For a while, things were looking pretty good for Wolverine, as the leader of his own squad of X-Men and founder of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. But “Wolverine” writer Paul Cornell has made life increasingly tough on the Marvel mutant since taking on his solo adventures last year. Thanks to an alien virus, Logan no longer has his famous healing factor, meaning that the character formerly able to come back from just about anything was now suddenly very vulnerable.
The implication was clear: the X-Men mainstay was now “Killable,” like the title of a recent arc of his series. Rumors have spread that Marvel might actually pull that trigger, and kill off one of their most popular and ubiquitous characters. Cornell and artist Ryan Stegman have been exploring Wolverine’s dangerous new status quo, and the unconventional places it’s led to, in the book’s relaunched volume as part of All-New Marvel NOW!.
Now, it looks like the rumors were true — well, probably. CBR can exclusively reveal that June’s “Wolverine” #8, written by Cornell with art by Kris Anka, will be the start of “3 Months to Die,” an arc — branded by a cover banner — counting down to a major event in September (July will be “2 Months to Die,” etc.). Marvel first indicated this past December, that something major was on the horizon for Wolverine with news of a retail exchangeability program for “Wolverine” #12, which was described as a “double-sized landmark issue” expected to receive “national attention for its game-changing story.”
Marvel stops short of confirming that Wolverine will in fact at least temporarily die — “the title of this story arc is ripe with implication,” Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso told CBR News — but that’s certainly the idea the publisher is putting in fans’ heads. CBR News spoke with both Alonso and X-Men group editor Mike Marts — who in his time at DC Comics, oversaw a Batman run that saw the character flirt with death — for more details on what might be next for Logan, and whether or not he should start any long novels.
CBR News: Mike, Axel, “Wolverine” seems to have been heading toward this direction for a while, but what got the ball rolling to this point of “3 Months to Die?”
Mike Marts: The set-up was brilliant, I thought — taking away Logan’s healing factor, the one thing that makes him so special and sets him apart from every single other mutant, and has almost made this character immortal. You strip that away, and a lot of people think, “Marvel’s taking a huge risk doing this. It’s the one element that defines this character.” We decided to be brave, and push it to the limit, and see what we can get out of this. Stripping away the healing factor is going to open up Logan to a huge arena of pain.
The healing factor has been off the board for a while now, and now Marvel’s coming out and saying this leads to what looks like a major character death — was this always the plan for the outcome of the story, or did it evolve over time?
Axel Alonso: Obviously, the title of this story arc is ripe with implication. [Laughs]
Marts: And we’re not messing around with the title. “3 Months to Die.” We are going to fully explore Wolverine’s mortality, what that means to him, what that means to the X-Men, what it means to the Marvel Universe — and we’re not going to be shy. We’re not going to be nervous about what storylines we might decide to pursue here.
Alonso: This is not a bull$#!^ title.
It seems like a concept like this might get thrown around at Marvel every so often — it feels like a natural thing to pursue, but there might have been hesitation in the past to pull the trigger. What makes now the right time, and long-term story that Paul Cornell’s been telling the right approach?
Marts: Around the time that Axel and I started working together a bunch of years ago, this same type of scenario popped up in regards to Wolverine’s origin. There was a bunch of us in the room talking about, “Should this story be told, should this story not be told?” Why shouldn’t it be told? Readers deserve to know. Readers deserve to get the best stories possible from the characters that they love. I think the same type of approach is being taken by this storyline.
Certainly, it’s been a conversation in the hallways for years. Should we pursue this direction? Should we tell this story? Should we push Wolverine to the limit? Yes. Why not? Let’s do it. Let’s roll the dice and take chances, that’s what Marvel’s about.
This story has been building for a few months — Mike, when you were coming back to Marvel, was this something you definitely knew you’d be working on? And was the story definitely personally interesting to you?
Marts: Yes, to both. When I was first coming over here, it was one of the first things that I discussed. Having worked with Wolverine a lot in the past, this is an extremely excited opportunity for me, personally, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it.
You have experience editing high-profile stories — one that comes to mind as relevant to this from your time at DC would be “Batman R.I.P.” Do you see yourself as uniquely qualified in taking on this type of story?
Marts: Are you saying I’m the Grim Reaper of comic books? [Laughs] I have had experience with taking major franchise characters and exploring their mortality. Certainly, working on “Batman R.I.P.” was great for me, and a similar type of approach where I wasn’t shy about taking chances with the characters. I think that’s what it always comes back to — getting the best stories possible out of creators means taking chances. We can’t ever be afraid to do that. We have to get right out in front of them, and be courageous and bold and take chances with these characters. We can’t treat them like the sacred cows that a lot of people take them to be. We’ve got to throw them off a cliff, we’ve got to put them in front of danger — we’ve got to possibly kill them at times.
Everybody knows that Wolverine is in a lot of Marvel books every month, so something like this is going to inevitably have a ripple effect throughout the Marvel Universe. How much of an event is this through Marvel as a whole?
Alonso: The effects are line-wide. I’m actually a bit surprised that my publisher allowed us to do this.
What has this story — seeing Wolverine lose his healing factor and dealing with that fallout — allowed the creative team to explore with Wolverine as a character that wasn’t possible before?
Marts: The healing factor is probably one of the single most important things that defines Logan as a character, a mutant and a superhero. You strip that away, and automatically you’re going to be pushing the character into new directions that he’s never been before. It’s uncharted territory for the character, for the creators and most certainly for the readers. That’s going to give us exciting stories.
People are going to be skeptical as to how far Marvel is willing to go with such a franchise, iconic character like Wolverine — how would you respond to that section of the fanbase?
Alonso: I’d say read before you judge!
What else do readers need to know about “3 Months to Die?”
Marts: It takes place over three months, but we’re squeezing five issues into those three months. It’s “Wolverine” issues #8-#12. “Wolverine” writer Paul Cornell is taking lead on this, and Kris Anka is doing work on the first few issues. We’ve already got material in, and it’s surprising, even to an editor — what we’re getting is pretty shocking.
It goes beyond that. There are other creators involved that we’re talking to. The project is fairly deep in its scope, and pretty extensive.
Alonso: And there will be clues to what we’re doing in the September “Previews” catalog. [Laughs]
“Wolverine” #8 by Paul Cornell and Kris Anka kicks off “3 Months to Die” in June.