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The X-Men’s Wolverine has always been a badass of note. From his first appearance and battle with the Hulk (The Incredible Hulk #181, which was a plot point in the movie Coyote Ugly) to amalgamating with Batman (Amalgam Comics, Dark Claw), the Canadian was a fan favourite. The bad-tempered, foul-mouthed, killing machine has been a fan favourite for decades, but what happens when he’s no longer a bad-tempered foul-mouthed, violent killing machine? What happens when Wolverine trades in his claws for the life of a pacifist?
The Wolverine: Old Man Logan storyline began in Wolverine #66 and concluded in the Wolverine Giant-Size Old Man Logan special. Much like Marvel’s The End or their 2099 series of stories, Wolverine: Old Man Logan gives readers a look at one possible outcome for the Marvel series. Taking place 50 years in the future, almost all of the superheroes were wiped out in a single night. Several supervillain masterminds banded together to take down all of the crime-fighting masked vigilantes, and then divide up Norther America for themselves.
Somehow, in some way, that night broke Wolverine. It broke him in ways that the Weapon-X programme, the death of Jean Grey, or House of M ever could. Wolverine — Logan — drops his superhero moniker and costume for a farmer’s life complete with two children and a wife on the west coast. Unfortunately, he’s settling in Hulkland and the green goliath’s offspring aren’t the friendliest of landlords. After falling behind on rent, Banner’s offspring tell Logan they’ll be back in a month for the money, but if it’s not ready they’ll take the lives of his family. They rough up Logan, who doesn’t fight back at all. He refuses to unsheath his claws since the night the heroes fell.
A blind and old-aged Hawkeye arrives to offer Logan a job: accompany him across the US to deliver a secret package. Logan initially declines as he thinks Hawkeye just wants a strong arm for protection, and is running drugs, but eventually relents and agrees. And so their journey begins and we see the extent of the devastation around North America, what happened when the heroes died out, and why the X-Man known as Wolverine no longer exists.
If you’re a familiar with George Miller’s Mad Max series, or even post-apocalyptic media in general, you’ll be right at home with Wolverine: Old Man Logan. While it may be clichéd in its utilisation of dust bowls, dilapidated structures, and the scourge that live in the wasteland, it is the way in which the story is told. Mark Miller is a master of words and brings characters to life in ways that will not only surprise readers, but make you fall in love with the insanity of the villains… or what’s left of them.
Accompanying Mark Miller once again is artist Steve McNiven on visuals. Everything is rich and beautiful in a muddy brown and grey sort of way. Each character is ‘animated’ in immaculate detail; even Logan’s accelerated healing can’t save his features from the harshness of the wasteland and McNiven’s pencil. Some of the action scenes are brutal and fast paced, but McNiven allows us to follow all of the flying fists, splattered gore, and explosions in all of their beautiful glory.
There’s almost nothing I can fault Old Man Logan for, besides a few strange sentences and awkward comic panels, but those are negligible in the overall story.
Original publication date: June 2008 (Wolverine #66)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer(s): Mark Millar
Penciller(s): Steven McNiven
Review edition: Marvel’s The Ultimate Graphic Novels Collection, Vol. 57 – Wolverine: Old Man Logan
Verdict: Wolverine: Old Man Logan is one of those devestating stories you’ll almost wish was canon. There’s no hope, bright colours, or happyness in the story and that’s perfect for this tale of loss and misery. It shows a bleak and violent world in a way few comic books have. Fans of Marvel, Mad Max, and comics in general should pick up this well-written and beautifully illustrated piece of comic book history.