How Wolverine Could Continue to Save the X-Men Franchise

Following the release of ‘Logan’, I’ve witnessed twitter repeatedly flitting through all five stages of grief within the space of a few days as fans grapple with the idea of bidding farewell to the beloved antihero (or hero, in his own right), and understandably so. Not only was ‘Logan’ delivered with skilful cinematic prowess but with a tender narrative component; it stripped the franchise’s most esteemed characters down to their most raw elements and set in motion a gritty tale of redemption and survival. It offered the necessary closure and poignancy required to allow Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine a well-deserved rest within Marvel’s cinematic universe.

However, that is not to say that we have seen the end of Wolverine altogether.

The character Wolverine has saved the X-men franchise on multiple occasions throughout the comics’ run, ever since his introduction in 1974’s #180 issue of ‘The Incredible Hulk’. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Marvel’s tactful inclusion of a brooding character who keenly used lethal force made him a rapid fan-favourite in agitated American culture; his moral ambiguity made him the relatable rebel fans had waited for. Someone who didn’t fit neatly into the hero or villain dichotomy. 43 years later, this is still a large segment of the Wolverine appeal.

Naturally, when the X-men comics began to die out in terms of popularity, Marvel reformed the comic in 1975 with Wolverine now occupying a focal role and this lent a huge hand to franchise’s oncoming success. However, by the late 90s, the franchise was dying once more, and Marvel resorted to the old approach of banking on Wolverine’s recognition for a successful reboot: they used him as a platform from which to launch projects such as ‘The New Avengers’ and ‘X-Men’.

Wolverine operates outside of typical story arc confines and it is now extremely difficult to imagine the X-men without their staple hot-headed, claw-popping teammate. For this reason, it could be safe to assume that we will be seeing some rendition of Wolverine soon enough. In addition, the character’s marketability due to the recognition factor alone is too valuable for the studio to shelve it entirely. In an age where we’re neck-deep in superhero movies, the credit factor of Wolverine is enough to ensure ticket sales.

So, assuming we are set to see Wolverine again, albeit in an altered way or form, my prediction is that Marvel will draw sizeable inspiration from the 2015 comic series ‘All-New Wolverine’ wherein we see Laura Kinney succeed Logan by assuming his name and even his costume (yes, that ghastly yellow one), attending school at the X-Mansion before eventually joining X-Force. She even adopts a wolverine which she names Jonathan; that could be interesting, right? The end of ‘Logan’, depicting a young Laura wandering to safety with her fellow mutants would allow a fairly stable set-up should this be the direction the studio chooses.

While there’s no way to be certain what the future of Wolverine holds, it’s evident that fans are in no hurry to replace the Wolverine that we have known for the last 17 years and that ‘Logan’ was ultimately the heart-rending sendoff we all hoped it would be.

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