Comicsly | adverb; in a manner that defies explanation but deserves recognition and praise

X-23 #4

Writer: Mariko Tamaki

Artist: Juann Cabal

Colors: Nolan Woodard

Cover: Mike Choi & Jesus Aburtov

Published: September 12, 2018

If you’ve ever wondered what Gabby would like like as your goth gf, this issue definitely has an answer for you (and it’s pretty freakin’ great). But, before Gabby’s turn towards a darker clothing palette, there’s a fair bit to unpack about what’s happened to her and Laura. At the end of the previous issue Laura was just too late to stop the Cukoo sisters from beginning the transfer of their sisters’ mind into Gabby’s more resilient body. As Laura reaches the machine the Cukoos realize that it’s malfunctioning and has become overpowered. They try to shut the machine down, but it had reached a self-perpetuating point where termination was impossible. Even as electricity arcs off the machine Laura drags her body towards the machine refusing to give up on Gabby. It’s a brutal scene as cloth and skin are torn away as she reaches for the ring above Gabby’s head. There’s an explosion and then… the we see Gabby your goth gf. The transfer was successful in placing Esme’s consciousness in Gabby’s body to create the perfect mutant, one without weakness or vulnerability. That idea of perfection and the tension between mutant and human identity has been at the front of Laura’s mind recently with the discussion of birthdays in the first two issues and reflection on what fear looks like when you are nearly indestructible. The Cuckoos believe that their gifts transcend humanity and ‘deserve’ better than the vulnerable bodies they have now. Laura doesn’t know exactly where she stands yet, but she understands the limitations of her gifts. Her healing ability and claws, her clone and mutant identities don’t define what she might be in the future or elevate her above. Her prolonged life is a gift if she wants it to be, and curse if she lets it be, but it’s not inherently anything without her choosing. The Cuckoos only see their connections to the physical/human world as inherent weaknesses and will raze everything to the ground to separate themselves from it and preserve their existence.

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Tamaki, Cabal, Woodard/Marvel Comics

With Esme now installed in Gabby’s body her first order of focus is on finding Laura who was blown away when the transfer completed. She’s seen too much for them to just let her go and they send Mindee to go find her. We see a partially skeletal Laura wake up under some trees, but her thoughts are not entirely her own. There’s another voice in her head, Sophie, the Cuckoo sister that died/was killed by Esme back in issue #1. Sophie shows Laura pieces of her life as if they are watching a TV show in a confusing slate of images that stretch from her birth to her death. Mindee, who is out looking for Laura, is able to pick up the presence of Sophie in some form and is led to straight to Laura who is intent on using the voice in her head to get Gabby back. It’ll be exciting in the next couple issue to see how Laura manages to resolve what the Cuckoos have done to Gabby and how that ties into her thoughts about her mutant and human identities that were more present in the first two issues. The Cuckoos, while conceptually interesting, haven’t yet proven to be a particularly dynamic group of villains who can really challenge Laura’s belief. Their single minded devotion to the group was an interesting facet of their characterization that has now been undermined with Gabby/Esme’s doubt of Mindee’s commitment to the cause and the fact that she previously murdered one of their sisters. This is very much a connective issue taking us to the end of this arc and setting Laura on a path for the rest of this run.

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Tamaki, Cabal, Woodard/Marvel Comics

Juann Cabal and Nolan Woodard’s art was again really solid and considering the end of All-New Wolverine and the beginning of this series, they’ve definitely settled into their style for Laura and Gabby. While Laura’s new superhero suit leaves something to be desired they’ve been really consistent with how they draw the two of them which can’t be under-appreciated. They’ve also been really good with working in weirder, more gruesome, and more outlandish moments as they did in this issue. There’s Gabby as a goth, which is great, but also the panels at the beginning where Laura’s desperately trying to reach Gabby in a wild electrical storm. They manage to be both exciting and a little brutal as the panels progressively get whiter as the energy increases and Laura is deteriorating. The surreal moments of Sophie inside Laura’s mind are very interesting and rewarding if you take an extra minute to appreciate how strange the whole scene is. Them in front of the soft glow from the TV set and the Escher-esque cubes that make up the background that add to the surreality of it all.

(Subjective) Score out of 10: 7

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Tamaki, Cabal, Woodard/Marvel Comics


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