On this Friday the 13th, we continue our look at X-romances by turning our eye to Wolverine and the love of his life: Mariko Yashida. Wolverine was paired with more and more women as his career marched on, but his first romance to me was his best.
Wolverine and Mariko Meet: Love at First Sight
Their beginning in Uncanny X-me #118 showed us a completely different side of Wolverine. Around this time Claremont and Byrne had begun to shift our Canadian scrapper from a rough and tumble berserker into a far more complicated person. We’ve been used to the dauntless Wolverine, so to see him stopped short at the sight of Mariko make this breathless moment very powerful. We can hear his thoughts stop and turn entirely to her.
His manner changes completely. We get the sense that we’re seeing for the first time the man behind the mask. It’s a perfect juxtaposition of the violent, aggressive wolverine suddenly becoming careful and delicate.
While in Japan, Logan seeks out Mariko on several different occasions, growing closer to her by gradual steps. It’s another telling moment that he reveals his name is Logan to Mariko before anyone else, even the X-men. (We the readers of course knew from the classic leprechaun team-up of X-men #101-103.)
Wolverine and Mariko: Victims of Mastermind
Skip forward to Uncanny X-men #172-173 and we’re invited to Wolverine and Mariko’s
wedding (how many people imagined we’d be seeing Wolverine’s wedding of all the X-men???) By this point Claremont has fully developed Wolverine from a 2D berserker character to a complicated man with a warrior’s heart and a gentle soul, constantly struggling against the beast within. Mariko has developed from Sunfire’s shy, retiring cousin into a strong, centered woman. Mariko sees the flower in Wolverine’s clenched fist, Wolverine sees the steel at Mariko’s center. The two seem a perfect match, which of course means that it can’t last. Mastermind has come to take his revenge on the X-men. He takes control of Mariko and she calls off the wedding. We see a very rare sight (possibly the only sight at least in the pages of X-men): Wolverine sheds tears, again showing us how deeply this loss cuts him.
In many ways Mariko is the biggest victim of Mastermind’s plan. While most of the other effects of Wyngarde’s manipulations are resolved by Uncanny X-men #175, Mariko finds herself entangled in the Japanese underworld. She is unable to break the ties and feels herself unworthy of marrying Wolverine. She refuses to accept his help or to marry him until she has regained her honor and restored her family’s name. The two suffer through the separation as they work to undo the damage, but ultimately Mariko is poisoned. Dying, she asks Wolverine for a quick death as his parting gift, which he grants.
Mariko Was Wolverine’s Truest Love
This may perhaps be a bold statement, given the number of “great loves” that Wolverine has had. But one aspect of his relationship with Mariko was different from the rest — it wasn’t about him.
When Wolverine meets Mariko, he worries about scaring her, he approaches cautiously. While visiting her in Japan, he behaves politely and with respect. We don’t see the tough-talking fighter that takes what he wants, we see Logan being a man with consideration for others. He changes. He opens himself up. He allows himself to be vulnerable. Mariko was not a relationship of convenience, he sought her out, meets with her away from the X-men. This is someone that is uniquely in his life that he lets in willingly. When Mariko seeks to restore her honor, he respects her wishes, despite the fact that it goes against everything that he desires. And ultimately, when Mariko is dying, though it will haunt him for the rest of his life, he takes her life at her own request. Recall back to the Dark Phoenix Saga, with Wolverine stating he is unable to kill Jean because he ‘loved’ her too much. Yet with Mariko he was willing to put her needs and her feelings above his own. He spares her a painful death despite the pain it causes him. He shows that the true measure of love is not what he wants, but what she needs.
Now that Wolverine is dead, I’ve seen many put forth the idea that he and Jean are somewhere together in the White Hot Room. But not me. I like to think that he’s finally with his one true love, Mariko, and that at last they can be together in peace.