WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Return of Wolverine #1 by Charles Soule, Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, Laura Martin and VC’s Joe Sabino, in stores now.
In 2014, writer Charles Soule and artist Steve McNiven killed Wolverine in the appropriately titled Death of Wolverine. While death is something that rarely sticks around in the world of comics books, everyone's favorite clawed mutant was actually off the drawing board for three whole years. While another Wolverine, Old Man Logan, would take his place, the real character was truly dead. That is, until he came back near the end of 2017 in the Marvel Legacy #1 one-shot, with a new purpose and a Soul Stone, both of which made him all the more mysterious.
Since then, Logan has made some random appearances here and there, from end-credits pages to the start of Infinity Countdown, and given his Soul Stone over to another hero believed to be dead, Black Widow. Eventually, the X-Men discovered that his grave was empty, an event which led four different groups of superheroes to search for the X-Man all over the world. But they never found Wolverine -- only more questions.
Answers to at least some of these questions are set to come in the series which will examine Wolverine's proper return in the Marvel Universe, Return of Wolverine. However, some subtle clues in the first issue indicate that the series might actually take place before the character's actual return to life last year.
As the issue begins, readers are purposefully left uncertain as to when and where the events are taking place. Wolverine is alive, he's wearing his classic yellow and blue costume... but he also has flaming hot claws, something we already know will somehow come into play later. When he calms down and gets his bearings, he realizes he's in a laboratory of some sort, and a dying scientist is nearby. "No... No... They killed you," he tells Logan.
Return of Wolverine #1 Contains Greek Mythology Symbolism
The scientist speaks of Soteira, the mysterious organization behind the return of Wolverine, and of their leader Persephone. He pleads Logan to kill him, because otherwise his torment will never end. He says he will never rest.
This all takes place in the first three pages of the issue, filled with panels rife with symbolism that makes us wonder if Wolverine isn't alive at all, but actually in Hell. In fact, "Hell" is the title of this first chapter, and it might be more literal than you realize. In Greek mythology, Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld, aka the Queen of Hell. Further, her organization, Soteira, is actually a mythological word that means "savior," and it is closely associated with, among other deities, Persephone.
In Greek mythology, the realm of Hell is surrounded by the river Styx, whose water possesses dangerous attributes. In the Underworld, humans remember their lives, but if they drink the waters of the river, they forget who they are, and they succumb to Hell for eternity. Perhaps this is why there was a sequence of panels devoted entirely to the scientist drinking a bottle of water, given to him by Wolverine in an attempt to calm him. Not long after, he asks Wolverine to kill him, to spare him a lifetime of unrest. Could it be that the scientist is actually asking to be delivered from Hell?
Later in the issue, we find out that Wolverine no longer remembers who he is. A nod, perhaps, to him drinking the water in Hell at some point after getting there, something that would explain why he would no longer remember his identity -- and why he would easily offer water to a stranger.
But that's not all. In the issue, Wolverine also briefly fights with a masked character who we learn is actually Omega Red. If you've been keeping up with the villain's history, then you know that, last time he was seen, he actually died as well. Therefore, it stands to reason that he, too, would be in Hell.