Oh All-New X-Men. There are definitely things I like about this series. Compared to the other X-Men books right now, this one has a much more balanced, optimistic feel. There’s been some great character development with Cyclops, Evan, Iceman and to a lesser extent, Beast and Idie. But despite ANXM’s upsides, there are problems. The main problem for me is Laura Kinney’s bizarre characterization. She’s barely been in this series since issue 4 though, so I hoped that writer Dennis Hopeless took some time to figure her character out. After reading this issue, I’m … unsure.
Before I get into All-New Wolverine though, let’s talk about Angel in this issue, the other focus character. In the Black Vortex crossover, Angel received a cosmic upgrade, one he chose to keep. At the time, there didn’t seem to be any negative consequences for doing so, but the potential problems were clear. This issue really delves into that, showing how the cosmic upgrade isn’t just giving Angel fancy new powers and fiery wings, but it’s affecting his mental state as well. This part of the comic is very well handled. This issue also ends by teasing the return of a fairly major villain, the Goblin Queen, and the version from the Inferno Secret Wars tie-in that Hopeless wrote too. Personally I think this could be great.
Now onto Laura’s characterization. It’s not as bad as All-New X-Men 4. Some parts, like the internal narration about how she doesn’t get bored easily because of her time in captivity, work fairly well. The brief conversation she has with Cyclops about a list of missions he put together is also nice, showing how they connect through their mission focused, socially awkward similarities. The issue started off well, but then it all went downhill. In her first mission, Wolverine thinks up a detailed plan for an attack, but ignores it and charges in just because it’s not how Logan would have done it. There’s one weird comment where she surprises Pickles (the bamf) by swearing, and then she says she might have gone too far. Uh, she swore a couple times during her X-Force days, and she’s hung around with Logan. Swearing shouldn’t feel weird to her, or the bamfs for that matter.
The worst part is when she talks about briefly reprieving herself from her no-kill policy to fight Hand ninjas as if it means little to her. Her guilt and aversion to killing is a major part of her past character development. In the Touching Darkness arc in the X-23 solo series, when she first felt guilt for all of her killings, it nearly drove her to suicide, and she’s tried to avoid killing anyone ever since. It’s only one sentence, but it’s a dreadful one at that.
One thing that works about this comic is that someone keeps beating Laura to these missions, and about half-way through, she discovers that it’s Angel all along, who left under the fashion week excuse. They argue for a bit while fighting goblins, most of it focusing on Angel’s hypocrisy and half-ignoring the fact that Laura’s not acting like herself at all, and being too aggressive for her own good. This conversation could have worked if it was more balanced, and they both came to a realization. Instead, it’s mostly focused on Angel explaining himself. At the end of the issue it looks like they’re back together, so X-23 fans who hate their relationship won’t be happy with this issue.
A story arc where Laura was trying too hard to be like Logan after taking on the Wolverine mantle could have been interesting if it was handled better from the start. As it stands, Laura started this series off by acting not like herself, and not like Logan, but like a Skrull trying to act like Logan while looking like Laura, if he only observed Logan for a couple hours. Going into this issue, I felt that it could either convince me to stick with this series or drop it. Right now, I’m not sure how I feel.
The art by Mark Bagley is great though. The opening pages make good use of facial expressions to show how frustrated Laura is with sitting around. There are a lot of neat background details in the X-Men trailer, with digital clocks, paintings, a note on a door asking for privacy and other little tidbits. Each time Laura arrives too late at the scene of a mission, there’s a lot of carnage lying around, with hints of energy-related smoke similar to Angel’s fire wings, and plenty of debris. The action scene also flows very well, with a good amount of green blood, energy flying around and realistic looking attack poses. When Angel’s eyes are glowing when he first shows up at the goblin fight, he looks downright terrifying. It’s also great how the blood stays on Laura’s outfit even after the fight. Nolan Woodard’s colouring is also great. The comic’s bright, colourful, and appealing. There’s just one weird panel where Laura’s eyes appear pink instead of white, but otherwise it’s pretty much flawless.
So to sum up this rather long review, I’m conflicted on this issue. Angel’s characterization is very well handled and in some ways, Laura’s characterization feels like an improvement. On the other hand, her characterization still feels way off for most of this issue, and it’s hard to tell whether it’ll improve from here or not. X-23 and Angel’s relationship never really bothered me. In fact I like it in All-New Wolverine. That said, it’ll be hard to judge this issue properly until the next time we see Laura and Angel on panel together, and if her characterization will improve from here or not. If you’re a fan of these two characters, read this issue before you buy it.
I won’t give this issue a score because after two readings, I’m still not sure how to feel about it.