Superheroes often have tough lives, but there’s probably no one whose life has been worse than Logan, aka the Wolverine. He may be the most popular member of the X-Men, but he’s spent decades dealing with death after death, brainwashings, rejections, torment, war, abandonment, and pretty much any misfortune that a human being could possibly have to experience. He’s watched the murder, dismemberment, and/or torture of almost every person he’s ever loved, all too often on the sharp ends of his own adamantium claws.
Wolverine may heal from any wound, but he’s had his heart broken in every painful way imaginable. He’s lost every woman he ever loved. He’s seen his parents killed, and his children skewered. Bruce Banner might think that he has it rough, but there seems to be no end to Wolverine’s misery. Really, it’s no wonder that his final days in the X-Men movie universe — as depicted in this year’s Logan — ended up being so depressing.
Wolverine has persevered through a lot, in both the comics and the movies, and these experiences have helped turn him into the iconic hero that he is today. Here are 15 Times Wolverine Had His Heart Broken.
15. When His Childhood Fell Apart
From the very beginning, he had it rough… but not in the way you might expect.
Though we all think of Wolverine as a rough, unshaven, blue-collar hero who heals from any wound, he actually begins his life as a privileged rich kid named James Howlett back in 19th century Alberta. The weak, sickly James is plagued by allergies so severe that he can’t leave the house, and his only childhood friends are Rose, the Howlett family’s adopted ward, and Dog, the son of the alcoholic, abusive groundskeeper, Thomas Logan.
Mr. Logan has more than a small physical resemblance to the Wolverine we know today, and as it turns out, he’s actually James’ biological father. After getting fired, Thomas breaks in and shoots James’s supposed father, John Howlett. And this, right here, is the moment that James’s life starts to fall apart: as soon as his father dies, he sprouts bone claws for the first time. In a rage, he murders Thomas Logan and injures Dog. James’ mother then shoots herself. Rose quickly collects James and they escape the manor. But though they get away, this incident will prove to be only the beginning of Wolverine’s tragedies.
14. When His Childhood Crush Chose Another Man… and Then, He Accidentally Killed Her
The two kids run away to British Columbia, where they pretend to be cousins and find work at a stone quarry under a foreman named Smitty, a straightforward sort of guy with a good heart. As James grows up and takes on the name Logan, he becomes close to Smitty… and so does Rose, but in a more romantic way. Rose and Smitty become engaged, and Logan — who has been unable to declare his feelings for Rose, since the pair are publicly known as cousins — finally tells her how he feels, only to be rejected. He starts spending his time in cage fights, becoming increasingly closed off and angry.
Between Rose’s red hair and the more conventional “other man,” the parallels aren’t hard to see. This is a story that would repeat later on in Logan’s life, sadly, when he found a new home in Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
However, before Smitty and Rose can wed, James and Rose’s old friend Dog Logan comes back around. Dog blames his old friend for what happened back at the Howlett manor, and tries to kill him for it. Logan defeats Dog, but in a shocking turn of events, Rose intervenes… and accidentally ends up getting skewered on James’s claws. Horrified, Logan runs off into the woods and away from civilization. The foreman Smitty goes off in search of his old friend, but never finds him.
13. When Jean Grey Chose Cyclops Over Him… Over and Over Again, in Every Comic and Media Adaptation
Most superheroes have their one great romance, and most heroes eventually find their way to happiness with that person, even if that happiness is eventually ruined by death or divorce. Bruce Banner has Betty Ross (in the comics, anyway), Superman has Lois Lane, Spider-Man has Mary Jane, Wonder Woman has Steve Trevor… but for Logan, the love of his life is fellow X-Men teammate Jean Grey, and the great tragedy is that in every version of the X-Men’s story — whether in the comics, the movies, or the cartoons — Jean always chooses Cyclops instead.
Wolverine has loved many women in his life, but no one as much as Jean. When he first becomes an X-Man, he’s lost the memories of the whole Rose and Smitty situation, but the parallels are easy to see. And sure, by the time Wolvie comes around, Jean and Scott have already known each other for a long time. But that doesn’t make the situation any less heartbreaking, particularly for Logan.
