Marvel have made another Wolverine movie, because when you have the largest selection of comic book heroes in the world it’s important to focus on the white guy with stubble. The imagination of comics is truly bringing bold new visions to cinema.
Wolverine has been in more Marvel comics than staples, and fulfills the same function: a tiny bit of metal holding everything together despite not being a fun bit to read. Despite appearing in more things than the face of Christ, he’s one of the worst superheroes ever written.
He Can’t Lose
Wolverine is meant to be the most badass hero in Marvel, but stabbing people who can’t stop you really isn’t heroic. We know the hero of the comic won’t die, but it usually isn’t their actual superpower. Wolverine’s healing factor means he leaps into battle with less fear than an artillery shell. And less fear than that artillery shell’s manufacturer, which makes money by lobbing exactly the same thing into every fight over and over with no risk of real damage. When you can heal from everything up to and including decapitation you’re not a badass for leaping into gunfights empty handed. You’re a psychotic who gets off on bleeding over people.
The new movie is aware of this problem, with the trailer promising that he’ll lose the healing factor. But that’s a more tragically doomed attempt to create tension than suspending an elephant above a playschool. It’s called The Wolverine, not The Wolverine For Twenty Minutes Then He Gets Shot And Dies. The most important law in comic physics is “the name in the title wins.” He’s still going to win in the same way. Removing his healing factor won’t give him any other interesting abilities, it’ll only give us more scenes of people tenderly dabbing his wounds instead of excitingly creating them. Which is doubly pointless when you watch Die Hard and realize that every other action hero effectively has Wolverine’s powers already.
He Never Learns Anything
Wolverine hasn’t changed in almost forty years, because his only character trait is specifically designed to prevent him ever gaining a second one. People are meant to learn from their mistakes. The only thing Wolverine’s has learned is the increasing price of yellow spandex over time. He’s not a character, he’s a punching-bag, absorbing damage until a fixed amount of time has passed.
His only distinguishing feature is a metal skeleton yet he’s jumped face-first at the master of magnetism multiple times. He was so relentlessly drawn to the one villain perfectly designed to destroy him, you’d swear Magneto had forgotten to turn his powers off. Wolverine’s whole point is basically “not being very good at interpersonal interactions,” but when someone can literally turn you inside out you might want to make a note of that.
The most exciting part of a superbattle is characters using their powers in exciting new ways to counter unique threats. Wolverine’s power is not needing to do that, he just absorbs incoming fire until he gets into stabbing range. The only challenge is whether the bad guys can erode him enough to prevent that, and erosion is not an exciting action scene.
Wolverine is meant to be the most intimidating X-Man on the planet, but his only real abilities are:
- Doesn’t need as many band-aids as other people
- Can smell when dinner is ready from great distances
- Will never get through airport security
A third of the world’s mutants could vaporize him with a single energy blast, while another third could just stand there while he bounces off them. For any enemy with energy or flame powers, adamantium bones just turn him into a human kebab. Not needing to carry a letter opener is not an intimidating power when you regularly meet Norse gods. The only mutants he can take out are those already susceptible to tasers.
Amnesia is how a writer says they can’t be bothered to write their own character. Wolverine’s creators got as far as “growly tough guy” and decided they were done. Even Death Race put more character into its heroes, and that was a movie where the title was also the entire script. Though that wasn’t as stupid as a man living with the world’s most powerful psychic not being able to remember his past.
Of course the real point of amnesia is “insert origin story here,” and Wolverine’s origin has been rebooted more often than Windows XP. Every time they run out of interesting stories for him, which is pretty easy when your character’s main power is stabbing people but he’s not allowed to be a bad guy, he suddenly remembers another mysterious past. Which is always a secret weapons program, and usually conflicts with the previous few secret weapons programs. Logan has had more top-secret government scientists inside him than an alien sex worker in Area 51.
The World’s Most Popular Loner
The X-Men struggle to live in a world that hates and fears them, but mainly in a series of luxurious mansions with private jets and a goddamn holodeck. In the same way the X-Men are “outcasts,” Wolverine is the “loner.” Which means being a total dick to everyone despite being on every team, agency and super-squad ever created. Seriously, he’s been on more super-teams than butt-clinging latex.
You don’t get to be a gruff loner when you’ve appeared on more covers than Marilyn Monroe.
All these facts builds to an awful revelation. He’s an antisocial dick, glorying in technology and wealth while pretending to hate it all, and relentlessly starting fights with people he knows can’t really hurt him. The terrible truth is: Wolverine is an Internet Tough Guy.
Luke McKinney writes about games, drink, science, and everything else that makes life amazing. He’s a columnist on Cracked and writes for several beer magazines. Luke also set fire to his own colon with suicide spices. He’s also available for hire. Follow him on Tumblr and Twitter @lukemckinney where he responds to every single tweet.