Header Artwork by Dave Wilkins via DeviantArt
As Hugh Jackman prepares to appear in what may (and likely will) be his final performance as Wolverine, fans are already wondering if Logan will, in fact, feature Wolverine’s death. Hold on, you may say to yourself, “Wolverine is immortal,” so what could even harm him, let alone kill him? You would be right in a general sense, but throughout the history of Wolverine in Marvel Comics (and even in his own movie adaptations) the healing factor and invulnerability of Wolverine had varied… especially when he really, truly, is killed for good.
You would be surprised to learn just how often the Marvel writers and artists have found themselves unable to resist the temptation, and concocting strange twists and alternate universe stories to kill Wolverine in increasingly absurd ways. We have stabbings, we have impalement, and we even have some good old-fashioned fatal slashing wounds to cover in our list of Wolverine’s 15 Best Deaths (Including What If?s).
15. Killed By Sentinel – Vaporization
When It Happened: Uncanny X-Men #142 (1981)
The X-Men story known as “Days of Future Past” is now a widely popular one, thanks to Bryan Singer’s adaptation of the basic story to film in the movie of the same name. But there were some significant changes – the largest of them being that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) was made the star thanks to his ability to occupy both his body in the disastrous future of 2013, and the one still able to change history back in 1973. Since that meant Wolvie was unconscious in the future, he couldn’t replicate his first death scene in the form of the comic.
Chris Claremont and John Byrne were responsible for that sacrifice, but it wasn’t nearly as epic as you might think. The scene is set by Wolverine, Storm, and Colossus sneaking their way into a Sentinel-controlled facility. When Wolvie spots a high-ranking Sentinel operating a console with its back turned to face them, he orders his Russian pal to give him a patented ‘Fastball Special’ – but no sooner is he out of those metallic arms, than tragedy strikes. Wolverine planned to “gut that sucker from head ta hips,” but when the Sentinel reacts, the heroes can only watch as Wolverine is vaporized. He has an impressive healing factor, but when his adamantium skeleton doesn’t contain a single speck of flesh, he’s truly gone.
14. Killed By Punisher – Stabbed, Electrocuted
When It Happened: Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe #1 (1995)
No real surprise here, since the title of the story gives up the goods. Even so, the premise of Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe is a perfect encapsulation of why the 1990s are remembered for their senseless, over-the-top violence… and why some of that was undeniably fun to see firsthand. The story from Garth Ennis and Doug Braithwaite re-imagined an origin story for Frank Castle that saw his family killed in a massive battle between supervillains and superheroes. The Punisher was still created as a result, but now with a hatred for Marvel’s entire catalogue of heroes and villains.
Frank finds his thirst for super-blood encouraged by a group of benefactors who provide him with all he needs to “kill the Marvel Universe” – but even a homicidal maniac knows you send Wolverine away to make most of the job simple. After an issue filled with all manner of murder, Frank confronts a drunk Wolverine in an alley, and shows that his prior killings have all been a warm-up. Eventually Frank simply overpowers his opponent, thrusting Wolverine’s adamantium claws straight through his own chest, and tossing him into a nearby electrical panel, roasting him down to his skeleton. Sure, it may have been a standalone story, but a memorable exit, all the same.
13. Killed By Kitty Pryde – Mystery Intangible-d
When It Happened: New Exiles #1 (August 10, 2016)
The good news about the many alternate worlds and ‘what if’ scenarios Marvel has placed Wolverine into is the sheer number of variations on death and dismemberment. In the New Exiles series, for instance, the story focused squarely on Cat (don’t call her Kitty) Pryde and her ally Sabertooth, fleeing from the forces of Madame Hydra and her villainous version of Wolverine, simply named ‘Howlett.’ But he wasn’t the only one with a dangerous side, as Cat showed her darker tactics when she stepped in to protect her friend.
Slashing at an enemy who is capable of turning themselves intangible is hard enough as it is, since even a killing strike can be reduced to nothing at her whim. But when Howlett went for one such blow, only to see his claws on the ground between them, Cat let the secret slip. Howlett’s Adamantium skeleton may be invulnerable, but her ability to turn others intangible also allowed her to turn parts of them – in this case, the anchor points of the claws and the body around them, rendering them “not a part of him anymore.”
