Wolverine: Old Man Logan
Wolverine: Old Man Logan (collects Wolverine #66–72, Wolverine Giant-Size Old Man Logan #1)
Credits: Mark Millar (writer), Steve McNiven (penciler), Dexter Vines (inker), Morry Hallowell (colorist), VC's Cory Petit (letterer)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: September 22nd, 2010
The newest Wolverine movie Logan comes out this Friday, and I'm getting myself in the mood for what looks to be a violent and serious comic adaptation. Although to be fair, it's not really an adaptation, because it's not based on any previous comic book story, at least not in the strictest sense. For those unaware, Logan does have a comic book origin. Or rather, a loose interpretation of one. You see, Logan pulls a lot of inspiration from a 2008 Wolverine storyline called "Old Man Logan," a particularly depressing and harrowing tale of a dystopian future where the villains have conquered the heroes, and Wolverine lives out his days far from the public eye.
Old Man Logan was written by famed (or infamous) writer Mark Millar, whose comics are known for their darker storylines (with many exceptions of course). Millar has quite the backlog of comics to his name, including many that have been adapted to film, such as Wanted and Kick-Ass. He's also the main writer on Marvel's Civil War storyline. How you feel about Mark Millar depends on how you feel about his specific works, but it would be fair to say that he enjoys pushing the boundaries with his characters and situations. Old Man Logan's America, for example, has been carved up amongst the supervillains, much like the world in his earlier work Wanted. Even my feelings on him and his work are mixed: I thoroughly despise Wanted and most of his catalog is made up of some pretty reprehensible and unforgivable material. But Old Man Logan really shook me in a way that I actually enjoyed. Re-reading it for this post meant reading it for the third time, and despite all of its gore and grotesqueries, it is still one of my favorite comic storylines.
Fifty years in the future, Logan has hung up his costume, sheathed his claws, and abandoned his superhero name. He has taken up farming in the badlands of Sacramento, California with his wife and two children. He's a devout pacifist now, refusing to lift a hand against anyone, and hasn't popped his claws once since the night all of the villains teamed up and took down the superheroes. He's old and scarred, and while he still has his healing factor, it works a lot slower than it used to. Logan and his family live in the Hulkland, formerly the entire West Coast of the USA. Hulk and his hillbilly family control the whole region, and the book opens up with Logan's family unable to pay the rent to the hulks that come by for payment. This leads to a massive beatdown from two hulklings with the threat of either paying double the rent next month or having his family killed. After recuperating, Logan is approached by a blind Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, who's still alive and kicking even without his sight. Hawkeye has a request for the old X-Man: accompany him on a cross-country errand to deliver some illegal goods, and he'll cut him in on some of the profits: more than enough to pay the Hulks several times over. With nowhere else to turn, Logan joins Hawkeye in the Spider-Mobile (you read that right) and embarks on a journey through the heartland of a defeated America.
The superhero pair encounter several new and old faces as they content against moloids, dinosaurs, the Venom symbiote, and a side-quest to save Hawkeye's daughter from the new Kingpin. Logan and the reader discover the fates of Hank Pym, Loki, Thor, Captain America, the old and remaining mutants, Black Bolt, and more as they make their way to the capital city of New Babylon. There are few signs of hope, and danger lurks around every corner, so Logan's pacifism is tested again and again. When he finally confesses to Hawkeye about what happened to him during that infamous evening fifty years earlier, he tells a story so profoundly depressing and shocking that I couldn't help but admire its cleverness. Why hadn't this plot happened before? It's brilliant, and Logan's reaction and descent makes even more sense. Needless to say, even when things start to look up, the story goes from bad to worse until Logan finally reaches his breaking point, and with a page-splitting SNIKT, the claws finally make their appearance. What happens then is a series of sequences so brutal, so horrifying, so quintessentially Wolverine that you can't help but enjoy it while being disgusted. It's comic violence in all of its glory, and reminiscent of the time period when Wolverine first became popular.
McNiven's art is on-point for the entire series. There are dark shadows and thick cross hatchings to accentuate the dusty, dark, and dirty dystopia, along with realistic details that bring life to characters that by all rights should look cartoonish. There's beauty and brutality in these pages, and McNiven transports us visually into a world that has aged poorly since the superheroes' downfall.
Old Man Logan is not for everyone. It's incredibly pessimistic and at times an outright downer. But it's a great ride and a lot of fun as well, in its own post-apocalyptic way. There are a lot of themes and topics in this comic that I would normally abhor reading, my distaste for post-apocalyptic dystopias notwithstanding, but I think Old Man Logan's concepts and delivery are handled so well that I can't help but enjoy it. That's not to say that it doesn't have its flaws, and this is definitely one of the more controversial and heavily-divided comics out there. It has its detractors, but any comic I find myself returning to so often is doing something right.
The character of Old Man Logan eventually returned to Marvel in 2015 with the Secret Wars crossover event, where all the different worlds of the Marvel Universe were violently shoved together in order to bring characters from "other universes" like Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen together under one main reality (at least I think that's the plot? I haven't read it yet because it seemed like utter chaos). Old Man Logan is now an ongoing series written first by Brian Michael Bendis and now Jeff Lemire with pencils by Andrea Sorrentino.
It's sad that a true live-action retelling of the Old Man Logan storyline will never come to fruition. Since the movie rights for the X-Men are owned by Fox and all other non-Spider-Man characters are owned by Disney, an exact adaptation at this time is impossible. That being said, Logan is receiving excellent reviews so far, and with Patrick Stewart once again returning as Charles Xavier alongside the first film appearance of fan-favorite character X-23, I have a feeling there will be very little to complain about. But who knows: one day my dream of seeing Wolverine fighting alongside the Avengers against a Loki/Magneto team-up may come true. It just won't happen anytime soon, and sadly it won't have Hugh Jackman. Until then, I have Old Man Logan to entertain me.