(flashback, Ypres, Belgium, April 22, 1915)
Logan is fighting German soldiers on the fields at Ypres. With blades strapped to his forearms, he slashes his way through his enemies, loving every moment. He feels like he was born to fight like this. Whoever his blades don’t finish off, the gas all around them does.
As he makes his way across the field, he notices a cloaked figure in the distance. He is carrying a sword and doesn’t say a word as Logan approaches. He doesn’t have to. He and Logan are the only two souls left alive on the battlefield. One look into the man’s eyes tells Logan that it isn’t going to stay that way for long.
He doesn’t know why the gas hasn’t affected the man, or why he’s out of uniform, killing people all the same. He doesn’t much care, either. He ain’t gonna be next. He charges at the man who charges back at him. The man hits Logan hard, slashing his neck with his sword. Logan picks up on the fact that he doesn’t smell of Nazi or even of fear. He doesn’t smell of anything at all. What is he up against here? he thinks. Who is this guy? He hopes he doesn’t die not knowing.
(ninety-two years later)
A doctor enters Logan’s hospital room on board a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier to find Doctor Strange standing there dressed in a suit. She informs him that he shouldn’t be there, but Strange replies that her patient shows oculocephalic reflex, but his condition is reminiscent of anencephaly, where an infant is born without a forebrain responsible for high level cognition. The doctor says she didn’t call in a consultant, and then asks what the hell kind of a doctor he is. “A strange one,” he replies. She asks to see some kind of identification, but he tells her she doesn’t need to see his identification. She repeats his words after him. Strange adds, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” She doesn’t understand, and he says it was a bad joke. He’d like to see Director Stark… now.
Doctor Strange is with Tony Stark, who is wearing his Iron Man armor without the face mask. Stark asks if his suit is Brioni, but Strange replies that it’s Enitharmon; a chameleon spell. Stark asks if he didn’t want to unnerve his staff with his costume. “It’s not a costume,” replies Strange. “Of course it isn’t,” says Stark. He reminds Strange that his presence there makes him subject to arrest. Strange tells Stark that it seems what people are saying about him isn’t true - that he has no sense of humor. Stark ignores the comment and mentions that Strange was checking in on Logan, his teammate. Strange carefully avoids incriminating himself as an associate of the outlaw Wolverine, as such allegiances would be illegal. Stark asks him to keep on insulting his intelligence. That’ll win him over.
Stark says that Logan’s healing factor appears to have gone on the fritz. His body has recovered after ingesting a bomb, but his mind… “He’s a vegetable,” states Doctor Strange. He reveals his costume and says that the truth is he only appears to be a vegetable. The correct diagnosis is a little more troubling. Stark asks to be enlightened. Strange tells him that information is power, and he’s become too powerful as it is. However, he explains that Logan’s mind is physically okay. The problem, and the reasons Stark’s machines aren’t detecting any higher brain function, is that his soul is gone. “Come again?” says Stark, surprised.
Doctor Strange continues to explain that Logan’s body is a vessel without a soul. He’s a zombie, only zombies are bodies without souls. Their bodies are dead, but Logan’s body is quite alive, meaning that the term which applies in his case is a ‘curaetar.” He informs Stark that he’s taking Logan back to his sanctorum. Stark’s posturing isn’t going to stop him, either.
(Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, Greenwich Village)
Inside the building which currently resembles a derelict, soon-to-be Starbucks, Strange is joined by his assistant, Wong. When Wong asks if Logan can be saved, Strange tells him it’s difficult. He’s never encountered an actual curaetar on this plane of existence before. He needs to track down his soul and return it to his body. Wong asks where his soul might be. Strange says that it’s where any man’s soul would go after he’s been killed.
On a different plane of existence, Wolverine is sat at a bar as the barkeep asks if he wants another drink. “What do you think?” asks Logan. He hears the door go and asks the incoming Doctor Strange if he can help him with something. Strange announces that he’s there to help him. He asks Logan if he knows where he is right now. Logan thinks he’s in a bar, and he asks where Strange thinks he is. He informs Logan that his physical body is in Greenwich Village, and this isn’t a bar. It’s how Logan’s soul perceives the afterlife.
