Hot on the heels of the “Three Months to Die” saga beginning this June in WOLVERINE, writer Charles Soule and artist Steve McNiven launch a month-long four-issue limited series called DEATH OF WOLVERINE. In it, the X-Men’s most ferocious mutant faces his mortality while at his most vulnerable and surrounded by enemies and his own dark past.
Marvel.com: Charles, after being offered the project, what was your prime thought as to how to make this the Wolverine event?
Charles Soule: My goal here is to tell a story that can hold its own alongside some of my own favorite Wolverine stories—the [Chris] Claremont/[Frank] Miller work, “Weapon X” by Barry Windsor-Smith, Brian K. Vaughan’s LOGAN mini, [Mark] Millar’s “Enemy of the State,” and so many more. This is a character who has been used as a vehicle for many different types of stories; he’s been a straight-up super hero, a samurai, a Clint Eastwood-style lone wolf, a ladies man—I want to tell a story that’s true to the many faces of Logan while standing on its own as an exciting adventure.
This isn’t just some homage, hitting the expected beats with the only real difference from a hundred other stories being that Wolverine dies at the end. This will explore what Wolverine is—and almost more importantly, why Wolverine is what he is.
Marvel.com: We’ve heard this story gets grisly—how grisly is grisly?
Charles Soule: It gets pretty brutal. One of the main ideas to the story is that Wolverine has lost his healing factor, which means he can be injured in serious, dramatic ways. His villains have never really been about pulling their punches, and Logan takes some punishment here. Plus, of course, his primary weapon is a set of claws that stab out from his hands every time he uses them; hands are delicate pieces of machinery, and they can’t stand up to that sort of treatment for long. I’m not saying his hands fall off—but I’m not saying they don’t, either. I want to show the physical cost of Wolverine doing what he does. It’s never been very nice, but here it gets downright ugly.
Marvel.com: Will DEATH OF WOLVERINE also present a kind of “History of Wolverine”?
Charles Soule: In a way, yes. The story will allow us to hit on certain touchstones of Wolverine’s history, important parts of his legacy, but it’s not exactly a trip down memory lane, either. There have been hundreds and hundreds of Wolverine stories told, and it would be impossible, and probably grueling to the reader, to try to homage them all. The basic idea is that both Wolverine and the reader will be reflecting on Logan’s life as the story builds to the ending. We’ll get a better understanding of why this guy makes the choices he makes, and the path that led him to where we end up. Each issue is built around a different part of Wolverine’s history, in a loose way, and each has a slightly different feel; we’ve seen a lot of different versions of James Howlett over the years, everything from Patch to Weapon X, and versions of many of them will appear here, as well as some new incarnations of the Wolverine persona. It’s a lot of fun.
Marvel.com: What’s the coordination like with your series and Paul Cornell’s monthly WOLVERINE book?
Charles Soule: Paul has been doing some great work to establish Wolverine’s vulnerability without his healing factor. The stakes are very high here; for example, if Logan gets shot, even with his adamantium skeleton, it’s a serious injury that’s going to slow him down. That’s not a problem Logan’s had to deal with very often; his entire approach to fighting and injury is based around the idea that he can make moves that other people couldn’t survive.
Now, he can’t survive that sort of approach either, which means he has to adjust on the fly. That said, one of my goals is to make this a story anyone can jump into whether they’ve read Paul’s WOLVERINE or not. All you really need to know is that Wolverine used to be able to heal from almost any injury, and now he can’t. I’ll give you everything else.
Marvel.com: What kinds of guest-stars will you have in the series and what roles do they play?
Charles Soule: I don’t want to spoil too many of the surprises! I will say that most of the guest stars are bad guys, but they don’t all behave as bad guys in the story. Wolverine has an amazing rogues gallery, and his history with them is incredibly deep. Take Sabretooth, for example: Logan and Creed have gone through some ridiculous things together. My intention here is to bring in some familiar faces, but have their interactions with Logan play out in ways that are going to feel both somewhat new as well as true to what’s come before.
But also, who am I kidding—this is a chance for me to write a bunch of awesome Wolverine characters in one story, and I’m milking it!Marvel.com: How does Logan want to go out when he knows he's going out? Is there a sort of dream way to die within him?
Charles Soule: I wouldn’t say Logan’s planned his own death, exactly, but if he thinks about it at all, he wants to go out in a way that has some dignity, that’s true to the code of honor he’s set for himself. It’s a tough thing, contemplating your own mortality, especially if you’ve never really had to do it before. I mean, up to this point Logan’s probably considered himself to be mildly immortal; or at least death has been a remote concern, despite the violence that surrounds his life. Wolverine facing the idea that he won’t always be around is a central theme to the story.
Marvel.com: Okay, then—what does a world without Wolverine look like?
Charles Soule: It’s a pretty fascinating place, honestly. A Marvel Universe without a Wolverine has a big vacuum to be filled. Villains are emboldened, and heroes—or near-heroes—are inspired to step up. People rely on Logan; they probably don’t even realize quite how much. He’s part of the calculation they make about their own behavior. I think of it sort of like this: say you’re Lady Viper, running your criminal empire. With Wolverine dead, you can be much more brazen, much more open about what you do, because you know Logan’s not out there to stop you. At the same time, some other hero might come into contact with that expanded Viper empire and find him or herself working on an entirely new level. It’s sort of a domino effect.
There’s also the idea that the world doesn’t necessarily know or believe that Logan’s really gone—or want to believe it. He’s like Elvis, or Jim Morrison; people would rather believe that Logan’s still around than accept the truth. The legend of the Wolverine is almost as potent a force as the man, and that’s going to give rise to some killer stories.
Marvel.com: Lastly, what was your reaction when you heard it was Steve McNiven you'd be working with on this? What did you know he'd bring to the series?
Charles Soule: I was already on board just based on the project—I’d have drawn it myself, but thank God that didn’t happen—but when I learned that Steve was attached, my immediate reaction was excitement. My second was more excitement. I’d never worked with Steve before this project, but I was very familiar with his work, and I knew that whatever I imagined would be executed perfectly. For example, I asked for a “thousand-yard stare” on the first page and what I got…well, you’ll see. Just perfect.
Having Steve McNiven handling the pencils, as well as the rest of the art team, who are equally brilliant, is an opportunity and an incentive for me to step up my game, which is always welcome.