Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wolverine: Old Man Logan (comics)

Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Steve McNiven
Collects: Wolverine #66-72, Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant Sized

Hey, look, it's a project by that king of all hucksters, Mark Millar! Even more shocking, it's, GASP, pretty good without relying on shock and awe gross-em-out tactics. Miracles CAN happen, folks!

Anything with Millars name tends to draw a lot of attention - usually for all the wrong reasons - and several years back this was one of those projects Marvel was making a big deal about. The hype was certainly saying all the right things to reel me in; Mad Max style future starring Wolverine as a Clint Eastwood-in-Unforgiven style character with completely off the wall changes? Sold.

Still, it's a Millar project - and I may have mentioned I'm not really a fan - so I took my sweet ass time in getting around to it.

It's good, though. Millar delivered what was promised; we get a pretty crazy buddy cop adventure with Wolverine and Hawkeye rolling through the desert to the other side of the country. See, Wolverines landlords are dicks and he needs money or else they'll eat his family. Wolverine won't pop his claws - which he's sure to remind us way too often - because of an event in the past, so he needs to get out of the situation another way; so he teams up with Hawkeye, the two roll around in the Spider-Mobile, the Hulk has a whole family of inbred hillbilly Hulks and holy crap is that a Venom dinosaur?

Millar throws every crazy idea he has at the wall and no lie, it makes the book a page turner, even if the overall plot is a bit thin. There's something enticing about these kinds of stories, where you want to see more and more of this f***ed up world and you want to know how it got this way. Putting a wild twist on the familiar is always a good way to drive interest up, which is why these "warped future" stories tend to work so well. Besides, it's just freaking creepy - in a good way - to see something like the Red Skull, now President of his quarter of the US, dressed in Captain Americas costume with a trophy room of items collected from the dead heroes.

It's not all roses, however; with Millar, it never is. Spoiler warning for this paragraph. The way we get to the final fight is a little too obvious, frankly. We know that by the end, Logan will be back to his old self again in some fashion. It's just obvious. Also obvious is the way it's finally accomplished, as it's one of those plot points that you can see coming a mile away. So why Millar went with it, I couldn't tell you. I'd have been much more shocked if he'd gone another way.

Also disappointing is that Mark Millar recycled the premise of his creator owned work "Wanted" for this one. You know, the whole "all the villains joined forced, defeated the heroes and took over the world" bit. The only reason that really worked there is because - despite the fact that ninety percent of the characters were based on Marvel and DC heroes - they were his own characters in a world he owned. Outside of that, it doesn't hold water.

We're told something about there being "twenty villains for every hero" or something, which - if it were true - might make for a hell of a fight for our heroes. But think about this for more than five minutes and it breaks apart. Most heroes - especially at Marvel - don't have a rogues gallery to speak of. Sure, Spider-Man has about thirty villains - not all of them of note - but Cloak and Dagger are lucky if they have one. The Marvel Universe in particular is also very team focused - Avengers, Runaways, Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc. - and the more expansive rogues galleries tend to be attacked to these even bigger teams.

There isn't twenty villains for every hero. There isn't even ten. If we're being honest, there are probably more heroes at Marvel than villains and a good quarter of the villain total are completely lame. We're not even going to get into the experience most heroes have with fighting - and beating - all these villains.

One last sour note that relates to the villains - another spoiler alert here - the big mystery of the book is what screwed Wolverine up so badly that he gave up fighting, but the event in question is flawed. Make no mistake, being conned into slaughtering people you held dear works as a reason. I can believe that would screw with Logan enough to do this. That's not the problem.

The problem is that this all hinges on... Mysterio. The guy whose shtick involves parlor tricks and mere illusions. A human without much more than some experience in Hollywood effects somehow manages to not only make Wolverine see other beings as known villains - like, for example, Omega Red or Bullseye - but to make the body language mimic said villains, make him think they're using the weapons of those villains and to somehow make Logans super evolved senses - including smell - detect them as those villains.

An effects dude who does little more than annoy Spider-Man on occasion somehow does this. Without magic or powers. Anyone else seeing a problem here?

Despite those glaring issues, this is still a good read. It moves at a brisk pace, despite being seven full issues and a giant sized special. Despite the fact that I wanted to know more about the world than was given, I have to give Millar credit for not overloading us with details. He keeps the adventure moving and provides enough thrills and banter to keep you entertained. Despite the plot holes and logic problems, I'd say this is one of Millars better written projects. It's some pretty good fun, which is the kind of Millar writing I prefer, but rarely get.

Steve McNiven provides the visuals and he handles whatever Millar throws at him. This is a tall order. There's a lot of crazy ideas floating around this world they've given us. A lesser artist would not have been able to handle the kind of shit we see here and the book would have been ruined because of it. McNiven pulls it off without a hitch. His work really puts this book over the top and helps keep you from thinking on certain events too much.

The Score: 8 out of 10

Despite the issues I've mentioned, this book is still a lot of fun as long as you don't think too hard on some of the plot twists. It's probably the most I've enjoyed a Millar book since Wanted, at least; maybe even as far back as when he worked with Grant Morrison. Well worth a purchase, if you ask me. The ending sets things up for a sequel; I hope we get it at some point.

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