Marvel Comics' Wolverine is also known to his fans as as Weapon X, and for most of his life he's been just that; a weapon to be used and exploited. When the X-Men's founder Professor Charles Xavier first encountered Wolverine, Xavier used his telepathic powers to wipe away the violent mutant's memories with the hope of giving Wolverine the chance to be something better; a hero. And for a time, that's exactly what Wolverine was,, until the aftermath of the 2005 event story, "House of M," when he regained all his missing memories. This was a painful process that made Wolverine realize that if he was ever going to be truly free, he would have to take down the men who enslaved him and turned him into their instrument of destruction.
"Wolverine's ongoing quest to do just that has been documented for nearly four years in the pages of "Wolverine: Origins." It's been a perilous journey that has forced the character to confront some of the uglier aspects of his past while placing him in conflict with Daken, the son he never knew he had. Eventually, Wolverine discovered that the men who enslaved him did so at the behest of a powerful, Machiavellian and enigmatic mutant known as Romulus. In "7 the Hard Way," the current and penultimate arc of "Wolverine: Origins," the former Weapon X is devising a desperate plan to rid the world of Romulus' influence forever. CBR News spoke with writer Daniel Way about this storyline as well as "Reckoning," the series' final arc, which kicks off in March 2010.
Wolverine's quest to bring down Romulus started out as a simple mission of revenge with the simple goal of killing the centuries-old master manipulator. He recently discovered, however, that doing so would be giving Romulus exactly what he wants.
"Romulus' greatest strength is that no one knows about Romulus. He's the keystone that holds his empire together, and what he wants is someone to take his place; someone to resume his work after he's gone. He wants an heir. So he's been manipulating Wolverine and others like Daken; pitting them against each other so that he does retain some control from beyond the grave," Way told CBR News "That's something which is still a long way off. This is an empire that's been centuries in the building. Romulus doesn't necessarily think in short term segments."
Killing Romulus would also force Wolverine into a bloody confrontation with Daken, who genuinely covets Romulus' crown, so Wolverine has been forced to try utilize different tactics in order to break free from his former master's master plan. In "7 the Hard Way," he began doing just that, with one tactic being to attack the various organizations and institutions that make up Romulus' empire.
"This is a way of turning Romulus' plan against him. If Wolverine does fail and becomes Romulus' heir, this is a way of insuring that there is nothing left," Way explained. "That's the worst case scenario, though. The best case scenario is that he figures out a way to reconcile his past and resolve his future."
To achieve that "best case scenario," Wolverine has a plan that hinges on the help of several unlikely allies. In "Origins" #41, the first part of "7 the Hard Way," he set out to recruit the first of those allies: Bruce Banners and his son Skaar.
"Bruce Banner isn't the guy you'd think Wolverine would go to, and historically he wouldn't. They don't get along at all. That is part and parcel, though, of this whole plan that Wolverine is running; to operate in a non-Romulus way," Way remarked. "We've shown throughout 'Origins,' and it really came to a head in the recent 'Romulus' arc, that Wolverine has been operating exactly as Romulus assumed he would. It wasn't really an assumption, though, because Romulus taught him how to do this. The reason Wolverine acts the way he does is because this is the methodology that Romulus taught him. That's why it's very easy for Romulus to anticipate Wolverine's moves, because it's simply a question of 'What would I do?'"
At the beginning of "Origins" #42, Wolverine recruited one of the newest X-Men members, Cloak, to assist him in his plan. "Cloak has teleportation abilities, and so do several other X-Men, but Wolverine is on a vengeful mission. It's not something a lot of those characters would have the stomach for. It's a very calculated move on Wolverine's part to approach Cloak, but not [Cloak's] partner Dagger. Cloak has a very troubled background and a lot of unresolved issues. He maintains himself by his proximity to Dagger. It's a light and dark thing" Way said. "Cloak on his own is what Wolverine needs. Much like what Wolverine has done with X-Force. There's a lot of work that needs to be done, and he needs workers that are willing to get dirty. At one point, Cloak was roaming the streets of New York, pretty much executing drug dealers. That's not something you can easily put to rest."
