Wolverine has popped his claws in a comic or movie approximately one billion times — it’s (famously) what he does best. But All-New Wolverine #27 proves that you can still give an endlessly repeated trope a healthy helping of punch, using only the language of comics.
You’ll have to forgive me: All-New Wolverine #27 came out two weeks ago, and it took me a little while after Thanksgiving to get around to it. And so, in an epic marathon of all the comic book catch up this weekend, I stumbled across a really amazing panel.
All-New Wolverine follows the adventures of Laura Kinney — Logan’s gender-swapped clone — who inherited his superhero identity after Logan died in 2015 (he’s now back, sort of). Unlike Logan, she has only two claws on each hand, instead of three, and this panel uses those two claws to do something very special:
The effect here is all about creative lettering, the job of providing all the text, word balloons and sound effects for a comic book.
The artist on All-New Wolverine #27, Juann Cabal, has collaborated with the letterer, Cory Petit, to incorporate Laura’s claws as a visual element of the very sound that they make when she pops them — forming the “I” and the first stroke of the “K.” And the actual letters of the sound effect are drawn to look as sharp as Laura’s blades.
Part of the reason the panel has such a strong impact is that a comic’s sound effects are usually considered to be an abstraction. The characters in the comic see Laura’s claws and hear the sound, and the reader understands that they can see Laura’s claws, but that “SNIKT” is a visual representation of sound. Merging the textual sound effect with the art of Laura’s claws mashes the non-abstract visual with the abstracted sound. We know that SNIKT is the sound Wolverine’s claws make — but this panel made me feel it.
It’s not just a graphically interesting combination of art and lettering; this panel also sells an emotional moment. Laura had discovered that someone very close to her, who she thought was dead, is alive. Moments before this panel, someone else very close to Laura shot that person three times.
Laura is shocked and angry, and we all know what’s going to happen next: She’s going to do what she does best, and it’s not going to be very nice. But the incorporation of Laura’s claws into the text of the sound effect pushes a routine Wolverine moment into something special. The sudden red panel contrasts with the relative pastel tones of the rest of the page, and highlights the red of Laura’s enraged face and spilled blood.
The panel where Laura pops her claws sits on a nexus of writing, drawing, coloring and lettering work — four people working on one comic, breathing life into one of the most familiar sound effects in the genre.