Really, the tragic thing is that Jean marries Scott because she sees him as a good guy… and while Cyclops is a great X-Men leader, his skills as a significant other prove to be greatly lacking. Seriously, Cyclops is a terrible husband. He’s closed off, flirts with other women, ditches his son, and ends up having a psychic affair with Emma Frost. In the meantime, Logan has never fallen out of love with Jean; his loyalty is so strong that even after her death, he names his new mutant school after her.
12. When Horde (Literally) Ripped His Heart Out
When we use the phrase “broken heart,” we don’t usually mean it in a physical sense. But in this case, we do. Because there was one time that, yes, Wolverine’s entire heart was ripped out of his body.
Logan’s a tough guy to kill, as we all know. But he meets his match when the X-Men face off against Horde, a supervillain seeking out an all-powerful magic device called the Crystal of Ultimate Vision. In the showdown, Wolverine throws himself in harm’s way in order to save Storm, only to have his heart torn out of his chest by Horde. This actually kills him — yes, even the mighty Wolverine can’t survive without a beating heart — but luckily, a single drop of Logan’s blood lands on the Crystal of Ultimate Vision, which allows his body to regrow back to its old form. This also gives Wolverine crazy-powerful cosmic abilities, but he uses these to destroy the Crystal and defeat Horde.
11. When he was Forced to Kill Mariko, His Fiancée
Other than Jean, Mariko Yashida — whom movie fans will remember from The Wolverine — may be Wolverine’s greatest love. In the comics, she and Logan’s relationship suffers through many trials, such as her father setting her up in an arranged marriage, or him dueling against Wolverine. Her influence and beliefs lead to a lot of character growth for Logan, as he has to put aside his aggressive ways and learn to be a more noble, honorable warrior.
Logan and Mariko even get engaged, but the wedding bells never get the chance to ring. Instead, Mariko ends up being poisoned by one of her rivals, Matsu’o Tsurayaba. As the toxin works its way through her system, dooming her to a long and painful death, she asks Logan if he can kill her; the poison will kill her no matter what, and she wants to be spared the agony. Logan grants her wish, in one of the most heartwrenching moments of his life.
But that’s not the end of the story. After Mariko dies in his arms, Wolverine tracks down Matsu’o, her killer. Logan promises to avenge Mariko’s murder by returning to Matsu’o once every year, on the anniversary of her death, to sever one of his body parts.
10. When Phoenix Made Him Kill Colossus
This one happened in an alternate universe, but we have to mention it if only because of how emotionally traumatic it was for this version of Wolverine.
The comic book What If? #27 tells the story of what might have happened had Jean Grey not died following her transformation into the Dark Phoenix — more on that later — and what sort of havoc this would have caused in the universe. In this reality, she continued blowing up galaxies until she’s discovered by Kitty Pryde, whom she subsequently wipes out of existence (since she’s the Phoenix, and can do just about anything). After that, Jean begins killing all of the X-Men, one by one, including transforming poor Nightcrawler into a burning pit of fire.
Wolverine and Colossus’s signature move, the good ol’ Fastball Special, gets turned against them here. After Colossus throws Logan at Jean, the Phoenix transforms the metal man back into his flesh form, deflects Logan’s attack, and sends the Wolverine flying toward Piotr —claws first. This kills Piotr instantly, a result which horrifies Logan so much that he pretty much just collapses, is dragged into the flames that were Nightcrawler, and burns to death.
9. When the Hulk Family Killed His Family, in Old Man Logan
In another reality, the possible future world depicted in Old Man Logan, Wolverine’s life doesn’t go much better. After the end of the X-Men, Logan retires the Wolverine identity, refuses to ever pop his claws, and becomes a family man. In this dystopic world, the country is ruled by supervillains, with the West Coast property managed by the now-villainous Hulk and his band of incestuous green children. Logan does the best he can to live a peaceful life, with his wife Maureen and their children, Jade and Scotty.
But after he goes trekking across the country with Hawkeye in order to earn rent money for his Hulking landlords, Old Man Logan returns home to find that his family has been murdered by the Hulk Gang. Jade, Scott, and Maureen are corpses at his feet, killed while he was away.
This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Logan finally pops his claws again, and uses them to carve up the Hulk Gang, and finally, the Hulk himself.
8. Sabretooth’s Annual Birthday “Presents”
Birthdays are supposed to be a happy occasion, celebrated with friends and family. After everything he’s been through, Wolverine has certainly earned that, at the very least. But no. Instead, his archenemy Sabretooth has a cruel tradition of tracking him down on his birthday every year, no matter where he is, and beating him within an inch of his life.