The end of "Origins" #42 saw Wolverine attempt to recruit another unlikely ally, a character that Way has a particular affinity for, Wolverine's old foe, the Silver Samurai. "I like the fact that the Silver Samurai straddles that line. He's been both hero and villain. He has his own code of honor and ethics that he's formulated for himself. So he's almost beyond fault. It is what he truly believes," Way stated. "I don't like black and white characters, but I do like characters who walk a clear path, at least in their own mind.
"And I like the fact that even though the Silver Samurai didn't show up till much later in the publishing timeline, he's been linked back very deeply to Wolverine's early history. So he has knowledge of Wolverine and his situation," Way continued. "He's probably the most knowledgeable about Muramasa and the Muramasa Blade [A mystical weapon that inflicts wounds which can not be healed by healing factors like Wolverine's]. So that's really what Wolverine is after on that front."
"Origins" #43, the third chapter of "7 the Hard Way" in stores this now, continues Wolverine's interactions with Silver Samurai. On January 27, "Origins" #44 hits stores and will feature an appearance by the obscure villain known as Ruby Thursday. "Ruby Thursday is actually the key element to the whole plan. Everything is so leveraged in this plan that it's hard to talk about why she's involved in this story," Way explained. "It is a very un-Wolverine like plan, and she plays the most important part in that plan."
Way's scripts for "7 the Hard Way" are being brought to life by artist Doug Braithwaite. "When you work with an artist you haven't worked with before, you give them plenty of latitude with the art direction, and that's probably 80% of the script. Doug would come up with a lot of great poses, angles and staging," Way explained. "So it made me wonder how far he could go, and I started putting in more things. That would trigger more conversation, and now we're at a point where we bat things back and forth to see if we can one-up one another. So it's been great to work with a guy like Doug."
"7 the Hard Way" comes to a conclusion in February, then, in March, "Reckoning," the final arc of "Wolverine: Origins," begins. "This is the culmination of Wolverine's quest to once and for all rid himself of the spectre of Romulus, which has been shadowing him for essentially his whole life. It begins with a prologue in 'Origins' #46, which features Nightcrawler," Way said. "With elements like the Muramasa Blade involved, this could very well be Wolverine's final battle. There's no guarantee that anyone is going to make it out alive, and there is no guarantee for success. Wolverine is not so naive to assume that his plan is so good that Romulus can't overcome it, because he's got him every time with one exception, and that was in the previous arc.
"Wolverine had a chance to finish Romulus off, and the reason he didn't speaks towards where we're going in our final arc," Way continued. "It's because if Wolverine had killed Romulus in that scene, he would have been doing exactly, to the letter, what Romulus wanted. He would have stepped right into Romulus' shoes. So with 'Reckoning,' the question is, 'How can Wolverine finally end this but do it on his terms, so he can start living his life instead of being an extension of Romulus?' That's a pretty monumental challenge."
Making matters even more difficult is the fact that Wolverine's son Daken will be involved in his final showdown with Romulus. To that end, "Reckoning" is actually a crossover story between "Origins" and "Dark Wolverine," Daken's solo title which Way co-writes with Marjorie Liu. After the prologue issue in "Origins," the story moves to "Dark Wolverine" and will continue to move back and forth between the two titles until the arc's conclusion.
For the "Wolverine: Origins" issues of "Reckoning," Way is working with a new collaborator in artist Will Conrad. "His art is just incredible. I've seen his recent work on 'Black Panther,' and it was just insanely good," Way replied. "He has his own style, but his work does have kind of a Mike Deodato thing going on. At the same time, though, I can look at one of Deo's pages and one of Conrad's pages and you definitely see the differences. It's not a matter of weak or strong. It's just great and great."
Way has written every single issue of "Wolverine: Origins," and now that the series is nearing its conclusion, the writer feels pretty good. "I haven't gotten to the point where I can sit down and look back at the entire story, but it feels good. It feels like I've accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. I think we've done the best we can to give a just conclusion to this huge knot of problematic continuity that was Wolverine's past."