Uncle Geekly may be a little rusty with getting back into the swing of things, so I’ll kick off this year’s starter list with someone who’s the best at what he does, but what he does isn’t nice.
Wolverine invades the Marvel’s comic book universe. He may not have as long of a history in the comics or in films as characters like Spider-Man or even the Hulk (I’m including made-for-TV movies here), but Logan’s adventures bring droves of fans to comic book shops. It can get tricky with where new readers should start with the Canucklehead—for the newbie, that’s a fusion of the word Canuck or Canadian (Wolverine’s homeland) and knucklehead—but your uncle Geekly will set you on a good path to get to know Marvel’s number one furball.
Wolvie got his start in the Incredible Hulk #181 (1974), and he famously joined the X-Men with Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975, but I won’t focus too much on Logan’s X-Men stories. I’ll try and stick with his solo adventures as he’s become a comic book superstar in his own right.
I’ll also try and suggest a reading series that goes with the character’s timeline, instead of the dates in which the stories were released. This can get sticky as Marvel writers like to jump back and forth through time and space. I’ll do my best at navigating.
Origin #1-6 (written by Bill Jemas, Paul Jenkins, and Joe Quesada/art by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove; 2001-2002)
For decades Marvel refused to reveal little about Logan’s past prior to the Weapon X Program, but that all changed after Hugh Jackson made Wolverine a household name in the X-Men movies. Marvel realized if they didn’t give Logan an origin, the movies might beat them to the punch. So, the mini-series Origin was born.
Origin goes back to Logan’s childhood in the 19th century. That’s right, he’s that old. I won’t go into too many details, but Origin shows most of the character’s ancient past: Wolverine’s real name, his parents, his first berserker rage, and how he became the mononymous Logan.
Marvel Comics Presents #72-91: Weapon X (story and art by Barry Windsor-Smith; 1991)
Origin may have been Logan’s true origin story, but most of the character is defined by his time as Weapon X.
Only the prologue and part of the final chapter in this story are told from Wolverine’s perspective. The bulk of Weapon X follows three members of the Weapon X team and much of the story plays out like a slasher film, featuring the bladed berserker.
If you’ve seen the movies, but haven’t read the comics, you’ll notice references in X-Men 2 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Wolverine Original 4-Part Mini-Series (written by Chris Claremont/art by Frank Miller; 1982)
When the X-Men was revamped in 1975 Wolverine wasn’t supposed to be the series’ star—heck, he wouldn’t show up on covers for months at a time—but Chris Claremont’s portrayal of the character made him a fan favorite. 1982’s Wolverine limited series marked the first time Marvel ever made a limited series—it’s a comic book industry standard now—and it’s the first time that Claremont used the words I mentioned in the beginning of this post to describe Logan: “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do isn’t very nice.”
In this series Logan travels to Japan. The story plays out like a samurai redemption, and many familiar elements find there way here. Logan’s love interest Mariko will appear several times in various timelines and universes. Frank Miller included The Hand in Wolverine, and they’ve been in numerous episodes from the Marvel/Netflix series of shows. The second Wolverine film (simply titled The Wolverine) also pulled a lot from this classic.
Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #1-6 (written by Chris Claremont/art by Al Milgrom; 1984-85)
Wolverine has a thing for taking young, female members of the X-Men and becoming their mentors—in a non-creeper way, I swear. He mentored Jubilee in the comics and 1990s cartoon. He mentored Rogue in the first X-Men film. He would mentor Armor in the late 2000s. But Wolverine’s first mentee was Kitty Pryde in this mini-series.
There are several modern comic book fans who wouldn’t get why Kitty Pryde was that popular. Kitty Pryde and Wolverine brought her notoriety. Prior to this series, Kitty was little more than a spoiled, rich kid, but she grows up fast here as she’s torn down and built back up with the help of Logan. This is the moment Kitty Pryde became Shadowcat. It’s also the first time fans saw Logan’s “softer side.” Sure, he’s a killer, but he’s a killer with a heart of gold.
Wolverine: Not Dead Yet (written by Warren Ellis/art by Leinil Francis Yu; 1998)
If you can’t tell, Logan is the king of Marvel mini-series, and Wolverine: Not Dead Yet is another example. I included this one mostly because there aren’t that many good Wolverine stories where Logan has bone claws and Logan’s bone claws added a leather-toughness to the character that goes missing whenever his claws have their adamantium.
Wolverine: Not Dead Yet takes place in a time after Fatal Attractions where Magneto sucks the adamantium out of Logan. This mini-series can be a little uneven at times, but it’s one of the best bone-claw Wolverine stories, and bone-claw Wolverine always had a more animal nature that made him more susceptible to his berserker rages. It’s a Wolverine that lives more on the edge.
Old Man Logan from Wolverine #66-72 and Wolverine: Giant Size Old Man Logan #1 (written by Mark Millar/art by Steve McNiven; 2009)
Mark Millar may be one of comics most prominent creators this century, but his work is either a classic like The Ultimates and Kick-Ass, or it devolves into childish shock value. Old Man Logan can be characterized as both.
It’s set in an alternate, dystopian future where most superheroes are dead, and the United States has been conquered and divided up among the world’s supervillains. Wolvie gave up superhero work long ago, but he’s convinced by former Avenger Hawkeye to embark on a road trip and collect an item that could save humanity.
Yeah, this story can be bonkers and a mess, but it’s a great read. It also doesn’t hurt that the movie Logan borrows just enough from this story with its “road trip” and dystopian future. Old Man Logan just happens to be the current (current as of this write-up) version of Wolverine. This series is where this version of the character began.
That’s my list for readers who are new to Wolverine comics. Did I get the list right or did I pull a Canucklehead? Let me know in comments.