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May 3

All-New Wolverine #7 – “Father Lost”

Posted on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 by Paul in x-axis

All-New Wolverine‘s next storyline leads into Civil War II.  But first, it has an issue to spare.  So, in this issue, Wolverine finds a lost squirrel.

More precisely, Wolverine teams up with Squirrel Girl to find a lost squirrel.  It surely goes without saying that this is an excellent idea.  Squirrel Girl is great – not just because her own series is one of the best things in the line right now, but because of the character herself.  After years languishing in obscurity as a footnote for Ditko enthusiasts, she’s turned into a surprisingly workable character who balances her relentless optimism, goofball enthusiasm and baffling naivety with a legitimate superhero core that makes her perfectly workable across the wider Marvel Universe.  She is a ray of sunshine wherever she goes.

And this makes her a perfect foil for a character like Laura – reserved, brooding, and with a horrific torture-ridden back story.  There are broadly two ways a story can go with her.  One is to make the whole story as grim as she is.  In small doses that can work – it was fine in her origin mini, for example – but in the long run it winds up with the less enjoyable incarnations of X-Force, in which a bunch of disturbed antiheroes gather in low lighting for a bleak-off.  If you don’t really nail the psychology, it gets a bit wearing.

The other approach, which is a lot more fun, is to play up the contrast between her and everyone around her, in which case you actually want to surround her with relatively cheerful types.  This is kind of how Logan worked; he was a much more memorable character for being paired with the likes of Nightcrawler, than he ever would have been if he’d been hanging around with more similar characters like the Punisher or even Nick Fury.  In the X-Men, he stood out.

Clearly, writer Tom Taylor is going for option 2.  Artist Marcio Takara isn’t familiar to me, but he’s a solid artist for  comedy superheroes, who knows how to sell the contrast between Wolverine and Squirrel Girl without going over the top.  He can also draw a good squirrel, which is vitally important.  But this is a character-driven humour issue which needs lightness of touch, and he delivers that.

There are some darker bits even in this story, mostly in the form of flashbacks to Laura remembering her relationship with Logan.  But they’re probably more effective for being the moments of shade in a story about hunting for a lost squirrel (which, by the way, spins off a throwaway line of dialogue in issue #3, where Laura stuck a tracker on a squirrel to confuse the baddies).  It’s also evident that Gabby – the pre-teen clone of Laura who got out before she was as badly damaged as the original – will be sticking around as a supporting character and daughter figure, which seems like an excellent idea.

The drama here turns on Laura’s decision about what she’s going to do with Gabby.  It was pretty obvious in the first arc that the idea of bringing in the clones was that in dealing with them, Laura would have to take on the role of the absent Logan.  That becomes explicit here, as we have Laura initially dealing with Gabby in the same way Logan dealt with her, but then changing her mind on seeing the importance of family.  Having that point illustrated by a squirrel is the sort of thing that could easily be desperately corny and rather painful, but the book pulls it off, which is some pretty neat balancing of tone in itself.

Up to now, this series – or at least, its recap pages – have largely tended to play up Laura’s relationship with Logan as something that was highly important to her, so that his death has driven her to take up the mantle.  This always seemed a bit dubious, in terms of anything we actually saw on the page.  While it would have made a lot of sense for him to take her under his wing, he never really did so.  In fact, the most prominent storyline I can recall about their relationship was in X-Force, with the idea being that Logan was choosing to exploit her as a weapon rather than help her.

This issue suggests that the book isn’t going for quite such a glowing take on their relationship after all.  It does show Laura being more comfortable with him than anyone else at the school, but it also has that as a distinctly relative concept.  The reality, and this is rather closer to the way they were actually written in the past, is that Laura is kind of sort of tentatively reaching out to him as somebody who understands her, and he’s pretty much telling her to stick it out at the school, before buggering off for another solo adventure.  It’s a relationship that both characters feel they ought to have, but never actually develop.  That’s fine by me; it’s a much more natural outgrowth of previous stories, and it adds a slightly sad undercurrent to her taking on the Wolverine identity.

What makes this a good issue, though, is that all that sits very happily alongside a story where Laura teams up with a mad girl to find a lost squirrel.  She should do that more often.


Bring on the comments

  1. Joseph says:

    “…the most prominent storyline I can recall about their relationship was in X-Force, with the idea being that Logan was choosing to exploit her as a weapon rather than help her.”

    By my recollection, Logan opposed including her in X-Force, and had a prescient conflict with Scott over the issue, as it was actually Scott who included her despite Logan’s objections.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Old Man Logan

  2. Suzene says:

    I’m glad to hear that Taylor’s not rewriting history as much as it seemed he’d be in the early issues, because that did rub me the wrong way a bit. It’s a no brainer that Logan was important to Laura, but he was only indirectly responsible for a lot her positive character growth, and it would have grated to see him given too much credit on that front when Laura herself and some smaller-name characters did so much of the heavy lifting. Looking forward to catching up with this.

  3. It’s interesting to see Squirrel Girl appear outside of North and Henderson’s book, where it’s very clearly operating on a logic different from most of the MU. (As illustrated in the current issue, which begins with Galactus in a dinner jacket.)

    She is (was?) in New Avengers, and it’s not a great fit–her character design goes a bit too far in the teeth and I think Ewing crossed the line from portraying her as weirdly optimistic to just weird and manic.

    Taylor’s approach, in contrast, worked for me. That isn’t to say there’s not an element of mania (tracking down Laura to strongarm her into helping a squirrel is inherently ludicrous) here, but there’s some tempering by illustrating her general competency and a degree of emotional savvy in her creative squirrel translations at the end.

    I also just played the videogame Until Dawn, so it’s the second time in two days I’ve seen representations of baby wolverines. I’m ok with that.

  4. Ben says:

    Paul, I don’t think you kept up with Captain Marvel (my brain says that Al did, but my brain can’t be trusted), but Takara put in a two-issue story in the second DeConnick series focusing on Carol Danvers’ cat and Rocket Raccoon. It was a romp, and his artwork was spot on for the tone and for the sci-fi aspects.

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