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Underrated: Wolverine: Not Dead Yet

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Wolverine: Not Dead Yet

With a new Wolverine series have started last month, I wanted to take a look back at one of the very first Wolverine story arcs I read that wasn’t reprinted from older comics. I didn’t know it at the time, but Not Dead Yet was written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Lenil Francis Yu. When I first read this story, I wasn’t as concerned with knowing who had written it because I didn’t follow creators at the time, only the characters. Only Wolverine and the X-Men.

Originally published in Wolverine v. 2 #119-122 back in the late 90’s, the story was both my first introduction to American comic books and how they were laid out with the advertisements, the page sizes, the recap pages and the preview page with Stan’s Bulletin Box. It really was a transformative experience in how I experienced my comic books at the time as I went from the UK reprint magazines to the real thing. They were unlike anything I could get my hands on at the time; the reprint mags contained three issues, were slightly smaller, and had only minimal personality to them that wasn’t in the original comics. The other comics I was reading at the time were all weekly anthology magazines too – there wasn’t a dedicated 30 odd pages to a single comic and all the little extras that go with it. Looking back on those single issues now, I feel that we’ve lost something along the way as technology has progressed and the need for previews in comics has decreased – but that could just be the nostalgia talking.

This is quite possibly one of my favourite Wolverine stories that I’ve ever read. It’s certainly the one I will always point readers to if given half a chance. The story takes place during the time Wolverine had no adamantium in his body, it is told both in the present and the past by use of flashbacks that serves to emphasize the relationship between the ol’ Canuckle head and a Scottish assassin called McLeish who eventually sets his sights on our favourite mutant. Wolverine is being hunted by one of the best, a man who has planned for years to be able to take down the nearly unkillable Canadian mutant with adamantium bones, but what he doesn’t know is that Wolverine’s bones are no longer coated with the metal, and Logan is suddenly much more vulnerable than he used to be.  I keep coming back to this story every few years, and I have mentioned it several times on my blog, too.  It’s available in trade paperback format, and I highly suggest you pick it up.

I mentioned earlier how I didn’t realize who the creative team was when I read this story more than twenty years ago. In all honestly, it was for another 40 issues of Wolverine when Frank Tieri and Sean Chen started writing the book. So it was years later that I finally realized that Warren Ellis wrote the book, and I remember being somewhat surprised. I’d read and enjoyed a lot of his stuff over the years, but never realised that one of my favourite stories was penned by him.

Wolverine: Not Dead Yet has a timelessness to it that’s only betrayed by the amount of payphones and the style of cars and the odd fashion choice if you’ve a keen eye for those things. This is a tale that focuses less on Wolverine being a superhero and instead takes him back to the shadowy underworld of his past in a much more grounded setting. There’s no spandex in sight, and consequently the story has more of an immediacy to it. This was a time when Wolverine would frequently get his fightin’ togs on when he had a chance, and in Not Dead Yet he doesn’t have that chance.

When it comes to classic Wolverine stories, Not Dead Yet is seldom counted on the list, and one could ask if I would hold it in such high esteem had I not read it at such a formative time in my life. The answer is an easy yes; I read a lot of stories around that time, but none have stayed with me the same way Not Dead Yet has. The story still holds up to this day, and is honestly one of the most common places I’ll start with when going through the back issues of Wolverine in my comic boxes. That‘s why I wanted to focus on this as an Underrated gem this week.

That’s all we have for this week, folks. Come back next time  when there’s something else Underrated to talk about.