WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Return of Wolverine #1 by Charles Soule, Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, Laura Martin and VC's Joe Sabino, out now.
The original and, some would argue, best Wolverine is back in the pages of Return of Wolverine #1. Yes, you could say that he has been back for a while at this point (it has been a year since his first post-death appearance in Marvel Legacy #1), but Return of Wolverine is the brand-new miniseries that will lay out just how and why the fan-favorite mutant has made it back to the land of the living.
We’ve known for a while that the mysterious Soteira corporation is involved, thanks to all the clues in the Hunt for Wolverine miniseries pointing to them, and we’ve also met the enigmatic leader of the company, Persephone. What evil scheme they’re planning and just how Wolverine’s resurrection is involved remains to be seen, but if this first issue is anything to go by, Persephone has wormed her way directly into Logan’s mind.
We first see Wolverine as a bloody, traumatized wreck with no memory of who he is or how he ended up in a strange lab filled with dead soldiers and a saber-tooth cat. After fighting his way through a facility that wants to see him -- and seemingly everyone else in there -- dead, a chance encounter with a few of the staff reveals that he is, indeed, within a Soteira facility and that they are responsible for his return. Perhaps more importantly, though, he learns that Soteira is evil and must be destroyed. As Wolverine rides off on a bike to try and save more people, a Soteira sniper shoots the wheels out from under him. He falls against some rocks and is knocked out cold.
It’s at this point that we see inside Wolverine’s mind. One major plot point in the past has been where Wolverine’s consciousness goes when he “dies,” in the time before his healing factor brings him back. Here, though, in Return of Wolverine #1, we see directly inside his mind and it’s depicted as a prison. Persephone, of course, holds the keys. Just what Soteira has done to Wolverine’s already traumatized mind has yet to be revealed, but it’s what is inside the prison cells that is the most interesting.
As Persephone leads Logan through endless rows of prison cells, we see multiple different versions of Wolverine from his previous lifetimes. The original Weapon X Wolverine is there, complete with tubes and wires and a large, unwieldy helmet. There’s an old, scarred Wolverine that keeps repeating “bub” over and over again. There’s even a Wolverine wearing his original costume with the whiskers from his first appearance in Incredible Hulk #180 and #181.
As Wolverine is led through the jail inside his head, along the way passing Patch (Logan's secret, eye patch-wearing identity from when he was a resident of Madripoor) in one of the cells, we see that the memories of some of his closest friends and enemies are also kept locked up here. Storm and Cyclops of the X-Men are there, but so are Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike.
As Wolverine presses on, he comes across a cell that has been completely bricked up. It has been painted white, with three red circles on the bricks, echoing the Soteira symbol we see later in the issue. Persephone tells him it’s there for a reason, but that he doesn’t want to look in there.
The implication here is that Soteira has locked away every different aspect of Wolverine’s mind and personality, and while Persephone gives him the key to open any door he chooses, there has to be something more sinister to her plan. Later in the issue, once Logan is reminded that he is a hero, he goes to a cell in his mind with a familiar looking Wolverine in his classic yellow and blue costume. As he unlocks the door, tells this other version of himself that he has been told he’s a superhero and gets a predictable response from the prisoner: “Hell yeah we are.”
As Return of Wolverine continues, we’ll no doubt see other aspects of Wolverine’s personality unlocked when he needs them. It also looks like he’ll be able to access the memories of his friends and enemies in order to either channel them directly or access aspects of his memories of them -- lessons they taught him, for example -- in order to help him in his mission. What Persephone and Soteira have planned remains to be seen, but it's very likely that it has something to do with the bricked-up prison cell in Wolverine’s mind.