Marvel Comics' Wolverine is armed with a mutant healing factor that can heal most wounds in a matter of seconds, an unbreakable skeleton and razor sharp, Adamantium-coated claws that can cut through nearly anything. So there's very few things that he's afraid of. Unfortunately for him, in the first issue of his new self-titled series, writer Jason Aaron and artists Renato Guedes and Jason Latour made one of Wolverine's worst nightmares a reality with the mutant hero unable to protect his friends from the assault of a mysterious cabal because his soul had been cast down into Hell and demons have possessed his physical form. What awaits Logan in Hell? Does he have any hope of escaping the infernal realm? And just how much danger are his friends and family in back on Earth? For the answers to these questions and more, we spoke with Aaron about his plans for "Wolverine."
The opening scene of "Wolverine" #1 didn't occur in Hell, instead flashing back three weeks earlier to a rural church and a discussion between Logan and and his former Black Ops colleague John Wraith, who has become a pastor. In the scene, Logan and Wraith talk about bad men trying to be good and the struggle to find and maintain hope and faith in the world.
"That scene was kind of the bridge from the 'Wolverine: Weapon X' stories that I've been doing, into this new book. In 'Weapon X' we've been exploring issues of faith. I've been having Logan wrestle with that. In the last issue of the series, the death of Nightcrawler played into that in a big way. I knew I was going to do this Wolverine goes to Hell story, so I wanted to deal with that stuff before as a lead in," Aaron told CBR News. "Because obviously, once Logan has actually been to the afterlife and Hell, it's kind of hard to wrestle with the idea of faith. He's been there and seen it."
In the recent "Wolverine: Road to Hell" one-shot, Aaron and Guedes showed Wolverine's freefall descent into Hell and in "Wolverine" #1, they show his arrival into the infernal realm, where the Devil welcomes him with open arms. "You figure if you're the Devil and your job for eternity is to sit in Hell and torture people, it's going to get a little boring after a while. He's been doing it for thousands of years and millions of souls have come through, so how many different ways can you torture somebody? Surely, by this point he's completely exhausted them many times over," Aaron remarked. "I like the idea that he's extremely bored with his work, but every once in a while somebody will pop up that gets him a bit excited. Wolverine is definitely one of those people."
The Devil that appears in "Wolverine" is meant to be a literal representation of the malevolent Biblical entity and has no connection to any of the Marvel Universe's previously established infernal beings. "I didn't really want to open the can of worms that is Mephisto or a lot of the other versions of the Devil that we've seen in the Marvel Universe. I'm doing what I did in 'Ghost Rider,' In that book I just went with the Devil. In Ghost Rider's original origin, before Mephisto ever came along, he was linked with the Devil," Aaron said. "As far as I'm concerned, the Devil that appears in 'Wolverine' is the same one that I was writing in 'Ghost Rider.' I'll let the 'Handbook [of the Marvel Universe]' guys figure out how that links in with Mephisto and the other infernal beings out there."
While the Devil was deciding on what he wanted to do with Wolverine, some of his agents were running amok in Wolverine's body on Earth. In issue #1, readers saw a demonically possessed Wolverine, whom Aaron has affectionately dubbed "Hellverine," attacking Pastor John Wraith. In the attack, Hellverine used both his claws and several demonic abilities, like acidic bile and the ability to control snakes and insects. "Those will continue to be explored in the next few issues," Aaron revealed. "He pops up again in a completely different location in issue #2. He goes after someone else who is close to Wolverine. And in issue #3, Hellverine arrives in Utopia, where he'll obviously butt heads with the X-Men."
Hellverine wasn't the only villain stalking Wolverine's friends in issue #1, as readers also saw two different mysterious groups plotting against and actively hunting those close to Logan. "We see a sort of shadowy and diverse group of people whose members appear to be an old man and woman, a child and several others. That's the Red Right Hand. They're the people behind all of this," Aaron explained. "We also see this group of what appears to be super villains who come after Wolverine's girlfriend Melita Garner at her work. They're a new bunch of characters, and they're agents of the Red Right Hand. Right now, we don't know much at all about these people; what their powers are, who they are, or where they came from.
"We'll be learning a lot more about both of these groups as we move forward. Over the next couple of arcs, the motivations of both groups will become abundantly clear," Aaron continued. "They're going to prove to be quite the challenge for Logan in more ways than one."
