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Why Are Wolverine's Mercy Kills So Unmerciful?

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Powers of X #6, by Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, David Curiel, VC's Clayton Cowles and Tom Muller, on sale now.

Wolverine might be the best there is at what he does, and, as he often reminds readers, what he does isn't very nice. Sometimes, it's downright horrific.

Powers of X #6 provided the most recent instance of Wolverine mercy killing someone in his long history of mercy killing people. While this oft-repeated scene is meant to emphasize Wolverine's role as a reluctant killer who is willing to do whatever is necessary to get a job done, there's one major problem with how he always performs the coup de gras: He stabs them in the gut.

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Wolverine Kills Moira

The most recent incident takes place in the distant future of the self-reincarnating Moira MacTaggart's sixth life. After she and Logan have a conversation with their captor about the supposed inevitability of their species' defeat, Logan kills her, since Moira's mutant ability allows her to be reincarnated as her infant self in a new timeline, imbued with all the knowledge she gained from all previous lives. While this is all part of Moira's plan to save mutantkind, Wolverine dispatches her by brutally stabbing her in the gut.

A basic understanding of anatomy reveals that it's not the most efficient way to quickly and painlessly die. Although several vital organs would get damaged from having 3 long claws tearing through them, the body is often able to limp along in severe pain for some time after sustaining such damage. There are several other locations Wolverine could aim at that would do the job far more efficiently, so why does he always go for the gut?

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Wolverine has performed an unusually high number of mercy killings with this method too. Early in the series, Wolverine ended Moira's ninth life by stabbing her in the gut too, after she retrieved some vital information about the Sentinel program.

Most famously, Logan killed Grey by stabbing her in the gut to save her from a more painful death while they were on a space station drifting towards the Sun in Grant Morrison and Phil Jimenez's New X-Men #148. While that only activated the Phoenix Force within her, Wolverine was forced to kill a woman he pined after for years. In X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan killed Jean in a similar manner to keep the Dark Phoenix from taking over the galaxy, which haunted him for decades.

Wolverine Kills Mariko

That wasn't the first time Wolverine used his claws on someone he was romantically linked with either. When Wolverine mercy-killed the other love of his life, Mariko Yashida, in the '90s, he used for the exact same move. Perhaps even worse, when Wolverine's ex-lover Charlemagne, a secret agent he called "Charlie," asked him to kill her Wolverine did the same move, and botched the job before Spider-Man accidentally killed her.

Wolverine flinched when he performed the action, leaving Charlie alive and presumably in quite a lot of pain. It's baffling why Wolverine would continue to use a method that not only seems cruel, but has historically been ineffective. It's notable that the move almost perfectly mimics the manner in which Bullseye famously killed Elektra (stabbing her with a sai rather than adamantium claws) and Elektra survived that blow long enough to crawl herself to Daredevil's apartment before dying.

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The in-universe logic to the gut stab just doesn't make sense, so there must be a metatextual reason for artists so often conveying Wolverine's coup de grace in this manner. For what it's worth, it certainly allows for a dramatic flair. Wolverine gets to embrace his target, both he and the victim's faces are visible, and it feels much more intimate than many of the other methods he could employ. As excruciating as the death may be, at least it leaves a clean body.

By this point, Wolverine's visceral gut-stab mercy killings are overdone, and nothing would arguably be lost if the concept was retired altogether. New instances don't really hammer in any point or develop Wolverine's character in a way Logan's old actions haven't already, and since Wolverine is always on team books they could be moments more ripe with potential when one of his more heroic teammates could be forced into mercy-killing. Whatever the case, what Wolverine keeps doing isn't very nice -- and it doesn't even seem like he's the best at doing it.

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