Among the Secret Wars spin-offs this week is a revisitation of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s 2008 semi-classic, Old Man Logan, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and art/color team of Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo. Picking up the story of the once-and-future Wolverine, the new take straddles the fine line between sequel and “inspired-by” relaunch. Although still operating in the larger post-apocalyptic “Western drifter” genre, the “revenge flick” motives of the original are replaced with a central mystery. The premise is clearly spelled out but the debut suffers many moments of narrative confusion.
As bold and striking as the panels may be on an individual basis, they don’t always firmly establish a scene. The opening page is a prime example- featuring tight shots of hands and facial close-ups with much of the dialogue originating off-panel. By the time the reader has a sense of who the characters are and how many they number, all hell breaks loose. Keeping things claustrophobic and off-balance may be the desired effect to accentuate the spring into action but it’s disorienting all the same.
There’s also a further instance of the monochromatic color wash blurring fine delineation as Logan gets pushed through a window, his duster melding into the debris. Additionally, the “all-caps” sound effects etched into various backgrounds are muted as intended punctuation, oftimes being obscured by art and difficult to properly discern/pronounce. Back-to-back pages of staggered snapshots from the same fight also deceptively pose as a double-page layout. Thankfully, the “Guided View” option on digital platforms leads the proper course.
These bullet points of infraction may seem harsh but this series is predicated on being tough as nails. The hiccups aside, it’s still gloriously brutal and full of visceral charge. However, for the reasons listed, the reading experience is not as dramatic or engaging as it could be. The creators have worked together before and to better results (the All-New X-Men chapters of the recent “Black Vortex” crossover). Granted, this is a project of larger profile- perhaps it’s just a case of “opening night jitters”.
In its favor, Bendis truly owns the bleak “Wastelands” he’s inherited. His time as X-book lead serves him well but he also intermingles other “greatest hits” elements from his considerable personal catalog. At the base of the new series, there’s the totemic callback of Ultron’s head from his 2011 Moon Knight series with Alex Maleev. Apparently one just falls out of the sky and it doesn’t match with any known model in Logan’s domestic Marvel Handbook. What does that mean? Well, that is just what OML intends to find out. It’s really sounds quite simplistic breaking it down that way but this incident opens up a can of pursuing inquiry from which no hero on a redemptive life-quest can back down.
Fortunately, Bendis balances this adventure with an adult iteration of Danielle Cage in the support role. Odds better than even that the young woman has some version of unseen super-empowerment in this scenario, this is a definite improvement from the terminally vulnerable homestead feel of the previous volume. Plus, Hulk Baby equals unlimited cute plus smash.
So far, Old Man Logan operates mainly on semi-recent nostalgia- which is not necessarily a bad thing. Rather than glad-handing as winking homage, it commands as an heir apparent. There’s a few missteps in the opening salvo but the long-game seems promising. Fundamentally, there is something compelling about an even-older, even-more-grizzled Wolverine that’s seen so much he needs to pack it in. Until the day the world unpacks it for him. Those two sentences sell the whole thing- just plug in the talent. Bendis and company are the right call but can still tighten up. It’s unapologetically a savage “art comic” but the time-honored “hero’s adventure” truisms at its core are undeniable. Best of all, the actual politics and drapings of Battleworld are an after-thought gravy that you can take or leave (or have on the side). Long live the Old Man!