There seems to be something in the air today. Something that reeks of desert pavement, motor oil and regret. Did they crank out another Mad Max movie? No?
Ah well, nevertheless, welcome to a brand new, recurring column on AiPT! called “Revisiting for the First Time,” in which we take a look at a classic comic, film or whatever that we somehow never experienced when it was first released, and examine it with fresh eyes. Does it hold up? What made it so popular? Would it succeed today?
In this inaugural edition, FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER, I’ve chosen to finally read that Mark Millar-penned, out-of-nowhere bombshell that turned out to be Old Man Logan — and you’re coming with me! I’ll drive, you just nudge my arm if you spot any pot holes.
Perhaps because, like those two works, Old Man Logan was a decidedly darker X-Men story. Blood gushes from the pencil of superstar artist Steve McNiven, and the emotional injury might be even more gruesome, considering what caused Wolverine’s self-imposed stoicism and what finally snapped him out of it. But we’d already had God Loves, Man Kills, and it’s not like the Ultimate Universe and the MAX line weren’t pushing the envelope of four-color violence.
Maybe that’s it — Old Man Logan took place “somewhere else,” in a What If? kind of world where all of the heroes could be slaughtered and Marvel would still have a publishing schedule the next month. Those kinds of books are usually poor sellers, though, as readers think anything that “doesn’t count” in continuity is skippable. And many of the moments in Old Man Logan might as well be fan fiction pin-ups — “Okay, and there’s a TYRANNOSAURUS with the VENOM SYMBIOTE! And Hank Pym is, like, all giant and dead in Connecticut.”
While Old Man Logan on its own is not bad by any stretch, I think this is what really made it hit as hard as it did. It wasn’t a What If? or a MAX title, it wasn’t an OGN or presented as a standalone, creator passion project. It was just another seven issues of Wolverine (plus a giant-sized special). Regular readers went straight from the somewhat dour but completely comic booky Messiah Complex to something gritty, grotesque and absolutely off-the-wall, with no warning. It might not have “counted,” but man, it counted.
So as good as Old Man Logan was, we might not have the reverence for it we do today had it been published differently. Maybe that’s something Marvel and other companies should consider when prioritizing a story’s placement. Keeping a blockbuster within that character’s main title may immediately thin the market share a bit, but current readers might stick around longer, and hey, maybe one of them will be struck by it enough they’ll base a movie on it someday.
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