Essential Wolverine Vol. 7

First Published: June 2013

Contents: Wolverine #129 (October 1998) to #148 (March 2000); and Hulk #8 (November 1999)

Key Creator Credits: Todd DeZago, Fabian Nicieza, Erik Larsen, Eric Stephenson, Leinil Francis Yu, Cary Nord, Jeff Matsuda, Mike Miller, Roger Cruz, Ron Garney, and others

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 6

Overview: Over the years, Wolverine has faced every foe possible, from Magneto to Apocalypse to Sabretooth. He’s even clashed with the mainstream villains like Dr. Doom. But leave it to his, the final Essential Wolverine collection, for Wolverine to go up against the ultimate force in the Marvel Universe – Galactus!

Following the standard Wolverine vs. Sabretooth story that we are quite familiar with already, Wolverine gets caught up in an intergalactic tale. He gets kidnapped via a mutant who can control minds. Wolverine regains control to find himself mixed up with the Collector. With an assist from the Starjammers, Wolverine stops the Collector but finds he must now protect the various captives on the ship from Galactus. Wolverine learns that some battles cannot be won and that getting everyone out alive is the best victory you can hope for in this situation.

Next up are a series of one-shot team-up issues, featuring the likes of Cable, Nightcrawler, Jubilee and Alpha Flight. It’s really surprising to me, given how insanely popular Wolverine became during this era, that Marvel never gave him his own team-up book, much like Spider-Man and the Thing had in the 1970s and 1980s.

Finally, as part of the character’s 25th-anniversary celebration, Wolverine is finally reunited with his adamantium skeleton and claws. Professor Xavier has been forced to disband the X-Men when they find that Apocalypse has planted a fake Wolverine on their team. In all actuality, the real Wolverine finds himself as one of Apocalypse’s four horsemen, Death. Unfortunately, too much of the storyline is not reprinted here, so I’m going to need to check out the reprint collection of The Twelve to get a full idea of what is going on in this story.

The final issue is part of the Ages of Apocalypse storyline, featuring a reunion of the All-New Fantastic Four (Wolverine, Spider-Man, Hulk and Ghost Rider), which was first introduced in Walt Simonson’s memorable run on Fantastic Four. It’s a fun mash-up of characters, and one that I wish Marvel would find a way to revisit again someday.

What makes this Essential?: Why does this have to happen to me? Just when I really start to enjoy the Wolverine line of books, the Essential line comes to an end. I wasn’t reading the Wolverine title (or the X-Men books) in this era, so this was my first read of all of these issues. These are more interesting stories, especially those that do not get caught up in the current X-event.

If you like this volume, try: the 2017 Logan movie. This may be Hugh Jackman’s best take on Wolverine in any of the X-Men and Wolverine movies over the last 20 years. Borrowing heavily from Old Man Logan, the film takes place sometime in the future, where most of the mutants have been killed off. Logan finds himself as Xavier’s caretaker, trying to help the Professor keep his abilities in check as dementia takes over his mind. A new mutant, Laura Kinney, appears on the scene, created from Logan’s DNA, making her Wolverine’s daughter. He agrees to take Laura to Eden, a safe place for mutants, only to discover that it’s a mythical place from a comic book. They are hunted by the Reavers, who are relentless in their pursuit of the mutants. Logan eventually finds Eden but must sacrifice himself to stop the Reavers and give the kids a chance to escape. This was a tremendous movie, doing well with both critics and the box-office returns.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 6

First Published: December 2012

Contents: Wolverine #111 (March 1997) to #128 (September 1998); Wolverine #-1 (July 1997); and Wolverine Annual ’97 (1997)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Warren Ellis, Chris Claremont, Anthony Winn, Leinil Francis Yu, Denys Cowan, and others

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 7

Overview: Despite being the best there is at what he does, Wolverine still seems to encounter opponents intent on proving that statement wrong. That works out for us, giving us Essential Wolverine Vol. 6.

This collection starts out with Wolverine striking out on his own — AGAIN! This time, he goes 35 miles south into the East Village neighborhood of New York City. He finds an apartment, lands a construction job, and lives happily ever after, right? Not so much. Sometimes trouble finds him, sometimes he finds trouble all on his own. In this situation, Logan encounters a killer mime. I can’t make this stuff up, but Larry Hama did!

Next Wolverine and the X-Men get caught up in the Operation Zero Tolerance story arc (see below). Following that, Warren Ellis and Leinil Francis Yu step in for a four-issue arc with Wolverine encountering a professional assassin, McLeish, who he thought had been dead for the last ten years. Surviving that, Wolverine encounters two former foes, Roughouse and Bloodscream, who he first met back in Essential Wolverine Vol. 1.

