As Wolverine often reminds us, he’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice. Despite all of Wolverine’s violent displays and ruthless decisions, he’s quietly turned into one of Marvel’s most caring superheroes. As productions like Logan have perfectly captured, Wolverine’s dueling roles as a savage killer and an intensely honorable man can be immensely compelling. As the X-Men’s most prominent member, dozens of creators have explored the rich complexity of Logan’s psyche in some fan-favorite stories.
Now, CBR is looking back at some of Wolverine’s most lovable acts, and some of his meanest. In this list, we’ll be looking at some of Logan’s disparate extremes from comics, TV and film. For the purposes of this list, we’ll only be including things that Logan actively decided to do. That means we won’t be counting some famous moments when Logan was mind-controlled or manipulated. We also won’t be looking at times when he was in a berserker rage or another kind of animalistic state. By focusing on the events that happened when Logan was thinking clearly, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the X-Man’s mind and looking at the decisions that helped define him.
20. NICE: MENTORING KITTY PRYDE
Despite his gruff exterior, Wolverine has always taken a special interest in mentoring the X-Men’s youngest members. While Logan’s worked with several young, usually female, X-Men, his most famous protégé is Kitty Pryde. After she was introduced by Chris Claremont and John Byrne in 1980’s X-Men #129, the naïve Pryde developed a close bond with the jaded Logan while they served on the X-Men together throughout the 1980s.
As Fred Van Lente and Andrea Di Vito detailed in 2009’s Wolverine: First Class #1, the pair really began to bond after Professor X sent them on a mission to investigate a new mutant. As Pryde matured and grew into one of Xavier’s most successful students, the pair remained close and co-starred in the 1984 series Kitty Pryde and Wolverine. When Wolverine rebuilt Xavier’s school, he chose a now-adult Pryde to be its headmistress in the ultimate vote of confidence in his friend.
19. MEAN: BREAKING UP THE X-MEN
While other superheroes might be teammates, the X-Men are a family. In the 2011 event X-Men: Schism, Wolverine broke that family up. For the past several years, Cyclops had been leading the X-Men in a more pragmatic, militaristic direction. After the heat-manipulating teenage mutant Oya kills several Hellfire Club guards and joins several other young mutants in taking on a Sentinel, long-simmering tensions between Cyclops and Logan erupted in violence.
In the wake of their brutal battle, Wolverine left Cyclops’ X-men to form his own team. Instead of talking out his differences with Cyclops, Wolverine made their friends take sides. While the X-Men have briefly broken up in the past, this split went on for years and put lifelong friends at odds with each other. Even though Wolverine had the moral high ground, the split was needlessly acrimonious.
18. NICE: SAVED BABY BLACK WIDOW
Even when he’s not looking after teenage X-Men, Wolverine has still shown a special interest in taking care of children and protecting them from the harsh realities of life. Years before he joined the X-Men, Logan saved the Black Widow, one of his fellow Avengers, when she was still a baby. In Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s classic Uncanny X-Men #268, Logan and Captain America teamed up to save the young Natasha Romanova in a World War II tale.
While under the care of her foster father, Ivan Petrovitch, Natasha was kidnapped by Baron von Strucker so she could be turned into an assassin for the mystical ninja group, the Hand. When her kidnappers tried to kill her, Logan took a shot for Natasha, even though he didn’t know her. While both heroes went through shady covert-ops programs, the adult Black Widow still called Logan her “little uncle.”
17. MEAN: EVISCERATING HELLFIRE CLUB GUARDS
While Wolverine was quick to establish himself as the gruffest, most scrappy X-Man, he didn’t really come into his own until 1980’s “The Dark Phoenix Saga.” After the Hellfire Club methodically took out each of the X-Men, Wolverine famously declared that it was “his turn” to go after the Club’s forces on the last page of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s X-Men #132.
In the opening pages of X-Men #133, Logan slashed his way through a squad of the Hellfire Club’s soldiers. While the guards were initially said to have died, Marvel editor Jim Shooter took issue with that point, since he believed that superheroes like the X-Men shouldn’t kill. As a result of that edict, these soldiers recovered and were rebuilt as the cybernetic Reavers. Even though Wolverine’s famously stabby, editorial mandates aren’t usually required to make Wolverine seem less harsh.