The super villain team that attacked Melita Garner at the newspaper where she works are an all new group of unusual and very distinctive looking villains. "In 'Weapon X,' I set out to inject some new faces into Wolverine's rogues gallery, and I'm continuing that with these characters. Most of the villains we've seen him fight over the years are characters that have very complicated connections to him. They've usually known him for decades and have had several serious run-ins with him in the past," Aaron remarked. "I wanted some fresh faces in there for him to lock claws with, and I do like the weirder more off beat villains. As we explore these guys, we'll come to understand the kinds of powers and skill sets they have. I'm excited to do more with this group."
Melita has no super powers and only basic self defense training, but when the super villain team attacked her, she did not panic. She used some weapons that Wolverine supplied her with and did her best to defend herself against overwhelming odds. The scene illustrated what Aaron feels are two of Garner's most important character traits; she's a normal but still very capable woman.
"That's kind of the whole idea. I wanted Logan to have a love interest who was a normal person; somebody who was coming into his world and having no experience with anything like it. I didn't want her to be a helpless damsel in distress either, though. She comes into this relationship with Logan and his world with eyes wide open," Aaron stated. "She's smart enough to realize that it's a dangerous place to be, especially since most of his past love interests have been murdered at the hands of his enemies. So she understands what she's getting herself into and she prepares for it along the way. That doesn't mean she won't get in over her head, but she doesn't have blinders on, either."
Melita was definitely in over her head confronting the super villains after her in issue #1; fortunately for her, though, she had a savior. The X-Men's frequent adversary and occasional ally Mystique assisted Melita in escaping her attackers. Mystique's presence in the story should come as no surprise to fans of Aaron's work as the writer has penned several stories featuring the character, including a tale called "Get Mystique" in which Wolverine pursued and tried to kill the titular shapeshifter, though her role may have been somewhat shocking.
"Mystique is really interesting and fun to play with. Considering the stuff I've done with her in the past, it was fun to have her pop up here in a completely different kind of role. She sort of helps get the ball rolling in terms of making an effort to literally try and save Logan's soul," Aaron remarked. "She's a person who walks her own path, and I think that's what Logan was for much of his life before he stumbled into the X-Men. He was a guy who did the same thing. We've seen him be both villainous and heroic in his past. I think Mystique is the same way. She's never strayed from that, so she's consistently inconsistent, and as far as I'm concerned, that's the way she'll always be. She could be the hero in one story and then in the next one you'll turn around and she'll shoot you in the back."
Mystique understands that she and Melita will need some help in liberating Wolverine's soul from Hell, so they consult some "experts" that fans from Aaron's work on another title should be very familiar with. "We see both Ghost Riders and the Son of Satan. They first pop up in issue #2. Mystique knows what's happening with Logan, and she knows it's not something she can handle on her own. When you've got a soul that's been sent to Hell and a body that's been possessed by demons, who else are you going to call but the Son of Satan and the Ghost Riders? They all come down and try to do their part to help Logan out," Aaron revealed. "They play a pretty big role in this story and they'll also play a bit of a role in the second arc."
While Mystique and Melita look for a way free his soul, Logan will discover that Hell is a place swarming with adversaries. "You look back over the course of Logan's long life and he's killed lots and lots of people, so there's a lot of souls in Hell eagerly looking to score some payback. If you seen the preview for issue #2, you saw that, just in terms of ninjas alone, there is a huge crowd waiting to get their hands on him. Not to mention the HYDRA agents, Nazis and Purifiers. Plus, we've got several high profile villains that crossed Logan's path when they were alive. We have a whole lot familiar faces popping up in issue #2; mostly adversaries, but also a couple of allies. How big of a role these characters play in the arc moving forward, we'll see. Some of them have bigger roles. Some of them are just cameos. And some will continue to play a part in the series even after this arc, after Logan is no longer in Hell."
One ally that Logan finds in Hell is his old friend, the diminutive and deceased Alpha Flight member known as Puck. "He's one of those characters that I've always loved. John Byrne's run on 'Alpha Flight' was one of my favorite books. Most of those characters were dead and have been off the board for a while, so I thought it was a good chance to bring one of them back. I thought it would make the most sense for Puck to be in Hell. You look at his background, and for years he had this evil sort of demonic sorcerer trapped inside him. I like the idea of Puck being trapped in Hell because of that, and when he sees Logan show up, he feels he finally has the chance to break out," Aaron said. "There's also another figure down there in Hell with Wolverine and Puck. They're a shadowy figure; we don't know who they are, but they'll play a big part in the finale of this first arc."
