The heroes are dead. The villains have carved up the United States and rule it with a grotesque iron first. This is the stage that is set for the recently wrapped “Wolverine” arc, “Old Man Logan” by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven (who teamed-up previously with the Marvel event book, “Civil War”). But this kind of scene is also the kind of odds that Wolverine lives for.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Similar in set-up to another Millar book, “Wanted” (a darkly hilarious mini-series that I will eventually get to blog about and say how much I love it), the Marvel universe is a shattered, beaten shell of its former self. Fifty years before the story begins, all of the villains got together (realizing that for every hero, there are about ten villains) and killed most of the heroes. Wolverine aka Logan is still alive, but the night the villains attacked, they hit him so hard that he hasn’t popped his claws or hurt a single person in fifty years, living in Sacramento as a tenant farmer to the Hulk gang (the inbred, hillbilly descendants of Bruce Banner aka The Hulk). Logan too is a shattered, beaten shell of his former self.
Toss in a blind Hawkeye (Marvel’s bow-n-arrow hero), Spider-Man’s old car (don’t ask) and a road trip to New York that involves dinosaurs, hostile takeovers, and Venom and that is “Old Man Logan.”
It is really no secret that Wolverine is one of the most popular comic book characters around. He is a constant in the X-Men books, as well as currently having two ongoing series, being an integral part of all the animated shows over the years and now his own movie franchise. It is really interesting considering that he appeared as a fight opponent for the Hulk all the way back in “Incredible Hulk 181” from the year 1974. (His first appearance is referenced heavily in the final issue of the story) He has since rose to become one of the unofficial mascots of Marvel and the comic industry as a whole and this arc really shows why this is. Not only is there plenty of action and remorseless violence, but it also shows the human side of Logan that readers have come to appreciate and connect with over the years.
If there is one thing Millar can do well, it is a dystopian world. The world that the reader enters is dark and bleak. The morals that have persisted in the Marvel books for the past 70 years are nowhere to be seen. Even the few new heroes that are seen in the seven part story are dark and violent. But the center of this dark tale is the sullen Logan. The character of Wolverine is well known within both the popular culture and especially the comic culture that to see him this down trodden, this defeated is a treat. It goes against everything the character has been. A ruthless killer who has become coward concerned only with his family’s well being. How the villains broke him isn’t revealed until Part 5, but when it is, it is so shocking that it is understandable why Logan hasn’t popped his claws in fifty years. But with this same token, it is also that much more rewarding when he finally pops his claws and goes back to work.
McNiven is a mixed blessing on this book. The great part of the deal is how beautiful his work is. Having risen up from the now defunct CrossGen Comics to the top of his game at Marvel, his work is fluid, but filled with detail. His characters are so filled with life, in that they appear real. The same magic that is found during action scenes is also found in quite moments on the road. He is one of my top favorite artists working right now. But the downside of his work is the timeliness of it. Now, I could (and might) be in the wrong in blaming McNiven (Millar is notorious for running behind schedule and “Civil War” was late because of Millar going through a stress-related illness while writing it), but the incredible detail of it all is worth the wait, regardless of who is to blame for it.
Over the past decade, Millar has written some of the definitive Wolverine stories. Between this, the 12 part “Enemy of the State” (available in paperback), and his work with the Ultimate counterpart of Logan, Millar has shown that he really knows what makes this character tick. If you want to see what makes this character so appealing, check out this book.
The hardcover collection of the story will be released at the end of the month.
All images are copyright of Marvel