Charles Soule rounds out his Wolverine trilogy (which started with Death of Wolverine and continued with Hunt for Wolverine) with the Return of Wolverine #1, joined by the artist that helped plot the demise of Logan, Steve McNiven. There was something fairly inevitable about this book. After all, superheroes don’t stay dead for long and, in the case of a title like Return of Wolverine, the name of the book sets a certain expectation about how the story will play out -- it's not so much the destination that draws you in as it is the journey.
Going hand in hand with that notion is the fact that Wolverine has been “returned” for quite some time. We first saw him in Marvel Legacy #1 last September. He then appeared in multiple backup features and cameos, so much so that you can’t help but feel that this series is a little late. It’s the hows and whys that matter here, though. While the timeline of his return hasn’t exactly been made clear (just when did he get his hands on an Infinity Stone anyway?), what’s more important in this series is him being back from the dead.
Rather appropriately, the issue begins with Wolverine waking up with no memory of what has happened, where he is or even who he is. This, of course, hearkens back to the early days of the character, when he stumbled out of Weapon X a changed man, with no memory of the lifetimes that lay behind him. It’s unclear whether this will be the status quo for the character moving forward, but it makes for a smart re-introduction.
As he unlocks more facts about his immediate situation, more information emerges about who he really is. It’s at this point that Return of Wolverine takes the rather literal approach of revealing that Logan, like most comic book characters, is actually made up of multiple different personas. He’s told that those responsible for his current fate -- the mysterious Soteira corporation -- have stolen entire lifetimes from him, and it’s hard to argue with that. As Soule shows us inside Wolverine’s mind, we see it’s a veritable prison of personalities: Weapon X, Patch, Logan, The Wolverine. It’s a clever way of bringing the character back in a way that acknowledges that, yes, this is a hero who has changed a lot over the years, and yet he is but one man -- and he is back.
McNiven draws a pretty hairy looking Wolverine. We see Logan -- already battered and bruised as soon as he wakes up -- absolutely put through the wringer, be it via explosions, motorcycle crashes or fights with literal sabre-toothed cats. This is a baptism of fire for the character, and McNiven, to his credit, shows every single bump and scrape. The multiple versions of Wolverine are all depicted well too, each one instantly recognizable from their sometimes subtle costume differences (I see you, original Wolverine costume from Incredible Hulk #181).
Return of Wolverine #1 has the difficult job of bringing the character back to life in a meaningful and important way. Much like Death of Wolverine, Soule had to craft a tale that is worthy of the character and, more importantly, worth telling. Sure, the more cynical side of this is that Return of Wolverine was bound to happen and won’t be nearly as interesting as the stories that can be told now that he’s back, but if Death of Wolverine proved anything it’s that Soule can provide a story that is much more than the sum of its parts. If you accept the fact that this book had to happen, there’s a lot to enjoy here.
Soule is not just bringing a character that he previously killed back to life. In Return of Wolverine #1, he is attempting to deconstruct the character of Wolverine via the many lenses through which he has been viewed over the years. In doing this, he boils the character down to his essence, but also provides a story that is worth telling. Time will tell just how successful Soule is, but in Return of Wolverine #1 we're given plenty of reasons to care about this character coming back from the dead, and, really, that’s exactly the point.