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To Hell and back with "Wolverine"


Wolverine is very busy these days, appearing in a handful of X-books, leading the brand new X-Force, working in the Avengers, and anchoring a couple of his own titles. Continuity be damned, the Best There Is At What He Does is at the center of the Marvel universe for a reason: he’s a vessel for whatever violent, mysterious storyline a writer can imagine. In the first arc of the re-launched Wolverine book, he became a vessel of an entirely different kind.

“There’s two kinds of Hell. There’s the one down there with the devil and the fire and all that mess. And there’s the one up here. The one we make for ourselves.”
John Wraith

The first part of “Wolverine Goes to Hell” begins with a flashback: Wolverine meeting with former Weapon X member John Wraith, now a preacher in a small town. The two discuss the twisted path that brought these two killers to the church’s steps. On the topic of faith and hope, Wraith promises that Wolverine will be tested – foreshadowing Wolverine’s imminent journey.

Flashforward to three weeks later. Pastor Wraith tends to his flock, but someone – or something – is after him. He heads into the forest, automatic rifle in hand, finally confronting (you guessed it) Wolverine. But not the usual fun-loving Canuck: this version spews venom and fire, and Wraith knows it’s not his friend Logan – it’s Hell.

Meanwhile, Logan’s newest flame, Melita, is pursued by a different group of demons. She’s able to fend them off before being rescued by everyone’s favorite shapeshifter, Mystique. It is clear larger forces are at work. As a coda, Wolverine meets his first adversary in this story: Satan. The art by Renato Guedes and Jose Wilson Magalhaes paints a vivid image of Hell, here and throughout the series. Considering the viscera of Uncanny X-Force, the pair really have to work to capture this twisted vision of the underworld.


“Everyone I ever killed is waiting for me. Waiting to tear me apart.” Wolverine

Satan intends to have fun torturing Logan’s soul, and admittedly, it’s been a long time coming. He’s killed so many that the burden of what awaits him (in this Judeo-Christian framework, at least) must be staggering. But Logan refuses to yield, despite the pain and anguish, fighting off whatever the devil sends at him. As it is in life, it is in Hell.

Above ground, Mystique and Melita form an uneasy alliance. Wolverine’s body is at large, and on a rampage: he gets to Yukio before the women can explain the situation. Luckily, help is on the way, from some guys who have experience with this sort of thing: the Ghost Riders. And as Logan’s soul faces one his deepest sources of pain – the loss of Mariko – another helping hand appears: Puck. Logan’s old Alpha Flight ally clues him in to the situation, the stakes, and what will be lost if he gives up. Not that giving up was ever an option.

“I deserve Hell. I deserve it all.”Wolverine

As Logan’s soul confronts the devil, his demon-infested body continues on a killing path, heading for Utopia and the X-Men. Chapter 3 illustrates these two journeys as parallels: the torment on Logan’s soul writ large on his friends and family. Seriously injuring Angel, Iceman, and Colossus, Wolverine is finally subdued by the Ghost Riders.


In Hell, Logan confronts a different family: his father, Thomas Logan, and his would-be brother, Sabertooth. These confrontations, and what they mean for Logan’s psyche, are not fully developed; these two are just another pair of stepping stones – like Mariko – on his journey. Predictably, Logan defeats Satan and literally climbs out of Hell, seeking those that put him there and hurt his loved ones. He knows he’ll be back, and he’s found peace in that. But for now: revenge.

Logan is free of Hell, but demons still control his mind. A team of Cyclops, Magneto, Emma Frost, and Namor join the fray, with a score of “Plan Bs” in tow. Foreshadowed in the beginning of Chapter 6, Cyclops has developed plans to kill Wolverine for this very situation, plans which they intend to use. Under Magneto’s control, Wolverine’s life hangs in the balance (with a laughably bad panel by Daniel Acuña undercutting the drama).


This is the final showdown: Logan’s soul has already beaten the Devil, but can he beat the demons that still haunt him, even as they lay waste to his mind? To do that, he’ll need every piece of his psyche: Wolverines, assemble!


As the X-Men heavy hitters try in vain to put him down, Demon Wolverine won’t let up. One last ditch, non-fatal plan is proposed, with the X-Women who mean the most to him (and Emma) joining the battle being waged internally. Melita, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, and Jubilee don psychic shogun gear and get to work, but it’s an even better friend who will help save the day.

“This is the only way to save you from Hell, mein freund. We’ve got to burn these demons out… with some fire of our own.”Nightcrawler

The final chapter in the story is a powerful one. It’s romantic, dramatic, and even funny. The pieces of Logan’s mind are emblazoned on doors, their secrets held inside. “Sexual Fantasies,” “Hopes and Dreams,” “Reasons to Hate Myself,” “X-Men I’ve Had Sex With,” “How I Cheat At Cards:” this is Logan’s humanity on display. What else would be at the center than Jean Grey?

The cleansing power of the Phoenix requires loss: from the ashes and all that. To win this final battle, Logan must finally let Jean go. As his body is attacked with everything the X-Men have, he faces one last decision: does he want to live? In a reference to “Here Comes Tomorrow,” (New X-Men #154 and Wolverine #8 below for reference) the Phoenix saves the day, entreating Logan to live, letting go rage, revenge, and his own demons. But what fun would that be?




If not Aronofsky, who should direct The Wolverine?

Well, that was quick: the dream of a Wolverine prequel helmed by Darren Aronofsky appears to be over, as the visionary director drops out for what appear to be personal reasons. I’m assuming that the Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, but also The Tourist) script, based on the 1982 Frank Miller & Chris Claremont miniseries Wolverine, is still on the table. Disappointing, especially after Aronofsky promised such great things, but salvageable. So, if not Aronofsky, who should direct The Wolverine?

