Laura Kinney has returned to going by her X-23 title after a stretch where she took over as Wolverine while Logan was dead. Even with her returning to the X-23 name we have seen Laura continue to develop in the way Tom Taylor portrayed her as Wolverine. So far Mariko Tamaki has shown that Laura has advanced as both a superhero and person. Even with her taking back her X-23 name it does not mean she has to go back to she once was. Though this latest story involving the Stepford Cuckoos have tested who Laura is now as her sister Gabby has been kidnapped. How will Laura deal with this situation? Let’s find out with X-23 #3.
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: Unable to move at the church X-23 thinks about the fear she feels when someone she knows dies as she is surrounded by the Stepford Cuckoos. The next thing she hears a car drive off.
X-23 quickly recovers and chases after the van that Gabby is being held captive in. She jumps from car to car on the highway until she reaches the van. Once on the van X-23 uses her claws to disable the engine, causing the van to crash into the highway barrier. X-23 opens the van and realizes she was tricked into attacking the wrong van.
Elsewhere the Stepford Cuckoos arrive at their destination with Gabby in the back of their van.
Sometime later X-23 visits Dr. Marks at the church and breaks her out of her trance. X-23 tries to question Dr. Marks about the Stepford Cuckoos but all she can remember was how she was last in her lab. X-23 forces Dr. Marks to reveal what she has been working on lately.
Dr. Marks talks about how her research has been based around imposing cloned psyches onto existing lifeforms. She goes on to note that the effects of psychic energy require a strong immune system to stabilize it which is why she noted in her research X-23 and Gabby were the ideal host for her form of cloning.
X-23 questions Dr. Marks if she built the device after reaching her conclusion. Dr. Marks says she has. X-23 tells Dr. Marks her cloning research is over and that it is not an empty threat she is making to the doctor.
At the same time the Stepford Cuckoos have several workers at the warehouse help them put unload Gabby and the cloning equipment. When Gabby regains consciousness she is able to get her communicator out and send a signal of her location to X-23.
The Stepford Cuckoos open the container holding Gabby and see what she is doing.
Back at the church X-23 calls one of the X-Men for help. She then tells Dr. Marks that while she doesn’t kill anymore if her sister dies than she will make an exception for Dr. Marks.
At the unknown warehouse the Stepford Cuckoos strap Gabby to the cloning machine. Gabby tries to casually talk with them but the Stepford Cuckoos aren’t in the mood to have a friendly conversation.
Nearby Angel flies X-23 to the coordinates Gabby sent her. Angel asks what is going on but X-23 does not reveal anything as this is something personal to her.
They reach the coordinates and X-23 has Angel drop her above the warehouse.
Inside the warehouse the Stepford Cuckoos begin the cloning psyche transfer. Just as they activate the device X-23 breaks into the warehouse and immediately runs to stop the process. End of issue.
The Good: X-23 #3 carried the momentum from the previous two issues to propel the “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals” story forward. This was an issue that was carried by the continued development of Laura Kinney as a hero and sister. And with this series being titled after her that is exactly how it should be.
The pacing of X-23 #3 was on point from beginning to end. There never felt like we got a wasted page or panel. Every word said and action taken by character was done with a strong sense of how it will move the story forward. Mariko Tamaki’s vision for where she wants to take this story makes it more compelling as we move forward with what is happening.
Even with how this story is not close to being a end of the world or about a villain making a power grab it does not take away from what the ramifications mean to the series. Tamaki makes everything going on in “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals” feel personal for X-23, Gabby and the Stepford Cuckoos. For these characters the situation they are in is the end of their respective world. That view makes the connection the reader has to what is going on more engaging.
X-23 #3 is especially Laura Kinney’s issue to shine. Seeing her chase down the van that the Stepford Cuckoos drive off in was a great showing of how she can dangerous she could be. Throughout that sequence you felt that she was going to reach her goal and when she did it was not going to be good news for the Stepford Cuckoos.
The fact that the Stepford Cuckoos knew this would be the case made their own preparations for this situation even better. It was a good way to get over how Laura and the Stepford Cuckoos have a shared history with one another as they were part of the same X-Men class. Even if they have never necessarily been friends Laura and Stepford Cuckoos have always kept a close eye on each other’s ability. Tamaki sold that in a way that was a natural part of the story’s progression.
Being tricks this way made how Laura decided to stop playing the nice superhero anymore a logical next step in the story. Her entire interaction with Dr. Marks established how as X-23 Laura won’t hesitate to tap into her darker edge anymore. That is an important distinction from how she was as Wolverine, as she tried to live up to the mantle Logan made famous. Establishing this makes things a bit more interesting for how Tamaki will handle this part of X-23’s character moving forward as she deals with bigger threats down the line.
Tamaki also does a very good job balancing out making the Stepford Cuckoos the antagonists of this story without completely morphin them into villains. Though they are going down a dark path to revive their sisters you do understand why they are going through with their plan. The sympathetic nature of why they are doing all this makes the Stepford Cuckoos more interesting characters than they came into this story. It was also good to see how Tamaki showed them using their powers to trick X-23 as they know she would quickly be on their tracks. That showing gave a hint at how the fight with X-23 will go in the next issue.
The way Gabby was used in this issue was also much more enjoyable than the previous two issues. Unlike before, Gabby’s dialogue did not come off as Tamaki trying to make her steal the show because she is a witty kid. Gabby trying to joke with Stepford Cuckoos worked in context of her trying to buy time for X-23 to show up and save her. More of this will keep Gabby from being someone that becomes known for eye rolling dialogue.
Juann Cabal once again deliver strong artwork throughout X-23. Cabal delivers a good sense of motion for when Laura is jumping from car to car on the highway as she is trying to catch up to the Stepford Cuckoos. Similarly, he does a good job making you feel that Laura is not lying about killing Dr. Marks if something happens to Gabby because of Dr. Marks research.
The Bad: The one minor problem X-23 #3 runs into is the re-introduction of Angel. Given what is going on with Extermination it would’ve been better for the long-term of the series if it was someone from X-Men: Red that Laura called. At least then it would’ve worked within the current continuity that has Laura as part of the X-Men: Red team. But by bringing in the time-displaced Angel it just hurts how it’ll go over with those unfamiliar with their relationship, especially since Angel is likely not to be around after Extermination. The good thing is that Angel is only on screen for two-pages so he doesn’t really get in the way with the story at all.
Overall: Mariko Tamaki delivers the strongest issue to date in the young life of this new X-23 ongoing series. Tamaki does a great job continuing to develop Laura Kinney as she races against the clock to save her sister, Gabby, from the Stepford Cuckoos plot to resurrect their sisters. The ending of X-23 #3 creates an intriguing scenario for what could happen depending on the route Tamaki decides to go with Laura, Gabby and the Stepford Cuckoos.