Hard as it may be to believe now, but there was a time when I actually enjoyed reading Mark Millar’s work. With regards to his superhero work at Marvel, he had a real knack for coming up with high-concept storylines that got to the heart of the characters he was writing. Such was the case with the original “Wolverine: Enemy of the State” and follow-up “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” storylines that had the character being brainwashed by the Hand and Hydra and forced to kill for them before their control was broken and he went out for revenge. It was a best-selling run that’s still fondly remembered to this day, which is why we’re getting the sequel in the pages of “All-New Wolverine.”
The problem is that even though the title of this arc would like you to think that it has a lot in common with the original “Enemy of the State” it really doesn’t. It starts off with Laura, Gabby, and Jonathan the Wolverine heading out to one of Logan’s old cabins in the California countryside on a vacation. This vacation is necessitated by the fact that someone sent Laura a vial of the trigger scent that causes her to fly into a killing rage. As we’re reminded in flashback it’s a memento of her time when she was being raised as an assassin in a lab by the people who created her.
Though Laura thinks she’s managed to get away from it all, we find out that’s not the case when clouds of this trigger scent are dropped on her while she’s in a nearby town. She blacks out when this happens and when she wakes up, Laura is surrounded by dozens of dead people and some very angry S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel who want some answers. Laura wants them too and, after violently escaping S.H.I.E.L.D.’s custody, begins to follow the only trail left open for her back to Madripoor.
Part of the appeal, twisted as it was, of the original “Enemy of the State” was seeing the perfect killing machine that was Logan turned against those closest to him. Even if there was little fear that he’d actually kill anyone important (sorry Northstar) he was still burning a lot of bridges and showing that he was more animal than man with his actions. That kind of feeling is missing from this sequel as Laura is in control of her faculties for the majority of the storyline. Even when she’s not, after her former handlers come back into the picture, there’s still an attempt made to minimize any potentially unheroic loss of life she may cause.
What I’m getting at is that there’s precious little of this storyline where Laura actually feels like she’s an “Enemy of the State.” In fact, if you told me that writer Tom Taylor came up with the idea for this storyline first and then editorial slapped the sequel title on it I’d be inclined to believe you. It’s too bad that this arc was titled “Enemy of the State II” because it’s actually not too bad if you take it on its own terms. Taylor not only addresses a lingering thread from Laura’s origin story, but also picks up on one from his first arc as well. This is convenient since both lead to someone who can best be described as Laura’s archenemy. It’s all wrapped up in a satisfying manner which ends on an unmitigatedly hopeful note that feels justly earned.
The art from Nic Virella and Djibril Morrissette-Phan is something of a mixed-bag. Both get the job done, Virella in a more accomplished manner than Phan, but it’s not particularly exciting work. There’s an awkwardness to the characters’ looks and movement on the page that’s distracting and something of a step down compared to the other artists who have worked on this title before.
What we really have here is a case where a pretty decent arc has been needlessly burdened with additional expectations thanks to its title. If you want a real “Enemy of the State” experience then go and check out the original storyline. Those of you invested in Laura’s ongoing journey as the “All-New Wolverine” will likely be entertained by the developments in that story here, assuming you can get past the title of this arc first.