The previous issue ended with a huge surprise that I refused to spoil, and I need to warn you now that to properly discuss this issue, I will need to discuss what happened. If you don’t want issue 25 to be spoiled, skip to the last paragraph now.
All-New Wolverine 26, written by Tom Taylor, begins not too long after the first issue ended. Long story short, Daken went missing, and the only piece of evidence left behind was a scent from the facility that bred Laura and trained her from birth to be a killer. As much as Laura didn’t want to return, she went to find Daken. She experienced a bit of a trip through her worst memories, before finding a tank with her mother, long believed to be dead.
This issue begins in a creepy underground lair of some sort, with Daken strapped to a table and a sadist torturing him. Through his dialogue, it’s clearly stated that both people holding him hostage hate Daken to the core, although it’s not explained exactly why. Not that we need a reason for a 60-something immortal killer to have enemies. This guy makes a huge mistake though, allowing Daken to escape. The rest of the issue intercuts between Daken’s escape and Laura at her aunt and cousin’s house.
The Daken scenes are fairly intense, with a lot of action, a creepy moment where he walks in on someone watching surveillance footage of Laura’s scene. Laura’s scene focuses more on story building and humour to lighten the mood. On the one hand, it’s a nicely written reunion with just the right level of confusion. On the other hand, there’s the overbearing sense of dread that something terrible will happen, or that something isn’t as it seems. Combined with the darker Daken scenes, and a bit of a confusing closer when Laura and Daken meet up, and it’s hard to tell exactly where this story is heading.
The art by Juan Cabal is fantastic for the most part. It’s a clean yet highly detailed style. The opening page perfectly sets the darker tone for Daken’s scenes, with a darkened room and the silhouette of two people standing in front of Daken’s table. It uses close-ups of one of the people pulling off a glove, with blood stains on her apron, while the other chooses a weapon from the table. The second page splits into 12 panels, some of which show Daken on the table, with a fresh open wound where one of his arms used to be, blood soaking the table, and select panels cutting to his torturer picking a weapon. Daken manages to keep a cold hard stare to show his toughness, but the sweat on his brow clearly shows that he’s not enjoying himself.
Save for a couple somewhat awkward panels, facial expressions do a great job at conveying emotions. Gabby’s delighted stare while Beast is medically checking Sarah Kinney is such a Gabby moment. Sarah looks weary through the entire comic, which makes sense for someone who recently woke up from a year’s long stasis, and when Laura hears shooting in the streets, her focus and determination takes over her previous joy. The action flows well, with plenty of debris, the right amount of blood, and a bit of saliva dripping out of angry dogs’ mouths. There are also a lot of nice touches in the art, like a magazine cover showing the writer’s face, the “Big Mother Live” logo on the surveillance footage, and the “Fine cup of coffee” mug. The over-sized clothes that Daken takes in a hurry are heavily wrinkled. Nolan Woodard’s colouring is also great. The opening scene is dark with great use of shadows, while Laura’s scenes are bright and colourful.
This is a fantastic comic. It strikes a balance between a joyful reunion and a sense of building dread. Gabby is amusingly weird as usual. It makes great use of Wolverine mythos in a story that involves both of the original’s children. Seeing how it touches directly on Laura’s past, it’s an easy recommendation for X-23 fans. With Daken not only getting a great action scene but equal spotlight in this issue, it’s an easy recommendation for his fans. And with a story tying directly with Wolverine mythos, it’s at least worth checking out for fans of the original. This continues to be the best X-Men series on the market, and I can’t wait to see where Orphans of X is heading.