Monday, October 20, 2008

Wolverine #66 by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

"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.

1 comment:

James said...

I agree these things need to have a name. They're sort of like DC's old "Imaginary Tales" from the 1950's, where the creative team gets to break away from preserving the status quo for a bit to do something interesting with the characters that usually will have no lasting impact.

It's unlike an "Elseworld" or "What If?" though because there's no counterfactual assumption that revises known continuity. (In my classification scheme, "What if Superman and Lois Lane got married?" would be an Imaginary Tale, but "What if Superman landed on Mars instead?" would be an Elseworld.)

Much rarer is the World That's Coming story, where the readers get a story of the supposedly official "future continuity," and the creative team takes the story seriously in later efforts. Probably the best of these is the "Days of Futures Past" storyline in Uncanny X-Men, where we get to see the long-promised mutant holocaust, which adds the necessary tragedy and grandeur to what the X-Men are trying to do. Between "Days of Futures Past," "Age of Apocalypse," and Morrison's "Here Comes Tomorrow," there's sort of a cottage industry of this kind of thing in the X-titles.