Written By Cadeem Lalor
After reading the first volume of The Ultimates years ago, I wondered if Mark Millar’s writing skills were a little over-hyped. The series had great moments for sure, but overall I wasn’t that big a fan of it. I’d heard about Old Man Logan for years and it has popped up in discussion much more with with the development of the final Wolverine film. Hugh Jackman was pictured on set with a thicker, grey beard and many people began to speculate that the film would use the story-line. Hugh Jackman also referenced the story-line during comic-con. It is likely that the film will use some elements from the story but it has been made clear the film will likely introduce X-23 and branch off with a new version of the character.
After reading Desi’s article on Old Man Logan, and numerous glowing amazon reviews, I made the commitment and ordered my own copy. The story follows an older Wolverine in a USA that is now divided into four villain territories, with most of the heroes now dead or in hiding after one night where the villains banded together to eliminate their foes. This story did not disappoint. I read about the story online before buying it and the thing that intrigued me most was how the super villains would manage to eliminate the heroes.
This aspect of the story also proved to be the most well written and the one that my mind keeps going back to. One thing we probably never think about when reading comics is the villain to hero ratio. Every hero has their own rogues gallery. With a shared comic universe, many of the villains overlap but most can be tied to a particular arch-nemesis. In Old Man Logan, the estimate ranges from anywhere from twenty to fifty villains per hero. Once all of this power is organized into one attack, it is easy to see how the heroes could fall. Villains might normally be somewhat selfish in their pursuits, but by banding together and by creating their territories, they still accomplish more together than they could have individually or in smaller groups.
The epic battle that created this new world is only alluded to, but that ends up being enough. We see the skeletons of Loki and a giant skeleton of Hank Pym, and our minds fill in the blanks from there. One of the most powerful scenes is the reveal of Captain America’s death at the hands of the Red Skull.
We don’t see this fight either. We only see an injured cap lying on rubble, with his body partially crushed by debris. He can only watch as Red Skull gloats of the new world that he and the other villains will create. After so many years as a man out of time, Cap still sees his worst nightmare come to life. There are no words from him, only a tear.
The most powerful moment in the comic comes when we delve into Wolverine’s past. In this apocalyptic future, Logan is no longer Wolverine. He has taken a vow of nonviolence and has rejected his old persona. he hasn’t bared his claws in fifty years. As the story begins it is implied Logan was traumatized on the day of the attack but it is hard to imagine what could break him. When we are told the full story, it becomes clear why Logan was broken. One illusion by Mysterio led Wolverine to kill all of the X-Men, making each member look and smell different. When we see the event from Logan’s point of view, we see him end the battle by brutally stabbing Bullseye. That moment is tainted when we realize it was Jubilee who was butchered.
As Logan’s journey continues we see The Red Skull again, who is in the habit of wearing Captain America’s costume. He wears the skin of his foes, likes the ancients. However, it appears that he almost misses his foe, monologuing about how he could still defeat Captain America if they were to fight again. It is implied with this scene that villains might lose their purpose without heroes. This is also implied when Wolverine fights this universe’s villainous Hulk. The Hulk implies that he got bored and killed Logan’s family because he wanted Logan to come to him: he missed their fights. We often say a hero is only as good as their villains. Without any heroes, Hulk admits he went from being a villain to being a landlord.
Old Man Logan is a grim story, but it demonstrates that grim and good are not antonyms when discussing comic books. This mindset is far too prevalent now, especially among moviegoers. Some of Millar’s previous attempts to add a more adult spin to comics were failures in my opinion, such as his perverted version of the Hulk in The Ultimates. Some aspects of The Hulk do bring the story down a bit here, such as the hillbilly Hulk descendants. The fact that these hillbillies are products of incest between Hulk and She-Hulk could also throw people off as well, but I actually found this to be one of the better-justified changes for this alternate story-line. Banner explains that she was the only person he could mate with to breed mutant offspring, although he says this in much cruder terms. Overall, Old Man Logan is another reason that I look forward to discovering more that comics have to offer.