The previous issue kicked off the X-Assassins story arc. After a string of murders left a bunch of scientists dead, Laura was able to figure out the mysterious killer’s next target and set a trap. She and Gabby managed to capture the assassin, only to learn that she looks a lot like they do. Too much for comfort. The previous issue ended with the mysterious assassin’s holding cell under attack, and that’s where this issue picks up.
X-23 8, written by Mariko Tamaki, begins with a fairly intense fight scene. This fight scene also utilizes both main characters and their abilities quite well. A good chunk of the fight scene is a delightful moment where Gabby charges forward, smiling the whole time as she takes down all the gunners. She’s entertaining, but not over the top like some of the later All-New Wolverine issues. Meanwhile, Laura carries the seemingly unconscious cyborg assassin, keeping up with her sister. Depending on the way you look at it, the fact that she can keep up with her sister and still manage a good kick to a gunman’s face while carrying a heavy cyborg could be considered a minor strength feat. It’s nowhere close to her best strength feat, but still. Adding in a small panel where she detects the gunner by his scent is a nice touch.
This issue’s main reveal is by no means a surprise, but I won’t spoil it anyway. It leads to a couple dramatic moments, bringing back some of Laura’s worst memories. While Laura felt a touch uncharacteristically judgemental towards the cyborg in the previous issue, this one makes sense of her reservations, while also hinting that Gabby’s optimistic point of view could put them both at risk. A villain from their mutual past also returns, even if how he escaped SHIELD custody may be a mystery for now. Of course the comic also seems to imply that this villain may have been involved with the original facility. It’s too early to tell, but there’s a chance that this is a retcon of sorts. Then again, we’ve only known of Laura’s creators as “The Facility” before, so we don’t know who funded them in the first place or how they got so much expensive equipment. If it is a retcon, it’s not a problematic one.
Diego Olortegui’s art is good. It’s hard not to miss Juan Cabal’s art from the first arc, but Olortegui gets the job done. At first his style looks simple, but there’s often a lot of details, like all the dents in a metal door that’s been blasted open, the different cybernetics on the assassin’s face and all the monitors and equipment in Beast’s lab. The opening fight scene is complete with plenty of smoke and debris flying around. There’s also a good sense of progression from panel to panel, and nice little touches like Laura tanking a couple of bullets to the arm. Gabby’s nun chucks from the first issue also make a quick and welcome appearance.
Facial expression do a great job at conveying emotion and even enhancing the storytelling. During the fight scene, Laura appears to be a lot more focused and determined, while Gabby varies from worried glances, to grinning when she’s charging forward towards the gunners. Giving Laura a brief smile after one of Gabby’s jokes is a nice touch. Afterwards, Laura shows a lot more concern in her eyes, especially after learning more about the cyborg, while Gabby keeps looking around Beast’s lab with a curious look. But perhaps the most haunting aspect of the facial expression work may be the cyborg’s constant stare that seems to be somewhere between depressed and completely empty. Even when a bullet scratches her cheek, her eyes and lips don’t move. Chris O’Halloran’s colouring is great. It matches the general tone of the comic, while making great use of light reflections and shadows. All the fight scenes are shaded a bit red while other scenes are more balanced and colourful.
Besides a couple potential hang-ups on minor continuity references (which are potentially just previously unknown details), this is a great issue. The opening action scene is intense, and the rest of the comic is well balanced between story development, drama and fun. Seeing how Laura and Gabby react very differently to this assassin, even though they’re both showing concern, helps deepen their character development. It makes for a great overall X-23 comic with the right balance of references to her past and something new. X-23 fans will likely enjoy this comic, and these two issues are worth checking out for potential new fans.