[Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Old Man Logan #17.]
Jeff Lemire’s run on Old Man Logan has been, admittedly, a touch on the choppy side, as he’s leapt from genres to genre: from western to samurai/spiritual cult misadventures to monster movie romp. Nevertheless, Lemire handles the change-ups well, in particular the rapidly shifting temporal fluxes which come fast and furious in the latest story arc, “Return to the Wastelands.” Fortunately, he’s also got Andrea Sorrentino’s stunning artwork to smooth Logan’s jump cuts between outer space and his theoretical dystopian future.
After the enjoyable two-issue side trip where Wolverine met Dracula, which proved that an older Logan is way more hardcore than an ancient vampire (something True Believers already knew), the former X-Man goes back to the future in the worst possible way. In Old Man Logan #17, Wolverine returns to the very Wastelands where Mark Millar kicked off his adventures in the first place. As often is the case in the Marvel Universe, though, things aren’t quite what they seem.
Aliens vs. Old Man Logan
Alpha Flight and Wolverine go way, way back to the days when they were just a part of James Howlett's mutant backstory. Since the Canadian super-team's origins in X-Men #120 (1979), they’ve made a mark on Marvel, and currently back up Captain Marvel as she keeps space safe from extraterrestrial nasties. Speaking of bad E.T.s, OML #16 kicked off with Logan finding himself investigating the disappearance of Alpha Flight team members at an abandoned space station that housed one of Reed Richards’ pet projects.
Failing to discover anyone from the team, Logan’s still-keen senses detect the presence of something very unfriendly – the Brood. Eventually, he finds Puck alive, but the diminutive superhero informs his old cohort that the alien fiends have already claimed Abigail Brand and Sasquatch. They manage to evade their attackers, including a mentally-infested Sasquatch, but the old space station’s hull is breached and Logan is sucked into the void of space.
Back to the Wastelands
Starting way back in the first Old Man Logan series from Wolverine #66-72 (2008-2009), Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven dealt with an alternate version of James Howlett who exists in a dystopian future world where supervillains have killed off most of the world’s superheroes (and Wolverine accidentally killed off most of the X-Men. Long story). Without heroes, the holy terrors of the Marvel Universe split up the barren wastes and rule over the planet, with a radiation-twisted version of the Hulk and his inbred kin ruling over “Hulk Land” – where Logan and his family lived.
During the original storyline, the Hulk and his gang kill Logan’s family, which causes Logan to retaliate, slaughtering all of the warped family aside from Bruce Banner's grandson, Bruce Jr., who’s just an infant. Although his original timeline had collapsed during the Secret Wars, Logan once again finds himself in the Wastelands. Upon regaining some of his bearings, he heads to Danielle Cage’s abode to check up on her and the baby Hulk. To his horror, he discovers the place empty, with signs of a struggle. He finds Dani alive, but she tells him the baby was stolen by Kang the Conqueror.
Apparently, Kang arrived to destroy the supervillain rulers, as well as Black Bolt and his remnant Inhuman clan. Logan then vows to track down Kang and the young Hulk child.
From the Ashes…
Logan awakes from his shifting realities to find himself inside a small spaceship. Puck rescued him from the void of space, but even with his healing capabilities, he was down for the count for nearly a day. Together, they agree to rescue Alpha Flight and clean up the Brood menace (which they both agree aren’t as clever or powerful as usual). But as they head back into the fray, Logan finds himself shunted into the future again. This time, though, Puck is still at his side, despite the Alpha Flight member's death years before in the original Old Man Logan storyline, which gives rise to doubts about how concrete this version of the Wasteland really is.
He continues to flit back and forth through time, fighting the alien menace and questioning the time-traveling warlord – who claims he came to stop the “one true warlord” from conquering the Wastelands. Even though Kang stole the Hulk’s grandson and brought him to Niagara Falls, somehow Logan finds himself in a twisted version of the future, where the ruler of the Wastelands is the Hulk's grandson, who cites Logan’s abandoning him as the cause of his brutality. However, Puck seems to have insight into this mystery, as he tells his former teammate that the future is merely an illusion brought on by someone who answered Logan's call for help – a very Dark Phoenix-looking Jean Grey.
As often is the case with time-travel stories, especially ones employing mind-bending telepaths like Jean Grey (in whatever form she’s taken), it’s difficult to sort out the pieces until they reveal themselves in full – which is also most enjoyable part. Is the child he saved in an alternate universe merely going to create an a post-apocalyptic world in a different timeline? Is Kang truly part of the equation or merely a figment of Jean’s mind-games (and if so, can he ever truly be trusted)?
Most of all, if Jean Grey came to help Logan, whether it's time-displaced Jean, classic Jean, or a Phoenix-related version (since Puck claimed that a newly-arrived shuttle came from X-Haven), what does it mean for Logan, the X-Men, and the Marvel Universe? No matter what happens, any variation on the Phoenix means trouble. No doubt further details of this complex (and delightful) tale will be revealed in Old Man Logan #18.
Old Man Logan #17 is currently available online and in print.