Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Colors: Nolan Woodard
Cover: David Lopez
Published: May 16, 2018
The opening page of this issue (a flash forward in time) is a worse case scenario for any and all fans of All-New Wolverine. It shows Gabby on the ground holding Laura who appears to be in a lot pain and telling her to hold on. This eventuality was foreshadowed in issue #33 when Laura tells Gabby that she’s dying, and the short amount of time she has left was the motivation to go and confront Dr. Doom. It’s a very affecting scene as they sit near Doom’s broken throne and are bathed in this beautiful white light. There’s the implication that they did it, they won, but Laura might not be able to go on. Back in the present the heroes are still struggling with the death of Maria Hill and figuring out what to do next. The others want to bury her, but Laura insists that Maria Hill will be buried in a world that is rid of Victor Von Doom. The plan is for Laura and Captain Marvel to go in loud while Gabby, Wasp, and Hawkeye go for Bellona. They all get in quite easy, but Captain Marvel is ambushed and Laura is left to face a swarm of Doom-bots solo. This leads to a wonderful and very meta moment where Laura tries to pick up Thor’s hammer that is lying in the throne room. It’s a genuinely tense moment helped by the way the panels and pages are broken up. Laura’s talking to herself about how far she has come, and Gabby’s watching from the shadows. There is absolutely a moment there where you think Laura is going to pick the hammer up and put on a show. She can’t get it to move and remarks to herself that maybe she hasn’t come as far as she thought, while Gabby remarks to herself, “Damn that would have been awesome.” She’s right too, that would have been awesome to see Laura lift the hammer, but this isn’t that story. Laura doesn’t need to rely on some external object, some external source of power to complete her mission. Laura has found the power in herself to subvert expectations, erase her childhood conditioning, and constantly work on herself. To rely on someone else’s schtick at so crucial a point in her story wouldn’t have been right.
After the moment with the hammer, Laura is trapped by a pair of Doom-bots and Doom finally reveals himself to Laura that he planned all of this. He leaked the info about Bellona being alive, he sent gun smugglers to Madripoor, he allowed them to get inside so easily all so that he could capture Laura. Turns out that Doom has become a frail old man in a robotic shell who can’t figure out how to keep himself from dying. His intent is transfer his consciousness into Laura’s body and take control of her. The eight panels where the ‘transfer’ is taking place are fantastic. Laura and Doom are shown in 2-D neon colored panels with the relative size of each changing. As he attempts to inhabit her body, he discovers the pain Laura is suffering as her body deteriorates. Scared and unable to deal with the agony (as Laura begins to tower over him in the mental space) he retreats to his own body, but not before Laura uses her foot blades to give him a good one in the stomach. As this happens Gabby and Hawkeye and the heroes they rescued (Miles Morales, Thor, Rocket Raccoon, Captain America) burst in and destroy the remaining Doom-bots. Remember though the first page of this issue, Laura’s mental battle with Doom drained her and it appears as if these are her final moments. But just as this wasn’t the story where shed needs to pick up a magic hammer, this isn’t the story where Laura dies. In one of the issue’s final panels Gabby literally says, “OH @#$% THAT.” This isn’t that story. This isn’t the classic story where the hero gives everything to make the world better (on a micro or macro scale) and then doesn’t live to see that world (looking at you Logan, even though I LOVED that movie). As strong as Laura was in defeating Doom Gabby implores her to muster her strength to enjoy the new world she helped create. Nothing is promised in the final panels, but as Gabby helps Laura to her feet and they walk away hand in hand, you get to believe that this isn’t the end for Laura Kinney.
There were a number of similarities between this final issues and the final issues of The Mighty Thor (another wonderful series that ended the same day as this one). At the end of each story the hero comes to a point where they are very much left with a choice about whether or not they want to die. Both in compromised health, they set themselves at a heroic and difficult task which they accomplish in a not entirely straight forward manner (this is an overly reductive summation of two wonderful comic books but it is to highlight the decision each woman had to make). The moment when the work is done is usually the bisecting moment separating a difficult past from a brighter future, a future which our hero is not allowed to enjoy. We all know these type of stories, where the ones who work to create a better thing are not allowed to enjoy it’s fruits, as they go all the way back to Moses in the Old Testament. There is something a slightly (or maybe not slightly) sadomasochistic about this, where we have grown okay with stories where the hero dies at the end and is separated from the new thing they have helped create, but why do we enjoy that narrative so much (I can’t get into this too much more here because I think its an interesting trope and possibly the basis for a future essay)? But neither of these issues were that story. That sentence has been repeated in this review a couple times, but it is so true, because Tom Taylor (and Jason Aaron on The Mighty Thor) wasn’t interested in writing a standard hero story. Laura was always something more than just a hero or an anti-hero, she was person with severe trauma in her past who learned how to forgive and not blame herself because she knew other people were counting on her strength. And that strength doesn’t become unnecessary once the world is saved, perhaps it is even more necessary then, which is what Gabby is trying to say to her. That even though the world is saved, “I still, we all still need you.”
We can’t get out of her without giving a major shout-out to Ramon Rosanas and Nolan Woodard who have done phenomenal work for the last three issues. This arc absolutely contains some of the best art in this entire run. Laura and Gabby and all the whole group looked so unique, with updated and interesting costumes. The art was sort of very straightforward, but what was in each panel was sufficiently detailed and the characters all looked so good in each panel. The colors (especially the green pall in the last couple issues) were good at setting the mood but also making the heroes stand out. And when given space to do interesting things, like the Doom vs Laura mind fight, they came up with a simple but evocative representation for that moment. Really not enough good things can be said about the art which greatly enhanced the story and made these final issues really special.
(Subjective) Score out of 10: 9