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May 27

All-New Wolverine #33-35 – “Old Woman Laura”

Posted on Sunday, May 27, 2018 by Paul in x-axis

The final All-New Wolverine story comes at an awkward time.  It’s a wrap-up for a series that doesn’t really want to wrap up.  After all, Tom Taylor had only just introduced what appeared to be a new status quo, with Laura helping her former victims to hunt down the people who hired her back when she was an assassin.  And he’s still writing both Laura and Gabby over in X-Men Red.  But this is the end of All-New Wolverine, before it relaunches next month as X-23, and since Taylor’s run on the book has been one of the high points of the X-books in recent years, some sort of farewell is called for.

The solution is something of a symbolic finale, as the book simply jumps a generation or so into the future, to offer its version of the “one last mission” story.

The title obviously refers back to “Old Man Logan” – the original story rather than the recurring character – but there’s no plot connection whatsoever.  At most, it’s Taylor flagging it up as a reference point, and – having put that story on the table – striking out to do something else instead.

Far from the pervasive all-purpose miserablism of the original story, this is an optimistic future.  Which means it basically looks like the present, except people are older and there’s a hint of Tron about some things.  Ramon Rosanas’ clean lines, and a generally light colour palette from Nolan Woodward, make this look more upbeat than many of the present day X-books.  It’s arguably the colouring that does the most to make the opening issue look futuristic, though you could still make a case that the resulting effect is more “Tokyo at dusk”.

So it’s the future.  Gabby is now running around in her own Tron-like Wolverine costume, while Laura is the queen of Madripoor, supposedly installed by public acclaim or something.  There’s been a big war against Doctor Doom somewhere in the time gap, but the heroes won, and aside from the fact that Latveria is still sitting there as a North Korea-style hermit kingdom, everything is pretty much great.  All other problems have been solved; there are no other major villains around; it’s close to being the world where the good guys won.  It’s a complete inversion of the overused  dystopian future trope.

Laura is dying because of an imperfection in her original cloning, and so she decides to go on One Last Mission to kill Doom and rescue her missing sister Bellona.  Bellona doesn’t actually add a great deal to the plot, aside from justifying a side trip to visit President Kamala Khan for some exposition – some things never change, and so all roles in this future timeline must be filled with recognisable characters.  Mainly, I guess, Bellona helps to make sure that Laura’s motivation is not purely negative, and that Laura gets to achieve something positive at the end.  But she’s not really central to the story.

Maria Hill, who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because of course she is, decides to tag along with Laura and Gabby on the mission to Latveria.  And it’s at this point that the story starts to lose a bit of focus.  The cliffhanger at the end of part 1 is that Gabby has called somebody else in and is apparently a traitor.  But no, it’s false jeopardy time, because it’s just Captain Marvel and Hawkeye showing up to join the party.  The Wasp shows up in a bit as well.  None of these characters strike me as particularly close to Laura, and having so many of them running around seems to dilute the story.  Still, it’s a good looking action story with some fun, creative silliness, like Wasp being hidden inside an adamantium bullet so she can be shot into a Doombot.

Maria thoughtfully gets herself killed by a stray shot, and dies imagining a world where the heroes won; purely in plot terms this makes her seem a bit redundant, but we’ll come back to that.

Anyhow, the idea is that Doom is also dying (of old age), and he’s lured Laura to Latveria hoping to steal her body as a new host.  He doesn’t know she’s dying, and assumes her healing factor will make her conveniently immortal.  Naturally, this plan goes off the rails when he realises what’s happening, and as you’d expect, this winds up with him dead and all his superhero prisoners rescued, because that was the One Last Mission.

Except… Laura is still fine.  And the ending is to have Gabby declare confidently that there’s bound to be someone out there who can cure her, so it’ll be okay.  If you’re being pernickety about the plotting, this doesn’t make a huge amount of sense – part one takes some time to establish that Laura has already been looking for a cure, and Gabby really has no reason to believe that something will turn up – but it just feels right that Gabby should be correct.  Perhaps that’s a measure of the story doing something right, and making an unexplained plot U-turn work because it feels like the right thing to be happening.

