X-23 #4 by Mariko Tamaki is wrapping up the book’s opening storyline. As per usual, both art and writing are excellent. Tamaki is masterfully juggling a character with incredible baggage (even by comic standards) and a forced renaming that should be out of character.
The Cuckoos Plot In X-23 #4
X-23 #4 continues where we left off last time, with Laura confronting the Cuckoos right after they pull the switch on their master plan for Gabby.
The use of a Cuckoos in this storyline was troubling for me at first. Though they are clones of Emma Frost I wasn’t sure they were the right pick for supervillain exploits. However, Tamaki has delivered. She creates within the sisters a type of nuance that I rarely see written into them. Frankly, they aren’t explored nearly as often as they should be. Tamaki manages to nail the voices of Sophie, Mindie, and Esme respectively.
This helps set up a plot that’s easier to believe. Esme, who has been corrupt and manipulative in the past, is back and craves power, and means to get it by possessing Gabby. All in the thinly veiled guise of helping her sisters. Sophie, meanwhile, who was killed, resurrected alongside Esme, then killed again by Esme’s hand, means to enlist Laura to help stop this madness.
The Cuckoos’ story has thus become the plot unto itself. Laura and Gabby are the vehicles by which Tamaki is exploring their relationship and sisterhood and morality. The fact this exploration, in turn, casts a new light on Laura and Gabby is just more evidence that it was criminally unjust to leave the Cuckoos so underdeveloped.
Laura & Choice
Laura is predictably fabulous. Her attitude has been grounding throughout this entire storyline. Her single focus mission to bring Gabby home has taken a backseat to the Cuckoos strife, but it’s still driving the book.
The fact Sophie chooses Laura to help her fight Esme could just be a case of convenience. It could also be considered thematically appropriate. Laura is here to save her sister. Sophie is here to kill her sister.
The art in this book is also simply mind-blowingly good. I hope Jaunn Cabal stays on the book forever. His paneling is so refreshing, having come from books that use a more traditional Marvel house style. He also manages to keep all characters on model, even in action scenes, in a way that I’ve recently come to appreciate.
You can see it when he plays with the coloring a atmosphere of Laura’s mindscape. His art really delivers in moments like this. As a reader you can feel the physical difference between the dream and the real world, and when writing stories with psychics that’s a high demand skill.
The lightwork and explosion especially are amazing this issue, and credit must certainly be given to the colorist, Nolan Woodard.
Please Keep Gabby Safe
Overall X-23 #4 continues to deliver on a well thought out story. It’s female-centric, without relying on tired cliches. It’s about sisterhood, without pulling punches. It certainly looks bleak at the moment, but the book overall continues to be a dramatic and heartwarming story about families (who stab things) and I believe as the plot wraps up we will see some excellent character development for the Cuckoos.
PS: If they kill Gabby I will quit comics forever.