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Saturday, April 26, 2014 

Wolverine will "die" in September. Why must we care?

So now, Marvel's latest stunt (via MTV) will be killing off Wolverine:
Marvel has been teasing a radical new development in Wolverine’s history with this summer’s story arc, “3 Months to Die,” which robs Wolverine of his healing factor, the mutant power that has kept him alive and kicking through decades of fatal injuries. Now, EW is excited to announce exclusively that “3 Months to Die” will culminate in a 4-part miniseries in September called, simply, Death of Wolverine. Written by Charles Soule and drawn by Steve McNiven, Death of Wolverine #1 hits on September 3 (that’s the cover image above.) The next three issues of the series will follow every week ensuing, climaxing with Death of Wolverine #4 on September 24.

Michael Marts, an executive editor at Marvel overseeing the project, explains that the idea to kill off one of the most iconic characters in comic books emerged out of Marvel’s semi-annual creative retreat, when Marvel writers and editors come together to discuss major projects. “For a long time, no matter who Wolverine was battling, he’s been the eternal victor,” says Marts. “He almost always comes out on top. Now he finally comes up against an adversary that he cannot win against, he cannot fight. What does that mean for this character who’s been around for hundred years?”
That he'll die of leukemia? If they were transparent enough and let us all know just how he dies, their news might have an impact. But at this point, it's far too late to trust them to deliver. And seriously, has he always been the "eternal" victor? When he originally went up against the Hulk, the jade giant stunned him a good one. If Days of Future Past counts, a Sentinel robot incinerated him in the future timeline. He even once had his adamantium temporarily removed by Magneto. And Logan never put Sabretooth to death for good, so I'm not sure how they can call him eternally victorious if he couldn't send Victor Creed to his final defeat.

Besides, it's unlikely he'll remain dead for long. No, this is one cash cow they simply cannot do without. Also, there's the following to ponder:
The concept of “death” in comic books can seem a bit tenuous — unless your name is Uncle Ben — but Marts says that Marvel approached this event “from a standpoint of finality, of closure.” The hero’s death will have ramifications throughout Marvel’s line. “You’re gonna be entering into a world without Wolverine. That affects not only his teammates, but also the Marvel Universe at large. We’ve got a lot of things in the works already.”
When they advertise it like that, you know it'll dampen the impact. When Jim Starlin wrote the Death of Captain Marvel in 1982, I think that was stand-alone, so even though it did feature a lot of Marvel protagonists paying their respects to Mar-Vell, it's not like they were belaboring the point for months and years afterwards. They did it all pretty quietly compared to modern hype, without making too big a fuss for the sake of fuss.

And if variant covers flood the market, that'll be one more sign this wasn't planned as good storytelling.

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This fixation on death - I wonder if it's just marketing. Of does it reflect a political leaning of comics creators now, where heroes are flawed and anti-heroes and villains must be promoted as the true, flawed heroes; this is the liberal mythical universe where no objective truths or social consensus can be accepted; where society is the true culprit? These are the usual responses on a story like 'death of Wolverine.' But sometimes I wonder if the fixation on killing heroes reflects something more, a crisis of identity in modern culture. I did several posts on the 'revolving door of death' on my blog. What I found was that when values are in flux due to technological and scientific leaps forward, there is no social consensus. In those periods, the stable myths of our culture collapse until a new baseline is found. I don't think this is all about right vs. left. I think the revolving door of death and grimdark comics are symptomatic of post-right and post-left thinking - even if creators identify themselves as liberals or conservatives.

I would say it's partly marketing and publicity. It may also be about giving the nerdy writers and fans a feeling of superiority when the tough heroes get killed, even if it's only temporary. And the fixation on a grimdark style reflects a general cynicism among creators and fans. Emotionally and intellectually, a lot of comics creators and fanboys (regardless of their chronological ages) are adolescents. And grim cynicism seems oh-so-cool and sophisticated to them.

I don't know why this would even be spoken of with anything other than scorn anywhere. It there really anybody out there that is going to be interested in this? How many times can you fool people?

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