Wolverine is a fantastic character.
I didn’t see the movie. The trailers were enough to suggest that I’m perhaps not in the target audience for that film. I realize how unusual this statement must sound – if a self-confessed comic-book obsessive who dedicates time and effort to writing reviews in a home-made Livejournal with a tongue-twister for a name doesn’t think a movie about one of the most recognizable comic-book characters in the world was made for people like him to watch – then who the hell is it for? Well, everybody else by the looks of things – Hollywood made its changes to appeal to the wider masses and to kids. I know I’m just going to sit through it watching Deadpool and Gambit jump around looking cool in bullet-time – and all I’ll be thinking about is what might have been.
That’s fine by me though, I really don’t mind - because I’ve got my comics.
Ever since those X-Men issues where Wolverine made his post-Hulk debut thirty-odd years back, he’s been one of the most striking, interesting characters in the X-Corner of the Marvel U. The one that readers wish they could be – tough, cool and he takes shit from no one.
However – three decades has taken its toll on old Logan – and the character has slowly but surely started to become a parody of himself. A character who used to be portrayed as quietly intelligent, Wolverine would occasionally reveal a new skill in the long list of different disciplines he was versed in that we were given to believe somehow tied into his mysterious past. More recently- he has been reduced to a string of beer jokes and become a character whose defining characteristic seems to be that he will grow back from anything, no matter how heavily mutilated he might be.
Thankfully, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven arrived to save the day. Their run on Wolverine started about a year ago – entitled ‘Old Man Logan’ - in which Wolvie is given the Dark Knight treatment. The reader is propelled several decades into the future of the Marvel Universe, only to find that Wolverine has become a pacifist family man with a new troubled past concerning practically every Marvel character you can think of.
Millar at once masterfully turns Wolverine’s character upside down – and at the same time takes him back to his roots. He gives Wolverine back the mystery that once defined his character – yet he takes away Logan’s will to fight – his unstoppable pluck. All that is left of Wolverine is a shell of the man he used to be, he won’t fight, he won’t even pop his claws to threaten – even his once seemingly all-powerful healing factor seems to have diminished to the point that it can take him days to heal from a heavy beating.
Much like another brilliant book by Millar (and the always awesome J.G. Jones) – Wanted, Old Man Logan is set in a world where the heroes lost – and the world is owned and run by the Super-Villains. Unlike Wanted however, OML approaches the concept from another angle; for instance, the reader knows that so long as ol’ James Howlett is around – even if he’s not calling himself Wolverine anymore and even if his healing factor can’t seem to heal his broken spirit – then there’s hope for the good guys.
What I also found rather striking is that Millar starts the tale in a part of the USA that is now run by the Hulk and She-Hulk’s incredibly inbred grandchildren (that’s right, the Hulk Cousins did the nasty). This is an obvious allusion to Logan’s character origins in an issue of the Incredible Hulk – and I like it.
In Old Man Logan, Wolverine now works a farm in Hulk-Land and the Hulks beat the hell out of him regularly for rent money. You see him take a beating right there in the first issue. You see Wolverine stand there and take a beating. Wolverine… Somehow that makes him all the more compelling to read about.
What could have broken him so bad?
It’s so good, but I’m not telling you.
What I will tell you to whet your appetites - is that the whole Marvel Universe is given a dark and disturbing makeover to fit in with Millar’s brilliant futuristic Dystopia. Nothing is what it seems – or what you would expect it to be. Hawkeye is now blind and very possibly a drug smuggler, all the X-Men are apparently long dead, Venom… well he has to be seen to be believed – and perhaps my favourite of all – the arc-enemy of the Avengers – the psychopathic killing machine Ultron - is now actually a friendly, hard-working family man raising Hawkeye’s psychotic daughter, who also happens to be Spider-Man’s Granddaughter and calls herself ‘Spider-Bitch’.
Furthermore, there’s a fantastic sense of Geography in the book. In the first part of the story (and every subsequent part) you’re given a map charting Logan’s journey. Written across it you find bizarrely familiar names that hint at what will be seen in later issues. There are lots of fantastically imaginative little ideas scattered across that map - sometimes you only see these things in passing, but that’s enough to suggest the horrible fate that befell all of your favourite characters.
The whole story thus far has been expertly rendered by McNiven’s careful hand, with beautiful colours to compliment every panel. You don’t just get a good story here, every time a new issue is released, you hold a work of art in your covetous, geeky hands.
This is not a book for all ages. I think it skims by on a T+ rating frankly, it is clearly written for the adult fans. There are numerous adult references, some ‘language’ and that’s not to mention a great deal of no-holds barred gory violence – very little of which is directly influenced by the titular character…
We readers are all eagerly awaiting the final part, which is due to arrive some time in the God-Knows-When – in annual form. Everything up until now has been immensely satisfying – Millar will not let us down.
If you’re a Wolverine fan – hell even a Marvel fan, if you’re an Ultimates fan, a Wanted fan, if you liked Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, if you like familiar heroes done right – then this is unmissable.