12.Killed By Magneto – Completely Dissolved
When It Happened: Ultimatum #5 (2009)
In Jeph Loeb’s series Ultimatum, more than a dozen major Marvel heroes were killed – all of which hailing from the publisher’s “Ultimate” Universe. The story hinged on a massive villainous plot by Magneto, involving inverting the Earth’s magnetic poles (causing unparalleled destruction worldwide) in an effort to ‘take over the world’ in the most literal sense. Thankfully, some of the X-Men managed to stage a final showdown – including Wolverine, leading to one of his most memorable deaths in comics history.
When he launched his first attack on Magneto, the mutant used his friends against him, blasting Wolverine with a full-power blast from both Cyclops’s visor and Iron Man’s palm repulsors. The combined torrent of energy reduced Logan to flesh and bone, leading Magneto to think that he had prevented a lethal strike. Fans were instead treated to the unforgettable image of a zombie-esque Wolverine plunging his claws straight through the villain’s chest. Magneto got the last laugh, tearing the Adamantium from Wolverine’s skeleton and shredding what remained of his body in the process.
11. Killed By Himself – Cause Unknown
When It Happened: Age of Ultron #9 (2013)
When Marvel announced that their second big screen team-up movie would be titled The Avengers: Age of Ultron, they were quick to clarify that the title didn’t represent the same story from the comics. And for good reason, since that story included Hank Pym as a main player, and involved Wolverine traveling through time… more than once. We’ll save the lengthy details, and just paint the picture leading up to the death of (one) Wolverine. The plan seemed simple: since Hank Pym created Ultron, and Ultron turned out to destroy the world, Wolverine headed back to kill Pym before he could do it.
But as Wolverine was about to change history, and thereby the future, he was interrupted – by himself. Wearing a different uniform, the slightly older Wolverine informed him that this plan wouldn’t work – and that the resulting future without Pym was even worse. The only answer was to let Pym create Ultron, but this time insert a failsafe to keep him from growing as powerful as he originally would have. With the mission complete, they face one last problem: two Wolverines alive in the same timeline. Without a need to explain, both knew what had to be done, and the older volunteered, since the nightmare future he came from was one he couldn’t live with.
10. Killed By Magneto – Stabbed By His Own Claws
When It Happened: What If? #31 (1982)
The story’s title, “What if Wolverine Had Killed The Hulk?” doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but went to a surprising extreme. Like all comics in the What If? series, it posed the question of just how much of the Marvel Universe would have been affected if a famous encounter went slightly different than fans first saw. In this case, what if Wolverine had managed to kill the Hulk when he first appeared on the superhero scene? The short answer is “nothing good,” since one murder led to another, led to induction into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and working against his former X-Men friends.
Wolverine would still join the mutant team, only as a spy for Magneto. But, as some things are impossible to change, Wolverine soon grew fond of the heroes (Jean Grey in particular) and leaves Magneto fatally wounded. The villain fades fast, but uses his last bit of strength to deliver some poetic justice. Using his powers of magnetism, Magneto forces Wolverine to extend his claws, and slam them into his head or throat. It happens just outside of the panel, so it’s unclear if the strike was of particular effectiveness, or the writer had simply not invested as much importance in the hero’s healing factor. Either way, the hero’s “YAAARGH!” echoed throughout history.
9. Killed By Beast – De-Powered & Disemboweled
When It Happened: New X-Men #154 (2004)
Grant Morrison is famous for his storylines turning the status quo upside down, and he did just that with his run on New X-Men. Leaping a century and a half into the future, he showed the fallout of Cyclops closing the Xavier School in the wake of Jean Grey’s death. Long story short: most humans are dead, the sentient bacteria Sublime has taken control of Beast’s mind and body, and Wolverine leads some of the last mutant heroes against him. His claws are still sharp enough to inflict damage, but Wolverine fails to take into account Sublime’s ability to absorb the power of the Phoenix Force.
All the element of surprise in the world can’t save Wolverine once Sublime simply ‘turns off’ his mutant healing ability, and in a twirl of blue energy, slices Wolverine almost clean in half. Sublime would eventually be beaten, and Cyclops would be talked into keeping the school open to prevent this future from ever unfolding. But readers still got the chance to see Wolverine accepting death as a long awaited rest (something most of his other passings fail to focus on).
