This past week in Marvel Comics, the X-Man and Avenger Wolverine died. This happened in a four-issue miniseries called The Death of Wolverine. So it wasn’t exactly a surprise. The miniseries was much better than I expected it to be and his death was well handled.
From what I can tell the series has met with mixed reviews with virtually no one thinking that Wolverine’s death will be ‘permanent’. Cries of ‘He’s not really dead!’ can be found in any comments section on any website talking about it. Of course he’s not ‘really’ dead. He’s not real. He’s a fictional character often drawn and written by some of the best people in the comic book business and occasionally played on screen by Hugh Jackman. So no, he’s not really dead.
That’s not their point though. When it comes to comic book, death is a bit of a revolving door. Since 2007 Marvel has killed off prominent characters such as Captain America and Human Torch with mainstream publicity about each ‘death’. And both are back, alive and well. (Although recently Cap has become an old man resulting in his old buddy, Falcon taking his place and Human Torch has lost his powers, but no one expects those things to last long either.) Heck, one of the Death of Wolverine epilogue books is about the response his old friend Nightcrawler has to his death. Nightcrawler himself was dead up until a few months ago.
Why is death so temporary in comics so often? Because it’s profitable. People buy issue where the character dies. People buy the issue where the character comes back. And some characters are just too dang popular to keep them dead.
Even in the Marvel Cinematic Universe both Agent Coulson and Bucky Barnes have been brought back from ‘death’.
For some fans the temporary aspect of death in comics cheapens the story and makes the comics less enjoyable. I understand their point. If you have a hero sacrificing her life knowing they’re going to come back, it’s not all that big of a sacrifice, is it?
As a long time comic book reader, I’ve found a way to reconcile this. Much in the same way that when I read a Marvel Comic I let myself believe a man can have a skeleton laced with the fictional metal of Adamantium, I allow myself to believe that when these characters die, they’re dead. It’s worth noting that when these characters die, none of them seem to be aware that they might come back. This is despite the fact that they’ve seen many of their friends and loved ones die and return to life. I just go along with their own belief that when they die, they die.
One time I tried to think of X-Men who have never thought dead in the 75 year history of Marvel Comics. I came up with Iceman, but I could be wrong about that.
So Wolverine is dead (and not actually for the first time). But this one may stick longer than most. Word on the Internet is that Marvel Comics is downplaying any characters they don’t have movie rights to such as Wolverine, but we’ll see.
– Jack Cameron