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Apr 30

Weapon X #15-16: “Happy Birthday, Old Man Logan”

Posted on Monday, April 30, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Have I mentioned – I think I may have done once or twice – that I didn’t greatly care for Axis?  You remember Axis.  It was the crossover back in 2014 where people had their moral compass “inverted” so goodies became baddies and vice versa.  And that’s fine as a bit of short-term gimmickry, but Marvel decided to leave some of the characters like that permanently.

So four years later, Havok and Sabretooth are still kind-of-sort-of inverted.  They had a go at an ongoing series with an inverted Iron man too, but unless I’m very much mistaken, that one just kind of petered out without a proper resolution.

The thing is that as a short-term thing, you can maybe do something with Axis.  You can play it for laughs or maybe you can find some other aspect of the character’s personality and bring it out in a vaguely interesting way.  But as a long-term direction, in the hands of most writers, it’s a dead end.  You’re not really writing the character at all, there’s no logical progression from events in their past, and there’s nowhere you can really go other than backwards to restore the status quo ante.

With Sabretooth, the general approach has been to downplay Axis, and (towards the end of Cullen Bunn’s Uncanny run) to show him backsliding somewhat.  Basically, let it fade unobtrusively away to the point where you can treat him as a proper character again.   In this two-parter, Greg Pak and Fred van Lente try a slightly different approach: foreground the problem, and play up the incoherence of Sabretooth’s current personality, as the inversion effect begins to lapse.

Logan is trying to figure out how he’s going to keep a pair of maniacs like Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike occupied, when midnight comes, and Sabretooth decides it’s time for his annual attempt to kill Logan on his birthday.  This is, of course, supremely pointless, but in Sabretooth’s mind it’s a defining part of their relationship that reminds them both of what monsters they truly are.  It’s a kind of displaced self-loathing for Sabretooth, even if he seems rather gleeful about it.  By bringing Logan down to his level, he thinks he’s proving some sort of point.

All sorts of random chaos ensues, with Sabretooth seeming to have absolutely no concern for collateral damage or his own life.  There’s kind of a plot where they brawl into a holding facility for a bunch of monsters, but it’s pretty rudimentary.  The pay-off is a brief flashback (drawn by Andrea Sorrentino) to the Wastelands, which reveals what actually happened to Sabretooth in Old Man Logan’s timeline: he degenerated into an animal and Logan killed him easily, because he’s really not much of a threat without his mind.  Meanwhile, midnight strikes and Sabretooth goes back to acting like a regular antihero as if nothing had happened.

I have mixed feelings about Roland Boschi’s art – it’s muddy at times, and the storytelling doesn’t always flow.  But it does get across Sabretooth’s sheer delight at going on a rampage again, and he’s one of the rare artists who actually makes this version of Logan look old, like he’s supposed to.  It’s perhaps at the expense of making him look instantly recognisable as Wolverine, but I’d rather artists erred in this direction than simply making him a greying Logan.

So basically we’ve got a story in which Sabretooth’s real personality reasserts itself for 24 hours, seemingly without him fully realising what’s happening.  It’s the first time in years that a story has gone to town on the idea of Sabretooth as the primal, murderous force of nature.  And it kind of works, since this Sabretooth’s apparent obliviousness to his own contradictions is, in its own way, as scarily random as his normal personality.

Sabretooth as a hero can work – it’s been done in Age of Apocalypse and Exiles – but it tends to involve him being driven by circumstances to fill the Wolverine role.  With an actual Wolverine to hand, that doesn’t work, and there’s really more mileage in going back to his classic function as Wolverine’s foil – the debased version of Wolverine and argues that he’s just a more honest version of Logan.  It’s not been done in a while, after all.  Come to think of it, it might actually work better with Old Man Logan, who does at least spend a lot of time angsting about how he killed his world’s version of the X-Men, than with regular Logan, who got over those hang-ups a while ago.

These issues could use a stronger story as a backdrop – it’s pretty much just throwing some monsters at the page to crank up the chaos and draw some hazy parallel with Logan and Sabretooth.  But it is surprisingly fun to see Sabretooth revisiting his glory days just for a couple of issues.

Bring on the comments

  1. Ben says:

    Yeah, I liked it.

    It was a fun idea.

    I’m pretty pro Sabretooth as replacement Wolverine, which sadly got all mucked up when they brought in Old Man Logan. Not that they did enough with it before.

