Is Wolverine, aka Logan, aka James Howlett actually Dante Alighieri from the 1300s and already dead?
Much like the ancient poet Dante Alighieri and his trip into Hell, Purgatory and eventually Paradise, which has been used as a comparison to Wolverine’s journey as the share similar character designs and personalities (The hardened soldier, the wandering warrior, a fighter looking for redemption) is more than just a “There and Back again” to borrow a popular phrase, but more of a road map to the afterlife.
As clear as can be, the bonding of adamantium to the human skeleton is described as the worst pain possible, even capable of sending the test subject into cardiac arrest and or severe enough shock to kill the host. We all know that Logan has a healing factor, able to heal him at an incredible rate (rate varies depending on comic era or medium). In the most recent movie Days of Future Past it is explained to us that Wolverine is the only mutant capable of traveling far enough back in time, as it would fry anyone’s brain in the process. In this instance Logan can heal his mind, letting it snap back into place without lasting damage. But that is the movies. We know in the comics that Wolverine is actually a mutant, whose genes keep mutating. The adamantium bonding process is supposedly halting that rapid advancement, but his senses still enhance gradually, to the point that he is akin to a feral beast.
So how can the mutation gene be stopped for selected traits? Why not all, or why not different ones? Just like the great comic run of the 90s, What if… What if Logan’s healing factor stopped during the adamantium bonding procedure, and William Ryker and his scientists failed at keeping Logan alive? What if instead of living, he died? And all the comics we have read since then, are just Wolverine traveling to his final resting place, be it Heaven or Hell, similar to Dante’s Inferno?
Focusing on a few key storylines, I think it is safe to say we could be reading part of Dante Alighieri’s trip through Hell (progresses from Hell to Purgatory to Heaven). There are even complete arcs in this Marvel’s Divine Comedy titled Wolverine Goes to Hell. Which actually has many similarities to the 1300s epic poem including Dante/Wolverine traveling through Hell, seeing all the sins (people he has wronged), all while trying to save their girlfriend/ideal woman, only to have been tricked all along. So as we read about a man going through the realms of inferno, readers need to ponder; is this the telling of someone who has died, making his painful journey to be judged by the Satin himself?
In another reference, where Wolverine embodies one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death. We see Logan get to do what he does best, and that is kill people. This major X-Men story arc can be taken literally as the villain is Apocalypse and Logan becomes his harbinger of death. With Logan having previously lost his adamantium skeleton (see Fatal Attractions cross over), in nearly every essence of the word, Wolverine makes a deal with the devil (Apocalypse), to regain the one thing he desperately clung onto as part of his “humanity”.
He needed his metal structure as a crutch to grasp something he was familiar with, or lose his identity completely. Is this more than just the Death rider being brainwashed and killing for Apocalypse’s rule? Or is this a man, who died to come back as death itself and bring the people he cared for most into the afterlife? Much like the journey of Dante, Logan can see all these sins he is committing, and is in no position to stop himself. He is passenger to his own sins, and only through shear willpower is he able to break free and regain control, where he is further judged.
If what we have witnessed so far in Wolverine’s life since the adamantium bonding has been Logan/Dante’s Inferno, then what is his Purgatory? As poetically told to us, Purgatory is the (overall) 10 tier climb out of sin and retribution through self-discovery ending at the end goal of Paradise (Heaven). With the earlier comic arcs and adventures seeing the Wolverine go through the horrible and deadly trials that sent him to Hell and becoming the visage of death, now with arcs like House of M and Civil War, we get to see the rise of a once violent character, into a more aware hero who tries to minimize the amount of “snikting” he does. Though like the proper but over used phrase “stuck in Purgatory”, as Wolverine makes strides to making amends for his past violence, it becomes clear as he begins to council the young mutants at the “Jean Grey School For Gifted Children”, that he has done a lot of wrong in his long life (at least up until when I propose he died).
So where does that leave us when the next major arc for Logan is “Death of Wolverine”? I think it is simple enough as finishing Dante’s road map to the afterlife. We had Logan dying and going through Hell. We have seen Wolverine make attempts to patch things up and right his wrongs in Purgatory. Now, the end goal of everyone who passes through Hell to be judged in Purgatory, they finally get to rest in Paradise (Heaven).
If all goes according to my rational thinking, Warren Worthington III will greet Logan and welcome him to his final resting place. Be it Angel, guiding him into the gates beyond or Archangel pushing Logan back down to continue his life as the Pale Horseman, Death. Is it also a coincidence that the third canto of the Divine Comedy, Paradise, begins at noon on a Wednesday, also known in our community as New Comic Book Day? And don’t fret fans of the Canadian superhero; Paradise is a 33 canto long poem, so there are still plenty of stories to tell.