Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Old Man Logan #1

It's hard to believe that Wolverine has stayed dead for this long. Actually, I take that back. It's slightly easier when considering that there were already plenty of place-holders ready to fill the void. We have X-23, Daken, and an inverted Sabretooth. Like the New England Patriots adding depth to a championship team, Marvel made sure their roster was stacked before Wolverine went to that big biker bar in the sky. That's not to say that they've been able to completely replace Wolverine. Like replacing Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, Marvel can only do so much. I could make several blog posts about how their efforts have fallen shorter than the last 10 years for the Oakland Raiders. But the setup in Battleworld for Secret Wars gives Marvel a new opportunity to scratch that Wolverine itch.

Of the many iterations of Wolverine, from the gray-haired freedom fighter in Days of Futures Past to the flamboyantly gay dimension hopper in Xtreme X-men, the world of Old Man Logan offers a special kind of Wolverine. This is a world where Wolverine isn't constantly put in the middle of X-men melodramas that involve him trying to hump marred women or whine about Cyclops. It's a very dark world, but one that brought out the best and worst in Wolverine. It was an obvious choice to add to Battleworld for Secret Wars. That gives Battleworld a cantankerous, battle-hardened version of Wolverine that even Hugh Jackman can't make sexy. That makes him perfect for Secret Wars and Old Man Logan #1 shows us why.

It hits the ground running, putting Wolverine in comfortable surroundings and I'm not talking about the kind that a competent headmaster of a school would be in (except for Texas). He finds himself crashing a card game and I'm not talking about a Tuesday night game of bridge at a retirement home either. These guys are the kinds of assholes that exist in the world of Old Man Logan, degenerate criminals who have as many redeeming qualities as Shia Lebouf's acting career at this point. Wolverine kindly points out that they're involved in human trafficking, which in his world is basically an industry on par with McDonald's. They even have the audacity to wear masks of the heroes that are long dead. It's remarkable Wolverine restrained himself long enough for them to try and fight back.

That goes about as well as Nicholas Cage's last three movies. Wolverine lets them get off a few shots. Then he proceeds to eviscerate their miserable asses in ways that even Quentin Tarantino would find too excessive. It's bloody. It's brutal. And I'll say this when I'm as sober as I can be. It's fucking awesome. It's not crude or quick either. The dark and gritty style provided by Andrea Sorrentino gives it the perfect mood. It's like candles and roses for a romantic dinner, but with a lot more blood. It's the perfect way to flesh out the violence.

It's not just awesome because of the violence or the details either. This is Wolverine at his most basic. He's mean, he's violent, and he's brutal when he slays his enemies. He doesn't try to talk it out like Captain America, make jokes like Spider-Man, or strategize like Cyclops. He just lets his claws do all the work. This is the kind of Wolverine we didn't see much of after he became the head of the Jean Grey Institute. This is a much meaner, darker Wolverine who nobody in their right mind would want teaching kids unless they belonged to Ted Nugant. Even though Wolverine hasn't been "dead" in the comics for long, it feels like it's been way too fucking long since we've had a Wolverine like this.

The violence continues to escalate in ways that will churn stomachs for some and cause huge boners for others. Not many of the assholes playing a friendly game of poker earlier survive the initial onslaught. That doesn't stop some from calling in backup. They come driving in, Fast and Furious style, and use Wolverine as target practice. But since this Wolverine didn't lose his healing factor to some bullshit scheme, he shrugs it off the same way most people shrug off a hangnail. Once he's done being mildly annoyed, he finishes them off. It's so visceral and brutal to us. But for Wolverine, it's basically Tuesday.

The brutal violence makes a hell of a mess to say the least. But violence alone doesn't make something awesome. It's the effect of said violence that add refinement, sort of like a perfectly mixed cocktail at a party thrown by the Koch brothers. Once limbs stop being amputated, Wolverine confronts the non-stabbable portions of this problem. He confronts the human trafficking victims and kids of these criminals that were being exploited. Like hipster douche-bags who are banned from wi-fi at a Starbucks, they're less than grateful. However, Wolverine's capacity to not give a shit is on a scale that even Doom himself can't contemplate.

It still adds some dramatic weight to the scene. The son of one of the criminals Wolverine just killed even shoots him, but Wolverine doesn't apologize. Remember, this isn't the version of Wolverine that worries about traumatizing kids. He just tells him and all the other victims that they can do better than this shit. And if they can't and they still want to blame him, they're welcome to come after him. I'm sorry, but I have no response for that. That's just too badass for any mind, drunk or sober, to sufficiently quantify.

Not surprisingly, nobody dares go after Wolverine. He doesn't even offer to help clean up the mess he made. He just hops on a horse and rides off in ways that John Wayne himself would approve of. He heads off into a desert, as far away from the criminal shit storm that has consumed his world. It's the only place he can get some peace and quiet in his world. However, this isn't just his world now. This is fucking Battleworld. And this is where the world of Old Man Logan meets the events of Secret Wars.

It's not a very flashy manifestation. Dr. Doom doesn't show up and tell him to tone it the fuck down. The Thor corps doesn't show up to give him shit. It's just the head of an old Ultron model that falls from the sky. In Battleworld, it amounts to an unusually large hailstone. It's not the kind of convergence that's going to soak anyone's panties, but it does provide the first link to the larger conflicts in Battleworld.

