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Nov 17

Old Man Logan #48-50: “King of Nothing”

Posted on Saturday, November 17, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

Technically, this is the final arc of Old Man Logan; in practice, that means it’s renaming itself as Dead Man Logan for a lengthy concluding storyline.  Even so, here we are – fifty issues of a stand-in Wolverine title.  Not something you’d have been likely to predict, and probably not something that was a very good idea from the standpoint of the wider Marvel Universe, since viewed from that perspective, the book’s main contribution has been to undermine the idea that Wolverine ever went away.

Still, Ed Brisson and Ibraim Roberson’s story here is pretty successful on its own terms.  It’s a very, very simple plot: the Maestro has taken over a remote town in Canada, and Logan arrives to stop him and rescue the town.  It’s entirely straightforward, but it works on the strength of the setting and the parallels which it sets up with the book’s wider storyline.

Let’s acknowledge from the outset that there’s an arguable plot hole here.  While some of the townsfolk are hopeful that the newly arrived superhero will go and get help to rescue them from Maestro, in fact Logan already knows what’s going on when he arrives.  It was Puck who told him where to find Maestro, at the end of issue #47.

So… the Hulk is clearly holding a town hostage, and Puck and Logan are both fine with the idea that a geriatric version of Wolverine should be able to handle the problem alone?  Is nobody thinking about the townsfolk here?  Shouldn’t Alpha Flight be insisting on tagging along, at the very least?  Of course, it would ruin the plot if they did, but it feels like the story needs a smoother way of actually getting Logan to the town in the first place.

Leave that aside, though.  The story is keen to establish the parallels between Logan and Maestro – they’re both time travelling versions of superheroes who are much older than people would expect them to be – and much of part 1 is taken up with some misdirection where people talk about the Maestro in terms that suggest it could be Logan.  This isn’t especially subtle, nor is it the strongest bit of the story, since the parallels aren’t so much thematic as plot-level.

But there’s something endearingly pitiful about Maestro’s plan here.  Even though he occasionally makes noises about bring power and prosperity to his town, the reality is that Maestro’s plan starts and ends with installing himself as the “king” of Northern Exposure.  And the implication is clear: to find somewhere he can still confidently dominate, he’s had to go some way down the pecking order.  This is the back of beyond, and it really has no value to Maestro beyond being somewhere that he can dominate.  The mechanics of all this are a little unclear – where is the town getting food?  Doesn’t it have any contact with the outside world?  But the thrust is clear: for all his physical power, Maestro is becoming small fry.

Not that this is any consolation to the intimated villagers, whose fear leads them to turn on each other and maintain Maestro’s rule.  At face value, this is pretty on the nose.  What’s rather subtler is the parallel with Logan’s own back story in the Wastelands, when he stopped fighting, accepted the state of the world, and (in his eyes) allowed ruin to follow for his family.  The whole thing is a parallel of the Wastelands (where of course the local gang rulers were also Hulk variants), except this time round Logan is standing up to the Hulk.  There’s a dream scene at the start of part two which reminds us of the Wastelands set-up, but this aspect of the story is kept comparatively understated.

As it turns out, Logan was actually looking for Maestro in the hope of getting his hands on a time machine that could send him back to the Wastelands and his family.  This isn’t exactly foregrounded either, but the implication seems to be that Logan is not just planning to return to his home timeline, but to do so before he left, and alter history to save his family.  Presumably that’s the end game for the series: he redeems himself for the part of his life where he gave in and let the bad guys win.  He saves his family and gets a happy ending in a future which, though bleak, at least turns a corner.  If you’re looking for some sort of proper closure on this version of Wolverine, you could do worse.

Ibraim Roberson’s art scores highly when it comes to giving the small town a sense of place, and establishing the contrast between the prosaic setting and the Maestro’s bombastic bullying.  His nightmarish dream scene at the start of part two is very strong as well.  What doesn’t work quite so well is his take on Logan, who appears as muscular, heroic and generally just Wolverine with grey hair.  Considering how hard the script is hammering the idea that Logan is on his last legs and needs his shot of Regenix to take on the Hulk (which is obviously influenced by the movie), it seems like Logan should look a lot more beleaguered than he does here.  But the atmosphere is strong, and  that seems more important.

Perhaps this could have been done in two issues without losing a great deal, but three issues seems to give it room to breathe.  Old Man Logan can be hit and miss, but this is one of the stronger arcs.

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