Since debut in the 2000s Laura Kinney has been my favorite X-Men character from the new class of mutants that was introduced during that era of students. Over the years Laura has been properly built without being overexposed as she evolved from just being Logan’s clone and a weapon named X-23. That evolution was paid off by having Laura carry Logan’s Wolverine mantle and making it her own under the direction of Tom Taylor. While it was sad to see Taylor’s All-New Wolverine comic come to an end it at least did not mean we weren’t getting a comic starring Laura Kinney. Marvel has now tapped Mariko Tamaki to write a new X-23 ongoing as Laura returns to her old identity with Logan’s return as Wolverine close to wrapping up. I am not familiar with Tamaki’s past comic book work as I did not read her She-Hulk and Supergirl: Being Super comics but excited to find out what she looks to deliver with an new X-23 comic. Let’s find that out right now with X-23 #1.
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Juann Cabal
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: After thinking back to her creation and that of her sister X-23 (Laura Kinney) and Honey Badger (Gabby Kinney) attack an Alchemax facility trying to use mutant DNA for their own evil intentions.
The fight is quickly taken outside with X-23 and Honey Badger ending up on different parts of the city after falling out a window. While Honey Badger initially struggles both she and X-23 take out the special soldiers.
At the Xavier Mansion X-23 talks to Beast about what she found out about the mutant genetic black market’s activity increasing as of late. Beast shows X-23 a file containing information on Dr. Helen Marks, who seems to be involved in the black market’s activity in genetic. Beast then reaffirms that the work X-23 is doing right now is important and that the information provided can possibly help in tracking down what else Alchemax is up to.
X-23 finds Honey Badger and tells her she got new information on their mission.
Before revealing the information the Stepford Cuckoos show up and announce it is their birthday. Honey Badger bonds with them since they are also clones and then asks if she has a birthday. X-23 dodges the questions. The Stepford Cuckoos reveal that they picked their birthday based on their favorite actor, Tyler Kirch. They then take off to celebrate their birthday together.
At a diner Honey Badger asks X-23 about her sister’s birthday but X-23 says it does not matter. Honey Badger then throws a temper tantrum that she wants a birthday party.
Back at their apartment Honey Badger asks what happened to the other Stepford Cuckoos sisters. X-23 reveals that Sophie died in an accident while using Cerebro and Esme was killed with a pair of metal earrings. X-23 then mentions that something seems to be going on with them.
Changing subjects, X-23 and Honey Badger talk about looking for the scientist Beast told X-23 about.
At an abandoned facility the Stepford Cuckoos find Dr. Marks working under their control. They then present five cupcakes to their two other sisters, who they have made new clones of, though they are not at full strength as their immune systems are weak. The Stepford Cuckoos wonder if they should just create another body rather than just cloning their own.
Esme tells her sisters to be quiet as she and Sophie are dying again and they need to rest. The three Stepford Cuckoos decide to let their other sisters rest and promise to return the next day.
Back at X-23’s apartment X-23 hangs out with Honey Badger until she falls asleep. X-23 then reflects on how she and the Stepford Cuckoos aren’t all that different.
Back at the abandoned facility now that they are alone Esme tells Sophie while she was powerful at her time it is time for her (Esme) to be powerful and indestructible. As Sophie passes away Esme takes out vile that holds a blood sample labeled Weapon X. End of issue.
The Good: X-23 #1 is a strong start to Laura Kinney’s new ongoing series. Mariko Tamaki does an impressive job making this a fun starting point for new readers. More importantly Tamaki does not try to explain why Laura Kinney returned to her X-23 identity after being Wolverine for several years. Instead she focuses the story presented in X-23 #1 on what makes Laura such a compelling character to read about. That choice makes the larger story Tamaki is building more interesting to see unfold.
Right away Tamaki establishes Laura’s voice from the opening page. Tamaki’s way of writing Laura’s inner monologue made it easy to understand where Laura is now that she has returned to her X-23 identity. All the inner monologue helped get over how complex a character Laura is, which is an important thing to accomplish for the first issue of a new ongoing. This strategy for the first issue gives new readers a way to connect to Laura and Gabby outside of their superhero identities.
The inner monologue also got over how personal X-23’s mission is as she is hunting down Alchemax’s facilities that are experimenting on mutant genetics. This story sheds more light into how other organizations in the Marvel Universe are looking to use mutants to their own advantage. And in turn it gives us another threat that is not Weapon X that has become an overused organization, especially in the Wolverine comics. And given how well received the Logan movie was this storyline will draw in readers who only know that version of Laura since her story in that movie was similar to Alchemax’s current experiments.
Laura’s relationship with her clone sister Gabby is well handled. Tamaki does a good job getting over how Laura is both trying to be a big sister and mentor to Gabby as they go out on their adventures. With Gabby being so young it is clear that Laura sees Gabby as someone that can be better than her. To do that she is trying to give her a good home life. At the same time, Tamaki uses Gabby to have Laura confront her own personal issues, even things like birthdays. Something that is as simple as a birthday is not a thing Laura ever thought of having. But with Gabby, who is still a kid, she has to deal with these type of things while raising her.
While Alchemax is the larger threat that Tamaki is building introducing the Stepford Cuckoos as the first antagonists for X-23 to face was a good decision. X-23 and the Stepford Cuckoos have a built in history as they were part of the 2000s New X-Men class. That history is something at Tamaki does a good job in implying with X-23’s attitude towards the sisters. This role of antagonists also works much better for the Stepford Cuckoos as they shine more in this role.
While working as antagonist Tamaki does get over how the Stepford Cuckoos are sympathetic characters. Given that there were five of them previously and they all shared a psychic link it is believable that they would be even more scarred by their two sister’s deaths. The weight of losing their sisters is a strong motivator for their actions to line up with what X-23 is currently doing with hunting down the genetic cloning of mutants in the black market. If built correctly the Stepford Cuckoos can be built to be an even bigger threat down the line, especially with what Sophie does at the end of this issue.
As with his work on All-New Wolverine, Juann Cabal did a great job making every page in X-23 #1 look great. Along with Nolan Woodard coloring, Cabal’s artwork popped off the page. He excelled at the action sequence that opened X-23 #1. He got over how fearless and skilled Laura is, which is balanced out by the inexperience of Gabby. And even though we did not spend a lot of time there, Cabal did a good job getting over how the Xavier Mansion is filled with a diverse pool of students and teachers with different looks and powers.
The Bad: The only minor problem with X-23 #1 has to do with the continuity of some of the main story’s set-up. As has been established, X-23 and Honey Badger are currently part of Jean Grey’s X-Men: Red team. And since Jean’s X-Men are not currently operating alongside the other X-Men teams at the Xavier Mansion it did not make sense why X-23 went to the Xavier Mansion. It would have been made more sense if X-23’s new mission was given to her by Jean or Storm, two members of her current X-Men team, rather than Beast, since he has no affiliation with X-Men: Red.
Overall: X-23 #1 is a great starting point for X-Men fans to get into Laura Kinney’s ongoing adventures. Mariko Tamaki did a great job building off the momentum Tom Taylor created for Laura’s character over in All-New Wolverine for this new series. The integration of the X-Men and Alchemax was seamlessly handled as Tamaki built a story that fans can instantly invest in. If you are an X-Men fan I highly recommend checking X-23 out.