Trade Secrets: Old Man Logan

The thing that is really awesome about Christmas every year is that since my family knows that I am a huge comic book fan, every year I get two or three trades that I'm really interested in. This year, I got as a present The Boys Vol.s 4 and 5, as well as the over-sized hardcover of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's Old Man Logan. I'm going to post a review of all of these books in time, but I wanted to start off with Old Man Logan because I really liked it (I named it Miniseries of the Year) and the last Trade Secrets was about the Boys so I figured I'd mix it up a little bit before doing my review of another The Boys volume. Hit the jump for the review.

Trade Secrets:

Old Man Logan


Several years ago, back when I was still in college, I was just starting to get back into comic books after being fan for years as a kid but dropping comics in high school to spend my money on girlfriends and hanging out with my buddies. I went to the comic book store in Bloomington-Normal (where IWU is) and I picked up a couple different books to see if I liked them and I bought a trade, that trade was the Ultimates Vol. 1. I had never read any of Mark Millar's writing up to this point and I can distinctly remember loving the trade so much I went back and bought Ultimates Vol. 2 and Ultimates 2 Vol.1 that same week. When I was first a comic book fan my favorite comic was Grant Morrison's JLA, and the Ultimates by Millar felt so much like a spiritual successor to that that I immediately glommed onto it and loved every minute of it's over-the-top insane action. Since then, I've bought most of the stuff Millar's written (including two copies of Civil War, my favorite Marvel event this decade) and loved almost all of it with the exception of Chosen and his Ultimate X-Men run (outside the Ultimates I can't get into the Ultimate U). One of the highlights of last summer for me was going to Wizard World Chicago and shaking Mark Millar's hand. I wanted to share this a preface to my review, because while Old Man Logan was everything I've come to expect and enjoy the hell out of from Millar, I do see why other fans don't like his stuff and therefroe completely understand why they do not share my sentiments for his writing.

Old Man Logan is set in an alternate future where, much like what happens in Millar's Wanted, the supervillains all gang up on the superheroes and wipe them out thus seizing control of the World to run it as they see fit. While in Wanted the villains operated in the shadows unbeknownst to average citizens, here the villains have carved up chunks of the United States that they run as kingdoms and rule their "subjects" with an iron fist. While the idea behind it is obviously well-worn territory, since Millar himself already did it once, the little Marvel touches he throws in are fantastic with stuff like Pym Falls which is just two highways that run underneath a giant skeleton with a tattered Giant-Man costume on it. The map from the first issue alone is worth spending some time looking at and examining, and it's those little touches from Millar that make this book soar.

The plot follows Wolverine, now a retired farm hand in Hulkland (formerly California), as he is desperate to make some money to pay his rent to the Hulk Gang or they'll kill his family. So Logan agrees to go on a cross-country delivery trip for Hawkeye, one of the very few superheroes who lived through everything and is now a blind old man, in exchange for enough money to pay off the Hulk Gang for months. Along the way there are twists, turns, surprises, and Venom T-Rexes as Millar checks in on almost every facet of this new United States before finally getting to the destination and revealing who the President is. Some of the stuff that Millar throws in are cool little nods and asides to Marvel history, like having the Moloids be a source of menace capable of destroying cities since Reed Richards isn't around to stop them, or that Logan and Hawkeye are making their cross-country trip in the Spider-Buggy (Spider-man's Batmobile from the 70's). The plot is really straight forward, as it basically just serves to explore this awesome world that Millar and McNiven have created, and honestly that is just fine with me since it really does become fascinating just reading and seeing the cool things that Millar has thrown in.

The problem comes in with the last couple issues, as the whole idea of world making is thrown out of the window after the President is revealed as from there it's just fight after fight after fight. Now, I don't see this as a bad thing, probably because after years of reading Bendis' Avengers work where there are never any awesome fights I now love comics that promise a fight and give you an entire issue of awesome battles. But I really just wish that it would have more organically built to the fighting, but instead it abandons the whole plot in the second to last issue, and instead of Logan fighting his way back across country he uses Iron Man boots to fly back in two pages. Just kind of a let-down we didn't get to see more of that stuff. Also, I do think it's a great concept, but as a fan of Wanted I do feel like it's a little cheap to basically just rehash the same story with Marvel characters instead of DC archetypes. How they took out Wolverine, however, was something incredibly new and clever which kind of balanced out my disappointment about the rehashing of some story beats.

Steve McNiven meanwhile, just knocks this whole book out of the park. His art has always been awesome, but in this book his designs and extra detail are truly amazing to look at. The way he draws the older and larger Wolverine is pretty awesome, and when the Hulk shows up I was blown away by his rendering of everything. Plus, the color palatte used by Morry Hollowell and the others were terrific and really worked well for this story, as it gave the book a feeling that was a mixture of a Western and a grimy post-apocalypse all rolled into the same story. Just beautiful to look at, and really after reading Civil War and this book, Millar and McNiven's next project Nemesis is now probably my most anticipated book of 2010.

Now, the other side to this is that because McNiven's art is so good, it takes him awhile to draw everything so the book met with lots of delays when it was originally published in singles and because of this it kind of tainted people's enjoyment of the series. I didn't read it almost at all when the singles were being released
  1. I knew that this was going to be delayed somewhere along the line because Civil War ended up being delayed but I knew Marvel wasn't going to bring a fill-in artist for any of the issues cause that would ruin the whole thing.
  2. Millar's work really does read so much better in trade form, much like Ed Brubaker. I think that they are both terrific writers, but I end up not enjoying their work as much when I buy it monthly as oppossed to when I buy the collections. I don't think this makes them bad writers, but it's just interesting.
Look, I know it was delayed but honestly stop complaining about it. Yes, it does suck when you have to wait four months for an issue to come out, but in this case it was definitely worth the wait because of how awesome McNiven's art was. If you want to complain about art, go back and read Infinite Crisis and see just how bad it looks with tons of fill-in artists and a rushed Phil Jimenez, but then remember that the book STILL was delayed. And don't just read the trade where they went back and fixed up the last issue, read the single when the big "fight" for Metropolis boiled down to a couple poorly drawn figures in the foreground and pencil sketches colored in completely with red [shown below, I found a scan online]. Ugh.

I would much rather wait and get good art than deal with terrible art. I'm probably going to buy the first issue of Nemesis right when it comes out, and then I'll decide if I want to roll the dice on waiting around for the next issue to come out or just wait for the trade. It's going to be delayed, and I realize this, but if it does it'll suck but I won't bitch about it unless it's almost a year between issues because then it is more than acceptable to pissed off about the delay. But a couple months late for the sake of good art is something we can all stomach.



If you like McNiven's art as much as I do, then I really suggest going out and buying this trade in hardcover because it is totally worth it quality wise to see McNiven's art in over-sized glory. If not, then wait for the softcover but seriously consider owning this because I consider it a must-have for Marvel fans.

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