The Enemy of the State II arc has dug itself deep into Laura’s past more than we’ve seen since her previous solo series, now 5 years ago. One of the major elements of her past is that she was conditioned from a very young age to react to a specific smell, known as the trigger scent. She blacks out when she smells it, and everything tends to die while she’s blacked out. This particular issue focuses primarily on the trigger scent with a major turning point for the character.
All-New Wolverine 17, written by Tom Taylor, takes place shortly after the last issue ended, with Laura attacking a trigger scent marked Tyger Tiger. Thankfully Gabby and Gambit showed up to stop her from killing anyone. She wakes up in a bunker, surrounded by a bunch of her closest friends. Their goal, to forever free her of the trigger scent. Since that was made clear in the preview pages I don’t consider that a big spoiler, but I won’t spoil exactly how the comic moves forward from there. What I will say is that Gabby, Laura’s optimistic clone sister, is great in this issue. Here, she shows a lot of the kind of leadership that Laura’s developed over the years. She’s not as amusing as usual, but this issue is dramatic enough that she doesn’t need to be.
This issue is split between Jean Grey’s efforts to help Laura overcome the trigger scent and the action happening above the bunker. Both SHIELD and Kimura’s forces are on the way, fighting in the air. It’s a brief yet intense action scene that also serves as build-up for next issue’s battle. Nick Fury shows a good mix of trying to be reasonable while also acting harsh toward Angel, and that’s understandable considering what happened in the first two issues of this arc. In the meantime, Jean Grey’s efforts show us what’s going on deep in Laura’s head when she blacks out, and it’s a great reference to her origin story, finding one of the few happy places she had while locked away in the facility. I kind of wish Taylor went a bit further with these moments, but the end result is emotionally satisfying. It’s probably better to do it quick than to have the trigger scent side of the story drag on for too long – Laura’s been affected by it since her origin story, so it’s about time.
For those who argue that Emma Frost couldn’t help Laura back during the New X-Men days in 2005-2008, meaning that a younger, less experienced Jean Grey shouldn’t be able to now, I have an argument against that. First off, Emma Frost didn’t really want to help Laura back then. She kept trying to get Laura kicked out of the mansion or to scare her away. There’s always been mistrust between them. Jean Grey on the other hand is a friend. Laura’s since recovered from a lot of her childhood trauma, and she even avoided killing two people while under the effects of the trigger scent in the last issue, implying that she’s starting to resist it anyway. It’s also true that even if Emma Frost and the others tried to help Laura get past the trigger scent in the past, none of them had samples of the scent, so they wouldn’t have known what’s going on in Laura’s head when the scent is active. Jean Grey does. I’ve seen people questioning this online since the preview pages came out, so I just thought I’d state my point of view. Anyway, back to the review.
The art by Djibril Morisette is mostly good. It’s a simple look without too much fine detail, but there’s enough, like the monitors beside Laura’s bed when she wakes up and the mountains in the background when Angel’s flying toward the SHIELD jets. There’s a great range of facial expressions, like Gabby’s optimistic smiles when she’s trying to calm Laura down. Gambit’s look of determination when he ensures that nobody will interrupt Jean Grey’s efforts, along with holding up a card, is a highlight. Jean Grey’s look of curiosity when she enters Laura’s mind fits perfectly. There’s Laura’s look of utter calmness and relief at the end of the comic is a nice moment, and Nick Fury’s look of confusion really helps sell one of the few jokes in this issue. The action also flows well, with the smoke trails behind the missiles and a panel showing Angel cutting through the roof of Nick Fury’s jet to pull him out before it explodes. That said, neither Angel nor Tyger Tiger look like themselves, and there’s this weird tendency to shade all the noses near the tip. Also the claw marks on Gabby on the last page are way too close together. Michael Garland’s colouring is good though. It’s bright and colourful inside the bunker, Jean Grey glows a bit red when she’s inside Laura’s head, and the outside scenes are mostly shaded orange to match the sunset.
Although I would have liked a bit more time spent in Laura’s head, that’s not a problem with the comic’s quality, that’s just personal taste. As a whole, the writing in this comic is very good. There’s a lot going on, and several plot threads coming together, but everything ends up tying together at the end. I have complaints about the art, but it’s not enough to lesson my overall enjoyment of the story. As a whole, this issue is a must read for long-time X-23 fans, even if you haven’t been reading this series that much. It truly is a game changer for the character. It’s also worth checking out for Jean Grey fans – she has much more to do in this issue than in Inhumans vs. X-Men, and arguably the average Extraordinary X-Men comic. This series is an easy recommendation for X-23 fans, and it’s definitely worth checking out for both fans of the original Wolverine and those interested in checking out a series about a female Wolverine. It’s the only X-Men franchise book right now that actually feels like the characters are a family, and that alone is a big part of why this series works.