X-23 #3 Review

by Charles Martin on August 29, 2018

X-23 #3 Review
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Juann Cabal
Colourist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Where were we?

Stepford Cuckoos: Looking increasingly evil.
Gabby: Kidnapped!
Laura: In the hottest of hot pursuit.

The story that plays out in X-23 #3 is short and simple. There's one mighty twist in Laura's chase, and one mother of a revelation regarding the Cuckoos' purpose. It is a straightforward presentation, and the script almost opens the book up to criticisms of decompression. There's one gargantuan "but" that ensures this comic is marvellously satisfying:

The author has unleashed a top-tier artist with instructions to make Laura's chase as visually striking as possible.

That mission is fulfilled in magnificent style. I've seen enough of Juann Cabal's art prior to this to convince me he was on the cusp of greatness. This issue takes him off the cusp and into full-time, no-fooling brilliance.

He lays out splashes that show off a Frank Quitely-esque mastery of precise anatomy. The lines are clear and controlled, though, leaving plenty of room for Nolan Woodard's sensitive colours to further define the characters' shapes. Mr. Cabal's layouts are inventive and take an active role in telling the story; the twist in the chase is amplified and empowered by the way Mr. Cabal reveals it.

The chase scenes do a noteworthy job of showing off Laura at her most physical and acrobatic. It's highway parkour portrayed with as much impact as could possibly be packed into static drawings. 

I appreciate one panel in particular just prior to Laura snikt-ing a van to death. It shows off an impressively broad back that's easily justified by the pose of the moment and Laura's genetics. Of course Logan's daughter would show off some huge lats when she has a reason to fling her arms wide!

Mariko Tamaki's script risks being overlooked in the sheer spectacle of artistic perfection. But it does important work setting up the key moments, arcing in fat pitches for the visuals to knock out of the park. 

It's also got plenty of heart and humour. Gabby is up to full strength as the comic relief even if her role in the plot is sharply limited. She doesn't hesitate to accuse the Cuckoos of "lackin' clone solidarity" what with the kidnapping and ominous mad science stuff.

Laura's contribution to the dialogue might be the weakest part of the issue, and it's not all that weak, objectively speaking. Her inner thoughts are full of strong (albeit not too memorable) ruminations on the role of fear and the importance of learning from mistakes. When she threatens the "big why" information out of the Cuckoos' pet geneticist, though, her words verge on cliche.

If the dialogue doesn't stick in the reader's memory, the plot certainly will. The big twist in the chase is deployed with great subtlety and the writer has fully-justified confidence in her artist's ability to finish her plot developments with emphatic visual punctuation.

A strong script delivers tasty twists and scary revelations about the story. For sheer impact, though, the gold medal belongs to artist Juann Cabal today. Laura Kinney - or any superhero - couldn't ask for a bigger, bolder presentation of her abilities than the one delivered here. It's a blast to read, but it's also a pure pleasure to look at.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Check that van cargo: Mr. Cabal has a private-label beer, Juanneken. Love it!