‘Wolverine’ licking his wounds in Paul Cornell’s ‘Payback’

(CBR) Wolverine has lived a long, undeniably violent life, but for the past several decades, the man known to his friends as Logan has struggled hard to atone for the damage he’s wrought. He’s been a member of two of the Marvel Universe’s premier super teams, the X-Men and the Avengers, and in recent years, he even established a new school to help young mutants master their powers.

One of the reasons he’s been able to do all of that is that he has a mutant healing factor, which slows down the aging process and allows him survive the wounds a life of super heroics can inflict.

But in the last volume of “Wolverine,” that ability was taken from him by a sentient alien virus, a loss which turned the carefully constructed world he had built for himself upside down. 

CBR News spoke with writer Paul Cornell about the turning the character into a physically and emotionally damaged hero, walking away from his teammates on the X-Men and dismissed from the Avengers. We get into how this turn of events will impact the second half of the writer’s long-form “Wolverine” epic, which kicks off in February with the launch of a new volume of the series featuring art by Ryan Stegman.

CBR News: Now that your first volume of “Wolverine” has wrapped, it’s clear that it was act one in a larger story you’re telling. Was it always your intent to do a “Daredevil: Born Again” style story that strips away many elements from Wolverine? 

Paul Cornell: The virus was always a way to get to that ending. My main aim was to dig deep into the character and find what makes him essentially heroic, under all the contradictions.
I like to think of that volume as the first part of a two-part novel. By the end of the second part, it’ll be a complete story, although we’ll have told a lot of smaller stories along the way.
Sabretooth and his forces also hit Wolverine with a series of devastating physical and emotional strikes in this first volume, and when Creed finally steps out from the shadows in issue #13, he sounds very angry with Wolverine. His dialogue about hoping that Logan would once again become his peer, confidante and equal suggests a sense of betrayal.
I think Sabretooth has really gotten his act together, now, making the most of himself, getting somewhere in the world.
In his eyes, all that time, Logan has continued pretending to be a super hero. He’s almost disappointed that Logan hasn’t figured out his own contradictions, hasn’t made the same strides he has. I think he’s coming to the wrong conclusions, of course, that he can’t walk in Logan’s shoes, but at the same time, he has a few good points.
One of the things Sabretooth called Wolverine on was Logan’s attitude towards killing, which is being explored in “Uncanny Avengers,” but I was curious as to your thoughts on it. What do you feel Wolverine’s views on killing were before “Killable?” And can you tell us if what Sabretooth said in issue #13 had any impact on those thoughts?
I think Wolverine, like most people, actually makes up his moral values as he goes along. The awkward thing is he also says he has a code which he lives by. And he supposedly subscribes to the further codes of the X-Men and the Avengers. But actually, he does what seems right at the time. So I wanted to point to that, to say that this is a good guy, but he’s not a moral exemplar, and he’s not an example of nobility.
He’s just mucking along like everyone else. And that makes him vulnerable when people call him on it.
Once Sabretooth leaves, the virus approaches Wolverine and offers to restore his healing factor in exchange for safe harbor in his body. Wolverine turns the virus down and I’m curious about his reasons for doing so

That’s why he’s a hero. Because he wasn’t about to put his own selfish need to have his healing factor back in front of the fate of the planet. The virus made some very plausible points in its desperation, but Logan had already seen what it could do, and wasn’t about to take the risk. That’s his saving grace, his selflessness.

“Wolverine” #13 closes with Logan covered in bandages and walking away from his fellow X-Men after telling them, “The Wolverine is dead.” Your new volume of “Wolverine” will pick up several weeks after the events of issue #13 and the present day segments of the initial story will have him working as an enforcer for a small time super villain. Can you talk about Logan’s motivation for this shift? And what’s Wolverine’s physical shape when this new volume begins? Will the nasty eye injury he got at the end of “Killable” have healed?

He’s still got the scar, of course. He’s in better physical shape, but there are deeper scars. “Payback” flashes back and forth between now, with Logan working in a criminal gang, and five weeks before, when he was still trying to live his previous life. It shows how he got from one state to the other, what finally made him decide he couldn’t go on trying to live that way.

What can you tell us about the villain Wolverine is working for at the beginning of this new volume.

It’s a new character called The Offer. He’s taken Logan in when he most needed help and support. He doesn’t judge. He has a super power that’s kind of relevant to that process.

What can you tell us about the tone of this arc?

There are a lot of super heroics, because this is Marvel crime, and we have some big guest stars in the flashbacks. It’s telling one big story about a change in Logan’s life. Spider-Man shows up in #2 for a serious conversation that I was very keen to play, because these are two characters who have an utterly different relationship to what they used to have, who have both gone through big changes.

The last time we spoke, you mentioned you were trying to write differently to suit Ryan Stegman’s art style. Can you talk a little more about what you’re doing differently?

He’s magnificent. Such a modern, energetic style. I wrote #1 as full script, then asked Ryan how he wanted to work, and he asked to have a go at drawing from detailed plots, then have me dialogue after the fact, so that’s how we’ve done #2-4. Then I went back to full script, because I needed to be sure in my own head how the next arc would go, and found I was scripting my way to it. I like both styles. We may alternate. I like that he can do street characters and the everyday grime of the city. He decided to have it snow in #1, and the results are beautiful.

Finally, news broke last month that September’s “Wolverine” #12 will be a landmark and game changing issue. Is this the culmination of the story you began telling in your first volume of “Wolverine,” or an escalation of that story?

It’s the culmination, the completion of my novel.

I’m immensely proud of my run on “Wolverine” as a single piece of work, and think the switch between seasons and artists really makes creative sense. Also, #6 takes me past my previous personal best in terms of comic runs (16 issues and an annual, on both “Captain Britain” and “Action Comics”), so I’m proud of that, too.