Enemy of the State II started off with the trigger scent being dumped over a small town, forcing Laura to kill everyone there. It was an emotionally rough way to begin this story arc, and at the end of the last issue, she was captured by Kimura. Kimura is basically Laura’s Sabretooth, but she’s probably worse than that considering she’s got unbreakable skin and started torturing Laura from a very young age. That’s where this issue begins.
Written by Tom Taylor, All-New Wolverine 16 is easily the darkest issue in this series so far. Although Laura isn’t letting Kimura see it, she’s clearly afraid of what’s going on. She hates being used as a killer, and Kimura knows how to use her like nobody else. Bellona, Laura’s emotionally unstable clone from the first story arc, also seems to be under Kimura’s complete control. And to make matters worse, Kimura has a trump card that I won’t spoil here, but it’s extra incentive for Laura not to try to escape or end her life. This issue really shows Laura’s venerable side. It’s a side that hasn’t been shown too much in this series, but it is an important part of her character.
At this point in the story, Laura’s only hope seems to be Gabby, the young, optimistic clone with traces of Laura’s mutant abilities. She’s currently being shipped back to the United States on a pirate ship that’s been taken over by Roughouse. She helps lighten the comic’s mood not only with her usual amusing comments, but by showing intelligence and hints of leadership. She really is a happier, more emotionally balanced version of Laura, and that’s part of what makes her such a delightful character. The comic ends with several plot threads coming together, and an intense cliffhanger in Madripoor involving the potential death of a former friend of both Logan’s and Laura’s.
The art by Nik Virella is great. The opening page perfectly illustrates the horror of Laura’s situation as she’s lying in what’s basically a torture tube. Facial expressions do a great job at showing emotion, whether it’s Kimura’s sadistic grins, the clear fatigue in Laura’s eyes when she’s first taken out of the torture tube, the confusion in the children’s eyes when Gabby explains her plan, and of course Roughouse’s rage when one of the pirates tries to cut a deal with him. There’s good use of background details on the pirate ship, like the life rafts hanging above the lower decks, the cargo crates in the cargo room, and the broken glass flying all over the place when Laura’s dropped into her “first mission”. The action looks perfectly intense, flowing well from panel to panel. Michael Garland’s colouring is also good for the most part. There’s an overall green hue in Kimura’s lair to match the liquid in the torture chamber, there’s a good variety of outfits on the kids on the ship, and the action scene is bright and colourful. That said, with the exception of the trigger scent turning Laura’s eyes red at one point, almost everyone’s eyes are very dark throughout the comic. There’s a weird moment where the middle of Gabby’s eyes are green, surrounded by black when eyes should be the other way around.
This is a great comic. It’s emotionally rough like Laura’s origin story, but balanced out with a fun scene with Gabby, Roughouse showing a sense of honor and several guest appearances that are more than welcome, even if there’s a dark edge to why some of them are showing up. Fans of Laura’s earlier solo titles will enjoy very likely this story arc and the little references within. Despite these references, this story still feels very focused. X-23 fans should be reading this series, as should anyone who would give a female Wolverine a chance. This still remains the best ongoing X-Men book on the market right now.
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This issue is what I’ve been waiting for from this arc. High tension and drama with a strong story focus. It’s great stuff.