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.