I really didn’t like the first issue of “Old Man Logan.” Sure, Steve McNiven’s art was amazing — maybe his best work ever — but Millar’s awkward retelling of “Unforgiven” in a hazy future of the Marvel Universe was grating and silly. It was all high-concept and no substance.
But part two was better, as the blind Hawkeye and the elderly Logan trekked through the wasteland on their journey.
And part three, in “Wolverine” #68, is better yet.
I’m glad I stuck with this series even after the disappointing start, because this is shaping up to be an unexpectedly fun ride.
“Old Man Logan” is still almost insufferably high-concept: Logan is Clint Eastwood in a bleak Marvel future where neither law nor order reign, and only scattered supervillain fiefdoms keep the remaining citizens in line. But now that Millar and McNiven have explored more of this world, they’ve won me over with the little details. The high concept is ridiculous on its surface — it’s just a Marvel version of an “Elseworlds” story, really, distancing the characters so much from their origins that they bear almost no resemblance to their namesakes. It’s a “What If?” story, where the “Whats” and the “Ifs” go so far that they become meaningless. “What if Wolverine were really old? And never used his powers? And, oh, Hawkeye? He’s blind. Just. . . because. And he drives the Spidey-Mobile. And he had a kid with one of Spider-Man’s daughters. Plus, the Kingpin’s a black guy with a lot of bling now. And, yeah, Hawkeye uses a sword. And his daughter is a kind of superhero now.” And so on. It’s a bit excessive, but Millar and McNiven don’t seem to mind, and they do their best to sell the reality of this world to the reader.
So the charm of this series has to do with embracing the absurdity of the scenario — not that most superhero comics are less absurd, it’s just that most other ones seem so familiar from page to page. Once you allow for a blind Hawkeye driving a Spidey-Mobile, planning to bust his superhero daughter out of the Kingpin’s holding tank — well, you can probably enjoy anything. But you can definitely enjoy this, because McNiven adds so much texture (literally and figuratively) to the future Marvel Universe, and Millar knows precisely how to hit all the right beats. Beats that don’t treat superheroes as objects of worship and adoration.
Beats that involve future Daredevil and future Punisher chained to a post as the velociraptors strike.
But this is a comic with “Wolverine” in the title, and I’ve barely mentioned him at all. That’s because Wolverine is literally just along for the ride here. He’s a passive witness to he atrocities of the future. He’s a man who has taken a monk-like vow of non-violence. But as the final page of this issue indicates, the old Wolverine may have to make a comeback, and soon.
I mentioned last month that this comic is worth buying just for McNiven’s art, and it is, but it’s also developed into a story worth reading. It’s a crazed story of a nonsensical future that’s becoming more absurdly fun each month.