Wolverine is a dead man walking.
Well, so it’s claimed by comics behemoth Marvel, as they launch the four-part miniseries The Death of Wolverine this week. The usually hard-to-kill Canadian has had his healing powers removed (though not his indestructible skeleton and claws), and it seems that the most famous of the X-men (played by Hugh Jackman in seven films) is set to meet his maker.
"Wolverine's been tested in the past, and he's even come close to death on a few occasions,” Marvel said on Tuesday. “Back then he had his healing factor to pull him out of death's clutches, but now he's not so lucky.
"Nothing will ever be the same for the clawed Canadian ever again – mostly because it's hard to change things for a dead guy".
It sounds pretty definitive – but then again Marvel have form for backtracking on the deaths of popular characters in their comics. Here’s just a few examples.
Comic book deaths have long been acknowledged as somewhat unreliable; the old adage was that only Spider-man’s uncle Ben (he of the “With great power comes great responsibility" advice) and Captain America’s 1940s sidekick Bucky (who was tied to a rocket and flew off) stayed dead.
Unfortunately, even that bar was lowered as anyone who saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year will know, after it was revealed that perky all-American boyscout Bucky had actually spent years working as a brainwashed Russian hitman and was still alive.
Dramatised to an extent in the film X-men: The Last Stand (with Famke Janssen as Jean), the events of the Dark Phoenix saga saw the nice mind-reading mutant go mad and wipe out billions of aliens before killing herself. It was a tragic and iconic story – until a few years later, when it turned out that it wasn’t Jean but a duplicate that thought it was Jean.
The real Jean did later died, though. But then someone made a clone of her. Oh, and then that died as well. This happens in comics more often than you might imagine...
As dramatised in last year's film the Amazing Spider-man 2 (where she's played by Emma Stone), Spider-man’s girlfriend was killed by the villainous Green Goblin in landmark story The Night Gwen Stacy died. Credited with bringing in an age of darker comics and more mature storylines, the death is still seen as a watershed in comics history.
Still, that didn’t mean that Gwen couldn't pop up a few times as a clone. To date, three clones of Miss Stacy have dropped in to visit, though the third recently died in a fire – well, old habits die hard. So to speak.
After a brutal internal conflict with other heroes, Captain America was assassinated by a sniper in a tragic end that was promised to have huge repercussions. And it did – for a couple of years, until it turned out the gun that had killed Cap was in fact a special time-travelling weapon that popped him back into his own timestream. He was soon rescued, no harm done. Phew!
A large, Russian X-man who could turn himself into metal, Colossus had a minor role in the film series but was a popular character in the comics – so when he sacrificed his own life in order to cure a deadly disease that had killed his sister, it was a moving moment.
It was less moving when he was brought back with the explanation that an alien had swapped his body with an exact duplicate so he could perform weird experiments on the plucky hero. In what must have been an annoying moment for Colossus, his sister later came back to life as well, so he might as well not have bothered.
Yup, we’ve actually been down this road before; back in 1999 Wolverine was apparently killed by the henchman of mutant messiah Apocalypse (just go with it) – a henchman called, appropriately, Death. However, all was not as it seemed – the Wolverine who was killed was in fact an alien duplicate, while Death was a brainwashed Wolverine in disguise. And people say comics are confusing.
Still, I’m sure the death will stick this time. But maybe don’t cancel Hugh Jackman’s contract quite yet...