This final story in this collection is a fun read as Wolverine finds that he must marry Viper to fulfill a debt of honor. A long the way, most of the other women in Wolverine’s life (Kitty, Jubilee, Black Widow, Jessica Drew, and others) are trying to stop Wolverine from doing so. Of course, any comic book wedding has to be crashed by someone. In this instance, it’s Sabretooth and he wants to kill the groom.

What makes this Essential?: OK, I have come around on the Wolverine line of Essentials. With the last two volumes, the printing process did not work well with the new look of the comics. With this volume, the reprinting is nearly perfect. I still had a hard time reading the footnotes, but everything else looked great printed in black and white. The biggest challenge with this line is finding stories that feature Wolverine in a solo adventure. We had multiple crossovers with the X-Men, some more warranted than others. I realize that Marvel sold a lot of comics in the 1990s thanks to Wolverine and the X-Men, but sometimes you want the solo book to be a solo book and not just an extension of the team book.

If you like this volume, try: the complete X-Men – Operation Zero Tolerance story. In this volume, we get the Wolverine issues of the story, but it ran across a lot of other mutant books (X-Men, Cable, Generation X, and X-Force). Following the events of Age of Apocalypse, Henry Peter Gyrich and Bastion leverage their positions in the U.S. Government to go after the mutants. Bastion creates a new line of Prime Sentinels which he sends out to capture the mutants. The government takes control of the Xavier School, getting access to files and technology. Iceman steps up and leads a small group to help stop Bastion. Finally, S.H.I.E.L.D. finally intervenes and revokes the Operation Zero Tolerance orders. This has been collected as a hardcover and a trade paperback, so it should be easy to track down.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

First Published: January 2009

Contents: Wolverine #91 (July 1995) to #110 (February 1997); Wolverine Annual ’96 (1996); and Uncanny X-Men #332 (May 1996)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Adam Kubert, Val Semeiks, Anthony Winn, and others

Key First Appearances: Dirt Nap, Chimera, Ozymandias

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 6

Overview: Everyone’s favorite Canucklehead is back! Wolverine returns to the black & white pages, still sporting the bone claws, but becoming more feral in his nature and looks!

The stories in this volume start out with the X-Men still trying to understand and cope with the more animalistic version of Wolverine. He wants to be outside in the woods, and not cooped up in a lab in Xavier’s mansion. As he gets more primitive, his body starts to revert as well. Eventually, he is kidnapped by Genesis (Cable’s son) who wants to re-bond Logan’s skeleton with adamantium. However, his mutant healing ability overwhelms the process, and Wolverine’s body rejects the metal.

Following that, Logan goes on a journey to bring himself back from the animalistic edge. Along for this journey is an odd companion, Elektra. While she is more closely associated with Daredevil, this pairing actually works well. Elektra coaches Logan back towards a (relatively) normal human personality.

This volume gives us a lot of familiar faces, whether in cameos or team-ups. From the X-Men, we have appearances by Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Beast, and Iceman. From Alpha Flight, we see Guardian, Vindicator, and Shaman. A story arc takes us back to Madripoor where we see Archie Corrigan and Tyger Tiger again. From his time in Japan, we see Logan go on a mission to track down the missing Yukio and Amiko. And no volume would be complete at this point without a couple of appearances by Sabretooth.

What makes this Essential?: Once again, I am impressed by how much I enjoyed the volume. In full disclosure, I was never a fan of Wolverine as a solo character, and the over-use of the character in the 1990s drove me away from a lot of his appearances. Larry Hama continues his long run with Logan, which will come to an end in Volume 6. My biggest complaint about this volume is a carryover from the previous volume. With the way the books were produced and printed in the mid-1990s, reprinting them in black & white lead to a lot of really dark pages. There are times when some of the caption boxes and panels are very hard to read. 

Footnotes: Essential Wolverine Vol. 4 ended with Wolverine #90 (February 1995). Volume 5 begins with Wolverine #91 (July 1995). For the four months in-between, the book was renamed Weapon X as part of the Age of Apocalypse storyline that ran through all of the mutant books.

