In the storyline "Enemy of the State" which began in "Wolverine" #21, writer Mark Millar unleashed one of the most vicious and lethal killing machines upon the heroes of the Marvel Universe, the man who is, "The best there is at what he does and what he does ain't pretty," Wolverine. Through a bit of luck and with help from Wolverine's subconscious, the Marvel heroes were able to capture Logan and undo the brainwashing that turned him into a killer with his sights set on costumed champions. But what kind of world would the Marvel Universe be if the heroes failed? What if Wolverine was never brought back from the dark side? This is a world that writer Jimmy Robinson and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico explore this month in the one-shot, "What if? Wolverine: Enemy of the State." CBR News spoke with Robinson about the book.
"What If? Wolverine Enemy of the State" came about because of Robinson's work at Image Comics. "All credit goes to Marvel," Robinson told CBR News. "Simply put, they invited me. They were aware of 'Bomb Queen,' in particular the trade. We went through a few rounds of pitching ideas; however Wolverine was always in the foreground."
Once Robinson's "What If?" story was approved, he set about finding the point where the history of the world in his book diverges from the history of the mainstream Marvel world (AKA 616). "Basically we leave Mark Millar's work just after the events at the X- Men mansion," Robinson explained. "The death of Jean-Paul in the surrounding woods acts as a trigger effect, and Captain America never subdues Wolverine. Logan escapes and Hydra redoubles their efforts. Six months later this 'What If?' story begins, and the changes in the hero community are far and wide, simply because Wolverine was not captured and deprogrammed by S.H.I.E.L.D.
"The world has just learned of the internal struggle between Wolverine/ Hydra and the Marvel heroes," Robinson continued. "S.H.I.E.L.D. has kept a lid on the situation for months as they attempted to deal with Hydra and The Hand. But recent events cracked the story wide open. Now faith in the hero community is fractured. Nobody knows who to trust as Hydra continues to convert the victims in Logan's bloody wake. Now, pushed to the edge, S.H.I.E.L.D. takes the logical step to deal directly with Wolverine, and thus our story turns--but on a surprising personal level."
When "What If? Wolverine Enemy of the State" begins, Wolverine's homicidal rampage has cut a bloody swath through the superhero community. "We run through a few fallen heroes as set up for the story," Robinson said. "Wolverine, with assistance from Hydra and The Hand, take down some real heavy weights. Spider-man, Luke Cage, Moon Knight and a few others I won't spoil. In fact, some of these killings hit home in a very personal way for the remaining heroes. This plays on the motivations to stop Wolverine. Some want justice, some revenge, some for the better of the MU. It fractures and divides the remaining heroes."
In Robinson's story, a number of surviving heroes have banded together to try to end the threat of Hydra, The Hand and their ultimate weapon, Wolverine, "We have Captain America leading the charge with Sue Storm, Magneto and Kitty Pryde who form a last stand," Robinson stated. "Working with Nick Fury they create the ultimate plan - but at what price will they pay to see it completed? That's the rub, and this is where I switch the tables on the reader. I don't want to spoil much, but let's say very old friends have to deal with their own emotional demons for this plan to work. It becomes a personal battle - and the war against Hydra will hinge on the outcome."
The heroes that encountered Wolverine at the beginning of the original "Enemy of the State" storyline faced a conflicted opponent because a small part of Logan's psyche was fighting against his brainwashing; the heroes making a stand against Wolverine in "What If? Wolverine Enemy of the State" won't have that luxury. "Wolverine's mental struggle is no longer an issue," Robinson explained. "He's full tilt now. I didn't want another version of the same story. 'What If' titles should spin off ripples of change beyond the main character, not the same character. So, this is not your daddy's Wolverine. This is an enhanced, hyper-fed bio-implanted Wolverine created by Hydra and The Hand. He's now the Six Million Dollar Wolverine. Whatever the Marvel Universe thought of him before, they're wrong. And they're finding out too late. But let's be clear, this book isn't about how many heroes Wolverine can kill, this is about how his actions change the Marvel Universe - and what the remaining heroes do about it."
The action in "What If? Wolverine Enemy of the State" takes place in a number of different areas, but Robinson had to keep these locales under wraps. "We have flashbacks to set up the story that take place in other locations, but the main meat of the story is a set piece that is critical to the Captain America's plan," Robinson said. "Remember, he's the ultimate solider and when he's on a mission he keeps his eye on the prize. This is not a rambling story that just battles through the streets across some downtown district. Specific reasons and locations are key to the plot."
"What If? Wolverine Enemy of the State" may only be a one-shot, but Robinson has jam packed the book with loads of action and characterization. "A one-shot on this magnitude has to hit the key moments quickly and effectively," he stated, "I know its tough condensing flashback battles with Spider-Man down to one page, but with only 22 pages you go in hard and fast. But the pay off is worth it. Readers will find a compelling story of personality, motivation and loss. Basically, when at war the flesh and blood become secondary to what matters most--family and soul. What happens to people when they are forced to do things against their will? Do you become the monster to kill the beast? These are some of the aspects I wanted to explore. Wolverine has become a force of nature; a hurricane of sorts. How do you prepare, and how will your past history with characters affect your actions? The Marvel Universe is ripe with personal histories. When they go to war against their own (as in 'Civil War') you change as an individual. All 'What If?' stories are about change."
The protagonists of "What If? Wolverine Enemy of the State" are struggling to cope with the changes that Wolverine's slaughter has wrought on their world and within themselves. "As I noted, in war the lines are blurred between heroes and the villain," Robinson said. "Are you still a hero if you perform un-heroic deeds, if your motivation is to stop a greater evil, which means losing your soul? Wolverine is more than just a man in a suit. He represents the animal in all of us, but balanced by his humanity. Losing that balance is dangerous, not just to him, but to friends and relationships in the Marvel Universe. Captain America is the ultimate super soldier, he has a mission and he knows the cost. Sue Storm has family at stake, and she wants a better future for them. Magneto has personal battles, and as a past villain will he play fair, or take it to the next level? Kitty Pyrde has the longest personal history with Logan, and events in 'Enemy of the State' have crushed her due to Jean-Paul's death. In short, I worked up a cast that's not walking lock-step to some mission orders. The Marvel Universe is one huge soap opera and you don't just rip through it without getting dirt under the skin."
With the surviving heroes of a ravaged world uniting for one last stand, the tone of "What If? Wolverine Enemy of the State" might seem bleak, but you need to keep in mind that they're at war with Hydra and The Hand. "However, S.H.I.E.L.D. has covered up most of the damage," Robinson explained. "For the world I've created its business as usual, so there's no apocalyptic tone, in general. However, the story leaks to the media and the world moves to a state of confusion. Who do they trust when heroes are killing each other? What do they do when heroes and villains have been 'converted' to work for Hydra and The Hand? So the world is at a tipping point, thanks to Wolverine's rampage, and Hydra's brainwashing techniques. But there's hope - if Wolverine can be stopped, and possibly deprogrammed, they can use the research to help others and turn the tide on this war. So, no dark tone throughout the book, but it's not pretty, either."
Robinson enjoyed working on "What If? Wolverine Enemy of the State," which is his first project for Marvel Comics. "I just want to give a shout out to the Marvel Editors. They helped kick around ideas and allowed me to play in the sandbox with some serious heavy hitters in the MU. I'm looking to work on other characters in the future, so who knows where I'll be next. Also, between Shadowline's 'Bomb Queen' and Marvel's Wolverine I don't want to get pegged as the go-to guy for blood and violence. Honestly, I'm a very down to earth and nice guy. Just ignore the dead bodies."