3 out of 5
A good setup that expands logically, but ends up getting wrapped too quickly into a larger narrative.
On the one hand – EofSII completely matches with what Tom Taylor has been doing with his run on Wolverine: from issue one, this has been about giving Laura a unique identity. If Logan struggled for eons to overcome his Weapon X programming and feral nature, it wouldn’t do to have X-23 repeat the same. And so the arcs and annual have very much been about shifting away from that. But the legacy is still there to be dealt with, and that’s what this arc sets out to do, as gracefully and completely as possible. On the other hand, by moving the story in that direction, it somewhat wastes some potential. That’s a little Catch-22-ish, but I more mean the seed that motivates the back 2/3rds of the story: Laura receives a vial in the mail that she identifies as a trigger pheremone that causes her to go full-on black-out Rage Mode. Feeling exposed, she takes Gabby and their pet wolvie and plans to hide out in an old cabin Logan used to own. Unfortunately, it would seem that whomever sent the vial expected that, and uses the remote town of the cabin’s location for testing out a massive drop of the same pheremone.
This lead-in shows the excellent balance of humor and danger and character that Tom has woven into the title. Laura relates her history with the pheremone to Gabby on their to-cabin drive, and the duo’s chemistry really sells the scene beyond just being an exposition dump. And Laura’s desire to forge out her own destiny is so strong that we understand how troubling it is when she realizes she’s about to go dark under the scent’s control. This moment is obviously a cliffhanger, but its been preceded by a cold open showing the town wiped out, so we know how it ends; this approach ends up being a hint of the somewhat problematic structure to come, as Tom needs to save the plot punches for further reveals: namely that Laura’s former taskmaster, Kimura, is behind all of this. …But that’s sort of been ruined already by mentioning her in the earlier flashback. …And the on-the-run shtick is dead-ended as S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up right afterward to put Laura into custody for the town’s decimation…
It all begins to escalate in scope rather quickly, and soon we have impenetrable islands and flying ships and exploding cans of beans. Again, this is all very logical, in a way, but there was a more tense story to be written, kept at more ground level approach. Or perhaps keeping the perpetrator in shadows for longer, their discovery at the end then prompting Laura to have to deal with them in the following arc. But would that be dragging it out? How much longer will we see issues of All-New Wolverine before it’s swallowed up by the Marvel title churn? There are factors to consider, so I understand reasons for compressing the story as such, but again: there were some missed opportunities, despite the result being entertaining overall, with some flashes of fun and Taylor’s typically deft character development.
Art-wise, Nik Virella’s X-Men cartoon style is effective, but his paneling is fairly bland. And some sloppy panels here and there, plus having to hop off the arc for a couple issues, suggest time constraints may not be best for him. His sub, Djibril Morissette-Phan, has an unfortunate way of drawing noses that always looks off, but otherwise the action in his issues is a bit more exciting. In other words: the art is rather uneven, and neither artist seems especially apt for the larger scale to which the story grows, so that may have affected my feelings toward the story as well.
Hopefully it will be a while before the title goes, though, because Taylor does have an interesting way of evolving the character, and with some past messes now dealt with, it would be interesting to see how he builds on that.