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Jun 5

Old Man Logan #21-24 – “Past Lives”

Posted on Monday, June 5, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

Coming a little late to the relaunch party, this is Jeff Lemire’s final arc on Old Man Logan before handing over to Ed Brisson.  It’s a bid for closure.

Like All-New X-MenOld Man Logan feels like a short-run concept, a second (or third) Wolverine while the real one is out of commission selling his death.  Played that way, the natural ending would be pretty obvious: having found peace in the present, Logan heroically returns home to protect his loved ones anyway.  Or some such thing.  But Old Man Logan is selling pretty well by Marvel’s current standards, and it isn’t going away any time soon.

That points towards the other ending, where Logan makes his peace with staying in the present.  It would be a fairly obvious ending too, except  that you’d usually want to clear the way for the original Logan to come back.  If that’s not a consideration, then you’re left to draw a line under old Logan’s past.

That’s basically what we have here.  Lemire even helpfully spells it out in a closing monologue; throughout his run, Logan has been wavering back and forth between accepting his second chance and dwelling on his past, and now he’s able to move on.  The device to get us there is a time-travel jaunt through Logan’s personal history, which was set up in the previous two-parter.

The idea here is that Logan wanted to get back home in order to take care of that Hulk baby he rescued at the end of the Millar story, in case he grew up to become something terrible.  So he roped in a minor magical supervillain, Asmodeus, to send him there.  Asmodeus predictably double-crosses Logan, leading to an episodic set-up where Logan re-lives events from his own past with the addition of a magical amulet, which he has to grab in order to jump on to the next stage.  It’s apparently intended as a jaunt through this history of the character – the War of 1812, the Weapon X project, his debut appearance against the Hulk, the Dark Phoenix Saga, Japan, Madripoor, and a 90s X-Men baseball game before we get to the Wastelands.  Meanwhile, in the present, Asmodeus is trying to auction off Logan’s body, which is far and away the most impressive thing he’s ever had access to.

That’s just plot mechanics, though, and there are oddities here which never go anywhere.  As I mentioned before, Asmodeus is meant to be dead, though I suppose you can always hand-wave that away where villains are concerned.  More fundamentally, Logan isn’t meant to be old enough to have fought in the War of 1812 – the miniseries Origin has him as a child in the late 19th century.  Conceivably, this might be deliberate, and intended to establish that this Logan is not in fact a potential future version of ours – but if so, nothing comes of it.  It feels like just a massive blunder, and at the very least it doesn’t fit the broader theme of repeating the development of his published history.

(Or at least the iconic bits.  The timeline jumps straight from 1991 to Old Man Logan.  I suppose they could have done the bit where he lost his adamantium to Magneto in X-Men #25…)

When it finally gets to the Wastelands, it’s pretty good.  Getting there is a bit of a slog.  Nothing in particular actually happens in the earlier segments.  Instead, their function is to establish the ground rules and the formula so that Lemire can subvert it when he gets to the Wastelands.  But that still means three issues of jump, jump, jump.

Artist Eric Nguyen is an interesting choice for this; there’s something a bit stylised and brittle about his work, but it can accommodate all the various flashback sequences without having to actually mimic their style, and it seems at home in the final issue.  Given that it’s the wrap-up, ideally you’d have Andrea Sorrentino here to maintain the book’s tone.  But while Nguyen doesn’t go for the same formal fireworks, there’s something of the same melancholy here, at least when there needs to be.

So, Logan does eventually make it back to the Wastelands, but at a point in time before his family died.  At which, he simply abandons the idea of going to rescue Banner’s kid and decides he’s just going to stay and be with his family again.  Ultimately, of course, he does go home, after realising that he literally can’t act to change history.  That means that if he stays, all he can do is hang around to watch his family get killed again.  In that sense, it’s not much of a choice.  But that’s not really the point.  The point of this is to have Logan come to terms with the idea of returning to the present, and to give him an opportunity to say goodbye to his family properly.  It’s hokey, but it sells that idea rather well.

Old Man Logan has been a meandering book, and not an altogether satisfying one; it often scores on atmosphere but seemed to lack direction.  “Past Lives” goes some way towards trying to turn its circularity into a strength by playing up the idea that Logan wasn’t able to move on; if he’s going to stick around for the foreseeable future, or even potentially replace the original Wolverine for good, then it’s probably time to downplay the Wastelands and focus on what he’s doing here and now.  But then the question is why you’re not just using the original, or what makes him different.  That’s what the incoming creative team have to figure out.

