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Thursday, September 04, 2014 

USA Today's sugary coverage of Wolverine's meaningless death

USA Today covered the impending demise of Logan 40 years after his debut, which Marvel's delightedly advertising as a permanent curtain call. At the start, they say:
After a long, hard life of torture, experiments and extreme violence, it looks like Wolverine will finally be resting in peace.

The ultimate fate of Marvel Comics' most popular antihero comes to pass in Death of Wolverine, the four-issue weekly series by writer Charles Soule and artist Steve McNiven that kicks off today and brings life to a close for the clawed member of the X-Men.
Given this miniseries is obviously a publicity stunt, it's amazing it's just four issues long. Indeed, how long has it been since there were miniseries - or even story arcs in an ongoing series - that only lasted that length? The only short one I can recall from recent times is "Rogues' Revenge" by Geoff Johns starring several Flash villains, and that was truly awful. For too long already, there's been scores of miniseries and story arcs running no less than 6 issues, and as Brian Bendis has demonstrated, writers like him will go to such lengths to pad out the storytelling, making it a snail-slow experience. When DC started the miniseries concept in 1979 with a World of Krypton miniseries, there were plenty that just ran 3-4 issues, and those that ran longer were done according to how many the writers/artists needed to tell the tale. By the mid-90s, however, it all began to change and not always for the better.
"What better time to kill someone than their 40th birthday," Marvel editor in chief Axel Alonso says of the character, who first appeared in a 1974 issue of The Incredible Hulk (though he was born in the 1880s).
If they're treating this as a celebration - one the paper makes no attempt to criticize - then once again, they're taking a very appalling route. Death is not something to party about, yet that's something DC did, inadvertently or not, when they killed off the original Supergirl in Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1986. Historian Peter Sanderson once told how they hung a poster in their office drawn from the cover of issue 7 with Superman sobbing over her dead figure, and in retrospect, the notion of promoting her death with a poster is mind-numbing. I wouldn't want to own it.
The last adventure of the man also known as Logan is a globetrotting one, taking him from the wilds of his native Canada to the dangerous island of Madripoor. Usually getting in major scrapes wouldn't be a problem for a guy with a fantastic mutant healing factor that makes him near-invulnerable, but now that's gone, and every one of his enemies is gunning to claim his head.
I can guess where this is going: it's all an excuse to feature as many of Wolverine's familiar archenemies as possible. How does that amount to a compelling tale? If they really wanted to impress, they'd limit the villains to just one or two. Say, what if Sabretooth, a prominent adversary, doesn't even follow Logan to the afterlife? The writer, Charles Soule, also says:
He admits that Wolverine will definitely perish in the book, but "it's really the manner of his death that matters."

His life flashes before his (and readers') eyes — Death of Wolverine revisits classic Wolverine stories that touch upon every era of his long life plus features a host of surprise guest stars, "any or all of whom could be Wolverine's murderer," says Alonso.
Is this supposed to be a mystery? What if it turns out one of the good guys did Logan in? I definitely wouldn't like that.
Wolverine has been a staple in Marvel comics for 40 years, and partly due to Hugh Jackman's portrayal of him on the big screen, he's become a superhero that's transcended the genre. So not only will taking him off the board affect comic stories — he stars monthly in solo and team titles for Marvel — but also the characters closest to him.

The Logan Legacy, with a couple of issues by Soule, will explore the effect of Wolverine's death on his female clone X-23, his son Daken, and longtime foes Sabretooth, Mystique and Lady Deathstrike. And Soule's The Weapon X Project continues the story of Death of Wolverine and adds to the X-Men mythology.
Ah, what's this? Sabretooth will survive? Gee, and just when it might've worked if both went out together. I vaguely recall an interview Joe Quesada gave in 2001 where he put a higher value on villains than heroes, and that's one of the biggest faults for today's writers.
The writer has heard from skeptics who wonder when Wolverine will be back, since the high-profile comic "deaths" of Captain America, the Human Torch and Spider-Man didn't last very long. Soule will argue, however, that Death of Wolverine "is an event that's designed to stick."

Some feel it's part of Marvel's long-term plan to phase out the X-Men — "one of the most preposterous things I've ever heard," Alonso says — but for him, the real reason to do it is because there's a great story to be told.
It was already told, in The Death of Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin from 1982, which was simpler, and better, without trying to be sensational and gratuitous. But Mar-Vell's death by natural causes there never inspired or influenced later writers to try the same approach without resorting to the kind of publicity stunts that have long become the norm, one of the weirdest things about mainstream comics.

And this isn't the first time Wolverine ostensibly died. IIRC, there was another miniseries a few years ago where Logan went to the afterlife just like the Punisher did, and came back. Logan's probably died so many times before, even a supposedly permanent death wouldn't have much impact now.

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Four-issue mini-series were fairly common in the early 1980's: Hercules, Wolverine, Vision & Scarlet Witch. Marvel was obviously testing the waters to see if those characters could sustain their own solo series. But you are right that six-issue arcs have become the standard, presumably because that is the right length for collection in a trade paperback.

Another publicity stunt masquerading as "a great story to be told."

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