8. Killed By Dust – Sand Blasted
When It Happened: Young X-Men #12 (2009)
The story of Sooraya Qadir a.k.a. Dust is a tragic one, but picked up when she was saved from a life of slavery in her native Afghanistan by Wolverine. She eventually joined up the mutant hero under Charles Xavier in the pages of Young X-Men, but was re-cast as the villain in the book’s final two issues. Set years into the future, Dust has risen to become an unholy scourge upon mutantkind. It turns out that her ally Ink resurrecting her after death so many years earlier wasn’t as clean-cut as it seemed at the time. She had returned, but her soul had been killed… and she was out for revenge on the mutants she held responsible.
That list included Wolverine, having pulled her into her new life to begin with. She found him leisurely waiting for her arrival in the Mansion, explaining that she had clearly lost her mind if she thought killing former friends made sense. Delivering his final words – “Get Bent, Sweetheart” – Wolverine was then sand-blasted by Dust in her Dust form (a storm of silicon particles), removing every pieces of organic tissue from his Adamantium skeleton. Unfortunately, the red-hot glowing claws were the only signs of life that remained.
7. Killed By Stryfe – Asphyxiation
When It Happened: What If…? #69 (1995)
This installment of Marvel’s What If? offers a divergent take on the famous X-Men story “X-Cutioner’s Song,” in which Stryfe delivered his massive plan for revenge against the X-Men (and Apocalypse). In the original version, Stryfe – Cable’s clone and rival from the future – attempts to kill Apocalypse, leading the villain to side with the X-Men against Stryfe, cure Professor X of a techno-organic virus, and head to Stryfe’s Moon Base as one unit to rescue Jean, Scott, and the trio of Wolverine, Cable, and Bishop headed to save them. But in this “what if?” things went differently.
Apocalypse fails to save Charles Xavier, making enemies of the surviving X-Men. Charles’s death sends a psychic shockwave throughout space, causing Stryfe’s oxygen-filled mental bubble around Jean and Scott to falter, killing them. And with no back-up, Wolverine is dealt with easily. Stryfe simply smashes him out onto the surface of the Moon with a telekinetic blast, and he’s finished. It’s more straightforward than most Wolverine executions: healing doesn’t matter if his cells don’t have oxygen keeping them alive.
6. Killed By Zombies – Zombie Infection
When It Happened: Marvel Zombies: Dead Days (2007)
The world of the Marvel Zombies doesn’t need to be explained for readers to get the appeal. It’s the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and every supervillain… only zombies. They arrived in the Marvel Universe thanks to the Ultimate Fantastic Four series, when Reed Richards was deceived into teleporting into their reality – Earth-2149 – a version of the universe that had been conquered by a zombie plague. Fun fact: the zombie plague was originally planned to be introduced by Superman punching his way into the universe, but Marvel insisted the character be changed to Sentry.
In any event, Wolverine was almost always present among the zombie hordes, but it was only years later in Dead Days that the actual outbreak was chronicled in detail. In that story, Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men attempted to hold off the growing zombie horde until he was overwhelmed, and infected by bites from both Hawkeye and Captain America (“Colonel” America on Earth-2149). It still doesn’t quite explain why the zombie infection is among the only ones Wolverine’s immune system can’t tackle, but the image itself is worth the ambiguity.
5. Killed By Self – Encased in Adamantium
When It Happened: Death of Wolverine #4 (2014)
The general cynicism or skepticism with which any death of a superhero is viewed is understandable, considering just how many die and resurrect on a yearly basis. But the Death of Wolverine seemed different, sending the hero on a path to the origin of his own powers: the single mind behind the Weapon X program as a whole. Having lost his healing abilities thanks to a mysterious virus, Wolverine took on the mission knowing that without it, even using his claws could result in fatal loss of blood. But when Wolverine reached the finish line, he had little choice.
Coming face to face with Dr. Abraham Cornelius was one thing, but seeing the test subjects he had prepared to replicate in Wolverine’s image raised the stakes. All the doctor needed was Wolverine’s healing ability to perfect his life’s work, and beginning the final stages when he discovered it was no longer available. Having tracked his gifts back to the source, and seeing others about to be subjected to the same, Wolverine shot out his claws, and sliced open all the containers of liquid Adamantium before they could coat the subjects. Covered in the liquid metal, Wolverine successfull tracked down and kill Cornelius – in time to take in the sunset, and accept his fate as the metal cooled, suffocating him inside of it.