So what the heck is going on here?  It seems like the main idea here is to invert the “one last mission in a dystopian future” story, and have a future where the heroes (as a whole) win outright, but to have Laura trying to act out that story anyway.  She wants to make the great heroic sacrifice so that everything can be fine for everyone else.  Gabby’s role is stop her doing that, and insist – by bringing along all those other characters – that Laura doesn’t just get to save the world, she gets to live in it too.  Because that’s the final resolution of Laura’s character arc from brainwashed child assassin to functioning human being, and her final triumph over what was done to her.  As for poor old Maria Hill, she seems to be there to take the bullet in Laura’s place and die a heroic death, but with a decided overtone that she lived a personally unfulfilling life.

It’s a nice idea.  But it also means there’s a lot of other characters around to distract from Laura, and it doesn’t always feel like a Wolverine story.  It’s more satisfying in reflection than it is actually reading it.

Still, it provides a sense of resolution – however symbolic – to Tom Taylor’s run on the book, which really has done wonders for Laura as a character by dialling back her often two-dimensional trauma to make room for other dimensions, and by using Gabby as a foil to bring a lighter side out of her.  And since he’s continuing to write the characters on X-Men Red, that’s something which is likely to stick for the foreseeable future, even if the book itself is (questionably) going back to X-23 as a title.  This isn’t the absolute high point of the run, but it does achieve closure of a sort.

Bring on the comments

  1. mark coale says:

    Part one felt like an issue/episode of Batman beyond.

  2. Meh Met says:

    Love Taylor’s run on ANW but the last story does feel a bit rushed and suffering from too many characters that, as mentioned in the review, don’t feel particularly close to Laura and end up taking the spotlight away from her to an extent. It obviously does try to be the optimistic inversion of one last mission at the end of a grizzled pro’s career type of thing, but the “twist” at the end with Gabby pretty much postulating that Laura will be saved does sound forced. Also, as a person somewhat sensitive to certain political themes, I was somewhat irked at the handwavy way the whole “Americans invading a sovereign country because it clearly is the right thing to do” plot point was established. Firstly, Taylor’s politics are usually pretty nuanced and he’s certainly far away from the “humanitarian interventions are so cool, so let’s not think about the collateral damage right now” type of reason (also, he is Australian…). And secondly, I thought the whole schtick with Latveria, for decades was that despite everyone seeing how problematic was to have an absolutist dictator run the place, the cooler heads always prevailed and decided against interventionism as it would lead to potential global chaos.

    So, not as strong conclusion to one of my favourite runs at Marvel over the past couple of years as I hoped for.

  3. Si says:

    Is Latveria in the EU? How does Doom feel about Brexit? Does Latveria enter Eurovision?

  4. Brian says:

    And eventually Laura was rescued by…ooh…let’s say Moe.

  5. wwk5d says:

    “Does Latveria enter Eurovision?”

    Yes, but only Doombots are allowed to enter/participate.

  6. Loz says:

    I would love it if, despite the book being called X-23, everyone refers to the character as either Laura or Wolverine, because X-23 is a really terrible code-name, like all those years in the nineties when Jean Grey’s code-name was ‘Jean Grey’.

  7. Chris V says:

    Well, there was that story-arc where the FF went to Latveria and overthrew Dr. Doom and tried to set up a representative democracy.
    Then, a few years later, the FF helped Dr. Doom overthrow the current government, which had become even more repressive and autocratic than Doom.

    Currently, Dr. Doom has been deposed for a number of years as the leader of Latveria. The country has devolved in to a long-running civil war, with no sides able to quell the chaos.

  8. Chris says:

    I have ALWAYS hated “Jean Grey” as a codename

  9. Thom H. says:

    Frankly, even Marvel Girl would have been better. What’s everyone calling her now?

    Also, didn’t someone in comments suggest “Fang” as Laura’s new codename? Such a good idea.

  10. Brian says:

    At a certain point, folks just need to find the Fortunov heir and reinstall the old Latverian monarchy, based around a semi-constitutional model with a degree of international investment as collateral for stability. Any democratic leader is going to be comparing themselves to more prosperous neighbors and bec e corrupt to “speed things along,” while any military leader is going to compare themselves to Doom and seize more power to “keep things in line.” A return to the ‘rightful’ dynasty at least gives them a comparison to historical leaders.

  11. Moo says:

    “Also, didn’t someone in comments suggest “Fang” as Laura’s new codename? Such a good idea.”

    For a character with ordinary teeth and whose visual cue is claws? “Fang” would have been a more appropriate name for Jubilee back when she was still a vampire. Actually “Suck” would have been even more appropriate.

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