One of the most popular mutants around, James Howlett, otherwise known as Logan and the Wolverine, has been a fan-favorite character for decades. Ever since he first appeared back in The Incredible Hulk #181, readers have never been able to get enough of the berserker mutant. Wolverine boasts a long and complex history, as us expected of someone well over one hundred years old. However most of that time spent fighting or trying to survive; things weren’t always hunky dory. Known for being the best what he does, which is, generally speaking, killing. Logan is known for unsheathing his adamantium claws and laying into those foolish enough to cross him. The number of bodies he’s put into the ground over the years is frightening in number.
Unlike many heroes, Wolverine isn’t afraid to stab someone repeatedly. Considered the deadliest mutant on Earth, with an incredible healing factor and claws that can slice through anyone or anything, he maintains a proclivity for violence, made worse by his animalistic Berserker Rage. Prone to ferocious and bloodthirsty outbursts, the addition of Wolverine’s temperament, skills, and mutant abilities leave heroes and villains afraid. Here at CBR we’re ranking 15 versions of Wolverine, from the tamest and most friendly, to the meanest and most bloodthirsty.
15 HEADMASTER WOLVERINE
Following the aftermath of Marvel’s "Avengers vs. X-Men" event, Charles Xavier is dead, having been killed by his first student Cyclops. The X-Men are splintered and things don’t look like they’re getting better anytime soon. Logan, distraught over the loss of his mentor, realizes young mutants still need a school and a safe haven. To that end he continues running the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, an institution he initially created to get away from Cyclops and his growing militaristic mentality.
As the school’s headmaster, Wolverine wanted to focus his energies on teaching his students, making sure they learned there was more to life than simply fighting. With a new sort of responsibility at his feet, Logan steadily became more gentrified. Still, this being X-Men comics, trouble found ways to plague them, but by now, Wolverine had also taught his students to defend themselves.
14 OLD MAN LOGAN
The Wolverine in the "Old Man Logan" storyline comes a significantly darker time than the one we’re familiar with. In this timeline, the world’s supervillains finally got their act together and systematically killed all the superheroes. The villain Mysterio causes Wolverine to hallucinate and makes him kill the X-Men. Upon realizing what he’s done, Wolverine is forever scarred and refuses to unsheathe his claws. Leaving the life of crime-fighting behind him, he starts a family and becomes a simple farmer.
His vow of nonviolence means that he’ll take all kinds of beatings from anyone and everyone, but will forever refuse to fight back, unable to heal from the emotional damage from decades earlier. Of course this is Wolverine we’re talking about, so after the Hulk has Logan’s family killed, the old Wolverine resurfaces and he’s ready to kill once again.
13 UNCANNY WOLVERINE
Wolverine’s fight with the Hulk was big enough that it brought Charles Xavier to his doorstep. Wolverine stepped down from Department H and leading Alpha Flight and joined up with Xavier to be part of the X-Men. However, the villain Romulus had programmed Logan to kill Xavier, but Professor X broke the programming with his telepathic powers.
This would only be revealed much later, but in the time being, Wolverine became a valued and important member of the Uncanny X-Men. Under the leadership of Cyclops, Logan reluctantly learned to rein himself in, not kill, and only fight to incapacitate his opponents. While Logan would maintain his oftentimes-brash personality, he became a better person for joining the X-Men, learning what it meant to be a hero, and later taking those lessons and teaching it to others.
12 FRANK MILLER'S WOLVERINE
One of the more celebrated Wolverine story arcs explores his time in Japan after leaving the X-Men for a short period. Learning that his lady friend Mariko was married to an abusive husband, Wolverine flew to the foreign country with the intention of killing him. Upon arriving in Japan, Wolverine is quickly out of his depth. Wolverine finds himself facing endless deceits and countless more samurai battles; occasionally fighting ninjas too.
No longer engaged in fighting supervillains in spandex, the rules Logan adhered to overseas no longer apply. With the gloves having come off, so to speak, Wolverine is prepared to fight honorably, but is more than willing to fight dirty. Still, for the sake of Mariko, Logan tries to adhere to a no-killing policy, only choosing to murder when he has little choice or when he goes berserk.
11 '90s WOLVERINE
During the ‘90s, the X-Men were relaunched in spectacular fashion. Under the guidance of Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, X-Men #1 sold out completely, more so than anyone predicted. That’s neither here nor there, as what really matters is Wolverine and the change he endured.
