We’re less than a month away (aaaahhh!) from Logan and Hugh Jackman’s (presumed) final performance as Wolverine. On 3 March he’ll pop his claws for the final time – and I am not ready for it! Of course, I don’t know what will happen but I’m pretty sure I’ll be an emotional mess. I cry every time I see the first trailer!! As I’ve begun trying to prepare myself for this emotional journey, I’ve started to wonder what I want from the film. This reflection has taken me back to Old Man Logan (a comic openly said to inspire the film) and Death Of Wolverine (a comic I feel may inspire the film). To put it simply, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is important. He ushered in the modern age of superhero movies! As such, the character’s swansong needs to do him justice.
To be clear, there’s obviously no spoilers here. I HATE SPOILERS. I have no idea what will happen in the movie. As I wait for a new movie to come out, I go out of my way to avoid anything that may spoil it for me. I don’t even read spoiler-free reviews before I’ve seen it. I’ve even stopped watching trailers and TV spots the closer I get to a movie after Disney needlessly showed me over a third of the Chitauri battle in ads before The Avengers even hit theatres!! Grr. So why am I thinking Death Of Wolverine might be relevant? Well, for starters…
It feels so tragic! So final! How do you not cry during that?!? Sadness is hanging in the air through the whole thing. Also, the trailer certainly seems to strike heavy notes of mortality far more directly than anything in the Old Man Logan series. So I felt I had to read Death Of Wolverine too. As much as it will wreck me, it would feel like a fitting end to the character who ushered in the modern age of superhero movies with 2000’s X-Men right? I can see Hugh Jackman going out as Logan with a deeply heroic yet ultimately tragic end (but I hope I’m wrong!!!).
From early in the film’s development we’ve been told Old Man Logan – written by Mark Millar and drawn by Steve McNiven – will serve in part as the inspiration for Logan. Originally running from June 2008 to September 2009, the series has garnered critical acclaim while also being beloved by fans…but I don’t like it. I’ve read it twice and each time I start out saying, “This is intriguing…” but by the end I’m thinking, “Eh…nope. That was horrible.”
Set in an alternate reality, it’s been fifty years since “the night the heroes fell.” Evil is now ruling unchecked across the country and Logan is living as a farmer in Sacramento with his wife Maureen and their two children Scotty and Jade. They are struggling to make ends meet and can’t pay their rent to the Hulk Gang. Logan hasn’t popped his claws in fifty years, refusing to fight anyone for any reason, and has become “a pacifist.” His healing factor still works but it isn’t what it used to be. A blind Hawkeye comes to visit and offers Logan $500 to help him drive across country to make a delivery. Needing the money for his family, Logan accepts but is clear that he won’t fight or harm anyone. While certainly engaging at times, the adventure that follows is filled with gratuitous violence and bloodshed. Honestly it’s not so much a superhero story at all – it’s torture porn (that discussion’s the story for another post).
Now, I know I’m one of maybe three people in the world who didn’t love this series. And I’m not saying it’s not a well executed story. As dystopias go, this is solid. It’s just not for me. Superhero stories are meant for more. As modern myths they are meant to elevate us while they entertain, to show us our potential and give us hope. I get the appeal to a degree – a super bloody, dystopian Wolverine story. We like dystopias. We like Wolverine. And, as a culture, we adore blood and violence for entertainment’s sake. But I don’t dig it. I want more from my comic books and my comic book movies. I hope Hugh Jackman’s final outing has more too. He’s been our Wolverine for seventeen years. He deserves a story with more hope and more meaning than this.
Now I’ve no problem with the basic framework from Old Man Logan I see in the trailers – the lawless gang running through the desert hunting them, an older and battered Logan, an ailing healing factor, a dystopian-feeling desert setting, an old friend returning to ask a favor, and a Logan who’s been out of the game for some time. I think that’s fantastic! It can work wonderfully. So for the basic setting of the story, I’m fine with drawing inspiration from Old Man Logan. But when it comes to the tone I’d like to see flowing through and forming the film, I’m all in behind Death Of Wolverine.
