Wolverine is a character that has been continuously redefined over the years, with his link to Japanese culture being a major part of his backstory. Japan is a place of great love and tragedy for Wolverine, and Old Man Logan: The Scarlet Samurai, written by Ed Brisson, brings an older Wolverine back to the Land of The Rising Sun to face the past. Logan is forced to confront an old love, which makes for one of the most emotional graphic novels I’ve read for a while. I was hyped to read the story and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.
The graphic novels kicks off like any good Wolverine tale should: Logan wants to drink a beer in peace, but is inevitably drawn into a fight beyond his control. In this case it’s taking on a Japanese gang that are capable of healing rapidly, thanks to a new drug called Regenix. Wolverine is put on the trail of the Yashida family, with the drug being manufactured by the new Silver Samurai.
Silver Samurai has problems of his own in the form of The Hand and Gorgon. The Hand are able to overwhelm the Yashida clan, thanks to the arrival of the Scarlet Samurai. It’s not long before Wolverine is drawn into a brutal fight with Scarlet Samurai, who is revealed to be a resurrected Mariko Yashida. The emotional weight of the reveal was amazing, made even more scintillating by the art of Mike Deodato Jr. Gorgon brought Mariko back from the dead to serve The Hand and torment Logan.
Broken down and damaged, Wolverine decides to team up with Silver Samurai to defeat The Hand. He’s successful in breaking the hold that Gorgon has on Mariko. Freed from The Hand’s control, Mariko vows to live her own life instead of letting others decide who she should be. I thought Mariko’s reintroduction was the best part of the story because of her importance to Wolverine. Brisson redefines her as a capable, aggressive warrior that chooses to move forward. In the past, she’s been portrayed as far more passive, so it was refreshing to see her character development.
“The feelings are starting to settle in. Loneliness. Loss. Having Mariko back, for that brief time, then having her to watch her walk away. It’s not love that I miss. Been too long for that. It’s nostalgia…The reminder of a time when things were better. When the world seemed right. Even if just for a minute.”
Wolverine’s interactions with Mariko are as soulful as they are bittersweet. This version of Wolverine is older and carries far more baggage than the original, so his hesitation to get closer is understandable. Meanwhile, Mariko has returned to a world that wasn’t the same as when she left. Her former lover is a frail old man, lightyears away from the Wolverine she knew. This is punctuated by a poignant flashback that shows Logan giving Mariko a white chrysanthemum.
Logan and Scarlet Samurai are able to put a stop to Gorgon and The Hand. Mariko chooses to go out into the world and rediscover who she is. Wolverine returns to the same bar that he started in, feeling nostalgic.
Deodato’s art is stunning throughout the graphic novel, capturing the seediness and beauty of Japan in several panels. He’s helped out by fellow artist Ibraim Roberson. Roberson’s distinctive art appears later on, though it flows well with Deodato’s approach and doesn’t break up the story.
Old Man Logan: The Scarlet Samurai is a must read for any Wolverine fan. Brisson builds on the work laid out by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. More importantly, he adds his own stamp to Wolverine’s world and Japan. You can pick it up now on Amazon.