If you like this volume, try: the Onslaught story from 1996, which is touched on briefly at the end of Wolverine #105. Onslaught was a sentient psionic entity created from the consciousness of Professor X and Magneto. The X-Men (in all of the various teams) go toe-to-toe with Onslaught but need help from the Avengers and the Fantastic Four to finally defeat their foe. However, the victory came at a cost, as the Avengers and FF were shuttled off into the Heroes Reborn universe for a year, and were not seen in the Marvel Universe proper. As I recall, this was truly an X-Men story that morphed into a Marvel Universe event to fit the needs of the business. But that won’t stop Marvel from rebranding, as there is an X-Men/Avengers: Onslaught Omnibus due out in July of this year. There are prior omnibus and trade paperback collections of this storyline, but the new omnibus appears to be the most complete of any of the collections.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

First Published: May 2006

Contents: Wolverine #70 (June 1993) to #90 (February 1995)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Adam Kubert, Dwayne Turner, and others

Key First Appearances: Zoe Culledon

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome back, Wolverine! After an eight-year absence from the Essential schedule (see Footnotes), you finally have a new volume tracking your solo adventures away from the X-Men.

This volume begins by finishing up a three-part story in the Savage Land fighting Sauron that was started in Essential Wolverine Vol. 3. From there, we get a story of Wolverine and Jubilee fighting Sentinels in the X-Men’s old headquarters in the Australian Outback.

The highlight of this volume comes with Wolverine #75, which was a tie-in issue with the Fatal Attractions story-line in the X-Men books. In Fatal Attractions, Magneto returned once again to face off against Xavier’s students. In the course of the battle, Wolverine savagely cut up Magneto, leaving him severely wounded. In retaliation, Magneto used his powers to extract all of the adamantium out of Wolverine’s skeleton, as well as his claws. The story picks up in Wolverine #75, as the X-Men are returning to Earth as quickly as possible to get Wolverine medical treatment. His mutant healing factor is extended well beyond what it can handle, and his body seems to be shutting down. Thanks to the skills of his teammates, the X-Men get the plane safely to the ground, and Wolverine gets the help he needs to start his recovery.

While he is recovering, Wolverine takes leave of the X-Men to travel the world and settle his affairs. That journey takes him to Canada, Madripoor, Japan, and back to Canada. During this period, Wolverine finds that he can extend “claws” made out of bone, but his body is having a hard time healing each time he bares the claws.

The volume concludes with yet another showdown between Wolverine and Sabretooth. Wolverine finally returns to the X-Men’s mansion, and finds that Sabretooth is being held in a cell in the basement. As luck would have it, Sabretooth has been testing the limits of his holding cell, and finally manages to break free, leading to a battle with Logan.

What makes this Essential?: I really enjoyed this volume, in particular when Wolverine was without the adamantium. This was a new take on the character, who now could be hurt, could be stopped, and potentially could be killed. This was a good move by Marvel to be able to do something completely different with the character. I think this is a must-own volume for the Wolverine and/or X-Men fan, if they do not already own the individual issues. 

Missing in Action: Wolverine ’95 (the very first Wolverine annual) is not included in this Essential or Essential Wolverine Vol. 5. Volume 5 does contain the Wolverine ’96 annual.

Footnotes: Essential Wolverine Vol. 3 was released in June of 1998, but Essential Wolverine Vol. 4 was not released until May of 2006. During the long gap, Marvel reprinted Volumes 1-3 multiple times, as the cover format was updated in the early 2000s.

With the changes in production process for comic books in the 1990s, the Black & White reprints of the comics in this volume come across as very dark, and are at times hard to read.

If you like this volume, try: Alpha Flight, in particular the first two years of the monthly book done by John Byrne. In the early days of the Chris Claremont-John Byrne run on X-Men, some stories started diving into the background of Wolverine. We found out that Wolverine had been part of a super-hero team in Canada, known as Alpha Flight. The first encounter (Uncanny X-Men #109, Essential X-Men Vol. 1) had Guardian trying to bring Logan back to Canada to fulfill his obligations. The next encounter (Uncanny X-Men #120 & #121, Essential X-Men Vol. 2) gave us the first full meeting of Alpha Flight. Over the next couple of years, Alpha Flight would make sporadic appearances before moving into their own monthly book in 1983, written and pencilled by Byrne. Over the next two years, Byrne broke up the team and then brought them back again, fleshing out the characters and providing more history to Wolverine’s past. The Byrne issues have been collected into three Alpha Flight Classics, so they should be easy to track down.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

First Published: June 1998

Contents: Wolverine #48 (November 1991) to #69 (May 1993)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Marc Silvestri, Mark Texeira, and others

Key First Appearances: Team X, Mastodon, John Wraith, Psi-Borg

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 4

Overview: Pop open a cold brewski, light a cigar, and sit back to enjoy the latest collection of Wolverine stories from the early 1990s. But drink and smoke in moderation, because I’m willing to bet you do not have a mutant healing factor to offset the vices.