Bring on the comments

  1. Jerry Ray says:

    I think I agree with the sentiment in your closing paragraph – what’s the point of Old Man Logan as a character. For all intents and purposes, he’s just Wolverine but worse. Sort of like Old Man Captain America from a couple of years back. It gives the sense that nothing done with this character “counts” because he’s not the real Wolverine anyway (a la Clone Saga Spider-Man), so why not just have the original back?

  2. Loz says:

    I’m assuming that in a short while they’ll supercharge Old Man Logan’s healing factor which will youth him somewhat, and then maybe a dream sequence where he meets the spirit of original Logan and some sort of tedious soul-merging nonsense and there’s your original Logan back.

  3. Niall says:

    Old Man Logan exists because of the movie, the fact they wanted a sales surge from the event and that they thought they could get more people into X-23 if they called her Wolverine.

    The plan has always been to bring back regular Logan by mini-event with accompanied sales surge and then have 2/3 Wolverine titles depending on how well Old Man Logan and Laura do in their sales. They’ve also got Ultimate Wolverine V2 knocking about.

    Old Man Logan is in terms of personality and power levels if not appearance, what Wolverine should be. He’s old and jaded but still capable of extreme violence when he loses his temper. I’m really not sure what his role is if regular Logan returns. Perhaps he goes off to lead a bunch of the young ones.

  4. SanityOrMadness says:

    Well, that’s it – what at this point distinguishes this guy from Classic Wolverine? White hair and a few extra lines on his face, and that’s pretty much it.

    [Seriously, I read Weapon X #1 (didn’t bother past that). for an example, and there was no single action or line of dialogue to set him apart. He even chops a big chunk of his flesh off as a decoy, and there’s no consequences to him at all from that – even his healing factor is apparently A1]

    Of course, Wolverine is possibly the worst character going to do an Old Man version of, since being old is *already* one of his defining traits. There’s no shade there to play off of, especially if you’re not even going to say he’s slowed down with further age.

  5. Voord 99 says:

    Niall: Old Man Logan exists because of the movie, the fact they wanted a sales surge from the event and that they thought they could get more people into X-23 if they called her Wolverine.

    I think I’d add to that that he’s probably also there in an attempt to defuse potential backlash against Laura Kinney by saying “Here, we do have *a* Logan, who’s pretty like the one you want, right?”

    Note: I am not among the people (are there any?) who pine for the original Logan, and I think Laura as Wolverine has been a success. As far as I’m concerned, she should stay Wolverine indefinitely, and Logan should be left in the background as one of those dead characters who serve as a point of reference for current ones, like Mar-Vell is and Barry Allen should have stayed.

    But I bet someone at Marvel was nervous and thought that there would be readers of a certain stripe who would reject a female Wolverine, and wanted a male one around that “sort of” resembled the original, just in case.

  6. Voord 99 says:

    On the War of 1812: I’m assuming that Logan fought on the British side?

    Jeff Lemire is Canadian, of course, and has shown interest in exploring Canadian identity elsewhere in his work.

    My understanding is (although I’m not Canadian and this may be completely misguided – people from the world’s second-largest country should feel free to chime in and correct me) that the War of 1812 is more prominent in Canadian collective memory than it is in either British or American memory. Not that it’s an enormous deal, any more than something like Waterloo is for the average British person. But a Canadian is less likely to go “Hang on, which war was that again?” than the average British or American person is. And I think that the war did play a role in the development of Canadian national identity that historians consider significant.

    If Lemire is exploring any of that stuff, I might forgive him the historical retcon (Origin is not, for me, a sacred text :)) One of the very few things that hasn’t been done enough with Logan is exploring his Canadianness and his relationship to specifically Canadian history.

  7. Honestly, as a Canadian, usually when I hear about the war of 1812, it tends to be when an American brings it up, and they emphasize it as a battle against the British rather than Canada. (to be fair, that is historically accurate, since we became a country in 1867, which is something I totally already knew as a patriotic Canadian and didn’t have to google.)

    The most interesting thing about the war to me is how differently it’s interpreted depending on which of the border you’re on. I’ve heard Americans describe it as a battle they won against the British, and Canadians describe it as a battle they won against the US.

