The issue opens with Laura as a child, apparently watching a sitcom about the Stepford Cuckoos. She snaps out of the hallucination and we’re back in the Cuckoos’ lab, where Laura is trying to prevent them from implanting Esme’s consciousness into Gabby’s body (seems reasonable.)
Something is wrong with the machine. Phoebe attempts to cut the power, but it’s too late, an electrical blast sends Laura flying out of the lab. The Cuckoo’s search the lab and find Esme in Gabby’s body. Esme’s old body looks like crispy bacon (tasty.)
Meanwhile, Laura is missing most of an arm and half her face. Still healing she gets up and marches back towards the lab.
The Cuckoos send Mindee to find Laura. Esme tells her sisters that Mindee is a weak link and they will be stronger without her.
Sophie contacts Laura, dragging her back to the psychic sitcom.
The Cuckoos plan to take Cerebro, while Mindee finds Laura who has her sister Sophie in her head (I need to draw a flowchart or something…)
This issue really ought to come with a warning label that reads: “not suitable for the faint of heart.” I’m not talking about gore, though there is some of that. This is a harrowing issue, it’s emotionally exhausting. Frankly, I don’t know what I’ve done to Mariko Tamaki to deserve this kind of battering but I’ll be sure to keep doing it #gluttonforpunishment. The pacing is perfect, the opening pages gave me goosebumps.
It’s amazing how sparsely the relationship between Laura and Gabby is drawn and yet it’s heartbreakingly effective. If Cormac McCarthy wrote comic books they’d read like this.
Laura continues to benefit from some appropriate dark humor and some moments of intense bad-assery (which is definitely a word.) The issue pulls no punches in how it portrays the depths of her determination.
Juan Cabal’s art is by turns eerie, brutal and spectacular, sometimes on the same page. It’s an incredible and skilfully achieved meshing of disparate tones.
Nolan Woodard’s coloring really adds to the effect, particularly the unsettling blue in the hallucinations. Cory Petit’s lettering is perfect, the psychic attacks, in particular, would not have anywhere near the same impact without it.
I love how sympathetic the Cuckoos are. They’re not crazy, at least not initially, they’re just selfishly putting their own sister before Laura’s. Not to mention playing God.
Esme is a perfect villain, she’s infuriating, absolutely ruthless and again Juann Cabal has done an amazing job portraying a corrupted version of Gabby. She’s chilling, the absolute opposite of the sweet as can be Gabby.
As with the previous issues, we get a strong start and end (the middle is pretty good too.) That’s four out of four great opening pages, so the five-for is on the cards #cricket. I am reminded of a phrase that English film critic Mark Kermode uses for well-executed sequels: “and we’re back.” I was sold from the first sentence.
I love the final page. The sweetness of Mindee contrasted with Laura’s controlled rage. Seriously though series like this should be released as graphic novels, I can’t handle all these cliffhangers, especially as every issue seems to be better than the last. I do worry that I might not survive the next one.
I only have two really pedantic criticisms. I love the cover but is that Gabby with Laura’s claws, or Laura with Gabby’s scars? Either way, it’s not right. Similarly Gabby shouldn’t have adamantium claws.
*Review Title by Bethany W. Pope
Move over Watchmen, step aside Killing Joke, this is my new favourite comicbook. It’s not the most intellectual or philosophical but it’s beautiful and emotionally raw. A visceral, relentless tour de force.
X-23 #4: Twisted Sister
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 8.5/108.5/10
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