If there’s one thing that All New Wolverine is about, that’s family. It’s not really something that the title wears on its sleeve, but more of a quiet insistence that runs as an undercurrent throughout the story. There’s no agonizing or deliberation about how Laura sees Logan anymore. In the first issue the subtext of the flashback scene with him communicated a lot about his paternal feelings for her, and in the following issue Laura just flat out refers to him as her father. The amusing part of it, and what makes it all such a quintessentially X-Men thing is that what disrupts the normative conception of father and daughter is that it’s almost a complete inversion of real life stigmas that question familial ties that conform to everything but biology. Logan and Laura, as well as Laura and her clones are a strange conception of family because biology is all they have.
Laura asserts the clones as her sisters over Mooney’s assertion that they’re property in what is probably the most Logan like thing she’s ever done. Taking in strays has been one of Logan’s favourite hobbies over the years, but what’s most interesting about Laura is that she chooses to define them as sisters instead of daughters. It sure does say a lot about how she sees herself in terms of the question of being able to perceive herself as ready to take on a mother role, but it also speaks volumes about her perspective on their agency. In arguing with Mooney over their humanity, Laura is very consciously advocating for their self determination. She’s willing to take responsibility for their wellbeing, but she also doesn’t want to replace Alchemax as a controlling force in their lives.
This issue is really where Tom Taylor’s dark sense of humor, which fans of his work on Injustice for DC are well acquainted with, comes out to play. While communicating with Alchemax, Taskmaster expresses typical nonchalance about the injuries their people sustained fighting Laura, but the actual comedy begins to come into play when he turns to see Laura get up and extend her claws, catching him momentarily off guard. Taskmaster’s ability, as he reminds us, is the ability to mimic and counter anything somewhat like Midnighter, but instead of the cocky attitude that writer Steve Orlando imbues him with, Taylor goes for bored and detached until she turns the tables on him by subverting his expectations.
It’s a unique take on him that his ultimate weakness is the subjectiveness of his expectation of his opponent. He’s been told that Laura doesn’t kill people anymore, which lulls him into thinking that he can grab her foot without worrying about her popping her claws and maiming him, which she does. While I expressed some regret at the choice to use his goofy old school pirate costume over the updated UDON designed one last issue, I’m going to walk that one back thanks to Laura pulling his mask off, reducing him to just a guy with way too much eye makeup on. Who knew Bucky exerted that much influence over mercenary fashion in the Marvel universe?
The real comedic high point of the issue is that as the debate between Laura and Bellona rages over whether or not they should be killing their enemies, Bellona sarcastically quips that Laura shouldn’t have cut off one of the mercenaries’ fingers in case he was also a pianist, only to have Gabby gather up the severed fingers and place them beside his body just in case he actually does play the piano. It’s exactly the kind of thing that Taylor distinguished himself for in his characterization of Harley Quinn in Injustice: Gods Among Us. Taylor doesn’t revel in the dark or exploit it, but finds jarring and ultimately human ways of breaking the tension. In Harley’s case we can see that she’s mimicking what Black Canary will look like pregnant as a coping mechanism to stave off a confrontation with the realities of trying to have a kid in that world and the memories of her own pregnancy within that continuity. In Gabby’s case, it’s a jarring reminder of not just her humanity, but how young she is, much like the sequence in Patrick Gleason’s Robin: Son of Batman that had Nobody laughing at the fact that Damian Wayne still has baby teeth. These are the moments that define how a writer navigates the darkness, and it’s more clear than ever that Taylor has packed a flashlight with him, and that he will be using it to make silly shapes on the wall.
What really tops the issue off as the Marvel version of a Griswold family Christmas adventure is the ensuing car chase alluded to by Bengal’s stunning cover when Mooney comes to and catches up to them, though. The greatest thing about it is how Lopez and Navarrot keep it so tightly focused inside the vehicles themselves, focusing on the cramped quarters both from within the clones’ vehicle when the Alchemax mercenaries open fire on them and when Laura leaps into the enemy’s. The key to most great car chases, Black Canary #3’s being an extreme outlier, is maintaining a sense of tension and in film that tension is build up and held through exterior shots of the cars whizzing past oncoming vehicles and pedestrians, which isn’t something you can really achieve on a static comic page. So what you do is find a different route to evoke the same feeling in the audience, which Lopez and Navarrot do by focusing on the confines of the vehicle and the incoming enemy fire.
As great as it is to have titles like Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat that are stepping about as far away from conventional superhero narratives as possible, it’s still refreshing and vital to get titles like All New Wolverine where you can have a young female hero struggle with complex questions of morality and do things like tear the steering wheel out of a car and leap out the window. At the same time though, while Kate Leth jokes about Wicked and Tom Taylor jokes about severed fingers, both titles carry the importance and power of the mutant metaphor in their very marrow. Leth may be working with an Inhuman character as the anchor for it, but she’s also very consciously depicting the elements of queer community that the X-Men books thrive on. While Taylor is using a much more classical approach of weaving the science fiction weirdness of the X-Men into analogues for found/queer family, the net result between the two is that while the X-Men line may be a rapidly diminishing part of Marvel’s overall portfolio, the heart and soul of the franchise remains alive and well.
Written by Tom Taylor
Drawn by David Lopez and David Navarrott with colors by Nathan Fairbairn
Letters by Cory Petit
Cover by Bengal
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Emma Houxbois is a fiercely queer trans woman from the wilds of Canada, most recently spotted in the Pacific Northwest. She is a two time IWC Women’s World Champion and has written about comics for the web since 2005 for sites including Playboy, Bitch Media, and Graphic Policy.