In an interview given before All-New Wolverine was released, writer Tom Taylor said that, “if we’ve done our job right, all of our readers will be just as lost.” So to make sure everyone isn’t totally lost, let’s do a quick, simple review of who Laura Kinney – known as X-23, and the new Wolverine. Created from a damaged DNA sample of the original Wolverine, James “Logan” Howlett, Laura was engineered to be the finest of killing machines. Her origin has been told in detail in the twelve plus years she’s appeared in the comics; with her being raised in the extremely abusive Faculty, killing her own surrogate mother, becoming a teenage prostitute, to then joining such teams as the New X-Men and X-Force.
After the events of Second Coming, Laura decided to leave X-Force because she wanted to walk her own path instead of following orders (like she had been her whole life). This took us to the X-23 solo series written by Marjorie Liu, which focused on her finding her sense of self as an individual, and a hero, and how those two identities work together. Unfortunately this book only lasted twenty-one issues, and after that, Laura was passed around from writer to writer, joining various teams. Although these books kept her in the light (just off to the side), many had her saying/doing things that were either reductive to her story or just plain uncharacteristic.
Wolverine is a large figure – Logan is the most recognizable mutant in Marvel comics and an 8-film franchise has arguably been built around him. So when news spread after his death that Laura Kinney would adopt his famous persona, some alarm bells rang. Would this female character – who had been altered negatively to fit whatever story they were telling by most writers – just pick up Logan’s adventures as though she had no life of her own? Would everything about Laura be lost in the legacy of her clone-dad?
There are a lot of expectations to meet when it comes to a Wolverine comic, and especially when it comes to the action scenes. From panel one of All-New Wolverine, there is a feeling of urgency that the reader falls into as Wolverine is in the middle of a firefight, trying to save someone under the Eiffel Tower. (As Taylor said, some readers may be lost upon opening the first issue of All-New Wolverine – even readers with a lot of knowledge of Laura Kinney.) But this is Wolverine we’re talking about; more importantly, Laura “X-23” Kinney, who has years of combat and fighting skills under her belt. She has the knowledge and cool, calculating mind to get out any situation.
The first arc of All-New Wolverine has Laura finding the Sisters, a small group of women who were cloned from Wolverine herself (but possess none of her mutations), designed to be assassins. From the beginning of her origin, Laura has had concerns about being a clone and whether or not she has a soul; yet so many writers seemed to forget all about her progression in her earlier solo series where she was able to mend these wounds and become her own person. This new story arc very deliberately parallels Laura’s for a purpose – even though Laura is taking the mantle of Wolverine, this is her book and her story.
The concept of the Sisters is meant to resemble Laura as much as it’s meant to challenge her; from Bellona, the albino clone who will kill anyone who gets in her way, to Gabby, the youngest of the clones who still sees the good in everything. These extreme qualities are meant to be a mirror to Laura’s own personality and character arc as she’s grown from the young girl who wouldn’t kill an innocent child, to X-Force member who would kill at the drop of a dime for the mission, to where she is now. In All-New Wolverine, Laura has her own moral code that she follows. She knows who she is, and won’t be manipulated anymore.
Laura is challenged on an interpersonal level by the Sisters too…or rather, challenged by Bellona specifically. Bellona is constantly objecting to Wolverine, telling her to hit harder and to fight whatever comes your way. Bellona represents the white rage that consumed Laura for years, until she took the first step forwards healing.
But Bellona the character also cares very deeply for her younger sister Gabby, and doesn’t want to ruin the goodness in her. When Bellona finally kills one of the men responsible for their captivity, she tells Gabby to look away. There is a depth to each of these characters that, with only a few glimpses of, you understand their connection to one another.
Due to her isolated and abusive upbringing, Laura has had issues with connecting to people. But she knows there are good individuals as much as there are bad, and she works hard to protect everyone. The Sisters arc is centered around character as readers who are new to this Wolverine get an impression of who she is, and it couldn’t have been done any other way. Without the focus on Laura as an individual, this book would have been about the shadow of Logan. Taylor knows who Wolverine is – knows her past, knows her scars, but also knows that she has grown, matured, and healed.
Even without their narrative effectiveness, the interiors are spectacular as artists David Lopez and David Navarrot, along with colourist Nathan Fairbairn, create the visual backbone of this comic. With Lopez working on the big picture (characters and scenery) and Navarrot on all the details (armour and weapons), the duo tackles this very bold and thrilling arc. Most of Laura’s fighting history has dealt with a lot of weaponry – on both the giving and receiving end – and the extra fine points that Navarrot provide really ground the work in her story.
Laura’s regenerative ability allows her to have enhanced agility and durability, but her mutation doesn’t involve superhuman strength. Wolverine’s physical vigour comes from years of training (plus carrying the added weight of her adamantium claws), and Lopez nails this look of a powerful, intimidating force. It is so refreshing to have a female character drawn with muscular thighs and arms, and a realistic waist width of someone who can lift a grown human above their head.
The reveal of Laura as Wolverine is brilliant – this is not Laura in a Wolverine costume, this is Laura as Wolverine.
Even with the focus mainly on character, the Sisters story arc is jammed packed with action, adventure, and cameos, and is the perfect example of Marvel passing the torch to a new character. All-New Wolverine has been like a shining beacon of how to write a character with so much back story and still make it accessible for new readers. Taylor, Lopez, Navarrot, and Fairbairn truly understand who Laura is and seamlessly made the transition of her becoming the new Wolverine without reducing who she is as an individual.
On top of that, Taylor perfectly teases the readers with what’s to come next: the baddest of the bad…Laura’s own personal tormentor, Kimura.
I can’t wait to pick up the next issue!