It’s tricky to read an X-Men trade paperback these days since Jonathan Hickman is resetting things and beginning a new status quo. Case in point, X-23: X-Assassin, the latest trade paperback focused on Laura and Gabby Kinney. Whether or not this character is completely changed, one has to enjoy the journey sometimes and in this case it’s all about X-23 trying to stop every clone of herself from going forth and killing again.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
A series of gruesome murders. A killer who disappears without a trace. Laura and Gabby are on the hunt. But when Laura comes face-to-face with the mysterious X-Assassin, nothing is as it seems… Laura and Gabby face the creators of the X-Assassin…and find they might not agree on what to do about this barely human killer.
Why does this matter?
X-23 aka Laura Kinney is a fascinating character who explores what it means to be human when you’re really a clone. Her sister Gabby makes her all the more interesting and their dynamic plays well off each other. One is the overbearing sister and the other silly immature but always learning younger sister. That dynamic continues to be great fun as it is in this latest trade paperback.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This story by Mariko Tamaki and Diego Olortegui balances two things well. The first is the main mission of Laura and Gabby as they attempt to take out any more cloned threats. In doing so it requires potentially killing a clone even if it’s not exactly like Laura and Gabby. The crisis of taking out something with their DNA, however distant from humanity, is an interesting one. Doesn’t that make them killers? Can’t they be saved like they were? It’s a moral dilemma that hangs over the story. The second thing is Gabby pushing back at Laura and growing up a bit. Laura can’t stand this and it’s a humanizing element of the book.
The humor in this book continues to be quite strong. Gabby is hilarious and the smile on her face the entire time she fights is infectious. Usually, a fighter like Gabby grits their teeth and tries to get through the mayhem, but Gabby enjoys it. Tamaki introduces a hilarious plot element later in the book too involving turkeys. I’ll say no more to avoid spoiling the fun.
Olortegui (with inkers Walden Wong, JP Mayer, Scott Hanna, and colorist Chris O’Halloran) keep the art sharp and detailed. Gabby’s positivity is never lost even when she’s hacking at enemies and yet you never see her positivity as gross or psychotic. There are a few interesting layout choices that enhance comedic moments as well. The action is great too and there’s a standout double page layout with an insane amount of panels of Laura fighting through robots that’s a showstopper.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
For six issues this story is sort of basic. Gabby wants to save the clone, Laura wants to keep it distant, and the looming threat takes its darndest time to get underway. That threat is a cliche and really has no payoff either. There are cliches afoot here that make the great character work and art the only stand out.
Is it good?
A fun time with the characters, but the plot is nothing new or interesting. Come for the good action and comedy, but don’t expect much from the plot.
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