Our “Where to Start” articles act as a guide, giving you our best suggestions on where to start on a certain character or creators work. Every article lists several books, each in the character’s or creator’s chronological order despite it’s publication date (so the first choice is at the beginning of a characters career, the last is the furthest along). While in order each book was specifically picked as a good individual starting point; so feel free to start at the beginning, in the middle, or towards the end if you want to get caught up quickly. And if you have any more suggestions or questions just leave a comment.
A note before we begin: the problem with Wolverine is that he is the ONLY character in comics, at least to my knowledge, whose true history was kept a secret for a very long time. Some minor hints and snippets of his past were dropped over the 27 years he existed before his origin was printed, but nothing solid enough to make a comprehensive history. This lack of revelation made him so popular with the fans, that any appearances by him were coveted and pored over for clues to who this enigmatic mutant really was. With that being said, if you were to read the books I am listing in the order they are being listed in, you might lose some of the mystery and suspense that made Wolverine such a great character over the years. As a new fan, you might not care about finding out his history as much as a long time fan who grew up with a desire to know the truth. If you TRULY want to start reading Wolverine, and to really understand how much he’s grown since his first appearance way back in Incredible Hulk #181, I suggest that you read these selections in the order they were printed instead of their listed order. I personally feel that this will make his earlier printed stories much more satisfying and make you crave his later tales even more. Just my opinion.
Where To Start Reading: Wolverine
Wolverine: Origin 2001
This is the beginning, but not really the beginning. Wolverine’s story is really a complex thing to follow. Case in point, his origin, first published in 2001, almost 27 years after the character was introduced. Almost 27 years of myths and mysteries and secrets. 27 years of growing fame and popularity that made Wolverine into the most popular character in the Marvel Universe during most of the 80s and 90s. This is where his story starts. Tragedy and sadness fills the pages. Incredible art by the great Andy Kubert makes the story come alive. Setting the tone for the rest of his life, this book finally revealed Wolverine’s true name and heritage.
What to read next | Wolverine Vol. 1 #25
Wolverine: Weapon X 1991
So what makes Wolverine such a dangerous adversary? His devious mind? His superior reflexes? His incredible healing factor? Maybe his bad breath? Nope. It’s his unbreakable adamantium skeleton and those razor sharp claws that can cut through anything or anyone in his way. For almost 17 years, Wolverine clawed his way to the top and the biggest question that the fans had other than where did he come from, was where did he get that skeleton and those claws? After 17 years, Barry Windsor Smith was hired to give them an answer. Revealing the story of Weapon X, AKA Wolverine, Smith shows us the pain and suffering that Wolverine had to go through to become the deadly force of nature he is today. Not only do we get an in depth look at how the metal was bonded to his skeleton, we also get more revelations behind the people who authorized the process to begin with. With story and art by one of the best artists of all time, Windsor Smith holds nothing back. Every drop of blood spilled is yours to look at and enjoy. Every scream of pain and death is shown for your amusement. The only issue with this tale is that in the end, it left us with more questions than answers.
What to read next | Alpha Flight Vol. 1 #33-34
Wolverine Battles the Incredible Hulk 1974
Now this is REALLY the beginning. Reprinting the classic first appearance from Incredible Hulk 180 and 181 by Len Wein and Herb Trimpe. Showcasing a massive battle against not only the Hulk, but the Wendigo as well. This book gave us a first hand look at what Wolverine can really do. Showing no fear at his massively larger and more powerful opponents, Wolverine dives right into the battle with claws a slashing. The action is fast and furious and doesn’t stop for a second as Wolverine cuts a path of destruction through the two monsters. A great battle issue and a book that set the stage for some great future battles between these two grizzled warriors.
What to read next | Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1
Uncanny X-Men #162 1982
So you want to know something else that makes Wolverine awesome? How about his mutant healing factor? How about his incredible mutant enhanced senses? How about his berserker rage? This issue showcases them all. Not only that, but it also sets the stage for one of the biggest enemies in Wolverine’s career, the Brood. An alien race that not only want to take over the universe, but they also reproduce by implanting their eggs in your body and turning you into another Brood alien. Wolverine’s viciousness and destruction inflicted on the Brood in this issue marks him as one of the most dangerous adversaries they have EVER faced. The rest of this story arc is very touching as well as it shows how much he cares for the rest of his team, especially his protege Kitty Pryde. It also sets the stage for Wolverine to finally go out on his own.
What to read next | Uncanny X-Men #163-167
Wolverine Limited Series 1982
This is THE quintessential Wolverine story. This is the book that defined him for the next decade. Written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Frank Miller, this 4 issue mini-series was the holy grail when it came to Wolverine. Not only did it introduce his most memorable catch phrase, but it also gave the character the biggest overall growth ever. Wolverine finally must confront his inner rage. Is he an animal, or a man? A beast or a warrior? Is he deserving of the love of a good woman? Is he deserving of any sort of love or compassion? All of that is answered here as Wolverine goes to Japan to face some demons, gain some allies, and kill lots of ninjas. That’s right, people, ninjas. This series introduced another of Wolverine’s deadliest and most persistent adversaries, the Hand. Filled with action and emotion, this series created a new perception for fans of the hairy Canuck that catapulted him to the heights of popularity. If you must read only choice on this list, this is the one everyone who wants to start read Wolverine MUST read.
