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Apr 6

Old Man Logan #16-20 – “Return to the Wastelands”/”Gone Real Bad”

Posted on Thursday, April 6, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

I’ve been taking stuff out of order so as to get the X-Men titles up to date for the relaunch.  So it’s time to go back and pick up on the Wolverine books.  “Return to the Wastelands” is a curious three-parter.  At root, it has one very simple job to do, but it takes a strange route to get there.

The story opens with Logan waking up back in the Wastelands, the post-apocalyptic future he left behind.  For the first two issues, it cuts back and forth between two plot.  In the Wastelands, Logan returns to check up on the Hulk baby – Bruce Banner’s grandson – whom he left behind with Danielle Cage.  Of course, somebody has wandered off with the baby, and it turns out to be Kang.  Ostensibly thanks to Kang’s time distortion, the baby has now grown up to become an evil adult Hulk called the Warlord.

In amongst this, we have flashbacks to Logan being sent to a space station to answer a distress call from Alpha Flight.  The space station is overrun with the Brood and Logan is meant to be helping to liberate the place.  You know the routine.

As it turns out, after a while the other X-Men followed Logan to the space station to provide reinforcements.   Jean promptly got taken over by one of the Brood and she’s using her psi-powers to make him see bad things.  So he’s not in the Wastelands after all.  Part three then plays out in a vaguely trippy way with Logan having hallucinations, largely focussed on the Hulk baby, in between trying to free Jean from the Brood by just cutting off the thing on the back of her neck.  He wins.  The upshot of all this is that Logan now feels worried about leaving the baby behind in the Wastelands, and he decides he needs to find a way back, if only to retrieve the kid.

That’s the simple job that I mentioned at the start.  It gives Logan a quest for the next arc – get back to the Wastelands, and in the first instance, find somebody willing to help with that.  But boy, it takes a roundabout way to get there, and a seemingly pointless one.  All the stuff with the Brood seems to be just an excuse to bring about the hallucinations; all the stuff about Kang stealing the baby seems to have no purpose except to allow the baby to show up as an adult without getting too trippy too soon.  Beyond that, is there any real point to all this?

My best guess is that it’s trying to remind us of some points that might be significant to the bigger picture.  Perhaps it’s intended just as a way to keep the Wastelands in play as a major plot element, without actually going there.  At some point we all know that the real Wolverine is going to come back and Old Man Logan will be politely packed off somewhere.  Maybe he dies a heroic death, but that’s going to ring a bit hollow if another version of the same character is coming back from the dead at the same time.  So heroically sacrificing himself by returning to the Wastelands to look after the kid… sure.  That’s an ending of sorts.

In the short term, though, it’s a lot of running around to no great effect.  I don’t much care for the Wastelands anyway – but like a lot of Mark Millar concepts, it’s cranked up to an insane degree, and so there’s a bit of a clash when you place it alongside the hangdog, elegiac tone that this book often seems to be going for.  When artist Andrea Sorrentino goes over the top, it’s not so much by leaning into the melodrama as by going for unusual, striking images, so that you have lots of little elements of a Kang panel superimposed over a Brood fight, pages made up of broken shards, or a double page spread of Jean single-handedly defeating the Brood which is suffused in red.  It’s memorable, but aesthetically it feels to me like it wants to be taken very very seriously, while the Wastelands concept is very very silly.  Sorrentino wants to do visual bravura, and the extended dream scene is a way of letting him do that, but ultimately, does this story really have the content to justify the fireworks that Sorrentino is throwing at it?  I’d say no.

“Gone Real Bad” works rather better, perhaps because it’s drawn by Filipe Andrade, whose art is more direct and exaggerated.  Marvel’s attitude to artists is strange these days – they’re certainly not pressing artists to work in a house style, but instead we’re getting the other extreme where very different artists are treated as interchangeable and the jarring style shifts are just something we’re supposed to ignore.  Sorrentino is meant to be the lead artist on this book, and if that’s the style you’re going for, then Andrade is a weird choice to alternate with him.  But for me, Andrade’s cartooning has a tone that works much better for a series about a post-apocalyptic Wolverine.

These two issues consist of Logan first trying to get the magicians and scientists of the Marvel Universe to fix him up with some time travel.  Everyone refuses on the grounds that this is a very bad idea, and so he resorts to breaking Asmodeus out of prison – a minor Avengers villain who once managed to briefly send Hawkeye and Wonder Man back to the past.  Or that’s what the story says, anyway.  I’ve never heard of him, but he’s identified as Charlie Benton, in which case he’s a minor Dr Strange villain from the late 60s (and he’s meant to be dead).  Still, none of this really matters for present purposes; as far as this story is concerned, the important bit is that he’s a Z-lister who might nonetheless be willing and able to do what Logan needs.  That leads to some quite funny scenes where Asmodeus has to take Logan to his collection of mystical artefacts, which he keeps in a lock-up because he can’t afford a mansion.  It’s difficult to imagine that working with Sorrentino.

