If there’s been any one unifying theme in stories starring Laura Kinney the last few years, it’s been family. Laura has discovered her sister, embraced her father’s legacy, and bonded with her brother. The first arc of her latest series ends in X-23 #5 with the next logical step – showing what length she’d go for her family.
Mariko Tamaki, Juann Cabal, Marcio Fiorito, Nolan Woodard and Cory Petit have crafted a strong Wolverine story while also embracing one of the greatest strengths of its lead. It’s also a strong entry into the X-Men universe.
Esme Cuckoo has possessed Gabby Kinney’s body. Laura finds herself teaming with Mindee and Sophie Cuckoo to save her sister by defeating theirs. This leads to a confrontation on the front lawn of the Xavier Institute, both physically and psychically, in which Laura saves her sister’s life, and the Cuckoos save their souls, banishing Esme to the White Hot Room, with Sophie as her warden.
Tamaki’s script is front-loaded with exposition and talk. It feels a bit decompressed, but once Laura and Esme come face to face, the story suddenly steps on the gas. It’s a smart move- all the talking gets out of the way of the claw-to-claw and mind-to-mind battles.
Even better is the epilogue. She understands the bonds between sisters perfectly, and shows two sides to that. On the Cuckoo side, we get one last glimpse of the rivalry between Sophie and Esme. On the Kinney side, Laura and Gabby’s love is on wonderful display, giving the issue and the arc the perfect thematic conclusion.
Fiorito takes the art chores on the first half of the issue. He is able to show the emotional stakes of the story really well. He then shifts gears, depicting the first of the action with a great fluidity and gives Esme a frightening ferocity.
Then Cabal’s half of the issue puts the sisters face to face. I adore Cabal’s gothed-out design for the possessed Gabby. The art is impactful and emotional, leading to the perfect final page. I’m disappointed to see Cabal is not coming back to the series after this arc, because he understands the Kinney girls extremely well.
Woodard has a lot of fun in this issue. He gets to play with various effects, such as the giant psionic Cuckoo, and the final moments of Esme’s second life. They really bring the art to life, and add so much depth.
If you’d told me one of my favorite big two books was a Wolverine spin-off even a couple years ago, I would have laughed at you. This is an emotional next step on Laura Kineey’s journey, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
X-23 #5 is available now from Marvel Comics.