Kimura is X-23’s Sabretooth, except she’s worse in a number of ways. While Sabretooth has the same kinds of gifts that Wolverine does, even if he’s stronger and faster in exchange of a weaker healing factor, Kimura has unbreakable skin. She was meant to be Laura’s counter from the very beginning, and she loves to see Laura suffer. After not showing up for years, she and Laura finally have their major, and probably final confrontation.
All-New Wolverine 18, written by Tom Taylor, begins where the previous issue left off. Laura is finally free of the trigger scent that puts her into an unstoppable killing rage, while Kimura’s forces have surrounded Laura’s friends, and her pursuers from SHIELD, in a mountain bunker. This issue’s fight scene is pretty big. Laura’s plan is well detailed, utilizing everything from who Jean Grey should control with her telepathy, to Gambit utilizing a can of beans. Oh, and there’s also an old model of Iron Man’s armour kicking around in Tyger Tiger’s bunker that also helps.
For the most part, this issue is very good. The fight scene is dynamic and fun, the drama is brilliant and the reveals, while not completely unexpected, are logical in their conclusion. There’s one moment that throws back to the first issue of All-New Wolverine in an amusing and dramatically effective way. That said, there are a few parts in this issue, and this story arc, that feel a little bit rushed. The fight between Laura and Kimura probably should have been longer, even if the ending is very satisfying. It would have also been nicer to see more of Gabby’s reaction to Bellona’s confession. To properly talk about some of these elements, I’ll have to spoil some things.
It turns out that in All-New Wolverine 13 and 14, Laura didn’t actually kill anyone. Before the trigger scent took over, she stabbed her own brain, knocking her out. Instead, Bellona, now Kimura’s guinea pig, killed everyone with new claws of her own as Kimura’s contingency plan. You can tell through the art that Bellona feels very guilty about her actions, and that part of the drama works very well, but it would have been nice to see more of Gabby’s reaction to her albino sister’s confession. Instead, it cuts right back to Laura’s fight with Kimura. Second, the fight consists of Laura and Angel pursuing Kimura in the air (Laura in the old Iron Man Prototype), until a bullet bounces off the armour and into Angel’s shoulder, knocking him out and sending him into the water. Laura saves him, and then simply launches at Kimura and drowns her.
Laura drowning Kimura is pretty much how I imagined their final confrontation would go down, save for the Iron Man suit that is. However, I’m disappointed that there wasn’t at least some sort of struggle. I get that the Iron Man suit would have enhanced Laura’s already impressive strength, and she’s the more skilled fighter, but Kimura’s super strong too. I mean, she was knocked through an armoured wall on her own airship and wasn’t even dazed by the impact. The very last page is a long-awaited reunion between Laura and her Aunt and Cousin, Debbie and Megan. We see them for a total of two panels, which again convinces me that this would have benefited from an extra issue.
Most of my complaints are very minor. This is still a very satisfying comic, but it feels like this story arc would have benefited from either one more issue, or at least making this one 30 pages long. It would have given more room for both a more satisfying fight between Kimura and Laura, and more time for Gabby and Bellona. As it stands, Gabby barely does anything in this issue. There’s still a chance that some of these things could be explored later, but still.
The art by Nik Virella is good. Kimura’s smug grins show her arrogance quite well. Laura’s smile when all her friends insist on helping out looks like a wordless “thank you”. The old Iron Man prototype looks like a classic model, and somehow, Laura looks awesome in it with her Wolverine cowl on. The fight scene flows well, with great use of debris flying around from Gambit-induced explosions, motion blurs when Kimura is launched out of her massive aircraft by a mind controlled Roughouse, and Kimura’s desperate attempts to stop Laura when (read spoiler paragraph). There’s also a great moment where Laura breaks out of the heavily damaged prototype with her own strength. For the rest of the scene, the pieces of Iron Man armour slowly flow away in the water, a nice touch. Also, Bellona clearly looks different because of Kimura’s experiments, yet she’s still recognizable and some of her facial scars still show. Michael Garland’s colouring is also good. The opening page shows an overhead view of Kimura’s ship over the bunker. It’s mostly a yellowish brown scene because of the sunset, but the water in the shadows of the mountain is blue for a nice contrast. Although everyone’s eyes just look dark from a distance, when there’s a close-up, everyone’s eye colour is right. The closing scene on the other hand is bright and colourful.
Despite parts of this issue feeling a little bit rushed at times, this is still a very good comic. There’s a great mix of drama, action and fun. Even though this is a solo book, this issue almost feels like a team book that happens to focus mostly on All-New Wolverine, and it carries the family feel that most of the actual X-men team books are missing lately. That is no more apparent than the issue ending reunion that long-time Laura fans have been waiting for years to see. If this issue would have either been split into two or expanded into 30 pages, it probably would have been the perfect closer to Enemy of the State II.
Oh, and I did see Logan last night, but if you want my thoughts on that, look at my first impressions post. This review is long enough as it is.