The Ultimate Universe version of Wolverine had a lot in common with his mainstream counterpart, but never quite lived up to his heroic legacy.
Created with the goal of modernizing some of Marvel’s most popular characters, the Ultimate Universe made some pretty drastic changes to well-known characters. From classic Avengers like Hank Pym to otherworldly cosmic threats like Galactus, Earth-1610 wasn’t afraid to go all out when it came to revamping classic characters. One Marvel icon who was drastically different from their counterpart on Earth-616 was Wolverine. Despite having a similar origin to the classic version of Logan, this new iteration had a much meaner streak and was far more self-serving—to the point that he was oftentimes more of a villain than an anti-hero.
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Like his counterpart in the prime continuity, this version of Wolverine was exceedingly long-lived. It was revealed in the Ultimate Origins miniseries by Brian Michael Bendis and Butch Guice that while serving in World War 2 as James “Lucky Jim” Howlett, he was arrested by the U.S. military for looting a warzone. Treated as a guinea pig in captivity, he was experimented on until he became Mutant Zero—the first of the many mutants of the Ultimate Universe.
After years of escaping and being captured by various groups, James was finally kidnapped and drafted by the Weapon X program, where his mind was wiped and the adamantium was grafted to his skeleton. Working for Weapon X for years, James was tortured, dehumanized, and treated as little more than an animal…or a weapon.
After he eventually escaped from the program’s control with the help of Nick Fury, James spent time as an assassin, working with Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutant Supremacy for almost two years. It was during this time that James first encountered the X-Men in the pages of Ultimate X-Men by Mark Millar and Adam Kubert. Hoping to end Xavier’s dream, Erik sends Logan to infiltrate his rival’s school and team with the goal of killing Charles and sabotaging the team from within. During his mission, he seduces a 19-year-old Jean Grey to further entrench himself as a member of the team.
Even though he does begin to believe in Xavier’s dream after falling for Jean, he doesn’t come clean until the two of them are in bed together, right before Magneto attacks Washington D.C. with the intent of murdering the President on live television. While he attempts to redeem himself by trying to take out Magneto singlehandedly, he’s ultimately subdued by his former leader.
Wolverine seems serious about turning over a new leaf when he rescues his new teammates from Weapon X, but he takes a huge step backwards when Professor X sends him, Cyclops, and Kitty Pryde on a mission to the Savage Land. While Xavier sent the two men together to overcome their feud, Wolverine takes the opposite approach.
When disaster strikes, and Cyclops is left hanging over the side of a cliff, not only does Logan fail to pull him up, but he drops him, presumably to his death, so that he would be able to win back Jean’s affections. When Cyclops eventually makes his way back to the team after surviving Logan’s betrayal, he blasts Wolverine point blank, but gives him one final chance and allows him to remain with the group when he sees that Logan is legitimately trying to turn over a new leaf. This leads to Logan’s further attempts at redemption.
While he tries to stay on the straight and narrow from that point on, he’s still willing to cross lines others won’t, even going on a mission for Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. to assassinate the Hulk after Bruce Banner survived execution for his crimes. During their confrontation, Banner mocks Logan by revealing that Fury has the Ultimates ready to kill Logan if he ever betrays the X-Men—showing just what a threat this Logan really is. Banner and Logan eventually settle their differences and confront Fury, but not before Wolverine seriously wounds Betty Ross in her She-Hulk persona and risks dozens of innocent lives by confronting Banner in a plane that they later end up jumping from.
Even when a later version of this Logan travels back through time from the future as the Ultimate version of Cable to prevent the rise of Apocalypse, this future Logan brutally takes down the other X-Men, proving just how ruthless he could be even in his attempts at heroism. And when half of the X-Men become addicted to the power-enhancing drug Banshee, Wolverine cuts out Colossus’ heart when he confronts his alloyed ally.
While this version of Logan may not have fully redeemed himself before his death at the hands of Magneto during Ultimatum by Jeph Loeb and David Finch, the mantle of the Ultimate Wolverine does get its redemption thanks to Logan’s long-lost son, Jimmy Hudson. While the mainstream version of Logan is best known as a gruff but noble samurai warrior, Ultimate Wolverine really was the best there was at what he did—but none of what he did was very nice.
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