X-23 #1 // Review
It often feels like Marvel isn’t quite sure what to do with Laura Kinney. Since 2015, Logan’s clone has had a successful run in Tom Taylor’s underrated All-New Wolverine, but now that the original model is returning (in several concurrent miniseries), Laura can’t keep that codename. Still, she’s a popular and valuable character, due in no small part to Dafne Keen’s transcendent performance in 2017’s Logan, and it’s in Marvel’s best interest to keep her in the spotlight. This week’s first issue of X-23, by Mariko Tamaki, Juann Cabal, Nolan Woodard, and VC’s Corey Petit, hopes to cement her place in Marvel’s pantheon.
The story drops Laura and her clone sister, Gabby, right in the middle of a new mission, seeking out black market genetic material. Laura and Gabby are the products of such genetic material, and were abused and conditioned to be living weapons before seizing their freedom and deciding who they wanted to be, so this mission is deeply personal for them.
Tom Taylor’s run with these characters is a hard act to follow, particularly given that he’s brought them with him over to the new X-Men Red title, but Mariko Tamaki rises to the challenge. Laura and Gabby’s voices are consistent with the way they’ve been written elsewhere, without feeling like a retread. Tamaki’s choice of Grant Morrison’s Stepford Cuckoos as a new foil for Laura and Gabby is particularly inspired, as their similarities to the Cuckoos make their differences even more stark. An expository scene with Hank McCoy and an extended exchange between the sisters over the nature of birthdays both lead to some wonderful character moments.
The art from Juann Cabal is gorgeous, reminiscent of Sara Pichelli or Gabriel Marquez--photorealistic without being stiff, detailed without being fussy. Cabal shifts between a tight multi-panel grids to explosive two-page splashes to great effect, and an early action scene is stunningly rendered. Cabal’s new design for the Stepford Cuckoos is both glamorous and fittingly creepy. Colorist Nolan Woodard helps Cabal define location, mood, and movement. His work evokes Manhattan in saturated sunlight and an abandoned church by eerie candlelight equally clearly, and cues of turquoise and red used in an early abstract scene make a later reveal even more striking.
X-23 #1 is a promising start to a new adventure for the former Wolverine, establishing her place within the world of the X-Men while still setting her apart and defining her. Here’s hoping that this great new series finds an audience, and that the continuing story isn’t sidelined by any continuing larger drama of the X-Men line.