This is a fitting revival of this brutal world picking up shortly after the conclusion of the original story and weaves in some interesting elements from the wider Secret Wars event. Bendis delivers on the promise of an uncensored Logan in full cowboy mode in a book that demonstrates a clear love for classic westerns, whilst some powerful art and colouring amp up the visceral atmosphere and intensity of this dark and dusty world. If you’ve got the stomach for it this is an exciting, interesting, and welcome reprisal of a unique vision of the Marvel Universe.
It has been a while since I read the original Old Man Logan, and despite a few questionable moments I remember it quite fondly. It was a brutal, violent, and over the top vision of Logan as cowboy, broken by his past and forced to become a weapon of vengeance. Writer Brian Michael Bendis seems keen to have a lot fun in this world and so he leaves the tragedy of Logan’s personal losses (his family, the X-Men) behind in favour of a more playful Dirty Harry meets Man With No Name interpretation of the character. This is a great choice; we aren’t likely to be spending a long time in this world, or with these characters, so taking the opportunity to tell a fun and fresh tale rather than dwelling too much on an intensely tragic past is a wise idea. That’s not to say there isn’t some depth or pathos in this book though, as Bendis mines the extended cast, and our knowledge of the Marvel multiverse (as was), for some terrific character moments.
The book opens with an intense action scene as Logan busts up a bunch of scumbags who have terrorised New Vegas for long enough. The gang wear Daredevil style outfits and markings (with a little bit of Iron Man gear too) in a perverse denigration of Matt Murdock’s costumed identity; this is a brilliantly dark idea (I don’t recall if these guys were present in the original) as it demonstrates the depths of the darkness that has overcome this Earth. Not only are many heroes long dead, but now their identities have been corrupted and remade into the banners of the very thing they fought against. After dealing with these unsavoury types Logan makes an uncompromising promise (threat, actually) to the now free people of New Vegas; make this town into something worthwhile or he’ll be back to “burn this place down and let someone else start all over again“. And with that Logan’s work is done. This is a great opening sequence for this book, it gives us a chance to see a fully realised Old Man Logan, out for justice and riffing on classic cowboy tropes. On his way home, though, Logan encounters a disembodied Ultron head and the ties to the larger Secret Wars story become apparent. Again this works well, Logan gets to have a nice scene with Danielle Cage, one that answers questions about where the Hulk baby would fit into this story and offers a brief yet poignant reminder of what came before the fall of this world, and then he heads off to seek the council of Ultron (amazing!).
And here is were the real emotional core of this issue can be found as Logan encounters the White Queen herself Emma Frost. After a classic bit of Jean Grey deflection (another light touch reminder of what Logan has long since lost) Emma confesses how she came to be here, and it isn’t a pretty story. We see again that the use of a hero’s(ish) name and iconography lends a dark tone to the villains of this place as the Punisher gang run riot (even if the Punisher isn’t classically heroic himself). The sequence that depicts Emma arriving in town and subsequently crashing her car, all from her point of view, is a wonderful device that really captures the frantic and confusing nature of the moment. After some smart, and funny, dialogue Emma’s fate is revealed – she was injured by the Punishers and is near death. This entire sequence is an effective way to frame Logan’s next adventure, he is going to go over the wall to find out what is really going on out there because everything he knew on this side is either dead or lost. His history is gone now, but that little Hulk baby might have a future, and Logan is going to do everything he can to make sure it’s a safe one.
The art and colouring, from Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo respectively, are impressive throughout the book capturing the dark atmosphere of the oppressive Daredevils club, their blood soaked punishment, the rich dust swept wilderness, and the immensity of Doom’s wall with equal nuance and brilliance. The opening scenes are particularly striking in both choreography (the non-contiguous panels lending an immediate visual impact to the various dismemberments taking place) and colouring (everything is suddenly, but not overpoweringly, black and white and red (with it’s obvious connotations of blood, as well as of Daredevil’s outfit). When Logan heads out into the dust bowl the temperature and atmosphere of the book completely changes – gone are the oppressive city streets and bleak surroundings, and in their place are epic vistas, wide open spaces, and innumerable beautiful shades of orange and brown.
The danger of the Secret Wars tie in books was always going to be that they must be the servants of two masters; on the one hand they represent a chance to revisit popular worlds and characters that have long since faded from view, but on the other they have to lead into a cohesive line wide event that pitches all those characters against one another. This book manages that balance brilliantly with enough Logan going about his vengeful business, enough brutality and action, enough further exploration of this world delivered alongside the hints of a wider and even more epic story unfolding in the heavens. Bendis and his art team are having fun utilising the tropes of classic westerns and mixing in some dark almost Dredd-esque urban gang warfare – yes it is violent and excessive, but it is all in service of an interesting story and a compelling protagonist. This is a tie in book that so far stands on it’s own, and I can’t wait to see where Old Man Logan goes next.
Old Man Logan #1 // Writer – Brian Michael Bendis / Artist – Andrea Sorrentino / Colourist – Marcelo Maiolo // Marvel
Notes and Observations:
- I’m assuming Danielle Cage has inherited her father’s powers, otherwise a Hulk baby throwing a tantrum could be a very painful problem!
- The other franchise that this world reminds of is Mad Max of course, with a similarly rich visual palette drawn out of what could have become a monotone nightmare.
- Logan leaves his horse at a gas station whilst he has a little beer break; it’s a fun little visual.
- I’ve got a lot of questions about that Ultron head and I’m very much looking forward to finding out what on Earth is going on!
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