This week, a long-awaited event has struck the Marvel Universe. After an absence of five entire years, James “Logan” Howlett, the Wolverine, is back in action.
Wolverine’s return from death was in the cards since the four Hunt for Wolverine event kicked off in summer 2018 — but none of the four teams looking for Logan actually found him in that series. Instead, his actual comeback played out in the five-part series Return of Wolverine, which wrapped up this week.
How did Wolverine die? How did he come back? And what will he do now that he’s around to drink beer, make sandwiches and ride motorcycles again? Let’s break it down.
[Edt. note: This piece will contain spoilers for a bunch of comics that came out this week, including Wolverine: Infinity Watch #1, Return of Wolverine #5 and Uncanny X-Men #12.]
How did Wolverine die?
In 2014’s Death of Wolverine event, Wolverine lost his healing factor and, following a series of events, was encased in adamantium, where he asphyxiated.
How did Wolverine come back?
In Return of the Wolverine, it is revealed that Wolverine owes his still-beating heart to a new mutant character, Persephone. Persephone’s mutation allows her to return dead people to life — but they come back as a puppet entirely under her control.
But if Persephone’s mutation is grim, her goal is ambitious. She’s assembled a large team of experts, artists and intellectuals on an orbiting platform in space — like you do — and plans to kill everyone in the world in order to bring them back as her puppets, and then restart the human race with her hand picked best of the best.
But she didn’t bargain on Wolverine’s mutant abilities when she resurrected him to do her bidding. Once he was up and moving around, his healing factor kicked in, completely restoring his body and mind. Now, he was the biggest threat to her operation. And despite her attempts to bring him over to her cause willingly, by the end of Return of Wolverine he had toppled her satellites and dropped her space station out of orbit.
And we all found out that Wolverine can survive reentering Earth’s atmosphere.
So what is Wolverine doing next?
Well, in case you hadn’t heard, the X-Men aren’t doing so hot these days. Cyclops is back, but between him and Wolverine, they’re nearly the only X-Men still running around, with the rest of them possibly trapped in an alternate timeline. So first and foremost, Wolverine and Cyclops are teaming up to protect the handful of mutants left in the main Marvel Universe, in the pages of Uncanny X-Men.
But Logan also has a new side mission. It’s a pretty big one, and it requires unpacking some Marvel lore and taking a dip into the current cosmic far future of the Marvel Universe. I’ll break it down into the basic concepts.
So, there’s a future version of Wolverine who merged with the Phoenix Force
Recently, Jason Aaron, the current scribe on both The Avengers and Thor, has laid new track in two corners of the Marvel Universe: The very beginning of Earth’s superheroic history, and the very end of it.
In his current run on Thor, there have been a series of back up stories that take place in the far future of the Marvel Universe — it’s implied that it’s the true and final end of time. The only Avenger who seems to still be around is All-Father Thor, who is struggling to come to terms with the finality of heat-death of the universe.
But Thor isn’t alone. The grizzled Asgardian runs into just about the last person he expected: Wolverine. This ancient future Wolverine is around to observe the heat-death of the universe because he has merged with the Phoenix Force, and he calls himself Old Man Phoenix.
Old Man Phoenix and Loki want Wolverine to watch the Infinity Stones
Although nobody actually found Wolverine during the Hunt for Wolverine series, he kept making cameo appearances. They were almost like end-credits scenes in comic book form — sometimes Wolverine would wander in just as the heroes had left the scene, or bring flowers to a hospital where a character was recuperating but not leave a note. Wolverine also appeared in the lead up to Marvel’s 2018 Infinity Wars event, which took place before Hunt for Wolverine ever began. There, he was inexplicably alive and inexplicably in possession of the Space Stone, which he passed off to Black Widow before disappearing again.
Now, we know how. The Wolverine who wandered in and out of Marvel Universe stories throughout 2018 was actually a time-traveling Old Man Phoenix, trying to avert the events of Infinity Wars. That didn’t work — mostly because Loki never knows when to quit — and Adam Warlock again scattered the Infinity Stones across the universe to keep them from being brought together again.
Now, Old Man Phoenix and Loki are trying to get Logan to do the job of keeping the universe safe from people who try to find the Infinity Stones. The Marvel Universe has a name for people who do that kind of thing: Infinity Watch. And the two seem to want Logan to be a one-man version of that.
And he probably will, because the book in which this is all revealed is the first issue of Wolverine: Infinity Watch, a five-issue miniseries.
There’s just one further complication.
The Infinity Stones are people now
Before Adam Warlock scattered the Infinity Stones at the end of Infinity Wars, he used them to make a major change to the Marvel Universe, giving them each a soul. The idea was that if the stones had agency, they could hide themselves. But the Time Stone hasn’t hidden itself quite well enough.
It’s merged with an otherwise unremarkable human man named Hector Bautista, who used his newfound power to stop time to walk out of a Texas prison. A Chitauri warrior is already on his way to intercept Hector, and it seems like Wolverine is about to get roped into dealing with that situation.
We’ll find out what happens next in Wolverine: Infinity Watch #2, and you can also follow Logan’s newly living adventures in Uncanny X-Men and the newly launched Hulkverines, which is about Wolverine, the Hulk, and a guy with the powers of both Wolverine and the Hulk. Comics!