Strange tells him that it’s been a month since Shogun killed his girlfriend and blew him up. When Logan asks who Shogun is, Strange informs him that he’s a mercenary who works for an organization called ‘Scimitar.’ Logan vaguely recollects them, but can’t remember who they were going after. Strange says it was Tony Stark. Logan remembers not much liking having his girlfriend killed and a bomb shoved down his throat. That’s the last thing he remembers before he found himself in the bar. Strange informs him that something else happened in the interim.
Doctor Strange asks Logan if he remembers that for decades, whenever he has suffered a life-threatening injury, or whenever it has been inflicted with a fatal wound, his body has repaired itself while his soul went to the place all human souls travel to upon death. He would call it purgatory, and in that limbo of the soul, he would encounter the one he knows as Lazaer. Logan would be given one last opportunity to save his soul - to keep it from passing into the afterlife that is eternal twilight. Defeat Lazaer in battle and defeat him again, and his soul would return to his physical body.
Logan seems to remember this happening. Strange believes that his chance of success in these encounters was based solely on his will to live. When Amir was killed, and he lost yet another love, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He lost his will, and Lazaer ran him through.
Logan thinks it’s a helluva story, and Strange asks if he really doesn’t remember. Logan says that he doesn’t but, since he’s saying that he is already dead, he thinks he’ll have another brew. Doctor Strange informs him that if he has any chance of saving him, he will need Logan to believe him. What he has planned won’t work unless his soul in unclouded by doubt. He asks what he has to do to convince him. Logan asks if he can explain Lazaer’s deal to him. Who is he? What is he? Strange thinks it’s a complex question, but Logan reckons it looks like has he plenty of time on his hands.
Strange then explains that he encountered Lazaer once before. Does he remember? Logan vaguely recollects it. Purgatory’s got his memory a little hazy; or it could be the beer. Strange adds that his clashes with Lazaer were in purgatory, but he has encountered him in the physical world once before.
Logan runs at Lazaer who stands there with his sword in hand, waiting for him. The two men trade blows and blood is shed on both sides. Logan hadn’t faced someone with such skill before, someone with such ferocity and strength. Lazaer ran his sword through Logan’s chest.
Doctor Strange finds it amazing. Didn’t it occur to Logan that he was up against something that one could only be described as supernatural? Then again, he ponders, Logan is somewhat supernatural himself.
Logan takes the sword in his hand and forces Lazaer to the ground, before pulling the blood-soaked sword from his chest.
Strange adds that Lazaer had smited other similarly-endowed men and women before Logan showed up. After all, he’d been doing it for millennia. But, in Logan, he had found an opponent unmatched in primal fury, in deft skill, and an unrelenting drive to win.
Logan leaps as Lazaer tries kicking him and plunges his sword into Lazaer’s chest. No one had ever laid their hands on Lazaer’s sword before, so his surprise must have been quite genuine when the hunter became the prey.
Wolverine asks Doctor Strange if he’s saying that, every time he dies, he basically gets another chance at life because he beat this one guy during World War One? “Not one ‘guy,’ Logan. Not even a man,” replies Strange. Logan’s curiosity is piqued. Strange then explains that Lazaer in an anagram - a rearranging of all the letters of one name to make another. They’ve been around for over two centuries before the birth of Christ. They’re often self-generated by the mortal mind to protect itself from being overwhelmed by powers of divine proportion. Lazaer is an anagram for Azrael! It’s one of the many names for the angel of death, he adds.
Logan asks if he’s saying that he killed the angel of death, and now he gets a second bite at the apple whenever he dies? Strange says that he didn’t kill him. The angel of death cannot be killed. He only defeated him. Logan deduces that Azrael takes his shot at him whenever his soul makes it back into his territory. He asks Strange how he knows all this. Strange admits that it hasn’t been easy. He’s spent the three weeks since his death of his physical body researching. Logan has been dead for six weeks. After his research uncovered the truth, he spent three more weeks meditating in anticipation of freeing his soul. Logan grins and asks Strange if he’s trying to bring him back to life. Is that it? “No,” replies Strange, “You’re going to do that yourself.”