All-New Wolverine #32
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Djibril Morissette-Phan
Colors: Nolan Woodard
Cover: David Lopez
Published: March 14, 2018
The fallout from Laura’s interactions with the Orphans of X continue in issue #32 as Laura teams up with Amber to hunt down the man responsible for ordering the hit in which Laura killed Amber’s father. This is more of a stand alone issue than a continuation of the Orphans storyline as all you need to know is that Laura was made to kill Amber’s father and has recently located their common enemy. Amber’s alliance with Laura is still very uneasy, but they do understand that they are not each others enemy. Following the opening flashback (will get to this in a minute) Laura arrives at Amber’s home to tell her that she’s located the person they are looking for. Amber’s face when she opens the door and the entire time Laura is talking doesn’t move from some sort of look of stubborn resentment and deeply held anger. Despite what happened in previous issues or the temporary alignment of their objectives, they are by no means friends. It is (at the beginning at least for Amber) a partnership of convenience. Laura is a means to an end. There’s a moment when they are talking and Laura is describing the incident, and Amber calls her up on it, “When you killed him Laura.” You don’t see Laura’s face in the next couple panels, but this moment does not throw her as she continues to fill Amber in on the evidence she has collected. And what could Laura say? She could apologize, but that doesn’t change what happened in the past, or help Amber now, and doesn’t acknowledge the fact that Laura’s agency was taken from her. Amber isn’t really trying to hurt Laura, Laura has done that to herself more than anyone else could, with this statement but will not speak euphemistically about her father’s death. It’s a reminder to Laura of her relationship to Amber’s pain and a focusing reminder to them both of what they are there to do.
In the same way that Amber is not euphemist about what happened to her father, the issue is very explicit about what happened to Laura and Amber the day her father died. It was Amber’s first day at a new school and Laura’s first assassination mission. Amber is both drawn and written in a very empathetic way, a shy young girl worried about her first day at school, while Laura is only cold, remorseless, and doesn’t speak. When Laura is triggered her eyes go red and blood fills the page. There is a moment when Amber’s father asks her to stop, but he can’t finish speaking before Laura plunges her claws into him. It is (rightly) an unsympathetic portrayal of Laura’s previous life which is (I’m pretty sure) the first flashback of Tom Taylor’s run to her time as X-23. We’ve seen younger versions of Laura (flashbacks to the time she spent with Logan) but not when she was under the control of Zander Rice. It is sort of the visual analog to Amber’s insistence that they are clear that Laura killed her father. That is the pain that Amber is struggling with and the past that Laura is trying to reconcile with. Their common enemy is Chad Newman, a secret neo-nazi who was trying to push his party’s agenda in Washington. He ordered a hit on a presidential candidate and Amber’s father was one of the candidates bodyguards. Laura has located Newman on Vanuatu Island and is preparing an extraction mission. Amber insists that she go with Laura, who doesn’t think this is great idea and worries that Amber will kill him instead of bring him back stateside where he can face public punishment. How he is punished though, Laura acknowledges, is not exactly her decision and she agrees to Amber’s company. From there the rest of the issue is pretty straight forward, they land, each dons a rather garish Hawaiian shirt, Amber is soon identified and abducted by men in black suites, and Laura tracks her down. When she finds Newman holding Amber hostage he prevents Laura from launching into action by threatening some of the island’s vacationing patrons. Newman calls Laura’s deep regard for human life a weakness, and then open mocks Amber and her father when she tells him that she is here for revenge as much as Laura is. When Newman goes to rough Amber up, her terrible Hawaiian shirt electrocutes him (turns out the shirts were part of the plan) and she and Laura dispense with the situation. The whole thing with the threatening innocent people and an electrocuted shirt is very comic book-y, but if you focus in a little more there is something really interesting happening. The politics of the issue are maybe a bit on the nose (but not in an overbearing way) with Newman being both a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, a secret neo-nazi, and Laura telling Amber at one point to figuratively pack nazi-stomping boots which they literally use at the end of the issue. The point more broadly is that Newman is a hateful terrible old man (it’s also revealed he has cameras in all the hotel rooms), who in this scene is mocking two women for their pain, and empathy, and sadness. It’s a affecting scene in the media and social context of 2018 and despite the comic book trappings, there is real catharsis when Amber and Laura use those things that Newman saw as a weakness to take him down, with only one casualty. This sentiment is made a little more direct in a great final panel when, after they have removed Newman from the island, they put on the aforementioned stomping boots and prepare to do some damage. It was discussed some in the review of issue #31 but is worth mentioning again here, the good character work that Tom Taylor does in these one off issues. Last issue it was Gaby and Laura learning to trust each other, and here it’s Amber and Laura pursuing justice and putting the boot to the patriarchy. This issue is a fast read, but it is not shallow and does not lose track of who Laura is and the journey she has been on.
This issue featured another guest artist, Djibril Morisette-Phan, doing a good job filing in on art. The standout bit, although it is by no means nice to look at, is the opening flashback and how they capture both Amber’s vulnerability and the result of Laura’s induced violent rage. It is bloody and visceral and unpleasant, but it needs to be to communicate the how this moment affected both of these women. Nolan Woodard’s colors in that opening flashback and into the first scene also need to be mentioned. The way Amber is framed in warm colors in the flashback and Laura in very cold ones, which then continues when Laura arrives at Amber’s house and is still framed by the grey sky until Amber invites her inside. The art on this issue was probably not up to the quality of Jaunn Cabal’s usual work (or even the sort of sillier art from the last issue), but it didn’t detract from the story and worked really well in the flashback scene.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 6