Relax, Wolverine won't be dead long

Death of Wolverine comic book cover. (Courtesy)

Death of Wolverine comic book cover. (Courtesy)

John Law, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:15 PM ET

So Wolverine dies next month. Have a good vacation, bub, we'll see you in about six months.

That's about the average any major character stays dead in comics. Which is why every major announcement that a big name is about to croak is greeted with eye-rolling contempt from longtime readers.

Been there. Yawned at that.

DC and Marvel have held funerals for most every A-lister through the years, and now it's Wolverine's turn. The guy who essentially saved the X-men, who may be the most popular Marvel hero behind Spider-man, gets the dirt nap with the four-part weekly series Death of Wolverine. The first issue is out Sept. 3.

How he dies has been surprisingly guarded by Marvel, but with the Canadian mutant's healing powers gone kaput, it likely won't take much. Stuff he used to shrug off will now be fatal. What's known is that Wolverine will reflect on his life as his enemies realize he's suddenly vulnerable.

It'll likely be a good, even emotional story. Except, we've seen this so many times before. Within a year this story will be wiped clean and Wolverine will be back among the living.

It would be insanity if he isn't. Wolverine is one of Marvel's biggest properties. Killing him isn't like someone on Game of Thrones getting whacked. He is too important to Marvel's bottom line.

Which is why they're killing him to begin with. No one would care about The Death of She-Hulk or The Death of Hawkeye. But offing Wolverine creates a nostalgic buzz, going back to The Death of Superman in the early '90s.

If it's one thing Marvel should be avoiding, it's a return to the early '90s. An era no comic buff recalls fondly.

Comic sales were exploding, thanks to the same speculators who ruined the sports card industry. Publishers cranked out endless chrome, glow-in-the-dark and 3D covers to cash in. The writing was bad, the artwork worse. I have boxes of books from the early '90s I wince at reading today. And at the centre of it all was DC's horrific Death of Superman storyline.

Mainstream media bit hard on this one, creating huge line-ups and instant sell-outs when the fateful issue (Superman #75) hit stores in November, 1992. It sold about three million copies, many of them polybagged special editions people were convinced would be worth thousands some day. A recent check on eBay shows them selling for about $15.

Two things went wrong:

One, the story was atrocious. The death issue was a hackneyed, poorly executed con job. In just six years, DC went from masterpieces like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns to dreck like this.

Two, the corpse was barely cold before DC announced the return of Superman. This long storyline, called Reign of the Supermen, was actually pretty cool, but readers felt burned. DC couldn't even wait a year before wiping Superman's death off the books.

The message to readers was: None of these stories matter, but thanks for your purchase. As a result, many retailers point to The Death of Superman as a huge reason the industry started to collapse soon after.

It was a long road back, but readers returned as the writing and storylines improved. Some of the best comics ever made have come out in the past 10 years (Ex Machina, Scalped), but Marvel and DC can't let the early '90s go. They crave another Death of Superman event, so they kill Spider-man, Captain America and Green Lantern. All the while, comic readers laugh. For years, the joke was that the only character to stay dead in comics was Bucky "¦ and then they brought Bucky back.

Bev Morley, manager of Mostly Comics in St. Catharines, fully expects Wolverine to be back in six to nine months.

"A lot of people want to see how they're going to (kill him)," she says. "I don't think they, for one minute, believe he's going to stay dead. How can he?

"But it is generating a lot of interest. It's going to be very big-selling."

What's most annoying is that Marvel should be over gimmicks by now. Their movies have become powerhouses, to the point something obscure like Guardians of the Galaxy is the biggest movie of the summer. Marvel should be flush with confidence to take new risks, not regurgitate old ones.

Readers will buy it, says Morley. But is the ensuing resentment worth it?

"They know, give me a freaking break, nobody stays dead," she says. "I've given up trying to figure out the how and why (of comics). If you try to figure out why, your head just hurts. I think they'll do anything for a buck, basically."

So, uh, rest in peace Wolvie. In lieu of flowers, Marvel requests you buy 20 copies.

Email John


Videos

Photos