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Feb 26

Old Man Logan #31-35: “Scarlet Samurai” / “Moon Over Madripoor”

Posted on Monday, February 26, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

In theory, the idea of the Legacy arcs is supposed to be to do something calling back to past continuity.  In practice, some books do that so often anyway, that it’s not obvious how to make Legacy any different from normal.  Clearly, that’s a challenge for Ed Brisson on Old Man Logan, writing a series which is about as legacy-driven by default as you could possibly imagine.  Some writers, in this situation, have just responded by shrugging their shoulders and doing a regular story.  Brisson, to his credit, decides to dig up a major element of Wolverine’s mythos that’s been left undisturbed for a very long time.

For some reason these five issues are bannered as two different stories – Mike Deodato draws the first, Ibraim Roberson the second – but by any reasonable standard, this is actually a single five-parter, and sensibly paced at that.

Logan is visiting Japan, because it’s Tuesday, when he stumbles upon some gangsters who turn out to have super regeneration powers.  This is awfully convenient, because they’re also the first baddies in years that Logan has casually maimed on panel.  Good instincts there.  Logan investigates, and discovers that the gang are being supplied with a stolen chemical called Regenix by a corrupt scientist.  That scientist actually works for the Yashida Corporation, currently under the control of the Silver Samurai (the Shingen Harada version, as created by Jason Aaron and Steven Sanders).  Meanwhile, the Yashida Corporation is attacked by Gorgon’s version of the Hand, who (a) also want Regenix to help out their cannon fodder ninjas, and (b) have decided to just plain seize control of the company.  Which they do, with the aid of a new Scarlet Samurai who seemingly kills Shingen.

When Logan keeps investigating, the Hand go after him and the Scarlet Samurai beats him up.  At which point, as you probably guessed a while back, it turns out to be Mariko Yashida, as revived by the Hand’s magic.  She is now a samurai with a magic sword that can cut through adamantium.  Logan escapes and hooks up with Shingen, who turns out to have survived through the plot device magic of nanites, and in the end Logan and Shingen drive off the Hand and use more nanites to free Mariko from Hand control.  For some reason this still leaves her as a kick-ass ninja.  (There’s an odd idea in here that the Hand thought Mariko would somehow give them a “birthright” to the Yashida Corporation, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how Japanese company law works, especially when the undead are involved.)

Shingen is mainly just concerned about getting control of the company back, so he packs Logan and Mariko off to Madripoor to sort out the last batch of stray Regenix that’s still out there.  Which naturally leads to another fight with Gorgon and Mariko in Madripoor.  That’s the “Moon Over Madripoor” bit, but you see my point – it’s just the final act of the same story.

It’s patchy.  Oddly enough, perhaps the best thing about this arc is the use of Shingen Harada.  The original concept of this character was always that he rejected the traditions of Wolverine’s Japanese villains in favour of a brattish corporate cool, and this arc sticks to that idea while dialling back some of the real excesses.  He’s casually murderous and checks his phone while threatening to kill people, but at the same time he’s a plausible temporary ally for Logan because he has no particularly evil agenda beyond preserving his own status.  From his point of view, Regenix isn’t even an evil scheme; it’s a genuine piece of pharmaceutical R&D, which isn’t actually ready for market yet, and which he doesn’t want out there.  Mike Deodato sells all this very nicely, and adds a nice design sense for the corporation’s very non-generic skyscrapers.

Then there’s Mariko.  It’s clear enough that Brisson wants to bring back Mariko but very much doesn’t want to write her the way she was traditionally presented.  Mariko Yashida was created in 1979 and takes as her starting point a stock character of submissive innocence which, let’s be blunt, has not aged well; at best, it worked as a foil for the younger, angrier Wolverine of the time.  Long ago, serious efforts were made to toughen her up, when she wound up having to take over her father’s criminal organisation and was supposedly trying to dismantle it.  But she’s always been defined mainly by how Logan feels about her.

The idea here seems to be a role reversal, where Mariko is suddenly (and for no altogether clear reason) a magnificant swordswoman and fighter.  More to the point, this version of Logan is older and weaker, so we get a story where Mariko is the bigger physical threat, and Gorgon ends up using Logan as a hostage in order to put pressure on her.  That’s a nice idea in theory, but it’s not done with much subtlety – “Scarlet Samurai is owned by no man” – and more fundamentally, there’s not much sense of this actually being the same character.  The link back to earlier versions of the character doesn’t convince, and if it doesn’t feel like her, then the role reversal falls kind of flat.

I can see what this is going for, but it needed some more subtlety to carry it off.  Nice architecture, though.

 

Bring on the comments

  1. Ben Jolley says:

    Paul, you do a great public service by reviewing the superhero comics that I want to read in theory, but in practice I have no legitimate reason to do so. What god damn story could you possibly tell about Mariko Yashida in 2018?? She was barely a character in the Claremont years, more like an excuse for one as part of the plan to turn Logan into Clint Eastwood/James Bond/the six million dollar man/Arnold Schwarzenegger/John Wayne/Bruce Lee, etc. etc.

    Can we next get a Kitty Pryde storyarc that explains how she is simultaneously a mutant, expert hacker, expert ninja, shield agent, guardian of the galaxy, mary sue, and marrying the old friend who probably statutory raped her? Excelsior!

  2. Zoomy says:

    If only there was some middle ground between “nice person” and “kick-ass ninja” for female characters…

  3. Jerry Ray says:

    Everything I can remember about the Peter/Kitty relationship (which I read in real-time as it was published) points to their never having consummated the relationship (to Kitty’s chagrin), all the way up to Logan’s “about time” comment in Whedon’s book.

    What I wonder about coming out of this arc is if any other writers will remember that Old Man Logan now has only bone claws in one of his hands.

  4. Moo says:

    “Everything I can remember about the Peter/Kitty relationship (which I read in real-time as it was published) points to their never having consummated the relationship (to Kitty’s chagrin), all the way up to Logan’s “about time” comment in Whedon’s book.”

    Exactly. Kitty lost her virginity to Warren Elli… I mean Pete Wisdom.

  5. Si says:

    Two Mary Sues going at it. Lucky there was no baby or it might have broken the whole genre …

  6. wwk5d says:

    So we have a Silver Samurai and now a Scarlet Samurai. Maybe Aniko can become the Saffron or Sapphire Samurai.

  7. wwk5d says:

    Sorry, Amiko, not Aniko.

  8. SanityOrMadness says:

    Sure you don’t mean Akiko? :p

  9. Carl says:

    Nah, Kitty lost her virginity to one or several of the jazz musicians–likely adults–she hung out with in the Latin Quarter of Paris following a night of wine drinking to celebrate her 15th birthday, all of this courtesy of Courtney Ross/Saturnyne, as depicted in Excalibur #24.

    OK, strictly speaking the sex isn’t depicted.

  10. Moo says:

    “OK, strictly speaking the sex isn’t depicted.”

    Because there wasn’t any. Her line to Courtney the next day was “I’m so jazzed” not “jizzed”. Also, a preceding panel shows that the sun is only just rising. Kitty says “Morning” to Courtney followed by “I’ve never danced till dawn before.” which was Claremont making it clear that there wasn’t any sex involved and that she was dancing until she met Courtney.

  11. wwk5d says:

    @SanityOrMadness

    Yes, I am sure 😛

  12. Brian says:

    @wwk5d, then they can assign one color Samurai to each color X-Men book!

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