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Sep 4

All-New Wolverine Annual #1

Posted on Sunday, September 4, 2016 by Paul in x-axis

Well, this is fun.  Annuals have long been a bit of a sidebar to Marvel’s ongoing titles, even when the regular writer is on board.  And this is no different.  Instead, Tom Taylor has taken it as an opportunity to do an endearingly random team-up story, on similar lines to the team-up with Squirrel Girl that appeared in the main title.

This time, it’s Spider-Woman – that is, the Gwen Stacy version of Spider-Woman from Spider-Gwen – with the added gimmick of doing a body swap.  And that’s pretty much the entire concept: Laura and Gwen swap bodies and team up.  It’s a nice, fun little idea: Gwen finds Laura’s powers pretty much horrifying except for the enhanced senses, and Laura is utterly lost trying to make sense of Gwen’s supporting cast, completely lacking the social skills to bluff her way through it.

There is a plot.  There has to be.  I mean, you get a sense that if they could have gotten away without having a plot, and just had them hanging out, they’d have gone for that.  But it’s a team-up, and if they’re going to team up, they kind of have to do something.  “Something”, in this case, is finding out what’s happened and getting their bodies swapped back.  Because we need some arbitrary bonus drama, this must be done within three hours or They Will Both Die.  None of this greatly matters.  It’s a delivery vehicle for the gimmick.

Fortunately, that gimmick carries the story just fine.  Artist Marcio Takara handles the different body language pretty well, and gets the swap across.  He’s a pretty solid choice in terms of matching the established visual tone of the series, too.  The details of Laura and Gwen trying to fathom out each other’s powers are nicely figured out.  Laura struggles to recalibrate for being so much stronger, but quickly figures out that the sensible thing to is not to waste her time trying tricky stuff like web slinging.  Gwen is just horrified and baffled that anyone would want powers that involve sticking knives through your own hands and so forth, and understandably reluctant to use any of Laura’s powers beyond her enhanced senses.  Admittedly, the final pay-off for Gwen’s reaction – she finally pops the claws, and gets it horrendously wrong – doesn’t land, because the mechanics don’t make sense.  There’s no good reason to have her pointing her arms in the required direction, so it looks hopelessly contrived.  But as a character moment, the idea was decent.

This is more Laura’s story with Gwen as a random foil.  Arguably the best reason for using her is that she doesn’t know anything about Wolverine, so she comes to the story with no preconceptions.  I wonder if her continuous interactions with the mainstream Marvel Universe are such a good idea, though.  Her first appearance, in Edge of Spider-Verse, certainly suggested she could carry a solo series, but a big part of its appeal was the way that Spider-Man’s established supporting cast rearranged themselves around Gwen in his absence.  The combination of taking Peter off the board, and replacing a male lead with a female, forced everyone into different roles which looked like a promising set-up in its own right.  Gwen as a frequent dimension hopper may be necessary for cross-promotion, but it drags her a long way from the girl-next-door soap opera milieu that I liked about her first stories.  But that’s more of a problem for Gwen’s series, not so much one for this story.


True, also, that the plot is seriously slight.  The explanation for the swap is utterly random; the whole thing ultimately turns out to be the work of the Hornet’s cousin, attempting to get revenge on Wolverine (the original one) for killing Hornet back in Mark Millar’s “Enemy of the State” storyline.  Perhaps this is setting something up for the ongoing series (which is doing an “Enemy of the State II” arc soon), but it doesn’t connect to anything else here.  Nor does it make sense for Laura to give Red Hornet the “well, you’ve done no harm, so run along now” treatment, given that she was trying to banish someone to another universe, and nearly succeeded.  It feels tacked on so that the story can go through the motions of having a final act.

But the issue gets away with these things because they’re ultimately incidental to the gimmick, and it makes the gimmick work.  Of the current line of X-books, Wolverine is by far the most reliable when it comes to simply being fun to read, and issues like this show why.

Bring on the comments

  1. I feel like one of the things Taylor was trying for here was an homage to Ultimate Spider-Man 67, and the bodyswap between Ultimate spider-Man and Wolverine. It was twelve years ago, and besides making me feel very old, it’s thus fair enough grounds for an homage. I don’t think it quite reaches that level–the contrast isn’t as great, for one thing, as Laura isn’t as harsh as Ultimate Wolverine, and Gwen isn’t as wide-eyed annoying (in an endearing way) as Ultimate Peter Parker. Just generally, the comedic set-up never reaches quite the same heights. But it’s fun, all the same, in the way Taylor’s really excelled at on this title.

  2. Odessasteps says:

    Thought it was cute and innocuous story.

    Ths is easily i think the best x-book right now, if it counts as one.

  3. Niall says:

    Wow. The original was 12 years ago? I’m getting old.

  4. wwk5d says:

    This sounds like a retro throwback…and not just to 12 years ago. Not saying that is a bad thing, this is quite fun. “Mind switch between heroes” stories can be fun if done right, and this was for the most part.

  5. Dazzler says:

    I’ve had the same thought before. Way too much dimension-hopping going on, particularly as it relates to Gwen. Everyone’s skipping around dimensions, Beast somehow has a time machine. Echh.

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