Since he emerged in the 616 universe in the wake of Secret Wars, it’s felt like everyone (short of Jeff Lemire really) has forgotten just how traumatic Old Man Logan’s backstory is. I mean, the dude effectively murdered all of his friends, saw his family devoured by inbred monsters — that’s some haunting stuff you don’t just shake off, even with a healing factor. It’s why his role as the quippy grandpa in X-Men: Gold doesn’t work. Just because he’s in a new dimension where all of his friends are still alive doesn’t erase the memories of the things he’s done. Fortunately for readers, Astonishing X-Men‘s Charles Soule read the original story and writes Logan like a man justifiably tortured by his past without devolving the character into some kind of laughable caricature. It’s Riggs in Lethal Weapon here, not Riggs from (shudder) Lethal Weapon 3.
Though most of the Astonishing team is still trapped on the astral plane, this issue is all about Wolverine, and the book is so much the better for it. Soule uses this opportunity to give readers a better understanding of who this version of Logan really is, painting a picture of a man haunted by loss but driven by will. The machinations of the Shadow King are making the X-Men confront their own pasts, and, naturally, Logan’s is a doozy. Yet, given the fact that the man has faced so much trauma over his long life (He’s got to be upwards of like 150 right?) and buried his past in order to keep himself from succumbing to despair multiple times over, Logan is uniquely suited toward this conflict. He continually shrugs off the ghosts of past failures – from his first love Rose, to murderous sentinels to the Hulk gang killing his family – in a single-minded pursuit of the Shadow King. See, this version of Logan was once trapped on the astral plane for 20 years, during which time he managed to kill his reality’s version of Farouk, so he knows how to see through these illusions…for the most part.
The interesting kink in the story comes when the specter of Charles Xavier approaches Logan to try and concoct a plan against the Shadow King. At first, our hero doesn’t believe that what he’s seeing is actually Xavier (If you ask me, it isn’t – but I’ll touch on that in a bit), but eventually he finds that this is an apparition he can’t just shrug off. For his part, Xavier is disguising this conversation from the Shadow King as a battle with Mr. Sinister. Things eventually come to blows between Xavier and Wolverine, and while we think things are all copacetic and that the seeds for the downfall of Amahl Farouk have been laid, the final panel reveals that Old Man Logan is now seemingly under control of the Shadow King in the real world. This is a fun twist because it leaves readers with a lot of questions about the nature of the Xavier we’ve been seeing for the past several issues. My own crackpot theory is that this Xavier is a facet of the Shadow King’s essence that is at war with the Farouk personality. This would explain the game being played between the two, Xavier’s secrecy in dealing with Logan and Wolverine’s actions in the real world upon waking up.
There is a small B-story following Psylocke, Bishop and Angel’s efforts to prevent the UK’s answer to the MRD from disrupting their psy-op. We almost see Warren revert to his Archangel persona when he’s accosted while attempting to parlay, but he manages to calm things down and avert disaster. Of course, the possessed Logan kills one of the human operatives as soon as he wakes up, so it looks like things are going to get dicey in the physical world even as they continue to devolve on the astral plane.
If there’s a high point in the book it’s the art. This month, we get work from superstar penciler Ed McGuinness and it’s a welcome change to the series. McGuinness has always been a favorite of mine, and his unique east-meets-west style is perfect for an action-heavy superhero book. His Logan is top notch, as is his Xavier, and his penchant for gritted teeth and tough guy grimaces makes the tense scenes more palpable and fun. There are some issues, however, with his Amahl Farouk lacking some definition and there’s one panel around page 20 where McGuinness contorts Logan’s face into this weird half smile where you can see all the muscles in his head flexing simultaneously. Still, this is top notch work from a major artist, and it makes this the strongest issue in the series thus far.