Victor Creed’s reason for doing this is pure sadism, basically. He just wants Logan to know that he can kill him, whenever he wants to. Even worse, it all started back when Sabretooth murdered Logan’s lover, Silver Fox — on his birthday. After this rather malicious timing, Sabretooth decides that Wolverine’s every birthday from that point on will be an excuse to torment the hero, physically and psychologically, no matter what else is happening in their lives at the time.
However, this gruesome tradition eventually proves to be Sabretooth’s undoing. After years of enduring Victor’s torment, Wolverine hides away with the Muramasa blade — a sword that knocks out healing factors — and when Victor tracks him down, Logan slices his archenemy’s head off, with his last words to Victor being a reversed “happy birthday.”
7. All of the Times He’s Killed His Own Children
No, Logan never kills his “daughter” Laura; in fact, X-23 actually outlives him, and she ends up joining up with the X-Men and becoming the new Wolverine. But Wolverine’s had a lot of lovers throughout his decades of life in the 20th and 21st century, and produced a number of children both in and out of wedlock that he never knew about. Many of these children become exploited by sinister forces, with a scary number of them being turned against their father.
The most well known of these is Daken, the child of Wolverine and Itsu, who was cut out of his mother’s womb in 1946, leading Logan to believe that he was dead. Daken grows up to be a cold, merciless assassin. As an adult, he comes into conflict with his father, even usurping his role as Wolverine when he joins Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers. Eventually, Daken becomes dangerous enough that Wolverine is forced to drown him, a traumatic moment where he can’t help but imagine what life could have been like if he’d known that Daken was alive, and had been able to raise him as his own.
Even more horrible, however, is another trick that is played on Wolverine by a group of villains known as the Red Right Hand. This faction’s purpose is already personal enough, since the whole group is composed of people who Logan has wronged at one point or another. Wolverine storms their hideout, and slashes his way through their mutant security guards, only to find out that all of the Red Right Hand members have already poisoned themselves, to rob him of the chance to kill them. Worse still, they leave a recorded message revealing that all of the security guards that Logan killed on his way into their compound are actually his own unknown children, who he has just unwittingly murdered.
6. When He Lost Charles Xavier (for the First Time)
There are few people in the world who have had a bigger impact on Logan’s life than Professor Charles Xavier, the mutant leader who recognized the warm heart hiding within those adamantium bones, and finally gave him a chance to be a hero. In X-Men: The Last Stand, Charles comes face to face with his greatest mistake: Jean Grey, the Phoenix, the girl who was so powerful that he blocked her true abilities from her, unknowingly creating a terrifying force of nature. And when they face against each other, even the great Professor X is no match for her power. Before the eyes of Logan, Storm, and Magneto, the Phoenix de-atomizes Charles, leaving nothing but an empty wheelchair.
This scene is heartbreaking after 2+ movies of getting to know Patrick Stewart’s beloved take on Xavier and seeing how his dream and his compassion have helped so many find a purpose in life. But no matter how crushing the scene is for viewers, it’s a thousand times more crushing for Logan. Charles is the father he never had, and to watch him instantly wiped out like that is more than he can take. It’s no surprise that Logan and Ororo collapse at Xavier’s wheelchair, sobbing together.
5. When he Killed Jean Grey in the comics — and the movies
As if Logan hasn’t already killed enough people that he loves, right? But this is a big one, both in the movies and in the comics. Seriously, it’s bad enough that the love of Logan’s life chooses someone else over him… but on top of that, he’s had to watch her die on the sharp ends of his own claws.
In the comics, Jean actually kills herself during the original Dark Phoenix saga. But she is subsequently resurrected by the Phoenix Force, years later, and Wolverine has had to kill her over and over again, multiple times, until her final death in Phoenix: Endsong.
In the movies, the finale of X-Men: The Last Stand is one of the most iconic moments of the series, as it shows Wolverine marching toward the woman he loves — as she literally burns the flesh from his adamantium-laced bones — until he is standing before her, exposed and vulnerable. Logan then kills her in order to save the lives of everyone else on the planet. However, the trauma from this moment never leaves him, as revealed by the next chronological movie in the series, The Wolverine.
