I say, what’s that about to hit that fan?
X-23 (2018) #2 ‘Two Birthdays and Three Funerals Part 2’
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artists: Juann Cabal
Cover Artists: Mike Choi & Jesus Aburtov
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
What You Need to Know:
Laura and her cloned sister, Gabby, are on the trail of missing genetic scientist Dr. Helen Marks, who they suspect has links to super-soldier projects. Unfortunately Dr. Marks, under the psychic control of the Stepford Cuckoos, has turned her hand to necromancy and has resurrected their two sisters. I’m sure when X-23 discovers that she’ll be very happy for them…
What You’ll Find Out:
The issue opens at the funeral of Sophie Cuckoo, before shifting to the Cuckoos’ flat where all three simultaneously wake up because: “Something is wrong.” At the church Sophie is dead, y’know, again, and this time more so. It is unclear whether the other Cuckoos know that Esme has murdered her sister, but they are psychic.
Meanwhile, Laura is having a lie in before being jumped on by the two wolverines that she lives with. Pancakes ensue. Gabby continues to hassle Laura about birthdays, unaware that Laura chose not to celebrate her’s yesterday.
At the Cuckoo’s flat, Mindee is arguing with the others. She is not happy with how things are going, while Celeste and Phoebe think this was all part of the plan. Mindee appears to remain conflicted while her sisters talk ominously about it being “just a building.”
Laura has left Gabby at home while she visits Dr. Mark’s lab. She is reminded of her childhood if you can call it that. A scientist tells her where Dr. Mark’s office is and Laura finds the packaging for a “fit fat f?m” wristband. The wristband’s GPS tracker leads her to the church where she finds… Gabby, who she definitely did not text. The Cuckoos make themselves known, having presumably lured Gabby here. They attack, or do they? Laura realizes too late she’s fighting a hallucination. By the time she snaps out of it, Gabby is tied up in the back of a moving van. TO BE CONTINUED…
What Just Happened:
Like the first issue, this book starts with an arresting opening page with the reader looking up out of Sophie’s grave in a full page spread. Laura’s opening monologue during the funeral talks about death in the context of martyrdom so it’ll be interesting to see if this will be expanded upon in future issues.
The other standout artwork was in the “fight” with the Cuckoos which was beautifully unhinged, somewhat reminiscent of The Killing Joke. The Cuckoos controlled Laura’s reality much as the scientists controlled her childhood. This recurring fight for autonomy and agency is key to Laura’s character and this issue generally and is wonderfully laid bare in the art as well as the writing. It’s not just pretty, it’s powerful. For this reason and others, the Cuckoos are good antagonists for Laura.
I’m conflicted about Gabby. She’s great and is used effectively as comic relief to balance Laura’s melancholic, philosophical monologues. There’s no question that this issue is less purely entertaining than the first because she’s in it less. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that it’s a shame that Laura is sometimes reduced to playing the straight-man (straight-woman? Straight-wolverine?) in her own book, I think she’s got more to offer than that.
Overall issue two is less fun than issue one but it does feel like it has more thematic weight and I don’t think that’s just because the plot has gotten going. So weirdly less fun but I enjoyed it more.
Final Thought: Fewer laughs than the first issue, but ultimately more engaging. There are moments of high art here.
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