  2. Si says:

    It could have been interesting if Sabertooth inverted properly, and got all heroic like Spider-Man or something, going out of his way not to hurt people, wearing big gloves so his claws aren’t a problem. Or you know, he became an ambulance guy or something.

  3. Loz says:

    Aah, Axis and the Inverted Iron Man… I remember Hickman included so many things from other titles in his Avengers run that didn’t make sense, Fraction sending Reed Richards off across dimensions on a cross-dimensional caper, Gillen sending Iron Man into space, Waid’s ‘Hulk: Agent of SHIELD’ era, but even he drew the line at the Inverted Iron Man. Axis might have worked in the DC Universe, but it really didn’t work in the Marvel Universe, even if it pays lip service only to the idea that it’s characters have any greater moral complexity.

  4. Mikey says:

    Is this book winding to a close? I still contend that there is no excitement for Wolverine’s return when his absence has been filled with Old Man Logan, X-23, his Ultimate son, and his 616 son. It’s hard to miss someone who never really left.

  5. Mordechai Buxner says:

    @Loz That’s not really true. In the Eight Months Later arc, Tony was absolutely in supervillain mode, but Hickman played it in a subtle enough way (and used him sparsely enough) that if you weren’t reading Superior Iron Man, you could think he was just being a little more arrogant than usual. It wasn’t great for the story Hickman was telling, but he did work that in there.

  6. Mordechai Buxner says:

    Ah right – it was called “Time Runs Out”, not “Eight Months Later”. Whatever.

  7. Brian says:

    I still think that the big waste has been no one actually using Havok in recent years, especially after his whole Uncanny Avengers storyline with the Wasp. I still think that, rather than the recycling of Evil Emma or Yet Another Brotherhood, the proper next threat for the X-Men should have been Alex taking the mantle of the Mutant Revolution from his dead brother (I could even see him taking over the Cyclops identity, causing more angst for Young Scott) and being the real (scarred) face of the failures and castaways of Xavier’s Dream.

  8. Chris V says:

    Havok is currently being used in a major way in the X-Men: Blue title.

    Yes, while I wouldn’t say it was the “inverted” Iron Man who was being used by Hickman in Avengers, it is true that Hickman portrayed Stark as more of the antagonist over Steve Rogers.
    I took it more as a commentary on Civil War, as the characterization seemed more like Civil War-era Stark, rather than Irredeemable Iron Man.

    Mikey-That’s true. However, I’d argue it’d be hard to miss Wolverine, unless he had stayed dead for a decade. Maybe then people would be excited for the return of Wolverine.
    As it is, everyone just expected Logan to return in a few years, and Wolverine had been so badly over-exposed before his death, that people had stopped caring about the character.

  9. Voord 99 says:

    Does inverted Havok have sensitively-expressed, well-thought-out views on his mutant identity that don’t offend people?

  10. CyberV says:

    If I recall correctly, Inverted Iron Man made the Avengers waste their time with pointless attempts to stop the end of the multiverse he KNEW were going to fail, and he and old man Steve bit it as the universe ended.

    He was then rebooted back to normal when Reed and Franklin fixed 616. Just like he’d been returned to normal after the Crossing/Teen Tony/Onslaught/Heroes Reborn debacle… by Franklin.

    Seriously, Tony needs to stop getting in messes so bad that it takes a cosmically powered kid to save him.

  11. Chris V says:

    I thought the idea from Hickman’s Avengers was that Stark was willing to do whatever it took to save his version of Earth.
    While Steve Rogers was opposed to that mentality, and said that the lives on every version of Earth were as important as their own.
    That split the Avengers in two factions.
    That’s how I remember it.

    Yeah, but why is Franklin favouring Tony Stark so much? He didn’t fix so many other problems plaguing the Marvel Universe, but he decided to set things right with “inverted” Iron Man.

  12. Brendan says:

    It’s the year for Marvel to revert their characters back to the status quo, for good or for ill.

    That said, I’ve no problem if Sabertooth turns back into a hard ‘V’ villain. I think Magneto has been a member for over 10 years now. Mystique has been a member. I’m waiting for Marvel to announce ‘X-Men: Purple’ lead by Apocalypse featuring alternate-dimension ballerina Wolverine.

  13. Michael says:

    You really could fill an X-Men roster with former villains who have joined the team for at least a little while.