16. NICE: GIVING ROGUE HIS POWERS
While Rogue and Wolverine aren’t the most famous pair, Logan was still one of the first mutants to accept the one-time villain after she joined the X-Men in Chris Claremont and Walter Simonson’s Uncanny X-Men #171. After Rogue took a blast meant for Mariko, Wolverine’s fiancée, Logan let her absorb his healing powers so she could recover. Since then, Logan has done that on a few more occasions, including one alternate world where he died after letting her permanently absorb his healing factor.
Starting in 2000’s X-Men, Anna Paquin’s Rogue and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine’s also had an especially warm friendship. After joining the X-Men around the same time, both mutants helped convince each other to acclimate to the team. When Rogue was injured in the film, Wolverine let her briefly absorb his healing factor twice, causing himself considerable pain from bloody old wounds both times.
15. MEAN: CREATING NUKE
As Jessica Jones viewers know, Frank Simpson, also known as the super-soldier Nuke, is one of Marvel’s most unpredictable villains. Although he was created by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli in 1986’s Daredevil #232, Nuke was later revealed to be Weapon VII. As part of the same Weapon Plus program that eventually coated Wolverine’s bones in adamantium, Nuke received cybernetic enhancements that were controlled by adrenaline pills.
As Daniel Way and Steve Dillon revealed in 2005’s Wolverine: Origins #3, Logan killed a young Simpson’s babysitter and kidnapped Nuke as a child. During the Vietnam War, Logan tortured Nuke while undercover and even carved an American flag into his face. Then, he watched on as Simpson obliterated a village full of civilians. While Wolverine did plenty of unsavory things during his time as a covert ops agent, he destroyed dozens of lives with his heinous actions towards Nuke.
14. NICE: PROTECTING X-23
Wolverine’s paternal instincts were on full display in James Mangold’s Logan. As the immortality and the team that once defined him became faded memories, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was driven almost solely by his primal urge to take care of the people around him. Early on, that instinct was focused on caring for his ailing mentor, Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier. As the film progressed, that attention shifted to his cloned daughter, Dafne Keen’s X-23
Although he was initially motivated to take her across the United States by money, Logan formed a quick familial bond. After they joined up with the other young mutants who X-23 had grown up with, Logan took responsibility for them too. Even though he hardly knew these kids, Logan died to save their lives. Despite his initial hesitation, this selfless sacrifice cemented Jackman’s Logan as more of an outright hero than his morally complex comic book counterpart.
13. MEAN: LEAVING MYSTIQUE FOR DEAD (TWICE)
Even though they look relatively young, both Wolverine and Mystique are well over 100 years old. As Jason Aaron and Ron Garney revealed in the 2008 storyline “Get Mystique,” the pair first met when they were both thieves in the Old West. That partnership ended with Mystique kicking Logan out of a moving train. In Wolverine #65, Logan returned the favor by leaving her to bleed out in the hot desert sun after a brutal brawl.
After her unlikely recovery, Logan left her for dead again just a few years later. In 2011’s Wolverine #9, by Aaron and Daniel Acuna, Wolverine, Mystique and the assassin Lord Deathstrike had a three-way battle in the streets of San Francisco. After Deathstrike shot her several times, Logan left her bleeding out in the street. Thanks to the intervention of the resurrection-loving ninjas of the Hand, Mystique didn’t stay dead for long.
12. NICE: CYCLOPS’ BUDDY
Before the fracture between Wolverine and Cyclops tore the X-Men apart, the heroes formed an unlikely friendship. Despite their clashing personalities and their competing efforts for the affections of Jean Grey, the pair had a friendship built out of mutual respect. After starting his psychic relationship with Emma Frost, Cyclops was feeling depressed and contemplating leaving the X-Men in Grant Morrison and Chris Bachalo’s New X-Men #142. When Logan found Cyclops, he gave him a pep talk before taking him on a covert mission, partially to lift his spirits.
Even when they were leading dueling X-Men squads, Wolverine and Cyclops found a moment to commiserate. After a vicious Sentinel attack, the pair found themselves trapped in a room together in Jason Aaron and Pepe Larraz’s Wolverine & the X-Men #40. While their opponents hoped that they’d kill each other, they had an open conversation about the divergent paths they took.
11. MEAN: ULTIMATE WOLVERINE
While the Wolverine of the main Marvel Universe has numerous redeeming qualities, his counterpart from the Ultimate Universe is barely a hero. That reality’s version of Wolverine was captured by the Weapon X Program while he was trying to loot a house in Sicily during World War II. After that, he joined Magneto’s Brotherhood for Mutant Supremacy, where he served as Magneto’s chief assassin.
