[Warning: Contains SPOILERS for All-New Wolverine #16]
Since taking over as Wolverine after James Howlett's surprisingly long-lived (for comic books) death, his female clone Laura Kinney (a.k.a. X-23) hasn’t had an easy time of things. Fortunately, she isn’t alone in her battles: her long-time connection to the X-Men gives her some mutant shoulders to lean on from time to time, she also has an (estranged) father of sorts, in the form of future-displaced version of her genetic likeness, Old Man Logan, now running around the present. She also discovered a number of “sisters” or female clones, created by one-time Parker Industries competitor, Alchemax, and now travels with one of the youngest ones, Gabby.
Although Laura believed she’d escaped her twisted creators, Dr. Martin Sutter and his protege, Dr. Zander Rice, due to their deaths, as well as her warped handler, Kimura, her past comes back to haunt her in the “Enemy of the State II” story arc – an in-name only sequel to the popular Mark Millar Wolverine narrative from 2009. All-New Wolverine #16 brings the brutal events of her past full circle, as tormentor meets tormented in an explosive encounter that brings another favorite X-Man into fray.
Trigging a Wholesale Slaughter
Kicking off the events of “Enemy of the State II” in All-New Wolverine #13, Laura and Gabby sought solace from their collective enemies in tiny-town America. Unfortunately for her, some of those foes were well-aware of where and who she was. As Laura headed to town to gather supplies, an airplane soared overhead, crop-dusting the area with trigger scent: a preprogrammed pheromone which sends her into a murderous rage. After butchering the entire village’s population, Laura felt she had nowhere to run, so she and Gabby slipped away from S.H.I.E.L.D., the X-Men – as well as whoever or whatever group has access to her eau du massacre – fleeing to the morally-gray Southeast Asian island city of Madripoor.
It turns out Laura’s former handler Kimura has eyes on the pair and sends another sister, Bellona, to track them down. Securing and capturing the former X-23, Kimura threatens to murder Laura’s only known relatives if she doesn’t cooperate with her requests. She then locks Wolverine in a device that’s one-part iron maiden and one-part isolation tank – built specifically to torment her and amp her up to take out her next target – Kimura’s competition.
Things may look bleak for Laura, but she’s not out of options or allies yet.
A Brighter Future for Madripoor?
As revealed in ANW #15, Laura’s handler is now a criminal boss in her own right, jockeying for control of the island's illicit activities. With much of the Madripoor's police force in her back pocket, there's only one person standing in Kimura's way, Tyger Tiger. Also known as Jessan Hoan, Ms. Tiger is a former banker who's become an "honorable" criminal empress. Rather than pushing the city further into gangsters' hands, she's now attempting to bring a larger degree of law, order, and legitimacy to the small island, much to Kimura’s dismay.
Armed with her new secret weapon, the would-be crime lord has secretly laced Ms. Tiger’s blood with trigger scent. After letting Laura stew in her own rage for a week, Kimura flings her, torture chamber and all, through the window of her opponent's office building. After the restraints are released, Wolverine makes short work of the heavily armed, highly trained bodyguards, before kicking a foot-claw clean through Tyger's neck.
“…More Than It’s Going to Hurt Me”
Even with Laura in the hands of their nemesis, her clone sister Gabby isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. Locked inside the cargo hold of the ship she and her sister stowed away on, she comes up with a plan of escape. Faking an injury, she lands herself in the ship’s infirmary. After freaking the medical staff out, she threatens her way off the ship, headed for Madripoor. Using her mutant tracking skills to hone in on her sister’s scent, she heads for downtown and, along the way, apparently tracks down a little help as well.
Catching Laura just in time, after she's decapitated Tyger Tiger's Life Model Decoy (or something to that effect), she's now the only thing standing between Wolverine and her target now. Gabby latches onto Laura's back, telling Tyger to seek cover behind her desk. She also apologizes in advance to her gene sister, saying: “what comes next is going to hurt you a lot more than it’s going to hurt me,” as Gambit steps into frame. With his usual Cajun panache, he wings a few telekinetically-charged cards at the pair, and manages to take out the entire floor in a fuchsia burst.
Under most circumstances, when a story of office building explodes, there isn’t much left of anyone. However, when dealing with highly adaptive mutants endowed with advanced healing powers, it’s more a matter of where they'll end up. In this case, if Tyger survives Gambit’s pyrotechnics, as a carrier of Laura's trigger scent, she's still in grave danger, unless Gabby and the Cajun telekinetic manage to intervene – which seems to be the set up for All-New Wolverine #17. It will also be interesting to see what becomes of wayward sister Bellona, and whether Kimura can escape retribution once again by slipping into the shadows, as she usually does.
All-New Wolverine #16 is currently available online and in print.