Friday, January 1, 2010

Friday Book Review: Old Man Logan

At some point you would have to think that there are no more Wolverine stories to tell. The character has been in constant publication since his inception in 1974 not to mention the X-Men movie series and any number of animated tv shows. Currently Wolverine appears in at least five monthly comic books and guest stars in numerous others.

It is this overwhelming baggage that writer Mark Millar immediately jettisons in Wolverine: Old Man Logan. In this book we see Wolverine fifty years after some climatic event in which the worlds super villains banded together to eradicate the worlds super heroes paving the way for their rule of the USA. He is now a retired from the super hero business and living as a pacifist with his wife and two children. He hasn't fought since the villains did a number on him back during the culling of the heroes fifty years ago.

It is at this point that I have to stop to point out the two points of inspiration that this book draws from. Firstly, Millar is borrowing from himself when he takes a number of bits from his Wanted story. Both books are set post the take over of the world by super villains and both books are ultra-violent. Which makes me appreciate the irony of the situation as the main character is a pacifist.

Secondly, there is a thematic comparison between Old Man Logan and Frank Miller's, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. As both books deal with iconic characters coming out of retirement. However this book is nowhere near as good as the The Dark Knight Returns.

The plot of this book involves Logan (i.e. Wolverine) working on his farm to provide for the meager needs of his family. Sadly, the farm is falling behind on it's payments to the Hulk Gang. This leads to Logan taking a job to drive/ride shotgun for the now blind archer Hawkeye as he delivers a package. This will require the duo to drive cross country and cut through territories ruled by the Hulk Gang, the Kingpin, Dr. Doom and the President. Of course on the trip across country, hilarity ensues!

The trip across country unfolds like a typical movie plot with the two odd leads acting as the mis-matched couple. One a pacifist the other a potential drug runner. Sadly, the plot is not very exciting and it involves moving the protagonists from set piece to set piece. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if this was originally a movie script that Millar repositioned into a comic book by adding the trappings of the Marvel Universe.

The only two questions going into this book are what happened to Wolverine fifty years ago to make him into a pacifist. I won't ruin the reveal here but I found it to be unsatisfying. Millar tricks the reader into not thinking about incredibly unlikely the situation is as the deed itself is so overwhelmingly horrific. The other question is when will Logan give up his pacifist ways and embrace the Wolverine identity again. This isn't much of a mystery as you know from page one that it is going to happen.

The one thing I really liked in this book was Steve McNiven's art. The book has a very wide screen cinematic look. McNiven gets to imagine the Marvel Universe in the near future which allows him to play with the look of heroes and villains.

Unfortunately, McNiven's art can't save the shoddy writing in this book. The story is very predictable and in the end I have to pants this book. Maybe I've just grown immune to Millar's writing style which is a continual one upping of the violence level to absurd levels.


Ryan S. said...

I'd not read this book, but it sounds very much as I'd expected it. But after Dark Knight, including a disabled archer as the hero's touchstone to his old life?

Wow. The stones on Millar.

Also, the "pacifist farmer" bit sounds lifted from "Kingdom Come", but much more likely "Unforgiven", which he may hope his audience is too young to remember.

Oh, well.

Simon Mac Donald said...

Poof! You just blew my mind. I never made the disabled archer connection until I read it in your comment. Good pick up on that.

I'm seriously thinking about entering the 30 second recap contest on the ISB with some crappy crayon drawings from Old Man Logan. I think it could be a winner.