Greg Hunter

Comics Review: Old Man Logan

In Comics on September 26, 2009 at 12:41 AM

olmlog

‘Old Man Logan,’ a delay-plagued story by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven that had been running in Wolverine throught the past year, finally concluded this week in the Giant Size Wolverine special. Set in a Marvel Universe some decades after the villains finally won, the story follows Wolverine (and archer/former-Avenger Hawkeye) on a road trip across the decimated American landscape, with stops at Giant Man’s giant bones and the tourist trap where Thor’s hammer fell.

Millar is the odd creator who’s at his best when fully indulging himself, and this setting has him playing to his strengths. The aged superhero in a dystopian future is well-trod path, even for Wolverine specifically, who has appared in a handful of such stories already. What sets ‘Old Man Logan’ apart is Millar’s audacity, his insistence in having as many big, dumb action scenes as possible. (Wolverine and Hawkeye’s buggy seems to fly off a cliff three or four issues in a row.) McNiven’s a perfect partner for Millar throughout–his art leans toward realism, and he captures each fight and crash in detailed, widescreen style. He also drafts convincing mole-people. Millar’s comics have been criticized for emulating–or depending on–the visual rhetoric of blockbuster films, rather than utilizing comics’ own potential. This is a fair point, but it doesn’t make McNiven’s pages any pretty.

Like with many of Millar’s other works, it would be easy to hate ‘Old Man Logan’ for favoring a parade of violent action sequences, however tongue-in-cheek, over plot and character.  And how much one enjoys it is partially a measure of how much comic book gruesomeness one can stand.  What’s winning about ‘Old Man Logan,’ with all that said, is that Millar and McNiven’s story is unmistakably the work of fans—a writer and an artist still excited to tell a Wolverine story, and thrilled to be able to do whatever they want with him.  Exuberance alone isn’t enough to make a story worth reading—’Old Man Logan’ also has a T-Rex covered in the Venom’s alien costume–but in this case it makes the difference.  It’s not The Dark Knight Returns, but it’s also much more fun than the dreary, humorless Spider-Man: Reign (another autumn years superhero comic).

The end of ‘Old Man Logan’ isn’t surprising, but in this case that’s not really a problem—from the first chapter, it’s been full-page action shots and lots and lots of blood, and would clearly end the same way.  Giant Size Wolverine has plenty of these things, including a scene where a double-size Hulk takes a bite out of our hero’s midsection. But sure enough, it still reads like a love letter to the Marvel universe.

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