Kicking off this volume, Wolverine enlists the X-Men’s help as he struggles to put the pieces together of his mysterious past. Following the events of Weapon X, Wolverine encounters former members of Team X, as he realized that he was not the only person who was experimented on.

Next up is a time-traveling adventure that brings Logan and Mystique together to stop Mojo. Parts of this story will remain a mystery until it is revisited by Larry Hama later on in his run, which will be collected in Essential Wolverine Vol. 4.

Wolverine finds himself going to Japan to bail out Jubilee. This leads to an encounter with his beloved Mariko, whose life comes to a tragic end during a battle with the Hand. The loss of Mariko sends Wolverine spiraling downward in a depression trying to deal with her death.

Strangely, this volume ends with issue #69, which started a three-issue story involving Rogue and Sauron in the Savage Land. If you were only reading Wolverine by Essential volumes, you were forced to wait eight years to read the conclusion of that story (see Footnotes).

What makes this Essential?: This is an interesting collection, as the comics cover all the variations of the typical Wolverine tale – stories involving the X-Men; time-travel stories; Wolverine in Japan; fights with Sabertooth; and the occasional filler issue featuring the rising star character, such as Shatterstar. So this is a good example of a lot of the different stories that can be told with Logan. My concern with this volume, as with the previous Essential, is that most of these stories are not memorable. I struggle to write a review for this, as I am not recalling these stories. This is a case where the character justifies the volume, but not necessarily the stories contained within the Essential. 

Footnotes: Once again, the cover spells Silvestri’s first name with a K (Mark), but it should be spelled with a C (Marc).

Because of the number of double-page spreads, the covers to some stories appear at the end of the story to minimize the number of blank pages in the book. Unfortunately, this meant some issues ended and the next started up without the reader noticing until the next set of issue credits comes up. For example, with the final four issues in this volume, it runs: Cover to #66, Issue #66; Issue #67; Cover to #67; Issue #68; Cover to #68; Cover to #69; and Issue #69.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 3 was released in June of 1998, but Essential Wolverine Vol. 4 was not released until May of 2006. During the long gap, Marvel reprinted Volumes 1-3 multiple times, as the cover format was updated in the early 2000s.

If you like this volume, try: the Weapon X story, if you have not read it already. And shame on you if you haven’t read this! The story originally ran in Marvel Comics Presents as a 13-part story. It has been collected multiple times in multiple formats, so it should not be hard to find. Written and exquisitely drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith, we finally learn how Logan received the adamantium in his skeleton. As many questions as this story answered, it also introduced even more questions into the back story of Wolverine. The initial story arc in this Essential serves as a sequel to the Weapon X story, as Wolverine meets up with other participants from the Weapon X complex.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

First Published: March 1997

Contents: Wolverine #24 (May 1990) to #47 (October 1991)

Key Creator Credits: Larry Hama, Marc Silvestri, John Buscema, Peter David, Jo Duffy, and others

Key First Appearances: Hunter in Darkness, Elsie Dee, Albert

Story Continues From: Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome to the continuing solo adventures of Wolverine, who proves over and over again that he is the best at what he does, and what he does best is not very nice.

Returning to Madripoor, his home away from the X-Men, Wolverine once again gets into a skirmish between the gang lords on the island. Once again, Logan gets a helping hand from Karma, a former member of the New Mutants who works for her uncle.

In this volume, writer Larry Hama comes on board as the regular scribe for the book. Joining him at this time would be one of the hot artists of the era, Marc Silvestri, who would put in time here before jumping from Marvel to become one of the co-founders of Image Comics.

During these stories, we see the return of Lady Deathstrike, who wants the adamantium from Wolverine’s bones. This leads into an interesting time-travel story with Puck from Alpha Flight that sends the two back to Spain in the late 1930s, caught up in the Spanish Civil War with Ernest Hemingway. Once that caper wraps up, Donald Pierce from the Hellfire Club plots another attempt to kill Wolverine. This time by creating an android duplicate of Wolverine, dubbed Albert, and partnering him with an android child, Elsie Dee, who is packed with enough explosives to kill even Wolverine. Both androids rebel against their programming, preferring to stay alive over completing their assigned missions.

What makes this Essential?: This volume starts the Hama-Silvestri run on the book, which turns out to be a good partnership. The problem I have with this book is that none of the stories are memorable. I finished reading this a week ago, and I am having a hard time recalling stories other than the Puck & Ernest Hemingway four-parter, and the way too-long story arc with Albert & Elsie Dee. As a result, these may be OK stories, but I can’t call them Essential. 

Footnotes: The cover spells Silvestri’s first name with a K (Mark), but it should be spelled with a C (Marc).