Written by Charles Soule and drawn by Steve McNiven, Death Of Wolverine ran from September to October of 2014. This story opens with Logan in British Columbia, bleeding and worse for wear. Reed Richards has told Logan he’s lost his healing factor and the only thing allowing him to move/stay up right with all the adamantium in his body is his enhanced strength and speed. Reed tells him to be cautious, to go easy, and especially to not pop his claws as his hands won’t heal and retracting them into his body will bring bacteria with them. However, someone has placed a substantial bounty on Logan’s head, sending every merc in the world to hunt him down and bring him in alive. As Logan tries to get to the bottom of who wants him and why, he returns to the locales that have shaped his story (Canada, Madripoor, Japan) and encounters many of the most important people who have filled his life (Viper, Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, Lord Ogun, and – of course – Kitty Pryde). Before, as the title implies, Logan ultimately dies, he even comes face to face with Abraham Cornelius, the man who grafted the adamantium to his skeleton in an effort to build the perfect weapon.
I respect the tone of this story more. Old Man Logan is so bleak and violent. There is barely the shadow of hope in the whole narrative. But Death Of Wolverine, while somber, still shows us Logan being who he is. Before the final curtain falls in the story Logan walks through his old haunts, sees significant figures from his past, and even wrestles with his own mortality – with profound insight. While sitting alongside Kitty in a park in Tokyo, Logan gets reflective. It turns out, he doesn’t fear death even though he isn’t looking to die. Logan tells her, “I lost my healing factor, sure, but there’s a good side to that. It means I can get old. No more chances. No more doing something horrible and telling myself I’ve got until the end of damn time to make up for it. No. Just one lifetime, where every choice matters.” That’s profound. It is a thought that can (and should!) speak to all of us as readers. We have but one life to live and every choice matters.
In Death Of Wolverine we see Logan without his healing factor, yes. But he isn’t a broken shell of who he was nor does he becomes a blood thirsty monster hell-bent on revenge. In Old Man Logan he tells the Hulk Gang, “No more games. No more talking. I’m just here to kill you people.” Is this supposed to be exciting? Are we supposed to believe there’s something heroic about this declaration? Do we root for that? No. For seventeen years Hugh Jackman’s been the archetypal cinematic superhero of our modern age. His final film deserves far more elegance, nuance, hope, and inspiration than that. Death Of Wolverine sees Logan coming to grips with his own mortality and while he can see the end in a very real way for the first time ever, he still goes on. He fights. He protects. He laughs. He doesn’t back down. In short, he is still Logan, every step of the way. At his end in Death of Wolverine Logan shows us how to die with dignity and, in so doing, gives one more lesson on how to live. Every choice we make matters. As a result, we need live each moment as responsibly as we can. It is a powerful, moving story that is worthy of the hero who is at its center.
I have no idea what we are in store for come 3 March. But I hope Logan, while clearly borrowing the ragged-drifter-on-the-edge-of-the-world-at-war-with-gangs-in-the-desert idea from Old Man Logan, feels a bit more like Death Of Wolverine in its scope and tone. Thematically, I think it’s a better send off for Wolverine…and for Hugh Jackman too. He deserves it!
So that’s the type of ending I think Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine deserves – one of meaning and power. Violent, yes, but transcending the idea of violence-for-violence’s sake. And I am 100% certain that I am not emotionally ready to handle any of it! If I’m right and we see the death of Logan in this film I’m going to be a total mess. I hope Kalie’s ready to console me once the credits start to roll on Logan because I foresee me being fairly distraught. Even if my expectations don’t come to fruition, as long as the tone of that first trailer captures the mood of the film, I’m going to be done. Granted, I don’t think it can be anywhere near as bad as Still Alice (which left me literally sobbing nonstop for three solid hours immediately after the film…and then I kept breaking down and crying for two days after that) but it’s going to be rough. I love Wolverine! I’ve always loved Wolverine! And I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine! He personifies Logan’s heart perfectly. So no matter what happens, I can’t see myself getting through the end of this era without lots and lots of tears falling. Here’s hoping I don’t weep too loudly in the theatre…