TV, Film, and comics all share ups and downs for their characters. The High Point shares the moment where they reached their apex – their finest hour, the best victory, their happiest time.
Let’s take a look at Wolverine.
Wolverine’s the most popular and best-selling X-Men character, established on the team by Chris Claremont in the 1970s. The character, with his surly attitude, tendency to smoke cigars and murder people, grew into a fan-favourite over time as his honour and code of ethics began to get more developed. He was pushed into scenes with younger characters like Kitty Pryde, who softened his edges and explained just why he was the character he was.
Recent years have seen the character tumble hugely, as his presence has become more required in order to boost the sales of low-selling titles. He shows up in most series nowadays, in spirit if not in person, because putting him on a cover guarantees a few more issues getting off the shelves. As a result, his personality and persona have been watered down and stripped repeatedly. This wouldn’t be a big problem really, so long as his main book treated him well.
However, recent moves have taken Wolverine and changed his character and personality completely. The recent Avengers Vs X-Men event storyline took this quiet, angry and honourable character and shook him apart. He sided with the Avengers over his friends, tried to kill children, was betrayed by Captain America and then came simpering back to his side. He became a patronising hypocrite with no will or self-determination.
Flash back, then, to issues 172 and 173, which tells one of the most famous X-Men stories. This is a sequence which features a number of classic, fantastic moments – such as Wolverine’s fight with Silver Samurai (seen above), in which Claremont and artist Paul Smith snap away two pages just to depict the slow progression of fight, as the momentum first moves one way and then another. This is also the issue in which Storm reappears with her Mohawk – signalling her newfound maturity and boost in confidence. Most important however is Rogue.
Rogue started off as a villain, influenced by her adoptive parents Mystique and Destiny. Eventually she decided to join the X-Men, at which point the other team members all rejected her and refused to have anything to do with their former foe. Issues 172 and 173 signalled the moment at which she was first accepted by the X-Men – and it all happens because of Wolverine.
Wolverine and his fiancé Mariko are attacked by a terrorist called Viper, who takes a distraction as her chance to shoot the pair in the back. Rogue, spotting the attack, outflies the bullet and takes the hit on behalf of the couple. She then absorbs repeat shots in order to protect Mariko (who specifically was the first person to show Rogue kindness as an X-Man), leaving her close to death.
Wolverine, an honourable man who immediately realises Rogue is mortally wounded, defies her wishes and forces her to absorb his healing power – an act which could kill him, as Rogue’s powers have been shown to be lethal ever since her first appearance. He doesn’t care, though. Rogue saved him, so now he will save her. That’s the right thing to do.
Since then Wolverine’s made some very strange decisions, as part of his extended history as the most overused and diluted character in comic books. But X-Men 173 shows just why the character was so important, and how powerful he could be as a force for honour and loyalty. His decision not only saved Rogue’s life, but made him the first one of the X-Men to show her any kindness. Any subsequent heroics she performed subsequently were made possible by Wolverine – both physically, but also psychologically.
That was his high point.