One of the most recognizable comic book characters, Wolverine holds a dear place in many a geek's hearts, particularly because Wolverine story arcs usually involve more than just heroes fighting villains. Well, to be fair, Wolverine storylines do typically come with a handy dosage of carnage and whoopa**, but these characteristics serve to enhance the plot lines and humor of Wolverine graphic novels. Logan, aka James Howlett to some, hails from a sordid past that even he remains a bit unsure of, which makes Wolverine a bit gruff around the edges. But when Wolverine stories break past his rugged exterior, they reveal a complex, damaged character whose inherent animal impulses force him to face as many personal struggles as he does external ones.
The very best Wolverine comics place this messed-up character into situations that challenge his moral abilities as much as they do his physical ones. Even still, usually Logan pulls through using a combination of physical prowess, a remarkable healing factor, and the fighting spirit of an actual wolverine. Better get out of his way, bub.
Marvel Comics Presents: #72-84: Weapon X
This legendary story depicts the origin of the feral killing machine known for many years as Logan. Writer/artist Barry Windsor Smith paints a gorgeous and bloody picture of a young unnamed mutant who undergoes horrific torture in an effort to create the perfect soldier. The experiment goes horribly wrong, and the young mutant escapes his tormentors, exacts his vengeance, and goes on to become the legend known as Wolverine.
By 1982 Frank Miller was only beginning the trajectory that would ultimately take him to superstardom. The Dark Knight Returns was yet to be published, but that same sensibility turns up in his artwork for the character-defining epic miniseries Wolverine, written by Chris Claremont. Miller’s fascination with Japanese culture serves him well as he portrays Logan as a man in search of a better vision of himself, who must fight for his own redemption.
Uncanny X-Men #141-142: Days Of Future Past
The story arc Days of Future Past has far reaching ramifications upon the course of Marvel Comics history and continuity, and it introduced fans to an older, wiser Logan. The glimpse of the possible fate of Earth - 616 seems frightening and bleak, but Wolverine's characterization provides hope to this storyline. The original Old Man Logan was as brooding and feisty as ever, but more measured in his responses and reasoned in his strategies. It’s a fantastic peek at the elder statesman that James Howlett evolves into before his death.
Uncanny X-Men #268
This story the first meeting of Wolverine and Captain America on the streets of Lowtown, Madripoor 50 years past is a fantastic example of the dynamic storytelling Jim Lee brought to the X-Men. Lee’s rendition of Logan rivals John Byrne’s in terms of capturing a distinct style and characterization, signaling another redefining moment for the popular hero. Chris Claremont, integral to the establishing of the diminutive killing machine as a household name, brings out all the coolness Wolvie has to offer in 1990’s Uncanny X-Men v1 #268.