It was a fun idea while it lasted. I’m talking about the idea of Laura Kinney assuming the mantle of Wolverine during the run of this title. After this volume she’ll be back to being X-23 in a title of the same name from a different creative team. Honestly, that development is more than a little disappointing. Having Laura assume Wolverine’s mantle felt like a step forward for the character. One that showed she could replace an A-list character, but do so on her own terms. All that’s over with after this volume, which wraps up writer Tom Taylor’s run. Though you might not be expecting things to be at their best with the writer attempting to put his own spin on another… *ahem* classic Mark Millar “Wolverine” story, it managed the neat trick of exceeding my expectations.
That’s the storyline which closes out this volume, however. Kicking things off is a welcome bit of silliness involving Gabby “Honey Badger” Kinney, Deadpool, and Jonathan the Wolverine. It all starts when Gabby takes Jonathan out for a walk, only for the wolverine to come across the research facility where he was experimented on. How do we know this? Because Jonathan tells this to Gabby in so many words. (Remember, he got a universal translator from the Guardians of the Galaxy back in vol. 4.)
Realizing that attacking a public company may not be the best look for Wolverine, Gabby decides to recruit the help of everyone’s favorite morally flexible Merc With a Mouth. What follows includes Gabby’s first chloroforming, zombie lab animals, and Deadpool making squirrel kebabs. It’s all completely ridiculous, but the story fully commits to it and the results are a lot of fun. Marco Failla handles the art for this issue and proves to be a good fit for all the comedy. In fact, this issue is so successful at bringing the funny that I wish Taylor had given us more explicitly comedic issues like this in the course of his run.
Next up is another one-off that follows up on the Orphans of X storyline from the previous volume. Wolverine teams up with Amber, the daughter of a secret service agent she murdered while she was under the Program’s control. It turns out that the person who ordered the death of the presidential candidate the agent was protecting was part of a Neo-Nazi organization. From there the two travel to the island resort the man is staying at and the results pretty much play out as you’d expect. With the inclusion of some Nazi-stomping boots. It’s pretty standard fare, but the storyline is elevated through its connections to Laura’s history and the previous storyline. Djibril-Morrisette Phan’s art also gets the job done too.
Then we come to the title arc, which shows us what the future has in store for Laura. In comparison to the previous Millar story that Taylor name-checked in his run, “Old Woman Laura” actually resembles the storyline its title hails from. Even better is the fact that this particular future isn’t a dystopic one. Mostly.
In fact, after a little bit of fun misdirection, we find out that Laura has become the Queen of Madripoor and has turned the former cesspool into a shining beacon of civilization. She’s got the love of the city’s people, the respect of her friends, and a fatal flaw in her DNA that’s slowly killing her. That’s right, Laura Kinney’s time is quickly running out and she’s got one last thing on her bucket list to take care of. Infiltrating Latveria and taking out Doctor Doom.
I’ll be the first to concede that Doom doesn’t make for an obvious villain to close out this series with. While Taylor does find a way to give Laura a personal reason to take out the despot you’d think that a villain with actual ties to the main character would’ve made for a better choice of antagonist for this final arc. In its defense, Doom is obviously going to be the last bad guy standing in any version of the Marvel Universe where the future has turned into some kind of utopia. His character is such that he’ll oppose any development like this where he’s not the leader of it. So even if he lacks that personal connection to Laura that would’ve given this story appropriately personal stakes, Doom at least makes sense as a villain in this scenario.
Then you’ve got the fact that this is one more storyline that is packed with guest stars in a series that has been full of them, for better or for worse. Maria Hill, Captain Marvel, and Hawkeye (and one more whose presence constitutes a spoiler) all have significant roles in this arc, while Kamala Khan has a fun extended cameo in the first issue, and we get to see a whole bunch of familiar faces in the final issue. If we’re being honest here, I would’ve preferred the focus be kept on Laura and Gabby for this final storyline.
Yet, I can at least rationalize my issues away to a certain extent because as the final storyline in this series it shows us a Wolverine who has fully integrated into the Marvel Universe. As someone who started off her life as a damaged lone wolf, she now has friends who will accompany her into the heart of danger whether she asks them to or not. Their presence may crowd the story somewhat, but it’s actually a fair tradeoff when you consider what their presence means for Laura’s character arc.
That said, the only problem with this storyline that I can’t rationalize away is its decision to punt on the very issue that prompted it in the first place. Yeah, that final speech from Gabby was pretty heartwarming but it’s also just a lot of words meant to handwave a plot point away. It honestly would’ve been better if there had been some kind of magic-related contrivance to deal with it rather than to try and pretend that it’s not an issue anymore.
Not a perfect arc to end the series on by any means then. It does do more right than wrong and has some pretty great art from Ramon Rosanas to be appreciated throughout its three issues. Most importantly, I’d sooner re-read this arc than the actual “Wolverine” storyline that it takes its name from. Flawed though it may be, Taylor’s efforts to send the character off in a way that shows that she has not only atoned for her past sins but made the world a better place along way did resonate with me.
Actually, after the writer’s work over the course of these six volumes I’m not ready to see Laura go back to being X-23 after this. She was a great Wolverine who put her own distinctive spin on the character and I wanted to see that carried forward. Which means I’ll be picking up “X-Men: Red” and “Hunt For Wolverine: The Adamantium Agenda” as the writer will also be writing the character in those series as well. At least I can say that Laura’s tenure as Wolverine was fun while it lasted, something that’s hard to say about a lot of ideas to come out of Marvel Comics these days.