What to read next | X-Men: Kitty Pryde and Wolverine
X-Men: Mutant Massacre 1986
The greatest rivalries always have a beginning. This is the start of one of the best. In 1986, a bunch of mutants, calling themselves the Marauders, start killing mutants. The X-Men go to try and stop them with some disastrous results. This story has the first ever meeting between Wolverine and his most dangerous adversary Sabretooth in a comic book. Through the years that follow, the history shared between these two similar yet complete opposite characters would be explored and scanned and expanded upon to the nth degree. What is their past? Why are their powers so similar? Are they related? Why is there such a deep hatred between the two? Their comic book history started here with a battle so violent and bloody it took two issues to contain it. On top of that, the story itself was really emotional and intense. A great read for any Wolverine, X-Men, or X-Factor fan.
What to read next | Wolverine Vol. 1 #10
X-Men: Fatal Attractions 1993
After years of being a bad-ass and running around kicking everyone’s butt, Wolverine finally met an opponent who brought him closer to death than anyone has ever before. That man is the master of magnetism, Magneto. When the X-Men head to space to battle a dangerous and power mad Magneto, Wolverine is authorized to be a final solution. Too bad Magneto likes to play with metal, and Wolverine’s skeleton is made of what, children? Bye, bye adamantium. Hello pain, suffering, and the most shocking revelation about Wolverine in 20 years. (At least for us fans that had followed his story from day one) Setting the stage for his stories for the next six years, this series humanized Wolverine from the godlike status he had been enjoying for over fifteen years. No longer unstoppable, from this point on, Wolverine would have to rely on his cunning and healing factor to get the job done.
What to read next | Wolverine Vol. 2 #76-82
Wolverine Vol. 2 #145 1999
The return of the adamantium, but at what cost? That’s all you really need to know. With amazing art by Leinil Francis Yu and an incredible story by the great Eric Larsen, this issue marked another turning point in the life of Wolverine. It caused a change in his status and showed the fans the level of sacrifice that Wolverine was willing to make to protect his friends and teammates from a greater evil. With two incredible battles against his most hated adversary (hint, see pick #6 on this list) and his strongest one (hint, he’s green), this book leads into a monumental crossover among the mutant titles against an immortal enemy in a story that was over a decade in the making.
What to read next | Wolverine Vol. 2 #146-147
Wolverine: Enemy of the State 2004
In the years that pass after Wolverine gets his adamantium skeleton back, other things occur in Wolverine’s life. The biggest thing is Wolverine finally having his Origin told. For some time after that monumental event, nothing spectacular really happens to the hairy little mutant. His stories become stagnant. Then Mark Millar is hired to shake up the status quo and does he ever. Turning Wolverine into a villain through some death and resurrection tactics by the Hand, this story arc opened everyone’s eyes to how dangerous a person Wolverine really is. Putting the fear of death into the heroes of the Marvel Universe, Wolverine is set on a killing spree that showcased appearances by S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Elektra as well as the X-men and others. The action fills the pages and never lets up for a second. The only thing keeping this arc from being perfect is the terrible art of John Romita Jr. (Unless you like his style, then this book is heaven for you) A better artist who can actually draw individual images, not panels where everyone looks similar to everyone else, would have really brought this story to life.
What to read next | Wolverine Vol. 3 #50-55
Wolverine: Old Man Logan 2008
Now this was a great Millar story. And this time, he had an incredibly talented artist drawing the images. Coming off of the amazing Civil War “event” of 2007, Steve McNiven lent his abundant artistic skills to bringing this story to life. In the future, the United States has been decimated and divided among a few remaining villainous conquerors. Wolverine, the X-Man, is gone. Only Logan, the man remains. Something happened to him that caused him to stop being a warrior and vow never to pop his claws again. However, when an opportunity presents itself to earn some money to help support his family, Logan takes it. What follows is an incredible coast to coast adventure showcasing the horrors of this post apocalyptic wasteland and the remaining heroes and villains and their offspring that are still inhabiting it. With huge battles and multiple WTF moments, this story is filled with emotion, action and sadness, culminating in an homage to Wolverine’s first appearance. (The Circle is now complete)
What to read next | Wolverine Goes to Hell TPB. (Read this only if you want to claw your eyes out as it sucks beyond sucking, but it is chronologically the next chapter in the story of Wolverine) You know what? Read Wolverine Origins: Romulus instead. Better story, better art, more relevance to the life and history of Wolverine.
If you have any questions or suggestions leave a comment and we’ll try to help you out. Until then, happy reading!
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