Sharing the similarities from earlier X-Men books, Wolverine wasn’t exactly easy to get along with. He was a smidge rougher around the edges than folks were perhaps used to, but people loved it. When the X-Men confronted Magneto, Wolverine unabashedly tried to murder the Master of Magnetism. Magneto was stunned, believing a common rapport shared between hero and villain had just been broken. In turn, he ripped the metal from Wolverine’s body. The injuries overloaded Wolverine’s healing factor and he became a more savage, feral creature, who relied on bone claws. Wolverine became more animal-like, which in turn made him slightly more bloodthirsty than normal.
10 ULTIMATE WOLVERINE
The Ultimate Universe Wolverine is a nasty piece of work. While he shares similarities with Marvel’s mainstream 616-Earth Wolverine, this Logan is grumpier, meaner, and has a greater proclivity for violence. Despite not being as powerful as his 616 counterpart, he made up for his lack of might with nearly unequalled savagery.
Originally joining Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Wolverine was sent to infiltrate the X-Men in an effort to kill Charles Xavier. Even though Ultimate Wolverine would turn against Magneto and side with the X-Men, his anger and penchant for violence left him feeling little reservation when it came to killing. It didn’t matter enemy, if Ultimate Wolverine felt like someone needed to die, then they usually died. It was never uncommon or out of character to see this Wolverine try and straight up murder his opponents.
9 WOLVERINE'S FIRST APPEARANCE
When Wolverine first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #181, it wasn’t as a hero or even an antihero, but a full-fledged villain. His mission was simply hunt down and kill the Hulk. In the issue and the issue leading up to #181, Hulk has been fighting the creature known as the Wendigo, and their battle, while fearsome, is interrupted by the arrival of Wolverine.
Not yet affiliated with the X-Men and having no experience with other superheroes, this Wolverine is ruthless in his attacks. He doesn’t see the Hulk as a giant irradiated monster, but rather as a large target that needs to be taken down. Their battle is lengthy and fierce, but eventually Wolverine’s conscience kicks in and he realizes that perhaps he’s on the wrong side of this particular fight.
8 MARVEL UNIVERSE VS. WOLVERINE
One of the few times Wolverine ends up killing many of Earth’s heroes, but is still the story’s protagonist, is in the series Marvel Universe Vs. Wolverine. When a zombie plague rolls across the Earth, it infects nearly everyone, heroes and villains alike. From Spider-Man to the Hulk, once they are infected they try and kill everyone they can.
With few survivors left, Wolverine and the remaining heroes are forced to make compromising decisions. Logan does his best to kill all the cannibalistic monsters he can in an effort to patch the world back together, but by then it’s too late. The world is nearly dead, but Mr. Fantastic and a few others continue working on a cure. After a pitched battle with the Hulk to buy the scientists more time, Wolverine is nearly killed and forced to retreat.
During the "Wolverine Goes to Hell" storyline, Wolverine does very much as the title implies. While there, he’s forced into endless, brutal battle with demons and shades of his past. In the land of the living, his body has been possessed by the devil and is going on a stroll through New York. Just kidding, he’s going on a rampage and trying to kill everyone and everything in sight. This new Wolverine, dubbed the Hellverine seems unthinking, but is in fact incredibly powerful and equally cunning.
Cyclops rounds up the most powerful X-Men, nearly all the X-Mean teams, several Ghost Riders, and even Daimon Hellstrom to battle the Hell-empowered Hellverine. The possessed Logan gets dangerously close to killing all his teammates, fueled by an insatiate lust to kill, and only a combined spell, courtesy of Ghost Rider and Hellstrom, brings back Logan’s soul, exorcising the devil.
6 HYDRA-CONTROLLED WOLVERINE
In the story arc "Enemy of the State", Hydra mind-controls Wolverine into trying to kill a bunch of heroes. The plan mostly fails. In Marvel’s What If? Wolverine: Enemy of the State, Hydra’s control of Wolverine is absolute and their plan works masterfully. While in the original timeline, the Marvel Universe’s heroes were able to prevent Wolverine from killing his friends, suffering only minor casualties; this time around the superheroes aren’t so lucky.
Tasked with wiping out nearly every hero, from the Fantastic Four to Daredevil, few can stand up to Wolverine and the enhancements given to him by Hydra. This version of Wolverine no longer possesses a conscience and is completely fine with killing his former teammates. Even though his mind is intact, it only works so far as to take commands and use his abilities to their optimal efficiency, making him extremely calculating and bloodthirsty.