If you like this volume, try: the Havok & Wolverine mini-series from 1988. Written by Louise & Walt Simonson, with art by Jon Jay Muth and Kent Williams. This prestige-format series teamed up Wolverine with Scott Summers’ younger brother, who had recently rejoined the X-Men. The story starts off with Logan and Alex taking a vacation in Mexico. However, it seems trouble has a way of finding Wolverine wherever he goes. In this case, terrorists have targeted the pair, hoping to use Havok’s mutant ability to power up a Russian terrorist known as Meltdown. Long story short, chaos ensues. This series has been collected a few times in trade paperback and hardcover. However, the most recent edition was released in 2003, 2o you may have better luck tracking these four issues down in a back-issue bin.

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

Essential Wolverine Vol. 1

First Published: October 1996

Contents: Wolverine #1 (November 1988) to #23 (April 1990)

Key Creator Credits: Chris Claremont, John Buscema, Peter David, Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Bloodscream, Roughhouse, Archie Corrigan, Silver Fox, Geist

Story Continues In: Essential Wolverine Vol. 2

Overview: Welcome to the solo adventures of Wolverine. Under the guidance of writer Chris Claremont, Wolverine had developed into one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe in the 1980s. At a time when the X-Men were confined to just one book per month – yes, that’s true – it made sense to spin Wolverine off into his own title and give the character even more exposure.

Most of the stories in this volume take place on an island nation, Madripoor, where Wolverine loses his costume and goes by the name of Patch, complete with a trademark eyepatch. Add in a small supporting cast, such as Jessica Drew and Lindsey McCabe from the pages of Spider-Woman, and Wolverine is a distinct book that can be read without also reading the Uncanny X-Men.

In the lead story, Wolverine is caught up in a turf war on Madripoor, and must get his hands dirty to protect his friends and help free Karma from the New Mutants. Another story arc dealt with Wolverine’s pilot friend, Archie Corrigan, whose brother stands to inherit a lot of money, but has delusions of grandeur. That story arc brings the characters to San Francisco before returning to Madripoor.

The final story arc, from the creative team of Archie Goodwin and John Byrne, takes Wolverine to Central America, where he must keep a general from using tainted heroin to turn his own son into his own super-soldier.

What makes this Essential?: At the time this first volume was released, I was adamantly opposed to this being collected as an Essential. This was first released in 1996, so these stories were less than 10 years old. I wanted to see more of the older material being collected, and not issues I could have bought (and sometimes did buy) on the newsstand when it was first released. Jump ahead to the spring of 2014, and I am now looking at this volume for the first time, nearly 17 years after it was first released, and these stories are now more than 20 years old. With that frame of mind, yes, these stories should be collected as an Essential. Wolverine was an extremely popular character and worth being featured in his own book. Given the talented creators attached to this book, it should be part of any collection. 

Footnotes: At the same time that Marvel launched the ongoing monthly Wolverine comic, the tittle character could also be found in a new bi-weekly anthology, Marvel Comics Presents. This title would feature 3-4 stories per issue, with Wolverine being the anchor character and the other stories rotating throughout the Marvel Universe. The Wolverine stories were not included in the Essential Wolverine volumes, focusing strictly on the character’s monthly title.

If you like this volume, try: the original Wolverine mini-series from 1982 from Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. This was one of the first mini-series that Marvel released, and was a break-out hit. It is still a popular book in the back issue marketplace. Wolverine gets word that his beloved, Mariko, has been married off, and Logan travels to Japan to find out what is going on. Along the way, Wolverine gives us his famous catchphrase, “I’m the best there is at what I do…” while taking on ninjas and double-crosses. This series has been collected many, many times, so it should not be hard to track this down. Sadly, this series has never been collected in an Essential volume, although Marvel had two opportunities to include the book. Obviously, it could have been included in this Essential volume. With this edition serving as one of the first volumes released, it appears Marvel was trying to keep page count in the 500-550 range. If they had included the mini-series in this Essential, it would mean breaking up the Archie Goodwin-John Byrne storyline. The second choice to place this volume would be Essential X-Men Vol. 4. Readers will find that most reprint collections of the Wolverine mini-series include Uncanny X-Men #172 and #173, which featured the X-Men traveling to Japan for Wolverine and Mariko’s wedding. Those two issues are included in Essential X-Men Vol. 4. Bear in mind, there was a lot going on in the Uncanny X-Men book at the time, so including the Wolverine mini-series there might be an issue, but it does complete the story. If you are only reading the X-Men title, Wolverine’s wedding comes as a big surprise to the reader. Regardless, this story should be a must-own read in any fan’s collection.