Review: All-New Wolverine #1

All New Wolverine cover 2I miss James Logan Howlett.

Wolverine was my first love in Marvel Comics. I was about ten years old when I first met him, in a random X-Men issue that I’d won playing skee ball at Six Flags. Like Wolvie, I was short and introverted. I was also way stronger than I looked. I figure skated and rode horses – two sports that involve falling down a lot, and hard – but never broke a bone. The X-Men of the late ’80s and early ’90s offered me plenty of powerful women to identify with, but none of them were more like me than Wolverine was.

I thought I’d always have him around. His healing factor made him immortal, after all. Until the Marvel gods took away that healing factor, and then killed him off in a drawn-out arc that, despite generating a giant pile of issues in a short time, felt like an insufficient swan song for my hero.

This past week, a new comic with his name on it has hit the stands. “All New!” it cheers. It seems really proud to have replaced Logan with his female clone, Laura Kinney. Throughout the first issue, it reminds us insistently that Laura is just like Logan, only younger and a girl. Just like you imagined yourself when you were a kid, it whispers.

Only not, because Laura is Logan with the rough edges sanded off. In a vision while her brain heals from a gunshot to the head, she chats with a conjured memory of Logan, and he says admiringly, “Everything they did to you. Everything they took from you. And you’re still not as mean as me.” But Logan’s gruffness, his anger, were part of his appeal. He channeled those negative emotions into heroism. As often as he reminded us that he was the clean-up guy of the Marvel universe, the one who took the dirty jobs no one else would touch, Logan’s ability to rise above his resentment and vengefulness to fight for good made him one of the purest Marvel heroes.

Laura doesn’t have to work as hard to justify her moral choices, and she’s not as ruthless as the man she was cloned from. Logan always had to walk away from the women he loved because his duties came first, but Laura has a nice boyfriend – a surprisingly game and cheerful Warren Worthington, a.k.a. Angel – who appears content to serve as her sidekick. All of these characteristics make her a pretty cool hero, one I’m looking forward to reading about, but I’m not sure they make her Wolverine.All New Wolverine art 2

The premiere issue itself is fun, if flawed. A lot of Tom Taylor‘s dialogue is irritatingly on-the-nose; in addition to the overly earnest Logan moment quoted above, a masked villain spouts boilerplate threats like, “You will never stop us. You will never hurt us.” That villain turns out to be another Wolverine clone, and she sets off a promising plot arc: Laura makes it her mission to find and protect all of the clones. It sounds more like a premise for a TV series or an indie long-runner than a Marvel title, and that’s not a bad thing.

Thomas is more in his element when writing Laura and Warren’s affectionate banter. Trading witticisms with him as he swoops in to whisk her away from danger, Laura comes into her own. She’s inherited Logan’s dry humor but feels more comfortable around others than he ever did. In the issue’s loveliest moment, Laura tells Warren that he can’t hold her because her broken ribs are healing. Longing to touch her and unsure of what to do, he pats her head. It’s a sweet and original gesture, and I’m willing to ship them now. I’m cautious, however, of a writer who can only seem to bring out his female protagonist’s personality by reflecting it off a love interest.

David Lopez and David Navarrot‘s art sticks mostly to the house style but does so well. The visuals aren’t flashy or memorable, but they show motion beautifully. Lopez and Navarrot also do a commendable job of keeping Laura’s anatomy plausible, and of depicting her as a pretty girl without leering at her body. In the dream sequence with Logan, they’re meticulous about showing the similarities between the two Wolverines’ appearances. One pair of side-by-side panels compares the crinkle of their brows, and one page later, a funny dialogue-free rectangle shows them staring defiantly at each other with perfectly matched jawlines. They don’t maintain the visual similarity to Logan as strongly elsewhere in the issue, which is too bad.

There’s a lot to like about All-New Wolverine, and it promises an exciting and coherent ongoing story. Laura is not yet as sharply drawn or as iconic as her predecessor, though. I’d love for the current generation of geeky ten-year-old spitfires to see themselves in her the way I saw myself in Logan. But Laura – and the writer and artists creating her – are not as certain of her identity as Logan always was of his own, and that makes her a hard character to latch onto.

Story: Tom Taylor Art: David Lopez and David Navarrot
Story: 7 Art: 8 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read