Although he originally infiltrated the X-Men to kill Charles Xavier, he betrayed Magneto and joined the team in earnest. Still, in Mark Millar and Andy Kubert’s Ultimate X-Men #29, he left Cyclops for dead in the Savage Land. After they made peace, Logan did the unthinkable in Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch’s Ultimate X-Men #41. When a new mutant’s powers manifested and killed hundreds in his hometown, Wolverine killed the teenager and told him it was to keep him from giving mutants a bad name.
10. NICE: DIED SAVING NEW MUTANTS FROM WEAPON X
Even after decades of unsuccessful operations, the Weapon X Program has continued on in its quest to create perfect super-soldiers. Since the trauma that Logan endured at Weapon X was so formative for the character, it’s fitting that Logan died to save the program’s new recruits. After an alien virus wiped out his healing powers, Logan used the Regen Serum to simulate those lost abilities. When he found a group of unconscious subjects at a Weapon X facility, he used the serum to save their lives in 2014’s Death of Wolverine #4, by Charles Soule and Steve McNiven.
After being covered in adamantium, Wolverine died a few moments later. While it’s not totally clear how the Regen Serum would’ve helped him get out of that situation, he still sacrificed his life for a group of strangers. Unfortunately, most of those characters died in the pages of Wolverines in 2015.
9. MEAN: LETTING COLOSSUS FIGHT THE JUGGERNAUT
While they haven’t always been the closest friends, Wolverine and Colossus grew fairly close during their numerous adventures together in the X-Men. Their patented Fastball Special, where Colossus hurls Wolverine towards enemies at 220 miles per hour, is one of the X-Men’s most famous maneuvers and they’ve spent plenty of time together, on and off the battlefield.
That doesn’t mean Logan isn’t above calling Colossus out when he’s in the wrong. After Colossus broke Kitty Pryde’s heart in Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr.’s Uncanny X-Men #183, Wolverine took him out on to give him a stern talking to. When Colossus bumped into the X-Men villain Juggernaut at a bar, the two super-strong characters started to duke it out. Despite the pleas of a concerned Nightcrawler, Logan let the Juggernaut beat up Colossus while he just stood by and watched.
8. NICE: MENTORING JUBILEE
While Wolverine has mentored a few young X-Men since his early days with Kitty Pryde, none of them have been as prominent as Jubilee. Shortly after she was created by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri in 1989’s Uncanny X-Men #244, Jubilee saved Wolverine from the cybernetic Reavers after they left him to bake in the Australian sun. Over the next few years, Wolverine took her in as a surrogate daughter, and Jubilee served as Logan’s unofficial sidekick on solo adventures and in the X-Men.
Even after Jubilee left the X-Men to join the young mutant team Generation X, she and Logan remained close. When she lost her powers and became a vampire in the mid-2000s, Wolverine helped her adjust to her new circumstances and even let her feed on some of his blood. In some realities, an adult Jubilee even becomes the leader of tomorrow’s X-Men, inspired by Wolverine’s influence.
7. MEAN: BECOMING APOCALYPSE
Even in the dystopian alternate reality of the Age of Apocalypse, Wolverine found his way onto the X-Men. Since Charles Xavier was killed in that world, Magneto chose Logan to become one of the first members of his heroic mutant team. Although he and his future wife Jean Grey fought Apocalypse outside of the X-Men for a while, they eventually returned to the team and took over as its leaders.
In 2011’s Uncanny X-Force #11, Rick Remender and Mark Brooks revealed that this return turned Wolverine into a tyrant. When the Celestials tried to judge Earth, Logan offered to sacrifice himself so that Earth could live. While they agreed, the Celestials turned Logan into Weapon Omega, the heir of Apocalypse. As the ruler of his world, Logan ordered a genetic culling that resulted in billions of deaths. He even killed his own daughter, Kirika, before losing power.
6. MEAN: STOLE THE BATMOBILE
In 1996, the heroes of Marvel and DC Comics finally met for the first time in the aptly-titled crossover Marvel vs. DC. During that crossover, the worlds of Marvel and DC began to merge, and several characters were transported into the world they didn’t belong in as the result of some cosmic-level shenanigans. In Marvel vs. DC #2, by Peter David, Ron Marz, Claudio Castellini and Dan Jurgens, Wolverine was transported into a Gotham City-esque sewer, where he encountered the Batman villain Killer Croc.
