There was some major anxiety among Laura Kinney fans when Marvel announced that the she would be stepping down from the Wolverine role and going back to her old X-23 codename in a new solo series. Tom Taylor’s run on All-New Wolverine gave Laura a new sense of purpose as she took over for the deceased Logan, and readers were worried that the growth in that series would be tossed aside to get Laura in X-23 mode. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Writer Mariko Tamaki, artist Juann Cabal, and colorist Nolan Woodard maintain the breezy spirit of All-New Wolverine in their X-23 title, with Tamaki recognizing that the sister dynamic between Laura and her kid clone, Gabby, is a fundamental aspect of Laura’s evolution. Like Taylor, Tamaki uses the trauma of Laura’s past to inform the confident, fearless hero she becomes, and she balances out the bleakness of X-23’s history with humor and spectacular action scenes.
The art is a big reason why X-23 is such a smooth transition from All-New Wolverine. Artist Juann Cabal and colorist Nolan Woodard worked on the latter’s “Orphans Of X” arc—one of the all-time great Wolverine stories, Laura or Logan—and they have a deep understanding of these characters and their world. Cabal is one of the most exciting superhero artist discoveries of the past couple years, and he makes dramatic strides with each new project, refining his linework while amplifying motion and experimenting with page layouts and panel compositions. His style is like a fusion of John Cassaday and Jamie McKelvie, and Woodard’s coloring matches the specificity of the linework without over-rendering.
Cabal knows how to frame a kickass action shot, and this exclusive preview of next week’s X-23 #3 has Laura leaping across cars on the expressway to rescue Gabby, who has been kidnapped by a rival group of clones: the Stepford Cuckoos. The first page of this preview is a powerful set-up to the chase, flashing back to a moment from All-New Wolverine when Laura watched another of her clones die. Cabal makes great use of center placement on this page, and as he zooms in on Zelda’s dead body, the center of each panel is occupied by her bloody wound, blank face, and wide-open eye. Those last two panels showcase Cabal’s ingenuity as Zelda’s eye morphs into the expressway tunnel Laura is riding through, with the lines of her iris turning into speed lines that increase momentum before we see Laura surfing on the top of a car. It’s a fantastic moment, and the visual storytelling on this series has brought even more depth to Tamaki’s story.