He ends up taking the Ultron head to the home/shack of Danielle Cage, who is one of the few friends that Wolverine has left in this world. Given all the people he's killed, that's saying something. There's a nice little exchange that explores the dynamic between them, one that reveals they are aware of the setup in Battleworld. They know about the Thors and about Ultron to some extent. It's an important facet to establish in that it provides more connections with Battleworld. But that's pretty much all it does.

In the end, Wolverine just decides that he's going to look into this and not really give a reason for why. Then again, he's Wolverine. And this is a version of Wolverine whose reasons for his behavior are almost as limited as his ability to give a fuck about killing human trafficking criminals. He just sees an Ultron head and think it might be a sign of a much bigger problem. That or he's bored killing criminals. Either way could work.

Whatever his reasons, Wolverine decides to get help from a few other of the remaining allies who don't want to shoot him on sight. One of those allies happens to be Emma Frost, someone who has a knack for surviving shitty situations and looking damn sexy while doing it. She tempts Wolverine at first, as only she can. Then she decides to be a bit more helpful, but still finds a way to be sexy while doing it. She's Emma Frost. No matter how shitty the world is, she's going to find a way to be sexy. It's just who she is.

It turns out she's been holding up in the last place Wolverine saw an Ultron robot. So in that sense, there is some coherent reason behind this other than wanting to meet up with a sexy blond, as though there needs to be a coherent reason in the first place. But Emma offers even more reasons, providing some additional details to the world of Old Man Logan that add to its place in Battleworld. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of details that even she can't make sexy.

Remember those criminal assholes that had set up shop? Well there's a reason that Wolverine has to deal with them with the kind of brutality that even the LAPD frowns upon. When Wolverine killed the Hulks in this world, it created a power vacuum that turned typical criminals into the kind of degenerate douche-bags that would overcharge for a bag of weed. That has created the criminal shit storm that Wolverine has found himself in. It helps create a unique character for the world of Old Man Logan, one that could work just as easily without Battleworld. But adding Battleworld to the mix just helps make it more volatile, which always works to Wolverine's advantage.

It also creates another problem in that when the criminals become bolder, the people who don't like being victimized by crime do the same. That led to the creation of a vigilante squad called the Punishers. And I think Frank Castle would approve here because they use the kind of brutality that makes Wolverine feel right at home. And they're the reason why Emma Frost's new digs is a ghost town. Wolverine is efficient, but let's face it. A team of Punishers offers so many more solutions to a problem beyond just stabbing.

It adds to the danger, but Wolverine still can't muster up enough energy to give a fraction of a fuck. He asks for Emma's help in finding out what happened with this Ultron robot. Emma then reveals that she's really not in a position to do much. Apparently, she got caught in the crossfire with the Punishers and has been using her telepathy to appear sexy just long enough to tell Wolverine she can't help. All she can tell him is that he's not going to find the answers in this world. He's going to have to scale the barriers between worlds to learn more. In Battleworld, that's like telling someone they'll find their answers by jumping into a volcano. For Wolverine though, a dip in a vat of lava isn't a deal-breaker.

It also marks a sad, but expected end for Emma Frost in this world. She attempted to take on the Punishers. There's only so much diamond skin and sex appeal have in this world. That should give a pretty clear indication of just how dark this world is. But dark or not, it works in that it still has just the right emotional weight.

With or without the emotional underpinnings, Wolverine's choice is clear. He's not going to accomplish much by staying in a world where criminals and vigilantes conduct slaughters every other Thursday. If he's going to make a difference in anything, he has to scale the walls dividing Battleworld. What he intends to do is still not clearly and poorly defined. However, this version of Wolverine has already established himself as being willing to take obscene risks and give the finger to anyone who gets in his way. And if a god-powered Dr. Doom is going to be in his way, well then it sucks to be him.

This is a story about a world that nobody with a Prozac prescription should read too closely. That said, it's a world that works perfectly in the context of Old Man Logan. It carries on the dark undertones in all the right ways. In many respects, this is the version of Wolverine that the comics have been missing since he decided to rip off the Dead Poets Society with the Jean Grey Institute. This is a Wolverine that's hardened, mean, and willing to kill. In other words, he's the exact opposite of the watered-down Wolverine that Fox has been making movies of for the past 15 years. Sure, he looks like Clint Eastwood's nutsack, but he embodies everything that's awesome about Wolverine.

This is a Wolverine who doesn't mind gutting dip-shit gamblers who poke fun at dead heroes. This is a Wolverine who will give the finger to Dr. Doom's authority the same way he gave the finger to Cyclops' authority. But what makes it truly work is that the spirit created in the original Old Man Logan fits perfectly within the context of Battleworld. It puts Wolverine in a position to be his brutal self and fuck up Dr. Doom's plans. If there was going to be any character who dared to spit in the face of a god-powered Dr. Doom, it's this version of Wolverine. He has nothing to lose and he's willing to be brutal in ways that permanently disqualify him from ever being headmaster of a school. I give Old Man Logan #1 a 9 out of 10. The Wolverine of 616 might be dead, but this version will gladly spit on his grave and pick up the slack. And he'll take on Dr. Doom, kick his ass, and come back just to piss on his headstone because that's the kind of Wolverine we're dealing with now. Nuff said!


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