    Mystique, Sabretooth, Juggernaut, Frenzy, Magneto, Emma Frost, Lady Mastermind, Spiral, Toad… is it a Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, or X-Men Black? o.0

  14. Loz says:

    Mordechai- Obviously far too subtle for me as all he seemed to be doing during that time was wearing the white armour. And if Hickman’s Tony was inverted it was a lot different to the way everyone else was writing the heroes and villains as making them OTT good or evil, the only exception being Axis Luke Cage who was selfish rather than community orientated but still considering himself a hero.

    Still, at least Hickman didn’t cop-out and had the real Captain America willing to destroy all reality for his principles…

  15. Thom H. says:

    @Michael: Well, now I want to read X-Men: Black.

    Honestly, it’s kind of stupid those characters haven’t teamed up before. Between them, they know enough about the X-Men to take them down with ease.

  16. Moo says:

    Don’t forget Rogue.

  17. Taibak says:

    Hell, for that matter, don’t forget Gambit.

  18. Chris V says:

    Thom H-Wasn’t that sort of the plot of one of Mike Carey’s story-arcs while writing X-Men?
    He created this team of wild card X-Men….I remember Sabretooth, Frenzy, and Mystique.
    The whole point of them forming that X-team was to infiltrate the mansion and turn on the X-Men.

  19. Brian says:

    “Yeah, but why is Franklin favouring Tony Stark so much? He didn’t fix so many other problems plaguing the Marvel Universe, but he decided to set things right with “inverted” Iron Man.”

    Reed Richards has the money and brains to build Franklin his own roller coaster and custom ice cream flavor, but is too responsible to do so.

    Tony Stark has no such compunctions. He’s probably been spoiling the kid for years in exchange for hints about Richards’ IP secrets.

  20. Moo says:

    Kurt Busiek’s Thunderbolts sprang from an idea he had that was kinda-sorta similar to Carey’s. It was supposed to be an Avengers storyline where the existing team would gradually be replaced with seemingly unrelated new superheroes. Eventually he’d reveal that these newcomers were disguised members of the Masters of Evil and that this was a long-term takeover plan.

    But he abandoned the idea once he figured (probably correctly) that he’d lose too many readers before he could get to the big reveal.

  21. Thom H. says:

    @Chris V: Totally, and I loved that book. The “villains” on the team were Sabretooth, Mystique, Lady Mastermind, and the Omega Sentinel (is that her name?).

    The team was pulled together by Rogue (with Cannonball and Iceman as her lieutenants) to follow up on some strange goings-on that Sabretooth knew about and Lady Mastermind was tangentially related to, IIRC. And Rogue wanted Mystique close so she could keep an eye on her.

    Anyway, all those reasons made sense at the time, I’m sure, but the baddies eventually conspired and threw the good guys under the bus. I’d love to see more stories like that. The X-Men have great villains — they should really use them as villains sometime.

  22. Chris V says:

    I did like, though, how Chris Claremont moved more and more towards mutant villains being redeemed, and the real villains being anti-mutant forces.

  23. Mikey says:

    Man, what I would do to get Mike Carey writing an X-book again.

    What happened to Frenzy, anyways?

  24. Moo says:

    Good riddance to Frenzy, who once murdered a former Xavier School nurse, Sharon Friedlander, in cold blood and the X-Men welcome her?

  25. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    In fairness, during Utopia, especially after Second Coming, it was ‘all mutant hands on deck’ and everything was pretty much forgiven for everyone who contributed.

    (But I count Carey’s run as one of my favourite on any x-book ever, and I liked Frenzy there, so I might be biased.)

    (Also, I have fresh in my memory Brian Wood’s abhorrent run where Rachel Grey fancies Sublime who’s a goodie now and nobody even whispers the word ‘U-Men’, so the fact that Frenzy killed a nurse doesn’t even register next to that.)

    And while we’re listing x-villains who served on an x-team, I have a strange affection toward amnesiac Sebastian Shaw from Generation Hope. He was surprisingly decent. Though I’m not sure if that plotline was ever resolved… I think he just popped up some time later in a purple frock coat and a ponytail and nobody ever mentioned the amnesiac phase ever again.

  26. Moo says:

    Yeah, I think you might be biased. Friedlander had been on staff at Xavier’s at one point. Her murder should have at least been acknowledged, regardless of the circumstances.

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