Today, Michael and Spencer are discussing Old Man Logan 1, originally released January 27th, 2016.
Michael: Comic books are full of lofty, almost impossible goals — typically on the part of the villain. We know all of the classics: world domination, citywide destruction, and the death of their most hated hero nemesis. The Joker might win small battles, but ultimately he will never win the war. Does knowing that a character will never completely achieve his or her goals ruin the story for you?
Old Man Logan 1 reunites Jeff Lemire with his Green Arrow teammate Andrea Sorrentino, who also illustrated the Old Man Logan tie-in to Secret Wars with Brian Michael Bendis. It’s probably for the best that this new series doesn’t reference that pretty, but ultimately needless mini-series. Instead, Lemire and Sorrentino give us Old Man Logan’s entry into the current Marvel U. He arrives a little shell-shocked, confused, and Terminator-style naked. After a bit of expositional flashback, Logan has finally got his bearings. He visits the Black Butcher and kills him for future slights. This is where Logan launches his big plan — kill all of the bad guys in the past before they screw up everything in the future.
The first target on Logan’s hit list is Black Butcher — a minor Marvel villain who is not so easy to find on the internet. The other targets on his list are a little higher up on the Marvel totem pole: Bruce Banner, Mysterio and The Red Skull. This is where I’m having a little bit of cognitive dissonance. I don’t think that he will actually be successful killing those guys; maybe Mysterio — is Red Skull still alive? If my hypothesis is indeed correct, I don’t think that will necessarily ruin Old Man Logan as a whole for me. After all, just because a new #1 lays out a premise doesn’t mean that the series needs be beholden to it. The next issue is promising Logan meeting the current Amadeus Cho Hulk, so he will discover that his plan might not be so cut and dry after all.
Andrea Sorrentino is such an excellent visual storyteller. It’s clear that Lemire is very comfortable with his frequent collaborator, relying on Sorrentino’s dynamic SNIKTs and CRASHs. I love those huge sound effects that are spread across the panel, just completely throwing you into the action. Dude also loves his splash pages and I don’t mind looking at them one bit.
Thankfully, Old Man Logan 1 doesn’t spend excessive amounts of time bringing new readers up speed with the particulars of Mark Millar’s original 2010 Old Man Logan. Sorrentino shows us instead of tells us the landscape of Old Man Logan’s world. Once Logan remembers who he is, Sorrentino gives us all of the essential painful images of his former/future life. It’s pretty great. My only complaint would be the shoehorned The Dark Knight Returns-inspired lightning spash page. It’s a beautiful image but kind of an overdone homage by this point.
I’m curious how Old Man Logan’s hit list plan will intersect with his adventures in Extraordinary X-Men — also written by Lemire. I think that Logan keeping a secret like that would make for some interesting X-drama, so I’m looking forward to that.
Spencely! Did you like Old Man Logan 1? Do you think they should come up with a new title since this is now the third book with this title in five years? Were you any more successful at figuring out who the hell Black Butcher was? Speak!
Spencer: I didn’t really feel the need to research Black Butcher, Michael, because Lemire makes it clear that who Butcher is in the present doesn’t matter — his only significance comes from who he might’ve become in the future if Logan hadn’t slaughtered him.
Actually, to continue with that theme, one of Old Man Logan‘s best features is the fact that it doesn’t get too caught up in the past. Millar’s original story provides context and backstory, but Lemire and Sorrentino take their continuation in an entirely different direction. Likewise, as Michael points out, the creative team ignores Bendis’ Secret Wars mini almost entirely, and that definitely ups the stakes of this story. Secret Wars limited Logan’s dark future to one particular realm of Battleworld, and thus any explicit references to that story within this issue would’ve only confirmed that Logan’s future is an impossibility in this particular continuity. Instead, Lemire and Sorrentino dangle the possibility that Logan’s future may actually be our future as well.
Kamala Kahn, Miles Morales, and Sam Wilson as Captain America are about as 2015 as it gets — I’ve never had the opportunity to read Millar’s original Old Man Logan, but it seems safe to say that none of these characters are present within its pages. This does a lot to give Logan’s mission some real urgency and relevancy — his actions could have actual ramifications on the Marvel Universe, as opposed to simply soothing his own guilty conscience or overblown rage.
Of course, most readers know that Marvel would never really embrace this dark future for their entire line, but all that matters is that it seems like a direction the universe could take if Logan doesn’t succeed. In this sense, it works, and the same goes for Logan’s hit-list. Again, savvy readers generally know that Logan won’t kill most (or any) of the figures on his list, but the excitement will come from seeing Logan try and seeing how he handles his failures. There’s still a lot of directions Logan’s story can go, and I don’t think this hit-list will stay his main focus for long; even if it does, I imagine it will be much like Batman’s eventual goal to rid Gotham of crime: it’s objectively impossible to achieve, but the attempts to can fuel a lot of stories.
This focus on the future applies to Logan’s motives as well. I admit, I’m thoroughly tired of the archtype of the man who has to avenge his dead wife or dead family, and that trope is, in many ways, the crux of Old Man Logan — or, at least, of what the book and character used to be. Lemire and Sorrentino seem to be trying their hardest to take Logan in a different direction, all without forgetting the trauma of his past and the way it’s shaped his character.
Logan’s future is a place where no one — not even a superhero — can change the world. When his family was killed, his only recourse was to go on a roaring rampage of revenge. Getting sent to the “past,” though, suddenly opens up a host of new options for Logan. He has a chance to do what his son always wanted him to do: to change the world for the better, to stop their deaths and the dystopia that facilitated them from ever coming into being. It brings a note of hope to Logan’s story, as well as a new, extra note of tragedy: if Logan stops this future from ever happening, it’s highly likely that he’ll never meet his wife and that his kids will never be born either. It’s bittersweet, but it brings a welcome new layer of depth to Logan’s characterization, a layer that’s essential to make Logan’s cold-blooded murders halfway palatable.
Meanwhile, Sorrentino provides Old Man Logan with powerhouse visuals. Besides the immersive, dynamic action sequences Michael already highlighted, Sorrentino also brings just the right level of grit to this project, crafting detailed characters and environments that look weathered and worn down — just as any element of Logan’s future should.
Of course, just because something looks weathered or old doesn’t mean it can’t be visually stunning — Sorrentino clearly pulls that off too. Colorist Marcelo Maiolo is essential in that regard as well. Just look at the gorgeous colors in the image above. They’re not just pretty to look at, though — they also contribute to the weathered, washed-out aesthetic of Logan’s future, and it’s notable that Maiolo favors far darker colors for the scenes taking place in the present day. The future only looks worse in comparison.
Maiolo’s colors also contribute to the storytelling in other essential ways.
Depicting moments of intense violence in all-red has been one of Maiolo’s signature techniques since he first started working with Lemire and Sorrentino on Green Arrow, but in this particular scene I’m most impressed by the all-red inset in the third panel, which depicts, not violence, but the potential for violence. It shows how rage still simmered close to the surface within Logan even after he’d become a pacifist, making his restraint all the more admirable, and his actions in the present all the more meaningful.
Like Michael, I will admit that I found the Dark Knight Returns homage spread to be a false note. It’s stunning, but doesn’t look like Sorrentino’s typical work, and it just draws unwelcome comparisons between DKR and Old Man Logan. Marvel may very well be tapping a bit too much into Wolverine and the world of Old Man Logan in the same way DC has Batman and DKR, but they don’t need to draw attention to it, not when the results are working. Lemire and Sorrentino have expanded one of Secret Wars‘ most aimless and unessential tie-ins into something with some real pathos and forward momentum, and that’s a story worth exploring.
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