At the heart of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's eight-issue (+one giant-sized comic book), 2008 Wolverine storyline "Old Man Logan" is a western "road movie." A bleak, intense, post-apocalyptic western featuring the cannibalistic, inbred children of the Hulk (who felt that because normal humans could not "keep pace with him," he decided to mate with his first cousin, She-Hulk), but a western road film nonetheless. It told the tale of a Wolverine from an alternate timeline (back when those things mattered), set 50 years in the future, during a time when the supervillains rule the newly-reconstructed United States of Amerika. The majority of the heroes? Nowhere to be found, except for Old Man Logan, who's renounced his violent past and took an oath to never pop his claws.
That is until the wife and kids he was raising on his private slice of land are put in danger.
For the last two years, we've essentially known that Logan would be based on the "Old Man Logan" storyline. Hell, Hugh Jackman legit walked onto a Comic-Con stage in 2015 saying "I've got three words for you: Old Man Logan." With Mark Millar talking about how he was brought on as a consultant for Logan back when it was just known as 'Wolverine 3,' the stage was set for this saga to be brought to the screen, the question truly becomes "how the f*ck does Fox turn 'Old Man Logan' into Logan?"
In the comic book series, Logan decides to make his trek across Amerika with a blind Hawkeye...who is officially on Team Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Amerikan President? The Red Skull, who battled Captain America in The First Avenger. The ultimate Big Bad? That would be the aforementioned Hulk Gang, spawned from Bruce Banner himself, who will be appearing in Thor: Ragnarok later this year. It's a tough, uphill battle, but one of the gems Millar dropped is about how he personally created a story in the middle of an established universe using a handful of characters, and how that could be done within Fox's interconnected X-Men Universe.
"They're not important to the story," Millar said. "The way I worked that thing is I actually structured it as, I broke it down mechanically—I figured out going from this part of America to that part of America and what he would encounter along the way, and then I added in the adversities later. Basically, Wolverine doing The Road movie is the important thing and he has a friend [a blind Hawkeye] with him. But that friend could be Cyclops and he could be blind by the fact that his ruby-quartz visor is broken and he has to keep his eyes closed the whole time and everything, but still insists on driving the car they're crossing America with. There's lots of stuff. Instead of the Hulk, you could have the Blob or something."
So, that's how we get Professor X (a role that Patrick Stewart confirmed he's reprising for the last time in Logan) riding alongside Old Man Logan as opposed to a Hawkeye. And while we won't spoil the plot of the film, one can gain from the intense trailers that this story has much more to do with the pint-sized dynamo Laura than anything from the "Old Man Logan" series.
So what, exactly, does Logan have to do with "Old Man Logan"? Well, for one, we get to see what happens when seemingly-immortal mutants get old AF. Hugh Jackman told us to pay attention to his hair, and as you can see in the promo, he's got a great shade of gray going on. In the trailers, you can also see how ragged his body's gotten. While he might be way more spry than even the most nimble young man, his ability to bounce back from injury seems to have been dampened. In the first trailer, Fox spelled it right out for you: this is a world "that's not the same as it was," where the mutants have practically vanished. And while it could just be that Wolverine's mutant healing factor has truly kept him alive for all of this time, those who actually read "Old Man Logan" know: the X-Men—hell, all of the superheroes—fell to a horrific fate. That leaves a pained Logan, one who has effectively said "f*ck it" and decided to live his life alone...until he's forced to fight for what's right.
More importantly, though, we go back to what Millar calls the "road movie" aspect of "Old Man Logan." Like any western worth its weight, we are presented with a figure who is the best there is at what they do (spoiler alert: that's usually killing) who has to avenge the wrongs handed to them by some dastardly bastards. Logan is no different, with Logan literally hitting the road with Charles Xavier and the mysterious Laura to escape the Reavers from certain death. But it gets deeper, with one huge clue on Logan's western vibe being spilled from Fox itself in December 2016.
When Fox showed the press the first 40 minutes of Logan, they distributed a book of stills from the film to the press along with dialogue from the 1953 western Shane, referencing one of the most iconic moments from the film, with the hero Shane letting young Joey know that "A man has to be what he is, Joey. Can’t break the mold. I tried it and it didn’t work for me."
Damned if that isn't what most of Wolverine's legacy has been about. This is a character who was manipulated and manufactured by the government to be a killer. He's had to fight to reverse that training, and even in "Old Man Logan," where he decided to break the mold and become a peaceful individual, his past came crashing back, forcing him to pop those claws once again. And just like Shane told Joey, "there’s no living with… with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back."
Logan, a modern-day western superhero movie that's loosely-adapted by the futuristic western road epic miniseries known as "Old Man Logan?" If Jackman's telling the truth, and Logan is his final Wolverine film, there's no better way to go out than quietly into the vast open spaces of the Wild West. Godspeed, Old Man.