The action in the opening arc of "Wolverine" won't simply revolve around Logan and the people who are trying to rescue him. Each issue also features a back up story starring a character that has played some sort of role in Logan's past. "The first issue showed us the death of the Silver Samurai. We saw the same group that has done this to Logan, the Red Right Hand, are not just coming after him they're coming after people close to him. That first issue, we see them showing up to burn down the Clan Yashida compound and desecrate the grave of Wolverine's dead fiance, Mariko. The Silver Samurai got caught up in the midst of that, and in the second issue we see another character from Logan's past get caught up in it," Aaron stated. "The stories aren't about digging up old continuity points or killing off characters. They're about beefing things up and expanding Logan's supporting cast. We're bringing back some familiar faces and dusting them off a bit, as well as introducing some brand new versions of old characters."
Aaron has been incredibly proud of the work Renato Guedes is doing on the main stories in "Wolverine" and is equally impressed by Jason Latour's work on the back up stories. "I have been wanting to work with both of those guys. Renato has been doing DC stuff for a while and I think it's great to see him come to Marvel. He was really perfect for this storyline, particularly the stuff we see him doing in Hell," Aaron remarked. "I really wanted to give Hell an identity and a specific geography. I threw a bunch of ideas at him and he just ran with them. I'm in love with the stuff he's done, and I think the second issue looks even better than the first, if for no other reason than we get to see hordes of zombie ninjas fighting Logan in Hell. It doesn't get much better than that.
"Jason Latour is a guy who's been a friend of mine for a while. We've talked about lots of different things. We got close to working together before, but it didn't work out. Now we have worked together, and I think he hit a big home run with the Silver Samurai story. He's a guy who has been around the industry for a little while but I think he's finally now getting the attention he deserves. He's done a few stories for Marvel over these last few months. He did a 'Daredevil: Black and White' story. He did this issue and he had a story in the 'I Am an Avenger ' anthology," Aaron continued. "With these things hitting all at once, I think people are starting to sit up and take notice of him. He's a guy I'll be working with on more stuff in the future. He's working on an issue of 'Scalped' right now. He's one of those guys who I think will be a big name sooner rather than later."
Fans who are enjoying the "Wolverine Goes to Hell" arc might be interested in the newly launched "X-23" and "Daken: Dark Wolverine" books. All three titles can be read and understood on their own, but the current story lines in "Daken" and "X-23" supplement and expand upon some details in the current "Wolverine" arc.
"Both of those books tie-in in different ways and in different points within the overall story. I don't think you have to be reading Wolverine to understand any of those books, but if you already are and pick them up, it does add to the bigger picture. I think when you read them all together, you see how they all fit together. It helps to define each books' position in the Wolverine family of titles. It helps redefine how those characters relate to Wolverine. I think it's exciting to have this clearly defined Wolverine family of books," Aaron explained. "Going forward, we'll continue to do this stuff. You'll see little crossovers. Not necessarily books that tie in to the extent where you've got to read them in a certain order, but we definitely want readers to feel like this is its own little corner of the Marvel Universe."
The "Wolverine Goes to Hell" arc will wrap in early 2011, but the fallout from the story will continue on well into the new year. "In issue #4, Hellverine gets into a pretty big tussle with Colossus. In the eyes of the X-Men it's like, 'Oh no! Wolverine is out of control again! He's going crazy and killing people!' We've seen it happen before. After the previous times Wolverine has done this, Cyclops is a sharp enough tactician to know that he needs to have a plan in case they need to take him down," Aaron revealed. "Going into the second arc, that's where we'll start to see Cyclops realizing that something has got to be done. After that, the Red Right Hand, the group that's kind of responsible for all of this, is still out there and they need to be brought to justice. So we'll have to explore who these people are and why they're doing this stuff in the first place.
"And in the near but not immediate future in 'Wolverine,' we'll see the ramifications of my 'Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine' miniseries," Aaron continued. "The way that book ends has big ramifications for Logan in particular. We'll eventually see the way those ramifications play out in the pages of 'Wolverine.'"