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?