If you looked up the word “resilient” in the Marvel Comics dictionary, you’d see a picture of Wolverine. Thanks to his healing factor, the adamantium-enhanced X-Man has survived and made complete recoveries from devastating attacks. Perhaps the only thing more curious than Wolverine’s ability to heal from such injuries without a physical scar is his apparent ability to recover without any mental scars, either. Writer Marc Guggenheim gave readers a quick and mysterious glimpse at how Logan’s spirit and mind recover from mortal wounds in “Wolverine” #48, the epilogue to his “Vendetta” storyline. This week, Guggenheim returns to “Wolverine” with the six-part storyline “The Death of Logan.” Beginning in issue #57 and illustrated by Howard Chaykin, the story will shed light on exactly what happens when Logan dies. CBR News spoke with Guggenheim about the story.
Indeed, it was always Guggneheim’s intention to return to the mystery he introduced at the end of “Vendetta” and explore how Wolverine mentally recovers “fatal” injuries. “It was a bit of a circuitous route back to ‘Wolverine,'” Guggenheim told CBR News. “Originally, we were talking about following up on the hanging plot threads from ‘Vendetta’ in the pages of ‘Marvel Comics Presents.’ Then because of the economics of that book and the way things are structured there, we all realized that it would probably work better in the pages of ‘Wolverine’ proper, which was more than okay with me. The nature of the story I had planned worked in terms of five 22-page issues, as opposed to 12 eight-page issues.
“Also, I don’t want to go as far as to say that this is a seminal Wolverine story but it does deal a lot with his status quo and the question of when he suffers one of these massive injuries that would render anyone brain-dead, how does he manage to heal his memories in addition to his body?” Guggenheim added. “So for anyone who is interested in that question, I think it’s critical to have that answer come in the pages of ‘Wolverine.'”
Guggenheim’s story arc, titled “The Death of Logan,” picks up shortly after the events of Jeph Loeb’s recently completed “Evolution” storyline. “I’m trying to write Logan’s state of mind as informed by all the events of the previous months but at the same time not relying on them,’ Guggenheim explained. “Because I didn’t always have complete clarity in terms of what was being done in those stories and where he would be ending up.”
When readers meet up with Logan in Guggenheim’s first issue, his state of mind is pretty much nominal — with one big exception. “Sort of between the panels, he has fallen for this Atlantean agent who he met during ‘Vendetta,’ Guggenheim said. “When my arc picks up, he’s with her and they’ve been together for some time. At the every end of ‘Vendetta’ we established that they were sleeping together and now we sort of discover that he’s sort of fallen for her. That’s probably the biggest change to his mental state when we pick up the arc in issue #57.”
Given the usual fate of women that become romantically involved with Wolverine, some readers might be concerned for the health of Logan’s new Atlantean flame. “Logan’s track record with women plays into the answer of the central questions of what happens to his memories and his souls when he dies,” Guggenheim stated. “So it’s not by any means accidental that I begin this arc with Logan in love again and we all know how that’s probably going to play out.”
“The Death of Logan” begins, quite naturally, with Wolverine kicking the bucket. “That comes at the end of the first issue,” Guggenheim confirmed. “The structure of ‘Death of Logan’ is I don’t want to say unconventional but each issue will take place in two time frames. One time frame is when Logan was with the Canadian army during World War I. The other time is the present day over a span of about six months. So I’ve tried to give this five-issue arc sort of an epic scope in terms of that it takes place over a vast amount of time. We get a chance to peer back into Logan’s deep past but at the same time take him a little bit further into the future.”
Events past and present will help answer many of the burning questions left over from Guggenheim’s “Vendetta” storyline, but the plot of “The Death of Logan” involves more than just looking at what happens to Logan’s memories when he dies. “I really wanted to repopulate Wolverine’s rogues’ gallery,” Guggenheim explained. “Especially with Sabretooth gone and a lot of [Logan’s] more historical villains being dealt with in ‘Origins.’ I really wanted to bring a new player onto the field that was just a really good foil and threat to Logan. So that’s another big element of the arc.”
Guggenheim made sure the new villain he designed for “The Death of Logan” was a character that played off Wolverine’s particular strengths and abilities. “I’ll give you an example by contrast,” the writer said. “It was kind of difficult to have Wolverine go up against Nitro because Nitro is an energy powered villain and he blows things up, whereas Wolverine works best against villains he can hit and who can hit him back. At the same time, though, I wanted to create a character who can be hit and hit back that wasn’t like Sabretooth; who is a killer in his own right but in a completely different way than Sabretooth. He’s definitely on the Sabretooth end of the spectrum as opposed to the more conspiracy type bad guy.
“His name is Shogun,” Guggenheim continued. “I think the best way to sort of tease Shogun is if the title of the arc is ‘The Death of Logan’ than it stands to reason that someone has to be responsible for killing him and that’s where Shogun comes to play.”
Guggenheim won’t explicitly reveal Shogun’s motive for killing Wolverine, but it could as simple as a hired hit. “Shogun works for an organization that is sort of my answer to A.I.M. and Hydra,” Guggenheim explained. “That’s another sort of gap that I was detecting in the Marvel universe. It feels like the really sort of kick ass bad guy organizations have become sort of diffuse and less threatening over the years. So I wanted to introduce a new organization with a very malevolent agenda that we’re taking very seriously and didn’t have the sort of baggage of history that A.I.M. and Hydra have.”
