Smart Layouts Ratchet Up the Tension in All-New Wolverine 27

by Spencer Irwin

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

All-New Wolverine 27 is an issue that thrives off tension, and while much of that tension is simply inherent to the conflict writer Tom Taylor has created between Laura and Daken, artist Juann Cabal and color artist Nolan Woodard do a tremendous job channeling that tension into their work, creating layouts that feel taut and harrowing even if you don’t know the circumstances behind them.

Take the first page, for example.

The varying panel widths Cabal employs on this page allows for extra space in panels that incorporate more characters and less space in ones with a more singular focus — it’s not only visually and narratively satisfying, but it builds some real tension. Cabal and Taylor keep straying from the characters in danger to zero-in on the threat to them (via the increasingly tight close-ups of the door in smaller, thinner panels), creating tension by constantly reminding us that something dangerous lies behind that door, and that it’s getting closer by the second. Woodard makes a smart choice in panels 2 and 6 as well, bathing Gabby in a red light that immediately makes her situation feel more dangerous. There’s no in-scene reasoning behind that choice — there’s no red light source in that room — it’s just a smart decision that, again, helps to reinforce the tension behind the situation.

A different kind of tension erupts once Laura and Daken arrive and begin discussing Sarah Kinney, and again, Cabal’s layouts help to emphasize that shift in mood.

The majority of the page’s panels begin to go all topsy-turvy when their discussion begins, seemingly shaken up by the uncertainty Daken feels about the Orphans of X, whether he’s being monitored, and the validity of this Sarah. In fact, the only stable panels on this page are the two featuring Sarah, with that one pure rectangular panel of her face essentially anchoring the otherwise tumultuous page from its dead-center. For Laura, Sarah is an anchor — she may not understand what’s going on with Daken, but she firmly, truly believes that this is the real, true Sarah. Daken discovers otherwise, though, and it’s because she’s so steady. When everyone else in the room goes into a panic, Sarah remains calm, and while Laura initially finds this comforting, Daken correctly realizes that it singles her out as unusual; she turned out to be a clone the Orphans of X are using to spy on Laura.

The violence that next breaks out is presented almost entirely in more orderly, square paneling, making it all the more obvious that the off-kilter paneling here is meant to represent Daken and Laura’s confusion and uncertainty. All-New Wolverine 27 is a thriller up and down, but it’s Cabal’s work especially that helps keep the tension the story is working so hard to create in the forefront of the issue.

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

One comment on “Smart Layouts Ratchet Up the Tension in All-New Wolverine 27

  1. The way the art handles the tension is fantastic, which is why it is a shame the actual writing doesn’t. For example, Gabby’s line in the third panel is an actual release in tension, the sort of ‘fun’ line that detracts from the question of what is about to come through the door. Or the fact that the Kinneys, especially Sarah, are so lacking in characterisation. They end up feeling disposable, which is a problem when Sarah is about to die.

    There really needs to be a focus on Sarah as a person, so we feel that something will be lost if she dies. We need to know how everyone feels about Sarah, so we understand the impact when the gun goes off. We especially need more time of Laura actually making clear the importance of Sarah to her. There are some lines, but there needs to be more. She tells us that Sarah is important, but this is a case where we really need to have that shown.

    It is great to build a tense scene around what Daken is about to do, but the effect is hurt when we don’t care about Sarah. The writing really doesn’t back up the art here

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