The quintessential Wolverine miniseries details Logan’s exploits in Japan. It’s a tale of honor, with a realistic love triangle and plenty of berzerker action; it established the character of Wolverine that the world knows and loves. The pie-in-the-sky director would be Quentin Tarantino, but you can safely put that on the “fan boy wishlist.” Same goes for body-gore master David Cronenberg. And while Robert Rodriguez has adapted Frank Miller before, his style may be too bombastic for this one.

Bryan Singer saved the superhero genre with his X-Men films, but he is stuck in pre-production for three films (Battlestar Galactica, Excalibur, and Jack the Giant Killer) and probably can’t save this one. The same goes for Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), who takes over the Superman franchise from Singer next year. I’m not sure that Matthew Vaughn would do another comic film after directing three in three years.

Last summer, rumored directors included Matt Reeves, Tony Scott, Kathryn Bigelow, and Timur Bekmambetov. Reeves showed promise on his remake Let Me In, and Bigelow would represent Fox thinking outside of the box; both would be good choices. Bekmambetov would work as well, but he’s tied up with the sequel to Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Pray it’s not Scott; Ridley’s brother hasn’t made a good film in over decade.

One name I’ll totally pull out of nowhere is Edward Zwick, director of The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance, and Love and Other Drugs; his diverse body of work demonstrates the range required to bring nuance to a comic book movie.

Luckily, Wolverine will return to the screen after the disastrous Origins flick. But without the right director, this prequel might stumble down the same path.

Introducing the Uncanny X-Force, in all their g(l)ory

If you read comics in the 90s, you’ve seen the work of Rob Liefeld, who penned a number of record-selling comics at Marvel before founding Image Comics in 1992. While only at Marvel for a few years, his trademark (and often maligned) style dominated for quite some time. Liefeld is basically the Michael Bay of the comics world: his work is typified by big-guns-and-bigger-tits art that has no basis in reality (featuring an abundance of pouches and a lack of visible feet).

At Marvel, he created X-Force, a team of mutant mercenaries that was more aggressive and “extreme” than the X-Men. Initially popular, interest in the series waned throughout the decade. In 2008, rising writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost re-vamped the X-Force brand, with a team of popular characters that included Wolverine, X-23 and Warpath. In the books, the new X-Force was tasked with doing the X-Men’s dirty work – by any means necessary. Stylistically, it was a throwback to the over-the-top drama and violence of Liefeld’s original work – but with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Kyle and Yost ended their run after 28 crossover-filled issues. In their last book, Cyclops disbanded X-Force after finally confronting the group’s body count. This lead to Wolverine to assemble his own black-ops team, with a very Fight Club motto: “This is X-Force. There’s only one rule . . . no one can know.”


Uncanny X-Force (featuring Wolverine, Psylocke, Archangel, Deadpool, and Fantomex) launched last fall with Rick Rememder and Jerome Opena at the helm. This is a team of anti-heroes, all with checkered pasts that are soaked in blood. But there’s also a sense of humor to them, between Deadpool’s fourth-wall-breaking antics and Fantomex’s Eurotrash affectations. They might be dispensing with truckloads of enemies, but they do it with a smile. The romantic undertones to the interplay between Psylocke and Archangel is also interesting, as Warren attempts to harness his inner demons with Betsy’s help. And it doesn’t hurt that the book looks fantastic, with vibrant colors and exquisite pencils that capture the team in all their gory detail.


The first storyline in Uncanny X-Force pitted the team against a frequent foe: Apocalypse. But unlike the towering behemoth they’ve come to know and love, ‘Poc was reincarnated as a young boy. It’s a favorite paradox of the time traveler: would you kill a baby Hitler? How do you reconcile the murder of an innocent, if that innocent will grow into pure evil? It’s a philosophical conundrum, that haunts X-Force even after they solve the problem, in their own way.


The current storyline, “Deathlok Nation,” focuses on Fantomex and The World, the pocket universe from which he was forged. As Grant Morrison proved during his run on New X-Men, Fantomex is an intriguing character with a rich backstory. Rememder is more than capable telling his story and much more, especially considering the ignominious beginnings of the X-Force.

"X-Men: First Class" trailer released

When X-Men was released in 2000, it represented an ambitious attempt at revamping the comic book film. Joel Schumacher’s debacle of a movie, Batman and Robin, with its campy script and, uh, Bat Nipples, put the genre in deep freeze.

In X-Men, Bryan Singer, the director of such dark dramas as Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil, introduced a gritty realism to the superhero film that would later be perfected by Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The historic success of the new Batfilms has ushered in another decade of superhero movies. But what about the franchise that got the ball rolling?

As Singer left to make Superman Returns, glorified music video director Brett Ratner took the wheel. Ratner promptly drove the franchise off a cliff with his garish X-Men: The Last Stand. The misguided and predictable X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t help matters either.

Luckily, this summer’s X-Men: First Class looks to right the ship. Guy Ritchie protege Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, Layer Cake) directs from a script by frequent-collaborator Jane Goldman; Singer re-joins the franchise, penning the story and producing. The cast is a Who’s Who of up-and-coming talent, including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, and January Jones. The trailer debuted yesterday, and the buzz is already substantial.

X-Men: First Class examines the origins of the team, along with the friendship-turned-rivalry of Professor Xavier and Magneto, set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The historic fiction angle is an interesting one, representing a return to the Golden Age of X-Men. And while fanboys may blanch at the character list of the film (which does not faithfully reproduce the original X-Men team), it should be a return to the tastefully reverent work of the Singer films.

X-Men: First Class premieres June 3.