Wolverine takes on S.H.I.E.L.D., Kimura, and her own brainwashing in All-New Wolverine Vol. 3: Enemy of the State II. Is the story good?
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Nic Virella, Djibril Morissette-Phan
Publisher: Marvel Comics
This volume is a mixed bag in just about every sense of the word. Both narratively and artistically, the collection has its ups and downs. Tom Taylor is the writer, and I believe he does a good job, but not a great one. On the plus side, as someone who has a very limited amount of prior knowledge about Laura Kinney, I was able to read this volume without ever feeling in over my head. Taylor does a great job of providing all the necessary background information without hitting the reader over the head with it. Reading this volume helped to endear Laura’s character to me, and that’s a good thing.
With that said, I wasn’t left feeling very eager to see more of this creative team’s take on Laura. A lot of what was interesting about the character here seemed to owe more to her backstory than what this volume actually does with said backstory. We see Laura struggle with overcoming the effects that the Trigger Scent has on her, while running away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and taking on her old tormentor Kimura. The handling of Kimura and Laura’s relationship is one of the volume’s biggest faults. We are told repeatedly how evil Kimura is, how badly she’s tortured and dehumanized Laura, but we never feel the trauma. Laura says she afraid of Kimura, but that sense of fear is never effectively rendered on the page. Kimura herself is unremarkable. If the exposition didn’t tell me she was such a major part of Laura’s past, I never would have thought such a boring villain was notable.
Similarly disappointing is the way that Kimura gets taken down. Without spoiling anything, I’ll simply say that the ending felt too easy. The way in which Laura overcomes her vulnerability to the Trigger Scent is also questionable. Jean Grey assists telepathically, but it’s the teenage, time-displaced Jean Grey. The idea that an inexperienced Jean was able to do what she did in this issue calls into question why a more skilled telepath hadn’t helped Laura already. Are the likes of Emma Frost and Psylocke no match for a Jean Grey with no experience?
Now back to the good parts of the writing. While her emotions weren’t conveyed as effectively as I wish they had been, Laura was still a sympathetic character. The supporting cast and guest stars in this arc are largely likable. It’s nice to see Angel and Gambit actually do something in this day and age, and their concern for Laura was believable and touching. Taylor’s handling of Gambit is particularly notable due to how it captures what’s likable about the character and manages to feel like Remy even while shirking the usual poorly written accent. The pacing throughout the volume is also generally pretty good; as underdeveloped as a lot of the plot was, Taylor still executed it in a way that made me interested enough to want to keep reading.
The art in this volume is also a mixed bag. We get two different pencillers, Nic Virella and Djibril Morissette-Phan, and thankfully their styles are similarly enough that the artistic shifts aren’t too jarring. Unfortunately, the common elements between their styles aren’t all positive ones. While some of the facial expressions are good, a lot of them just don’t capture the relevant emotions well enough. In general, the characters aren’t particularly well-rendered. They’re frequently drawn in a generic style that doesn’t have enough pizzazz to make the designs’ lack of detail appealing. The action scenes suffer from feeling much too static; motion isn’t particularly well depicted here. On the other hand, when the facial expressions are good, they’re really good, and a lot of the background scenery and machinery is pleasing to look at.
Overall, this is a good volume. The supporting cast is fun, the art’s better points are charming, and it’s easy to root for the hero even though her nemesis is poorly fleshed out. The pacing does this story a lot of favors; Taylor is good at managing momentum so that nothing feels too rushed or decompressed. Ultimately, though, this volume simply has too many problems to be great.