Without skipping a beat from the end of All-New Wolverine and tying in nicely to the shenanigans happening with currently less-than-dead Logan, X-23 #1 lays down a strong opening about what it means to be a clone.
Taking on X-23 can be challenging, especially given her recent demotion from Wolverine. That said, Tamaki handles it by having Laura neatly explaining that there’s currently a lot of Wolverine DNA that needs to be accounted for and that Laura is hunting down rogue genetic engineering cells to put a stop to cloned Wolverines forever. Also, it’s her birthday.
With her is Gabby, the Honey-Badger, who is still delightful. Gabby’s presence is a light spot in Laura’s character, which can otherwise regress into brooding and angst. Having Gabby there to bounce off of helps illustrate how far Laura has come in terms of self-acceptance and finding family. Gabby’s insistence at being normal, at wanting a birthday, and Laura’s reaction to that, help show readers where her headspace is at.
Tamaki excels at quiet character moments. Chats about birthdays, jokes between groups of cloned girls, simply shine. The fights in comparison can feel a little clunky, but frankly, Laura and Gabby both deserve all the character moments they can get. There are a humor and heartfelt tone to these scenes which is simply vital to keep Laura from regressing back into the character she was before she stepped into the Wolverine mantle.
The meat of this story, however, is the Stepford Cuckoos. In a delightful bit of dialogue, readers are reminded that, very much like Laura and Gabby. The Cuckoos are sisters and clones who have lost some of their own number in the violent world that mutants are forced to inhabit. Also one of those sisters? Bit of murderer. But even then, Gabby and Laura can relate more than not. This comparison comes as an unexpected but welcome bit of character development for both sides.
However, the revelation that the Cuckoos are cloning their dead sisters and planning something that is not wholly elaborated on? A little less charming. It turns out the Cuckoos have kidnapped a geneticist, a geneticist Laura has just been told to investigate, and are using her to bring their previously murdered sisters back from the dead. Unfortunately, the process seems to have been less than perfect.
The concept is solid, and it’s good to see the Cuckoos being used. Whether or not this feels in character might really be a matter of what you read, but prior to this the remaining three Cuckoos had frequently appeared as bitchy school girl one, two, and three, so it’s a pretty hard left as far as plot developments go. The tenderness and biting sarcasm between the sisters is spot on, however, and so I’m willing to wait and see where this goes for all the girls involved.
X-23 #1: A Good Start for a Great Character
Artists Juann Cabal and Nolan Woodward’s work is, frankly, flawless. The Cuckoos strongly resemble something out of Frank Quitely character design repertoire. Laura and Gabby both look their age and on model, the coloring is stunning and the book reads very tightly.
I would recommend this book on the grounds of its art alone. My only gripe really is that Laura’s costume is a crop top with questionable straps. It’s a regression to her X-Force uniform. It seems impractical and a bit awkward next to Gabby and her previous costume.
Overall, this is a strong opening that respects all the characters involved and refuses to regress Laura’s character.