After Logan has his initial run-in with Shogun, the action shifts to the mysterious “Afterlife” readers first saw at the end of Guggenheim’s first “Wolverine” story. The world may look a bit different now, but Guggenheim promises by the time this story wraps readers will know the exact nature of the world. “I’ll be very clear about what it is and it will be very clear in terms of how it is portrayed,” Guggenheim said. “When Humberto [Ramos] drew the afterlife in issue #48 he drew it in this very stylized, pencils-only, really cool way. I didn’t want to obligate Howard [Chaykin], who has a different style, to adopt the exact same look. I wanted to avoid that because Humberto’s art has its own look and Howard should feel free to develop his own look.
“Howard’s version of the Afterlife is by my suggestion a little more concrete,” Guggenheim continued. “But it all comes out of the story and the situation that Logan finds himself in. Because of my first issue in this arc, Logan’s soul is literally in a different place so there is no obligation to depict the Afterlife in the same way that we already established. We’ll know very clearly what it is. Is it Purgatory? It is Hell? Spoiler warning : For Logan the Afterlife is a bar, just because I felt like that was appropriate for the character.”
The Afterlife may look different than it did in the final issue of “Vendetta,” but it is still home to one of Wolverine’s adversaries, the mysterious Lazear. “He plays a huge role in the story,” Guggenheim stated. “Basically, in the first three issues we’ll discover very clearly who Lazear is and what his relationship to Logan is. Everything that was teased at in issue #48 gets paid off in the first three issues of the new arc. It’s not coincidental that a big chunk of the arc takes place during World War I because their relationship goes back that far. Lazear in many ways is definitely someone who’s plagued Logan for a very, very long time and I would love to see him live on past this arc.”
Lazear isn’t the only familiar foe to confront Logan in the Afterlife. “One of the fun aspects of Logan is that over the years he’s had so many different incarnations. While we’re in the Afterlife, I thought it might be fun to just in a single issue, use this as an opportunity to explore Logan’s history from a new perspective. So issue #59, I wouldn’t say is a stand alone issue, but it is self-contained in the sense that is has a beginning, middle and end. The story really focuses on Logan having to confront all these different versions of himself in order to escape from the Afterlife. I’m not saying he does escape from the Afterlife, I’m just using the opportunity to explore his history in a new way.”
Guggenheim’s story doesn’t take place entirely in the Afterlife realm. “A lot of the story unfolds in the real world,” Guggenheim said. “Jeph Loeb’s run has a real surreal element if not bordering on the supernatural. I adjusted my plans a little bit to sort of cut back on my supernatural elements because I didn’t think it prudent to have a string of eight months or even a year of ‘Wolverine’ stories with such a strong supernatural bent. So basically, the way my run is structured is that issue one is all in the earthly realm. Issue #2 is a bit of a mix. Issue #3 is supernatural. Then issues #4 and #5 are all earthbound. So the only real issue that takes place exclusively in the Afterlife is the middle chapter, chapter three. The good part about that is even those sequences are very grounded. Again, I’m really trying to play off of Howard’s style and also just the nature of a Wolverine book. It’s not Doctor Strange.”
“The Death of Logan” may not be a Doctor Strange story, but the good Doctor does play a role. “I think any time you sort of get into the Afterlife it helps to have a tour guide and in this story Doctor Strange is that guide,” Guggenheim explained. “He’s sort of a pleasant surprise for me. Every project, there’s always an aspect that I find was unexpected and in this case it was just how much fun it was to write Doctor Strange and his interactions with Logan and with Iron Man.”
Obviously, if Doctor Strange and Iron Man are interacting face to face in “The Death of Logan,” it’s because something big has brought the two opposing Avengers together. “It was writing that opposition and that conflict between the two of them that was an awful lot of fun,” Guggenheim remarked.
Guggenheim believes readers who enjoyed the tone of his “Vendetta” arc should love “The Death of Logan.” “The tone is very similar to ‘Vendetta’ in that it’s structured very similar,” Guggenheim explained. “It starts out one way and with a plot twist it becomes another story and then it becomes a different story on top of that. Also, in terms of tone, I think this story has the humor that ‘Vendetta’ had while at the same time addressing these darker subject matters.”
Drawing the humor and dark subject matter of “The Death of Logan” is Guggenheim’s collaborator on the recently cancelled but much-loved “Blade” series, Howard Chaykin. “It’s funny, when I found out Howard would be drawing the book, it was very much a mixed reaction. I really love working with Howard. I love what he does but I was also despairing for my time!” Guggenheim joked. “Scott Kollins was balancing his time between ‘Wolverine’ and ‘Omega Flight,’ so the scripts could come out at a much more leisurely pace. The second I heard Howard came on board I was like, ‘Now I’ve to put the pedal to the metal.'”
Whether or not Guggenheim chronicles any more “Wolverine” tales after “The Death of Logan” is ultimately up to the readers. “I really love the character of Logan and I really enjoy writing him,” stated Guggenheim. “Nothing would make me happier than to do another Wolverine story. I think in large part it’s going to depend on how this one is received. The fans will vote with their dollar. It’s in their hands.”
Guggenheim knows that at first glance “The Death of Logan” may not seem like a story for every “Wolverine” fan, but he encourages readers to give the story a chance. “If I was a reader and I heard ‘supernatural’ and ‘Logan’ in the Afterlife I might decide to take a pass,” Guggenheim admitted. “I’ve been writing this story with those readers’ voices in my head the entire time. I’ve been making sure that even when we are in the Afterlife it still feels like a ‘Wolverine’ book. Even if that’s not your cup of tea stick around, because just like ‘Vendetta,’ which went from going after Nitro to going up against Namor and then going up against Damage Control, this storyline is structured so that every two issues it’s really switching subject matter. It’s very layered. There are all sorts of different fun things going on yet it’s all in the service of one larger story. So my advice would be stick with it because it’s like the weather in Chicago — if it’s not to your liking just wait five minutes and it will change.”
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