"Old Man Logan - Part One"
Inks: Dexter Vine
Colored by: Morry Hollowell
This is another comic Sean's Kick Ass review inspired me to pick up, in that I thought I should follow-up trying out a John Romita Jr. comic with trying out a Mark Millar comic. And I chose this particular Mark Millar for a couple of reasons:
1. I like the idea of reading a Road Warrior homage with Wolverine and other Marvel characters.
2. This story-arc looks like it stands apart from anything else going on in Marvel comics right now or what was going on in Wolverine prior to this.
3. I'm not usually a fan of Steve McNiven's work, but I flipped through the book I liked what I saw.
What struck me about the Slott/Romita Amazing Spider-Man issue that I read was that it seemed to me to be an example of the kind of book that various people on the internet claim doesn't exist: a straight-forward story about a major, franchise hero that builds on the character's core elements instead of on details drawn from the publisher's shared-world continuity.
This comic seems to be much closer to standard, contemporary super-hero fare. While the Slott/Romita Amazing Spider-Man should appeal to anyone who is interested in a Spider-Man story, this issue of Wolverine is aimed at people who have some knowledge of and/or investment in the Marvel U. A basic indicator of the difference: Wolverine doesn't show up in a costume and even his out-of-costume look here doesn't match up with his look in other comics or in the X-Men movies. A slightly less basic indicator: this story isn't building on Wolverine's "core elements", but instead is playing a "what if" game with those elements. Not only that, but there's a second layer to all of this: at this point, doing "future histories" of Wolverine has become a tradition in its own right. So Millar isn't just relying on our knowledge of the Marvel U: he's also playing around with references to other "what if" stories about Wolverine in the future.
The concept here is that we're in a 1980's-style post-apocalyptic future, where supervillains have beaten all the heroes and carved up the U.S.A. into their own kingdoms. Logan has given up being a hero, has a family, and is trying to eak out a living as a farmer, although it looks like some kind of ecological disaster has made that nearly impossible.
As I said back in reason #1, I like this idea. To drop the calm, collected voice I like to use here favor of the kind of AICN-style fanboy gushing I try to suppress: I think this idea is wicked cool. Wolverine is the perfect character to drop in the middle of Road Warrior pastiche.
A lot of the pleasure with this type of story has to do with seeing how my favorite characters are used.
Hawkeye shows up as an aging counter-culture-type (I kept thinking of Peter Fonda), who, though blind, still insists on driving his car himself. I like this take, even though it owes a lot to Frank Miller's Green Arrow from The Dark Knight Returns. Actually, in this instance, I like it partially because it is derivative.
As an observation, I think it's accurate to say that this is for relatively hardcore fans: people who already care about lots of little details and who will recognize all the layers of references. Given that, I think this is a nicely done super-hero comic and the story seems to have some potential.
Finally, a quick note on Steve McNiven's art:
One of the good things about the "what if" set-up here is that it frees McNiven from drawing a lot dudes-in-tights standing around talking, which is something that very few super-hero artists are able to pull off well. Instead, the concept frees him to do some effective sci-fi/action movie action. I especially like his redneck Hulks.
I should point out that from a sci-fi perspective there seem to be a lot of world building holes. I couldn't quite figure out how this post-apocalyptic economy is supposed to work (although I could say the same thing about our actual hopefully-extremely-pre-apocalyptic economy).
Bonus Question: do these kinds of "Imaginary Story"/Elseworlds-style stories have a name? They aren't completely unique to comics, but they are a pretty strange beast.