  8. As noted on Canada’s own ‘History Bites,’ the War of 1812 was like the opposite of Vietnam, where the US won every major battle yet lost the war; in the War of 1812 they lost almost every major battle, yet won the war.

    (Americans usually tell me they won the war because they won the Battle of New Orleans – after the war was supposed to have ended)

  9. Voord 99 says:

    It’s basically how you define “victory.” But, basically, America was allied to Napoleon. It’s not really separate from the war against France. Napoleon lost, and the war ended with, as far as US and Britain were concerned, a status quo ante peace. The main issue that it started over, Britain’s naval blockade as part of the war against France (especially stuff like impressing American sailors), ceased to be relevant.

    But the US absolutely didn’t succeed in getting Britain to concede anything, and since they joined the war with the goal of extracting concessions (whereas Britain was simply pursuing overall victory in the war against Napoleon), I think that, if it matters (which it really doesn’t), it’s fair to call it an inconsequential and technical defeat for the US. Americans like to emphasize the Battle of New Orleans, but that happened after the war in Europe had already ended, just before the news had recently- it affected absolutely nothing.

  10. Rob says:

    Has no one considered that by Marvel’s sliding timeline, the War of 1812 actually occurred in the 20th Century of the Marvel Universe?

  11. SanityOrMadness says:

    The sliding timeline only starts in the late-50s/early-60s. It’s like the mid-Atlantic Ridge – new Time is constantly bubbling up as the old Time is pulled apart at the seam.

  12. Joseph says:

    I’m left feeling pretty meh about this run. I always looked forward to reading it, and I especially look forward to Sorrentino’s formal experimentation, which it seems is increasingly being ripped off in less successful derivatives by other artists. But just like Bendis’ Secret Wars mini, Lemire just seemed to just be running on momemtum. There are some really nice character moments, but these are few and far between.

    That said, I agree with Niall. Logan works as a grumpy old guy and it was long passed time they dialed back his healing factor. If nothing else, this trip through time in Lemire’s concluding arc serves precisely to underline that this is the same Logan everyone knows, just from a future that may or may not come to pass.

    And as Paul has said time and time again, the Wolverine series starring Laura/X-23 is fantastic, much better than any other recent Wolverine title and certainly better than most x-books in general for the last long while.

  13. Taibak says:

    Voord: I wouldn’t say the U.S. allied with Napoleon, as much as Britain was trying to fight both of them at the same time. The British did pull out of some forts on American soil, largely so they could get the Yanks to stop bothering them so they could go deal with real problems.

    That said, are there really stories that can be done with Wolverine exploring his Canadian identity? It may be larger in my mind than most, but the first Wolverine stories I ever read had him going to the Canadian Rockies and reconnecting with Silver Fox, so it seems like that’s already been covered. By the same token, the Marvel version of the Canadian government as the sinister masterminds behind Weapon X and Department H has never really seemed like all that strong of a concept.

  14. jpw says:

    @Voord – America was never allied with Napoleon. It’s true that the War of 1812 coincided with the latter phase of the Napoleonic Wars, and its origins were related to such, but it was a completely separate affair driven largely by border issues (Ohio and Canada) and British impressment of American sailors. It’s true that the Jefferson and Madison administrations were more sympathetic to the French than the pro-British Adams administration, but the U.S. was neutral in that conflict.

    The U.S. performed disastrously throughout, with Washington, DC, even getting burned to the ground, but had two major victories: the Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of New Orleans.

    The Battle of New Orleans is remembered rather romantically because of the long odds and the characters involved (Jackson, Jean LaFittee), but is more significant in that it propelled Andrew Jackson to national prominence and the victory there (along with the Hartford Convention) effectively destroyed the Federalist Party as a national influence. The battle itself, however, took place after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War.

    And the war itself was a huge exercise in futility and mindless expenditure of blood and treasure, since the Treaty of Ghent more or less restored things to the status quo ante, with no concessions from the British.

    Umm….anyway, yeah, still not even remotely interested in Old Man Logan, and 616 Logan definitely never fought in the War of 1812 because, as Paul states, he was born decades later.

  15. Nathan P. Mahney says:

    Should we assume than that Logan’s involvemeng in the 1812 war was yet another time travel adventure? Meaning that Old Man Logan time travelled into a time-travelling Logan?

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