4. Killed By Kitty Pryde – Hand Phased Into Brain
When It Happened: What If? Wolverine Enemy of the State #1 (2007)
This one is a bit of a two-for-one, but there’s clearly a winner in the category of ‘most horrifying deaths’ in Wolverine’s history. For starters, the story “Enemy of the State” saw Wolverine targeted by the united powers of Hydra and The Hand, and thanks to Marvel’s Daredevil series, even casual fans now know what kind of mystical resurrection The Hand are capable of. So when their leader, Gorgon, succeeded in killing Wolverine through surgical precision – killing him faster than his healing factor could heal – he was soon brought back to life as a Hand-controlled assassin. Of course, he would eventually break free and return to normal.
But in this “what if?” story, the question of which X-Man would be forced to bring the mind-controlled Wolverine was asked and answered. The honor goes to Kitty Pryde, who – seeing her end coming at his hand – phases her arm directly into Wolverine’s brain at the exact moment that he slices it from her body… permanently fusing it with his own brain matter (for as long as he lives with his body unable to heal his brain, that is). That’s one image of a dying Wolverine we won’t soon forget.
3. Killed By Deadpool – Decapitated
When It Happened: Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe #3 (2012)
The previous comic in which Frank Castle murdered the heroes and villains of Marvel’s Universe was what readers would expect, and the same could be said for this Deadpool-themed follow-up. Where The Punisher preferred violence, Deadpool’s version is insane on a brand new level. And as Deadpool set out completely aware that he was a fictional member of a fictional universe, intent on killing each and every other character he could find, he saved something special for Wolverine. Something truly disturbing.
Wolverine had reason to be upset when he happened on Deadpool’s plan to kill him inside and out, seeing Daken (his son) and X-23 (his clone/daughter figure) shackled, and being blasted with flames over and over. The fight between he and Deadpool started immediately, with their helaling factors and fighting skills a rough match. Deadpool came prepared, however, with a blade of Carbonadium – designed specifically to slow down Wolverine’s healing factor. And after slicing into him like a slab of steak, Deadpool separated head from body… a pretty simple means of killing Wolverine for good.
2. Killed By New Warriors – Mystical Disintegration
When It Happened: New Warriors #11 (1991)
The minds behind The New Warriors had some fun at the expense of the larger Marvel events and storylines, beginning with “Earth-Forever Yesterday.” Technically set on the alternate Earth-9105, the New Warriors are up against a completely different set of enemies. In this version of history – dubbed “Days of Present Past” – Moses was defeated by the Pharaoh, making the eventual United States of Assyria a new world superpower… and home to this world’s Avengers. That included Captain Assyria, Iron Man, Horus, and more.
The New Warriors found themselves at odds with these variants on Marvel’s heroic super-team, and looked to be soundly beaten before Wolverine – in this world, known as ‘Commander Logan’ – intervened. He managed to kick up enough trouble to let his teammates pass by, but when facing the full brunt of Horus’s staff (a playful replacement of Thor’s hammer) he had all the flesh contained in the bast burned off of his skeleton. It’s a style of attack we’ve seen plenty, but Iron Man’s inspection of Logan’s skeleton makes this one worth remembering.
1. Killed By Self – Vampire-Killing Spell
When It Happened: What If…? #24 (1991)
The other stories of this ilk mentioned in our list pale in comparison to the infamous epic, “What if Wolverine Had Become the Lord of Vampires?” First of all: yes, the X-Men did do battle with Dracula himself in Central Park, defeating him in time to bring Storm back to the land of the living. But in this “what if” story, Storm was turned earlier, rising as a true vampire, and unleashing a wave of vampire bites and compulsions that turned most of the Marvel hero roster into blood-sucking vampires. Wolverine, however, was already more in-tune with his animal side than most – meaning he gave the story’s villain, Dracula, a run for his money.
Defeating him, drinking his blood, and claiming the title of ‘Lord of the Vampires’ for himself, Wolverine eventually ordered his forces to take out Dr. Strange (the mystic most likely to defeat him). The mission worked, but Strange’s famous Cloak of Levitation sought out Frank Castle to bring justice to its fallen owner, and The Punisher headed into the vampire headquarters, guns blazing. Frank’s recklessness eventually saw him slice off Kitty Pryde’s head by accident, driving Wolverine into a frenzy, murdering Frank instantly. But try as he might, he couldn’t convince himself that the heartbreak wasn’t his fault for starting the madness in the first place.
Cracking open a spellbook, Wolverine read aloud the incantations to turn the remaining vampires to dust, himself included. Now THAT’s a story we want to see on film!
Are there any comic book deaths of Wolverine that you think deserve to be given some extra credit? Let us know in the comments!
Header Artwork by Dave Wilkins