‘Old Man Logan’ faces obsolescence with the Canucklehead’s signature tenacity
By Don Alsafi. In the summer of 2008, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven debuted in the pages of Wolverine a story called “Old Man Logan”, a post-apocalyptic future of the Marvel Universe in which superheroes had been finally defeated by their villainous counterparts, with few survivors. In this vision, Logan was a father eking out his declining years in the middle of nowhere – until events force him to come back into action one last time. Comparisons to Clint Eastwood’s iconic role in the 1992 film Unforgiven would not be far off the mark.
Mark Millar’s genius has always been in his talent for exciting and creative ideas, and being paired with McNiven’s sleek illustrations virtually guaranteed that the story would be a massive hit. It was, and the graphic novel collection has consistently sold strong numbers in the decade since.
Years later, Marvel’s 2015 mega-crossover Secret Wars drew on both current superhero drama and old-school nostalgia in equal measure by having its reality-warping plot revisit numerous fondly-remembered stories from Marvel’s past, such as Infinity Gauntlet, Planet Hulk… and Old Man Logan. Following that crossover, the Logan of this setting found himself transplanted to the current-day Marvel U, and a monthly series soon followed.
But it’s been three years since then. Can a casual reader still pick up the most recent issue of Old Man Logan and follow along? Heck, what if they never read the original tale from ten years ago? Would they be horribly, hopelessly lost? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out!
Written by Ed Brisson.
Art by Ibraim Roberson.
Colors by Carlos Lopez.
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit.
Two comic book success stories. Ed Brisson is one of Marvel’s crop of relatively new writers who has nevertheless made a name for himself in a remarkably short amount of time. Old Man Logan joins Iron Fist and Cable as books that he’s currently writing for Marvel – an impressive feat for anyone – though he’s also spent time these last few years writing for BOOM! Studios, IDW and Image. But what’s most notable, perhaps, is that he spent most of the last decade working as a letterer, while honing his craft as a writer in his off-hours.
It’s kind of inspiring, to be honest; his career trajectory shows plainly that if you want to work in comics, there’s no better route than simply working in comics. Don’t simply wait for one of the big publishers to pluck you out of the crowd and offer you your dream job; get deep into the trenches and do the work – any work – while self-publishing when you need to, and following your passion.
Ibraim Roberson is a Brazilian artist who also came onto the scene in the last ten years. His first major work was a graphic novel adaptation of Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide, after which he was quickly (and cannily) snapped up by Marvel’s X-office, where he proceeded to illustrate runs on books like X-Men, The New Mutants and, most recently, Weapon X. Roberson’s not one of those artists who only works in comics, however; before he returned to Marvel in 2017, he’d spent much of the last several years doing storyboards and more traditional illustrating work. His own career path would seem to impart a wisdom similar to, yet almost in counterpart to, that of Brisson’s: That if you develop your craft to a high enough of a degree, you can work just about anywhere.
Unfair in love and war. Ed Brisson’s run on Old Man Logan began with a six-issue arc that pitted the title character against Hulk villain, The Maestro. (Who also hails from a future dystopia. What, aren’t there any happy future timelines in the Marvel U?) The current storyline then kicked off with a three-issue arc (#31-33) in which the old mystical ninja baddies The Hand attempted to take Logan down via a new agent called The Scarlet Samurai. Scarlet resisted their conditioning, however, and broke free – whereupon she revealed herself to be Logan’s resurrected lost love, Mariko Yashida.
This was a frankly brilliant move on Brisson’s part, and one that serves to blend the old and the new. Logan first met Mariko during the X-Men’s first trip to Japan (in the Claremont/Byrne days), and her quiet strength managed to quell his berserker tendencies and anger management issues in a way nothing else had. Their relationship continued, and they were even engaged to be married – until Mariko called it off to focus her attention on bringing the increasingly criminal Clan Yashida back to its once-honorable path. Such efforts would tragically lead to her murder, however, and for the past two decades Mariko has been remembered as perhaps the one true love of Logan’s life.
A dark and dangerous mishmash of genres. This current two-issue arc picks up after the three-issue introduction of Mariko back into Logan’s life – and it’s eminently clear that this story plays into Ed Brisson’s early success in writing and self-publishing the crime comic, Murder Book. This storyline, featuring the Hand in conflict with the still-nefarious Clan Yashida over a new street drug while taking place in Marvel’s lawless Southeast Asia island nation of Madripoor, thus comes across as a gritty crime story, a ninja action flick, and a seedy pulp novel all at once.
Ibraim Roberson does a fantastic job portraying all this. His Madripoor is modern, but also run-down and dirty. Logan under his pen is not the sleek superhero that Wolverine has often been drawn as, but genuinely looks like a rough and meaty old brawler who’s lost as many fights as he’s won. Roberson’s establishing shots are clear yet occasionally creative, and his characters’ moments of subtle expressiveness are just as effective as his scenes of explosive action.
But Brisson has just as firm a grip on the story and its characters. Wolverine has always been an interesting character in the right hands; unfortunately, in the “extreme” 1990s his ability for violence and rage was overemphasized at the same time that sales and editorial felt the need to over-saturate the market with his presence, leading to a one-dimensional slicing machine appearing in every other comic. Brisson is one of those writers who understands that the greater appeal in Wolverine comes from knowing he is an engine of destruction – and then seeing him battle against those baser impulses, and only unleash them when truly necessary.
None of which, of course, even touches on the ironic tragedy of having his lost love come back from the dead… only to find that her sweetheart is an old man now. Throwing himself into the bloody action and doing what needs to be done, but with a body that’s increasingly giving out on him. There are cases of poor timing in love – and then there’s this.
Cranky enough to keep on tickin’…? In fact, the only worry is just how much longer the book might be around for. After all, when it was announced that the original Jean Grey would be coming back from the dead in the (just wrapped) Phoenix Resurrection miniseries, the obvious question would be if the new character could coexist on the publishing schedule with the current Jean Grey comic starring the time-displaced teenage heroine. And sure enough, the latter will be ending in a few months.
Given that the modern-day Wolverine just came back from the dead in the Marvel Legacy one-shot a few months ago, is it likely that Old Man Logan might be come to a similar end soon, to make way for the all-but-inevitable new Wolverine comic?
Based on this issue alone, Old Man Logan is an interesting character portrayed by extremely capable creators. It’d sure be a shame to lose that.
7.5 out of 10