After his fellow X-Man, Gambit briefly knocked Nightwing unconscious, the two X-Men found the unattended Batmobile and simply stole it. While Gambit is an accomplished thief, this act of grand theft seemed a little bit out of character for a hero who famously values honor. In an even more unlikely twist, Batman and Wolverine were merged into one being, Dark Claw, for part of the crossover.
5. NICE: SAVED THE MORLOCK LEECH
To make Wolverine suitable for kid-friendly Saturday morning cartoons, the makers of X-Men: The Animated Series toned down Wolverine’s mean streak considerably. Although this made Logan a lot less violent, the show still managed to introduce a young audience to the complexities of the character.
In the episode, “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas,” Logan saved the young mutant Leech, who lived in the sewers with the other Morlocks, by giving him a blood transfusion. While this might not seem like much, Wolverine had initially expressed concern about the idea, hinting that a previous attempt to do something similar ended in tragedy. Even though the Morlocks had fought the X-Men in the past, Logan put aside his fears and gave him some healing factor-rich blood, saving the child’s life and the Morlocks’ Christmas in the process.
4. MEAN: MARRIED A HYDRA LEADER
When Stan Lee and Jim Steranko introduced Orphelia Sarkissian in 1969’s Captain America #110, she was Madame Hydra, a leader of Marvel’s most infamous terrorist organization. Over the following years, she left the group and struck out on her own as the international criminal Viper. After seeing the power vacuum in the small fictional country Madripoor, Viper called on Wolverine to repay an old debt by marrying her in 1998’s Wolverine #125, by Chris Claremont and Leinil Francis Yu.
While they were technically married, Viper oversaw all kinds of corrupt criminal enterprises, including drug trafficking, on Madripoor. A few years later, Viper agreed to divorce Wolverine. Since their split, Viper has continued to have a fairly steady grip on the island. She also took on a much more active role in the larger Hydra organization and played a meaningful role in the controversial 2017 crossover Secret Empire.
3. NICE: FINAL MERCY
Wolverine’s a killer. With a century of battles and blood on his hands, Logan has no illusions about the lasting mental toll killing takes. Despite that, he’s killed some of his closest friends at their request. In 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, Hugh Jackman’s Logan killed Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey to stop her from becoming the Dark Phoenix again. Although she begged him for death, this haunted Logan over the next several X-Men movies.
In comics, Wolverine killed Jean to release the power of the Phoenix in 2004’s New X-Men #150, by Grant Morrison and Phil Jimenez. In 1992’s Wolverine #57, by Larry Hama and Marc Silvestri, Logan was forced to kill another woman he loved, Mariko Yoshida. After his former fiancée was exposed to blowfish poison, Mariko asked Logan to spare her from a painful death, which he grimly did.
2. MEAN: KILLING DAKEN
Arguably, Daken is the biggest failure of Wolverine’s life. Wolverine didn’t even know that Daken existed until 2006’s Wolverine: Origins #5, by Daniel Way and Steve Dillon. Instead of being there to raise his son, Logan discovered that Daken was a sadistic killer. Since they first encountered each other, Daken and Logan have usually found themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield.
After hearing a warning from his future self, Wolverine knew he had to kill his son to keep him from butchering his students. In 2013’s Uncanny X-Men #34, by Rick Remender and Phil Noto, Daken re-formed the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and tried to turn the young Evan Sabahnur into a new Apocalypse. That was the breaking point for Wolverine, who drowned Daken in a puddle after a brutal fight. Although he eventually recovered, this is still one of the cruelest things Wolverine has ever done.
1. NICE: THE JEAN GREY SCHOOL
While Wolverine’s decisions forced the X-Men to break up, he made them for the most altruistic reason possible. Despite his well-established loner persona, Wolverine and his team of X-Men renewed their focus on teaching young mutants how to survive and thrive in a world that hates and fears them. In the spot where Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters once stood, Wolverine opened up the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning in 2011’s Wolverine & the X-Men #1, by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo.
While Charles Xavier admitted his genuine surprise that Wolverine would become his dream’s primary torchbearer, it made perfect sense for Logan. After decades mentoring Kitty Pryde, Jubilee and the other young X-Men, Logan officially took an entire generation under his wing. As the school’s headmaster and the X-Men’s leader, Wolverine finally embraced his roles as a paternal figure, protector and superhero.
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