Of course, you’d have to be an idiot to trust a minor supervillain to send you through time, and by all appearances, Logan in this story is exactly that stupid.  Fortunately, it looks like we’re not actually getting a storyline about returning to the Wastelands, but instead a trip through other parts of Wolverine’s personal history, which could be a bit more fun.

A mixed bag of issues, but at least we’ve got a clear direction taking shape, which has long been the book’s biggest weakness.

Bring on the comments

  1. ChrisV says:

    It was weird seeing this Asmodeus guy brought in to the story, and then being, seemingly, given a completely different back-story.
    I vaguely recall him showing up during the late-’60s Roy Thomas run on Dr. Strange as an acolyte of the Satannish cult.
    Based on MarvUnApp’s website, those issues seem to be his only prior appearances…so why this made up history?

  2. Luis Dantas says:

    I feel fairly certain that there was no published story where this Asmodeus met Wonder Man. This may be a deliberate indication that the past has been changed retroactively.

  3. Paul says:

    Certainly possible – this is a time travel story so perhaps it turns out to be a closed loop. If Marvel were more reliable in terms of getting their continuity correct then I’d probably assume that was the explanation but unfortunately that hasn’t been the case for some time.

  4. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I have two issues with Old Man Logan at the moment. One is very specific – the last scene of OML#20 shows Logan surrounded by soldiers in what looks like Napoleonic-era uniforms. The ‘to be continued’ caption directly mentions the War of 1812. According to wikipedia and my hazy memories of ‘Origin’, Logan was born in the 1880s.

    So… what? Lemire just made him a hundred years older? There’s another Brood-infested telepath at work and what we’re seeing isn’t really happening? Asmodeus sent Logan’s consciousness not his body in the past, but to the body of his father, Groundskeeper Logan from ‘Origin’? I mean, I can no-prize it away, but I’m just confused as to whether I’m meant to. Is it intentionally confusing, or did Lemire not pay any bit of attention?

    My second issue is much more general. Everybody seems to forget that the original story already had a mostly happy ending in the pages of Millar’s Fantastic Four. Old Man Logan became a superhero again (The Hooded Man), together with Bruce Banner Jr they formed/joined the Defenders, superheroes became a thing again, and then a lot of other stuff happened.

    So whilst I know that the Battleworld Old Man Logan technically isn’t the same character as Millar’s Old Man Logan… We’ve already seen a redeemed Old Man Logan.

  5. Si says:

    I think at some point Logan is going to be de-aged. Maybe his super-healing kicks in for some reason, or whatever. Then he re-assumes the mantle of Wolverine. That way Marvel has its cake and eats it too.

  6. Brendan says:

    I can’t see Marvel having a problem with Old Man Logan and ‘normal’ Logan kicking around in the same continuity. They live in a world where everyone is an Avenger and legacy characters share their Super Hero names with their predecessors. Thors, Hulks, Captain Americas and Spider-men everywhere! It would even help ‘justify’ having a Logan on every team! Unfortunately, there seems to be little room for a X-23-Wolverine in the franchise.

  7. The original Matt says:

    De-aged… Hmmm… Speaking of which, whatever happen to the character that de-aged magneto? (Alpha, was it?)

  8. Voord 99 says:

    Brendan: I can’t see Marvel having a problem with Old Man Logan and ‘normal’ Logan kicking around in the same continuity

    I think that’s true for right now, but, unfortunately, I suspect there will at some point be a backlash against it. At some point, someone will rise to power who thinks that it’s “too confusing” to have multiple Spider-Men.

    It’s not exactly the same, obviously, but look at how DC was OK for years with having Wally West, Kyle Rayner, and Connor Hawke as successors. And then they (mostly Johns) bring back the “classic” characters. And then, inexorably, the new ones are pushed into the background.

    There’s always someone who thinks that the most important thing to do with superheroes is to restore the “classic” setup. And at the moment there’s also the pressure to make things like the movies and TV shows. Which has at least gotten us some new SHIELD agents with distinct personalities.

    But I’m more optimistic than you are about the prospects for seeing more stories with Laura in upcoming months, because, you know, recent successful film.

  9. Zoomy says:

    Alpha the Ultimate Mutant was pretty much never seen again after his first appearance – just a cameo in a Quasar story, much later. Probably a good thing, we don’t need another character who can do anything hanging around, but it’s kind of strange nobody ever wanted to write about him…

  10. Michael Keloisim says:

    https://comicvine.gamespot.com/x-men/4060-3173/forums/hidden-conservative-islamic-message-in-x-men-gold-1869455/
    Marvel artist inserts anti-Christian/Jewish propaganda into X-Men Gold #1

  11. ChrisV says:

    Ironic then, that Syaf was working together with a Jewish man (Guggenheim*)! Sort of makes the verse an ironic statement….

    *No idea if he’s religious or not though.

    Remember when that really horrible anti-Semitic slur was accidentally penciled in to that issue of Dezago’s Wolverine?
    I believe the unedited version ended up as something of a collector’s item…

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