Though he didn’t join the franchise until 1975, more than a full decade after the first issue of “The Uncanny X-Men” hit newsstands, Wolverine remains the most famous member of Charles Xavier’s team of mutants. His gruff sensibility, robust muttonchops, and liberal use of the word “bub” endeared him to a post-Vietnam readership warming up to the violent antiheroes that would dominate the comics landscape in the ’80s. Because Wolverine’s popularity was so great (and because Hugh Jackman, the Aussie who took up the adamantium mantle in 2000 for the first big-screen X-Men adventure, proved such a hit), the character spun off into two films of his own. The first, 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, suffered from a general lack of focus, slapdash writing, and the presence of Black Eyed Peas member Will.i.am. The Wolverine found our hero fending off hordes of Yakuza gangsters in Japan, and though it had faults of its own, it was generally agreed to be a step up from the previous film.
It came as no surprise, then, when Fox announced a third Wolverine solo film to be released in 2017, a proper follow-up to James Mangold’s The Wolverine. What was relatively surprising was Jackman’s waffling reaction to the announcement: Last May, he made it clear that he had formed an exit strategy for the X-Men and had no intention of playing Wolverine for much longer. (Longer than five years, anyway.) A few weeks later, Jackman changed his tune, and expressed a desire to hold onto the adamantium claws so long as fresh stories about the character could still be told. Yesterday, an Instagram post from Jackman’s account suggests that he’s flip-flopped one more time.
Jackman uploaded a photo of what we may assume are his veiny, powerful hands, one of which has Wolverine’s signature metal claws protruding from between his fingers. The caption, which reads “WOLVERINE ...ONE LAST TIME. HJ” indicates that the upcoming solo film will be Jackman’s last dalliance with the beloved mutant. (Presumably, HJ refers to Jackman’s own initials.) If Jackman’s only got one more appearance as Wolverine in him, that would suggest that he will not appear in the 2016-slated X-Men: Apocalypse, the follow up to last year’s Days of Future Past. The mythology of the X-Men universe—replete with time travel, clones, and retconned deaths—will be flexible enough to allow Wolverine to appear or not appear as Jackman pleases. Regardless, Jackman’s estimable charm made him one of the finest superheroes to come out of the early-2000s boom that begat the current climate of superhero saturation. It’ll be a shame to see him hang up the muttonchops, but once bronzed, they’ll make a fine centerpiece for Jackman’s mantle at home.