5 X-FORCE WOLVERINE
Over time, Cyclops fully realized there were threats in the world that needed to be dealt with quietly and efficiently. These threats didn’t involve fighting costumed yahoos, but posed legitimate threats to the safety of all mutantkind. And so, Cyclops created a new X-Force team to act as a lethal strike team to be deployed at a moment’s notice. Wolverine joins the team, although he’s opposed to other mutants, especially his young clone X-23, being a member, since he doesn’t believe the others have what it takes to get their hands dirty, nor should they.
Under Wolverine’s leadership, the new X-Force team was incredibly deadly and highly efficient in killing those deemed threats. For his part, Wolverine understood the necessity of the actions, and although he didn’t delight in the killing, he’d never been more dangerous; there was nothing holding him back on his X-Force missions.
4 WEAPON X WOLVERINE
Wolverine’s life is known for not being all sunshine and roses. In fact, he’s endured one of the toughest lives of any other superhero. From killing his father and living with wolves, Logan was eventually kidnapped by the Weapon X program. It was at the Weapon X facility that he had adamantium forcibly fused into his bones, so as to create the perfect killing machine for the program. The surgery was a success. To test their new creation, Logan was sent to kill everyone in a small town of Roanoke, which he did.
Years later, Wolverine, now only known as Weapon X, went into a berserker rage and slaughtered nearly every living soul in the facility, as he made his way to freedom. It’s one of Wolverine’s darker moments; he was turned into a virtually unstoppable monster, and forced to lose his humanity, succumbing to the beast within.
3 AGE OF APOCALYPSE WOLVERINE
In an effort to rule the world, the ancient mutant Apocalypse started his plan by recruiting horsemen. Capturing Wolverine, he pits Logan against Sabertooth for a place as his Horseman of War. Reluctantly, Wolverine fights for the role, knowing he might be able to resist Apocalypse’s programming and that if Sabertooth becomes the Horseman, the insane mutant will likely kill everyone. Wolverine beat Sabertooth, and Apocalypse bonded Wolverine with his adamantium again and transformed him into his Horseman of War. Unfortunately, Wolverine’s calculations were incorrect and he couldn’t resist the programming.
As the new Horseman of War, he nearly killed the Hulk, killed whomever his master dictated, and almost killed the X-Men before they freed him. However, in "Age of Apocalypse", Wolverine remained the Horseman of War and systematically hunts down and slaughters anyone who might oppose him or his master with zero compunction.
2 VAMPIRE WOLVERINE
Readers got some terrifying looks at what a truly bloodthirsty Wolverine is in several What If issues. In What If…? #6 Wolverine becomes a vampire/demon, killing many of Earth’s heroes, feasting on his fallen victims, all in the service of Madelyne Pryor. Eventually the Phoenix wipes out all the demons on the planet.
In the Marvel What If…? #24, Wolverine becomes a vampire again. After getting bitten by Dracula, Wolverine then kills the evil vampire and becomes the Lord of Vampires. From there, he proceeds to turn or kill every hero on Earth, drinking up as much blood as he can. It’s eventually left to the Punisher, imbued with Doctor Strange’s power, to kill most of the vampires. Even though he falls to Wolverine after killing Kitty Pryde, Kitty’s death is enough for Wolverine to gain some semblance of humanity and he unleashes a spell, destroying the rest of the vampires.
1 ZOMBIE WOLVERINE
The Marvel Zombies universe is horrifying and virtually devoid of any life. When a streak of purple lightning crashed down in New York City, the Avengers investigate. When they arrive, it’s to a crater with a zombified Sentry sitting idly. Attacking the startled team, Zombie Sentry bites and infects the heroes present. They fall victim and become utter monsters. Transformed into ravenous superpowered cannibals, the former superheroes, Wolverine included, proceed to devour every living soul on the planet.
This Wolverine, what with being a zombie, is the most bloodthirsty Wolverine of them all. Constantly craving flesh, he’s horribly sadistic to his enemies. Unlike other heroes who feel moments of remorse, Wolverine doesn’t. It takes years and multiple Marvel Zombies series, but eventually Spider-Man, Wolverine, and others successfully stave off their hunger and eliminate the zombie threat, avenging their fallen world and universe, but also finding redemption as they sacrifice themselves.
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