When Comic Bento announced in last month’s box that this month’s theme would be “Out of Retirement” and it would feature a famous mutant from Marvel, I figured that would mean something with the Old Man Logan version of Wolverine, almost certainly tied in with the recent movie, the excellent Logan. I even held off on getting my own copy of the original trade just to see which one, if any, Comic Bento would be sending me.
And as luck would have it, I didn’t get just a “Old Man Logan” story; I got the “Old Man Logan” story.
Aside from a few superficial touches, Old Man Logan doesn’t have much in common with the movie version. There’s an older Logan, no longer interested in going by “Wolverine,” goes on a road trip across a barren landscape. His companion this time around isn’t a senile Professor Xavier but a blind Hawkeye, and he needs the money to pay the rent to the Hulk Gang before they do something horrible to him and his family. Starting in California, the one-time Wolverine and still-probably Hawkeye travel by Spider-Buggy to the East Coast for a sale of some kind that will allow Hawkeye to pay Logan double what he owes the Hulks.
What happened? Well, fifty years earlier, the supervillains teamed up to bring down all the heroes at once. That’s more or less the same basic concept behind Millar’s Wanted (Millar never did mind repeating himself too much), and the relative handful of heroic types left can be counted on the fingers of one hand, where most are basically in hiding. The landscape itself is barren just about everywhere Hawkeye and Logan pass through, as if the country itself is barren under supervillain rule. That actually fits well with the overall theme of the work. Millar is clearly doing a superhero riff off the Clint Eastwood classic anti-Western Unforgiven. There, as here, a long retired man of violence, who had settled down onto a small pig farm with his family, goes on one last job. He won’t go for his old ways, but he really needs some money badly. As such, he’ll try to refrain from being what he once was until circumstances push him too far and then the guns/claws come out. The biggest difference is, Logan is clearly dispensing it to people who deserve it, whereas Eastwood’s Will Munny doesn’t much care whether anyone had it coming or not, since, in Unforgiven, “we all have it coming.” Heck, artist Steve McNiven’s Logan bears a mild resemblance to Eastwood.
Mark Millar’s stories are never subtle. There’s a lot of nasty violence and gripping action even in his lesser work. Everything is over-the-top, and Old Man Logan is no exception. He’s paired well with Civil War artist McNiven, a man who can match desolate beauty with bloody carnage as needed. There’s a good deal of creativity in this craptastic world Logan and Hawkeye call home. The beauty of this particular story may be it works well as a self-contained work. Yes, it ends with a somewhat iconic last page stolen from a dozen or more Westerns, but there didn’t need to be more told. Granted, Marvel started pumping out a sequel with the most recent Secret Wars in order to get Old Man Logan into its main universe, but there didn’t have to be.
Besides, I think Millar already did one. He had a Fantastic Four run with artist Bryan Hitch running about the same time, and one storyarc had “the Defenders” coming to the present from the future. Among their members were a large Hulk called Banner, who had a godfather initially called the Hooded Man later revealed to be an older Wolverine. There was also an Ultron descendant and a not-much older Invisible Woman as their leader. All that squares with incidental stuff from Old Man Logan, so I’d hazard a guess that Logan/Wolverine did end up saving the United States from the supervillains, one slash at a time. As it is, Old Man Logan may be one of if not the best Wolverine stories Marvel’s ever cranked out. Ten out of ten Venom/T-Rex hybrids. This just isn’t a subtle book at all.
NEXT BOOK: Well, we’re going from something I enjoyed greatly once before to something I know next to nothing about. Be back here soon for a character that may well be the British version of Buck Rogers or Flash Gordan, Dan Dare from Dynamite.