Wolverine: Old Man Logan
written by Mark Millar
illustrated by Steve McNiven
The future of the Marvel Universe is bleak, filled with failed and fallen heroes, victorious villains, the desolation of ruined landscapes and corpse-strewn roads, and the hordes of the hopeless praying for the return of long-dead defenders. In Wolverine: Old Man Logan, we are taken across this devastated America, while being presented with a thoughtful examination of not only how a man's actions define his legacy, but, and perhaps more accurately, how a man defines himself through his actions.
Set 50 years after the fall of the heroes, Wolverine: Old Man Logan recasts the titular hero as a farmer in the desert wastelands of what was once Sacramento, California. He hasn't popped his adamantium claws or raised a fist in anger since the night his former squad mates on the X-Men were slaughtered and the vast majority of the Marvel superheroes were killed. Renting a piece of land in territory controlled by the Hulk Gang, the evil offspring and grandchildren of Bruce Banner, he tries to eke out a living and provide for his wife and children. After taking a vicious beating from the Hulks for being late on rent, Logan agrees to help his old, blind friend Hawkeye transport goods cross-country so he can pay off his debt and protect his family.
What follows is travelogue across the ruined United States, where even the children of once great and mighty heroes are twisted by the pervasive rule of evil, and the violence that has come to dominate the American wastelands forces Logan to reexamine what is worth fighting for and what his place in this new world is or should be. It's a wild ride that finds readers and characters alike both wondering what exactly happened on the night the heroes died, why Logan is the way he is, and what is waiting for them on the other side of the country at the end of the road.
After a character like Wolverine has been around for several decades and is so well defined in the canons of popular culture, it can be difficult to find him cast in an original light. Longtime readers and newcomers alike have expectations as to who the title character is and any random issue or trade collection will gladly satisfy those built-in expectations because they know who the characters are on a fundamental level.
Leave it to Mark Millar, then, to completely upend those expectations. He creates a must-read “event” book with Wolverine: Old Man Logan by changing not only the world that surrounds Logan, but by changing the very fundamentals of the title character. Wolverine, for all intents and purposes, is dead. What's left is the pacifistic Logan, a Logan left so utterly broken and defeated that even his enemies bemoan the lack of spirit and pride that he once showed.
The Logan Millar introduces us to is a far cry from the Wolverine we are used to seeing. We are given a Logan who willingly submits to beatings, who will not raise a hand to protect himself or those around him. He absorbs the violence inflicted upon him as a kind of penance until, as one episode of violence escalates into another, Logan is forced to defend, forced to use violence, and forced to confront the tragedy of his past. Slowly, the world around him begins to creep through and Logan begins to sink back into the bestial Wolverine. By the time he inevitably tells someone, "The name isn't Logan, bub. It's Wolverine," and he pops his claws for the first time, it's a refreshing, welcome, epic return to form. Wolverine is back, and that his return feels like a reward rather than a mere expectation is a terrific achievement to the story that Millar is crafting here.
While Millar pens a great story with nods to minor moments of past Marvel lore and ideas that are both fresh and believable, it's the strongly consistent art of Steve McNiven that truly sells the work. His understanding of how to best frame the artwork helps to underscore the epic moments of violence (of which there are many), the reflections on the past, and the quiet moments that define the decisions of the present. The tension McNiven fills the panels with, particularly in the opening when Logan willingly takes a beating from the Hulk Gang, are as ripe and gut-wrenching as seeing the heroes fall, and easily as satisfying as the bloody closing chapters.
While it's very light on supplemental materials (compared to some other Marvel hardcovers on the market), the oversized hardcover edition really lets McNiven's artwork shine, and his pencil work is nothing short of fantastic when it's given room to breath on the larger page format.
Wolverine: Old Man Logan ranks as one of the best Wolverine stories, hands-down. The story and artwork are an incredible fusion that create an exciting and fast-paced piece of work, which provides not only one of the best character arcs but one of the best character studies on Logan in recent memory.