4. When That Bear Died in The Wolverine
The beginning of James Mangold’s The Wolverine shows Logan in a very dark place. The guilt from Jean Grey’s death has turned him into a hermit, hiding away in the forest, his only companion a brown bear who makes his home next to where Logan sleeps at night. Though Logan and the bear mostly leave each other alone, there’s a mutual respect between the two of them. Each one minds their own business, neither one intruding on the other.
Then one night, he finds that the bear has been mortally wounded by a poison arrow. Wolverine kills the bear, to put it out of its misery. He then tracks down the hunters to a local bar, and teaches them a harsh lesson in why you don’t torture animals for no good reason.
Logan’s compassion for the bear, and his heartache at its unnecessary death, paints a clear portrait of the character’s warm, beating heart. Though he might be a killer, and he might be less than cordial most of the time, he always sticks up for innocents that he thinks have been wronged, whether they’re human or not.
3. When the X-Men Met Their End
There have been plenty of alternate universe and What If…? stories depicting the deaths of the X-Men, but there are two particular stories we’re talking about here, both of which have a devastating impact on Logan’s psyche.
First, the comic book Old Man Logan depicts the end of the X-Men in gruesome detail. Here, Wolverine is tricked by a series of illusions into believing that the mansion has been stormed by supervillains. When the illusion fades, he finds out that the villains he was killing were actually his fellow X-Men, and he’s so horrified that he hangs up the claws for good.
When this storyline was loosely adapted into the movie Logan, the creative team decided to turn the trope on its head. Logan killing the X-Men is a perfect Greek tragedy, a plot element that seems sewn into the fabric of the series, making it almost predictable…. but in Logan, the X-Men (or at least, several of them) are killed not by the Wolverine, but instead by Charles Xavier, who in his old age begins having uncontrollable psychic seizures. This tragic accident rips Logan’s life apart, and when Xavier’s brain is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the US Government, Logan grabs his mentor, hits the road, and escapes the country.
2. The Entirety of Logan
Seriously, if you want to see a heartbroken, beaten down, and depressed Wolverine, this is the film for you.
Logan is an exercise in bleakness, set in an economically blighted United States where mutants have been wiped out by genetically modified crops that are preventing their birth. After Xavier’s brain begins malfunctioning, Logan hides away with him on the Mexican border, trying to protect him from the authorities and save up enough money to buy a boat that will take them away from society. But if this wasn’t depressing enough, Logan depicts a Wolverine well past his prime, not just emotionally, but also physically. He’s aging. The adamantium inside him is poisoning his blood, a sickness only worsened by the fact that his healing factor doesn’t work so well anymore. His claws don’t always work right. When he gets knocked down, it isn’t so easy to get up. He even needs reading glasses.
Watching Wolverine age is painful for the audience, and even more for Logan himself. Logan shows a superhero at the end of his days, struggling to find meaning after all of the disappointment that life has served him. It’s a truly unique film, unlike any comic book movie before it.
1. When he Lost Charles Xavier, For The Second (and last) Time
Logan is a movie full of heartbreak after heartbreak, from start to finish. But there might be no moment that hits harder for the title character himself than when he loses his father figure, his mentor, the man who he has devoted so much of his life to.
Losing Xavier the first time, back in X-Men: The Last Stand, certainly took its toll on Logan. But losing him the second time is indescribably worse. In the years since the X-Men took on the Phoenix, Logan and Charles have traveled through multiple timelines together, seen the end of one world and the birth of another. They’ve survived the end of the X-Men, and the end of mutantkind. Furthermore, gruff as he may be, Logan has spent all of his last years in life protecting Charles, caring for him in the best way he knows how, and building towards the dream of them one day escaping from society on a boat. But in the end, Charles Xavier meets his end when he is stabbed to death by a younger, faster Wolverine clone — a moment so horrifying that, when Logan runs back in an attempt to save him, he desperately reassures Charles that “it wasn’t me.”
In the end, the great Charles Xavier is buried in an unmarked grave. Logan tries to give a eulogy, but the death has impacted him so greatly that he can barely sputter out words. At this point, though Logan has suffered dozens upon dozens of tragedies in his life, there might be none that have hit him quite so hard.
What other heartbreaks has Wolverine endured? Will this guy ever catch a break? Let us know in the comments.