines have permanently offed their versions of the character). What’s with all the new, contradictory directions all at once?

Part of it may be that people up at Marvel have finally noticed that the character stopped being interesting a long time ago; Charlie Huston, writer of Wolverine: The Best There Is (That’s the one where he’ll be alive), put it well in a recent interview promoting his new series:

I kept talking to Axel [Alonzo, Marvel Executive Editor] about how tired I thought it was that all Wolverine seems to do anymore since he got his memory back was deal with his past.. It seemed like all the character did was look backward. He would despair or get angry about what happened to him and lots of people from his past would pop up. It was just bleeding the well dry and it was also a case where some things just get stretched. You can’t have it where Wolverine has a backstory with every single fucking character in the Marvel Universe but somehow never knew it before. It’s like, why the fuck didn’t Captain America ever tell him that he knew him? [And as for his villains,] all of them are either samurai warriors, feral beasts or some form of the perfect assassin. They’re all people he can fight, obviously. You’ve got a guy with claws who [has a healing factor], so that’s what you’re going to do, but they really don’t fall out of these very limited categories of characters.

It’s a strong argument to the diminishing returns Wolverine has suffered since his late ’80s, early ’90s heyday, and Marvel should be congratulated for, if nothing else, trying something new with the X-Man and Avenger instead of just running him into the ground, saleswise (*coughDeadpoolcough*). But that doesn’t really explain his apparent simultaneous vampiric conversion/death/old-school superheroing/fighting people who can’t die.

Much has been made of the lack of originality about Marvel’s new “Curse of The Mutants” storyarc, in which the X-Men fight vampires for the third time or so, hopefully just in time to catch some Twilight/True Blood heat before the genre entirely jumps the nuked fridge, or whatever you kids call it these days, but what really stands out about it is a sense of desperation – That it’s acknowledged that something is needed to make people pay attention, but nothing really good, or new, comes to mind. Poor Wolverine seems to be really feeling that with his numerous new directions; besides the vampiric makeover, he’s also dying for a third time (Maybe fourth? I’ve lost track), and the superhero/unbeatable foe thing is, of course, as old as the genre itself. And, as if to underscore the neediness, the fact that none of the relaunches/new directions is being given a chance to take with readers because they’re all contradicting each other, reminding readers that they’re all temporary until the old-school Wolverine comes back again.

It’s ironic; these new Wolverine launches – accompanied, in September, by new monthly series for both Wolverine’s son (Daken: Dark Wolverine) and female clone (X23) – just make it even clearer that the character has become the opposite of what made him appealing when he first appeared. If there’s one thing that Wolverine should never be, it’s weighed down by too much responsibility, meaning or overthinking. Hey – maybe I should pitch a new series to Marvel about that guy.

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