Subjective Martyrdom in All-New Wolverine 21

by Drew Baumgartner

All-New Wolverine 21

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Matthew 8:3

While I’ve often marveled at the depth of Tom Taylor’s allusions on All-New Wolverine, it doesn’t exactly take a biblical scholar to catch the parallels to Jesus in this issue. Laura practices peace, heals the sick, and ultimately dies (maybe), but it’s that middle point that Taylor really sinks his teeth into, detailing not only the pitiful masses in need of help, but the suffering Laura endures in order to cure them. She’s Jesus, just without the religious conviction (I opted not to open this essay with Luke’s account, which finds Jesus getting downright snippy when recently-cured lepers fail to praise God to his satisfaction).

But that complicates exactly what her role is. We might recognize her self-sacrifice as a kind of martyrdom, but it’s clearly not the martyrdom we associate with those who die for their religion. Moreover, her sacrifice comes explicitly without the hint of resurrection. A refrain throughout the issue is that Laura and her compatriots won’t be able to save everyone, a point that is brought into sharp focus when Gabby tries and fails to heal the recently dead.

Gabby can't save everyone

Laura et al. may be taking on a Jesus-like role in this issue, but when confronted with their lazarus, they’re as powerless as we are.

So, what do we make of Laura’s self-sacrifice at the end of this issue? Obviously, comic book logic dictates that she’s not permanently dead (or perhaps not quite dead), even as the rules laid out in the issue assure us that dead is dead. Those two paradigms may seem to be at cross purposes, but the important thing to note here is that, while Laura is explicitly aware of the “dead is dead” rules in this issue, she is explicitly unaware of the fact that she lives in a comic book world where rules of death must not apply to her. All she knows is that she isn’t Jesus, so rising from the grave isn’t something she’s counting on, even if it ultimately is something we know that she actually can count on. It’s a precise bit of nuance, forcing us to accept her subjectivity over our own comic fan cynicism, but Taylor lays it out just precisely enough to make it work.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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4 comments on “Subjective Martyrdom in All-New Wolverine 21

  1. Tom Taylor writes a fantastic Deadpool. And while I found Kirk’s art a little uninspired throughout much of the issue, his work took a notch up whenever he had to draw Deadpool — his facial expressions, especially when interacting with Gabby, slayed me. Both creators were obviously having a blast working with the character.

    • I absolutely agree. A lot of the Deadpool stuff fell into a 9-panel grid (or was at least built around a 9-panel grid), which might have just been to give him more panels to pace jokes, but I definitely think they’re the strongest visual sequences of the issue. I came pretty close to focusing on those sequences, rather than the biblical parallels, but I figured I could always mention it in the comments — but you beat me to it!

      • Deadpool was done fantastically. Honestly, a lot of panels is key for comedy, as the physicality is so important. Deadpool needs to emote, and seeing his animated performance really makes it work. As is the commitment to the funniest positions to put him in – Deadpool falling down is intentionally funnier, butt up in the air. Really works.

        I still have a lot of problems with the art in this book, but this issue had much stronger art than it has had for a long time. Especially the Deadpool sections

  2. The moment I truly fell in love with the perfect first issue of All New Wolverince was the panel of Laura being sniped right through the head. That was when I realised we had something special. It was such a key idea of the issue, that Laura’s great heroism is the fact that she is willing to sacrifice literally everything, because she can take it.

    This is the only issue anywhere close to the first issue’s perfection, and it gets pretty damn close. Because it truly focuses on that. Every choice Laura makes is in a desperate attempt to make sure she takes the pain, instead of anyone else. When someone can’t heal any more, she forces them back. But she ignored those very orders, because that is why Laura is a hero. She takes the pain, so others don’t. She even has to forced to bring Gabby along.

    And at every step, it is made clear that not everyone can be saved. Which is important, because it really shows just how impressive Laura’s achievement is. If Laura had enough healing ability to save everyone, that wouldn’t be a sacrifice. Laura wouldn’t be choosing a difficult path (similarly, that’s why the first issue focused so much on the idea of pain. Laura can heal anything, which means she can take an infinite amount of pain. But it still hurts).

    Combine that with some of those utterly perfect lines, like ‘No, we’re not doing the claws today’ and ‘Good. I’ve hert the wrong people, too many tie, just like you. But look back there. Look what we did without stabbing anyone’. That first line almost made me cry, and the second line is perfect, fitting my theory that Laura is Logan’s moral superior by having her mentor Logan (also, Logan’s line there is amazing).

    And then that ending. Where Laura just keeps marching, another step, another step, another step. A truly beautiful sacrifice. Yeah, we know that she will be back next issue, but it doesn’t make the choice anything less meaningful. Because at the very least, we know it hurt.

    The best thign about this book is that at its best, nothing is more inspiring than Laura. In fact, if we are talking about religious parallels, that can’t be ignored. Ultimately, Jesus’ sacrifice inspired us. That, more than anything, is what is important. Regarless of your religious beliefs (or lack of beliefs), everyone can look at the story of the man who sacrificed himself for humanity’s sins and be inspired us to be better people. As someone who isn’t religious, that is the great value I take from the bible. Regardless of the truth, the story has meaning. And it is the same with Laura.

    Traditionally, Wolverine is the character who will do anything to save the day. But that usually means murder, savagery and running black ops teams. I love how Taylor inverts it, so that the ‘anything’ is self sacrifice. And that means when this book is running on all cylinders, like this issue, it truly makes Laura Marvel’s most heroic character. Which makes this the most beautiful book on the stand

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