Growing up, the Marvel vs. DC debate seemed as basic as choosing between Coke and Pepsi. Today, most of my favorite comics are DC owned titles, but my first collection was hand-me-downs from an uncle, and most of those were Marvel. I loved those comics into fingerprinted, dog-eared pieces, and what remains of them live in a Comics Defense cardboard box at my parents’. Someday I’ll retrieve it. Either way, that earliest collection left me with a permanent soft-spot for Spider-Man and the X-Men. Wolverine, in particular, held on as a favorite character long after I defected to Batman, Detective Comics, and Nightwing.
I recently acquired a small collection of Marvel Essential trade paperbacks from an old friend: Doctor Strange vol. 2, Marvel Team-Up, Human Torch vol. 1, and Wolverine volumes 2 and 3. Between that and the movie release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, it seemed like a good time to dig up some nostalgia and reacquaint myself with the Marvel Multiverse, starting with my old favorite. I realize now Wolverine comics have a campy charm all their own. Larry Hama’s colorful dialogue brings ridiculous characters to life in a fun and believable way. The action sequences are over the top, and Logan’s tough-guy with a heart-of-gold persona is always good for a chuckle. Something the bluntness and colorful idioms feel like home.
It would be easy to dismiss the comics collected in Essential Wolverine 2 & 3 as juvenile and overly macho. They are over-the-top campy, often convoluted, and frighteningly full of Women in Refrigerators and problematic cultural stereotypes. They’re also witty, humorous, and heartbreaking. Despite the problems, many issues and story-arcs shine through. Great writers like Larry Hama and D.G. Chichester are able to bring Wolverine alive in ways that highlight his struggle as a survivor and his self-destructive commitment to justice. During Chichester’s three issue arc “Wonkeywrenching”, Logan rescues the daughter of a wealthy logging company owner from militant environmental justice terrorists. I was pleasantly surprised by an ending in which Logan refused to let the logging baron off-the-hook for deforestation profiteering.
So what did I get out of Wolverine? I’m really not sure, just like I’m not sure what I can get out of the Canadian Club whiskey I bought to go with him. There’s not much use to cocktails when you have a mutant healing factor: Logan’s body processes alcohol almost as fast as he can drink it. In Wolverine #31 he downs single-malt scotch. In #65, he pounds a boilermaker and chases it with a fistfight he wins by snapping his jaw and eyeball back in place after giving his opponent a free punch. Canadian Club doesn’t hold-up in cocktails—its bland flavor can’t standup to a quality bourbon or rye. But sometimes when I want to forget work with a stiff drink and a thrilling story, beer is really what I crave. Cocktails are novel, exciting, and challenging, but sometimes a shot and a beer is still the perfect drink. These classic Wolverine comics feel the same way: a tried and true way to escape. Seeing Wolverine tear through horde after horde of ninjas/military grunts/dumb thugs is supremely satisfying, especially given his tortured history. Wolverine is fun because he gets to unleash all of his character’s worst qualities in the fight to reclaim the bits of humanity that have been stolen from him. Sometimes, we all need to stop being so (self)conscious and live in the moment. Some of the best moments in my life have been savored with the strategic help of a shot and a beer, just like some of my fondest childhood comic memories come from poring over Wolverine’s outrageous and hyper-macho pages. For the first time in decades, I’m finding myself wondering what kind of adventures Wolverine is currently embroiled in. Today was my one day off before I get back to the hourly grind, and I still have Canadian whiskey to finish in honor of my old pal Logan. I’m going to down a boilermaker and find out what other joys I can dig up from panel-to-panel.
Research tells me that Wolverine’s very first solo adventure was a four-part run written by Chris Claremont and pencilled by Frank Miller in 1982. I dunno about you, but I think I have the newest addition to my “Must Read Comix” list.
I enjoyed my boilermaker(s) for this re-introduction to Wolverine with ShinerPremium and Canadian Club Whiskey. I suppose if you’re really crazy about the Ol’ Canuckle Head you might want a cheap Canadian brew like LaBatt Blue.