Logan is a breathtaking – and incredibly violent – film that immediately captivated audiences. It serves as a kind of road trip story with Wolverine and his young clone X-23, as they try to stay one step ahead of the Butchers and the evil scientist who want to capture our mutant heroes. Because of the film’s relentless pace, it’s easy to lose the meaning of some of your characters. And, of course, brief appearances in a single film do not underline their complex comic book stories. Here, then, is a guide to Logan’s characters with more meaning than you realized. Be careful though, as this article assumes you’ve seen the movie and is full of spoilers.
In Logan, Donald Pierce serves as the main antagonist. While there are villains who are more powerful – like X-24, Wolverine’s mutant clone – and those who are more diabolical – like Dr. Rice, the architect of the mutant extinction – it is Pierce who relentlessly hunts Logan and X-23 wherever want them to go. In fact, the film essentially features Pierce as the counterpart to Caliban. Caliban is the mutant tracker, while Pierce is a mutant hunter.
However, in the Marvel comic book universe, Pierce is much more than that. First, he is a cybernetic member of the Club of Hell and, with this group, he has already defeated all the X-Men and helped to defeat the aspect of the Black Phoenix in Jean Gray, who later destroyed an entire planet. He ended up being expelled from the Hell Club and discovered the Butchers, investing in them with cyber improvements. With this group, Pierce beat – and crucified – Wolverine and proved to be very difficult to defeat. This is because in his comic book incarnation, everything about him is cybernetic, except his head, and he can survive even if everything else is destroyed! All in all, this is much more impressive than the simple robotic hand in the film.
Caliban is a character who continues to appear in unexpected places within the X-Men Cinematic Universe. We last saw him in X-men: Apocalypse, where he charges money to Mystique to find mutants and help transport them to safety. He appears again in Logan as someone who once used his mutant tracking skills to help Pierce and others to hunt mutants, but now serves as an assistant – and occasionally a domestic servant – to Charles Xavier and Logan. While he has a moving bow in Logan, the incarnation of Caliban’s comics has a rich and profound history.
We first see Caliban in the comics as a relatively weak mutant. He lives and works alongside the Morlocks, a group of mutants who cannot easily pass as humans and choose to live in the sewers. He has a frightening misadventure where he kidnaps teenage Kitty Pryde and intends to marry her, but he finally lets her go. Later, most of the Morlocks are killed by the Executioners, and Caliban ends up living with the X-Factors – a group made up of the original five X-Men. Caliban, frustrated that his tracking power doesn’t give him real power, ends up becoming one of the Knights of the Apocalypse. The villain Apocalypse makes Caliban stronger and more intelligent, but Caliban ends up rehabilitating later, losing his newfound powers and intelligence and eventually becoming an ally of the X-Men once again. He finally joins X-Force and dies on a mission, but like most characters who die in the comics, he manages to come back to life. His return is short-lived, however, since he is later sacrificed to the mutant Selene.
The Butchers in the movie Logan serve a very specific function: they were the nameless evil soldiers that Wolverine and X-23 kept cutting into slices. In the comics, however, Butchers have distinctive names – in Logan, they are only named through the credits – and have many distinctive skills. A funny note about the Butchers in the comics is that they have a specific reason to hate Wolverine. It all starts when the X-Men are captured by the Club of Hell. Wolverine tries to rescue his team and finds the henchmen, which he tears into pieces. They would have died, but the Hell Club gave them members and cyber improvements. Later, Pierce encounters a different group of vandals who were previously beaten by the X-Men and gives them cyber upgrades and ends up bringing the two groups together.
Collectively, they had some strange adventures. Before meeting Pierce, some of them used the mutant teleportation portal to commit daring robberies around the world. Since everyone was a cyber team, they captured and crucified Wolverine, who escaped only thanks to the Jubilee. They also became entangled with the Punisher, and most of them – except Pierce – were later killed by Sentinels. A funny note about the group is that the Butchers in the comics have really crazy upgrades – some of them have tanks in place of their legs, while others have fully robotic limbs and built-in weapons ranging from machine guns to rocket launchers. They are basically an 80’s cyberpunk view, which probably explains why their look was toned down in Logan.
Perhaps one of the most surprising faces we see in Logan is Rictor. At first, Wolverine is highly skeptical of X-23’s fate, assuming that the notion of a mutant shelter was something she or her nurse had invented. However, upon reaching the indicated location, they encounter a group of young mutants who have escaped the laboratory, including the mutant Rictor. He has seismic powers and shows natural leadership skills. However, the comic book writer has some stories to tell.
The comic book writer was initially brought in by the X-Factor when the group posed as mutant hunters so that they could secretly take care of the mutants that were to be apprehended. He finally befriends more of these rescued mutants and then joins the New Mutants, a group that Xavier started training when he thought his X-Men had died during one of his many space adventures. When that group eventually disbanded, Rictor joins the much more militant X-Force, which was led by the time-shifting mutant Cable. Later, however, Rictor is one of many mutants who loses his powers because of the Scarlet Witch, but that doesn’t stop him from joining the X-Factor and continuing to help his team – and mutants in general – before finally regain your powers.
One of the most interesting reminiscences in Logan is the presence of the X-24. This is a mutant clan of Logan that exists mainly so that we can watch Wolverine in a mirror game against himself. The idea of the hero battling a mirror image of himself is recurring in superhero films – Spider-Man against Venom, Iron Man against Iron Monk, Ant-Man against Yellow Jacket etc. X-24 is also reminiscent of two very different characters from Marvel comics.
Spiritually, the X-24 clone appears to be a reference to Albert, a robotic duplicate of Wolverine that was built by Donald Pierce in order to kill his mutant nemesis. Along with another robot, Elsie-Dee, Albert eventually overcomes his schedule and becomes an ally of Wolverine. However, the film makes it clear that the X-24 is a clone rather than a robotic duplicate, which seems to listen to more recent comics centered on X-23 adventures like the new Wolverine. In these comics, she finds different clone versions of herself who have escaped the laboratory and are now seeking revenge against their creators. These clones have different ages and personalities, which appears to be a big step above the stupid killing machine depicted in Logan.
The film shows us surprisingly little about Dr. Rice. He is the man behind the program who is cloning and training young mutants, and Pierce even believes that this scientist is responsible for the extinction of the mutant race. However, he is only in a few scenes and is killed quite hilariously by Wolverine’s shot in the middle of a villainous monologue. This means that we are unable to see the full depth and breadth of their relationship with young mutants. However, Dr. Rice from the comics is much more significant for X-23.
In the Marvel comics, we first see Dr. Zander Rice as a younger scientist. His father had worked on the Arma X program and was killed by Wolverine – as in the film. Young Rice is later accused of recreating Weapon X and is especially cruel during that process. He tortures young Laura to bring out her mutant abilities, which includes extracting her claws without anesthesia in order to cause maximum pain. Perhaps the worst thing he did to young Laura was to build a fragrance that induces her into a bizarre Wolverine-like fury whenever she smells it. Rice brainwashes Laura to kill her fellow scientist, Dr. Sutter, as well as Sutter’s family – including Rice’s illegitimate daughter with Sutter’s wife. Under orders from her “mother”, Dr. Kinney, Laura ends up killing Dr. Rice and destroying Weapon X, but Rice gets her last revenge: he manages to release the fragrance in Dr. Kinney’s hair, so Laura ends up murdering the only one person who loved her.