I wanted to do a quick piece on the previous comics for why they were so good, and I probably will eventually go back and do recaps on them too. For now, I wanted to focus on this issue.
If you haven't read it, I'd suggest you do so before continuing on. This entry just assumes you have already read it, so spoilers abound.
It has many aspects to it I adore. A few hit or miss spots that can easily be rationalized, but I'll get to that later.
So let's just start off with what was amazing about it.
The comparisons between Jubilee and X-23: These worked well, and their opposing natures and histories just work brilliantly. I do feel parts of it were rushed for the sake of getting it all out in a 3 issue arc, but overall it was handled very well.
Gambit: He really does help set the tone, and carries so much of the weight and humor in the issue. Gambit hasn't been so much himself in ages within comics, and it just feels so refreshing to have him in these issues. He's just pure unfiltered Gambit as we haven't been able to see him in a long time. Everything is just intact so perfectly for him, and in character in ways that have been long missing from comics it seems. I'm sorry for being vague here about Gambit, but such is the problem when you've done a commentary on an issue that comes after another issue with as rich and lush usages to praise too. The french, the attitude, the dialogue, just everything to perfection for him.
The Psychology: This is where the issue truly shines. Diving into more aspects about defining one's own voice through the attire you wear. This proves especially prominent in girls, as that young age of picking their own clothes helps define their self-esteem for years to come. Something that's pointed out that X-23 never really experienced. Self-esteem being something X-23 has always waivered on as well. This lack of self definition and pursuit of purpose is directly tied to how she was raised. She did pick her own clothes in the Target X mini-series, but the whole Megan/Debbie dynamic and story aspects are being left out for obvious reasons for now. As I've stated before, her most treasured memories, are the same ones she can't willingly reflect on that often or truly ever while she has a telepathic presence always pestering her, or Kimura hunting her. This became highly apparent with how Emma Frost mistreated Laura early on at the Academy by using Laura's memory of her mother to try and force her to leave. I do commend the usage here though, as she's only had that one lone moment of picking her own clothes, and even that was just rummaging through someone else's closet. It's not really the same as shopping for your own style. Everything she has was either taken during a mission, from the facility wardrobes, from the X-Men uniforms, or from someone else's closet. That moment potentially being where she discovered she likes dark colors and has a more winter colors motif(dark colors like blue, green, black, purple, Crimson, etc). This plays amazingly well into X-23's issues of self-worth, the backsliding into being a cutter again, and her seemingly wanting to die after destroying the one purpose she had managed to hold onto. The purpose her mother gave her in never harming children, but trying to save them. Something I'm not sure if Dr. Kinney realized she instilled into Laura by being so proud of her for saving Megan, and Kimura never harming Laura for it. Ditto could be said of the Sutter child, the first child Laura willfully made the choice to save, which was right after the Megan kidnapped by a pedophile incident. This also led to Kimura not laying a hand on Laura. So in essence, Laura has done the one thing she has never done before, she went against the one sole good thing the Facility instilled in her by accident and it's eating her up inside in conjunction with the kill list reminding her of her past.
Triggerscent: I can see why Kimura (yes, I'm just going to assume that's who is doing this to Laura) would weaponize triggerscent like this. I'm just not sure I see how it's possible. For now, I'll let it go as it being the one thing Kimura or the remnants of the Facility still have left to experiment with and enhance, but the whole idea behind triggerscent itself is that it was a conditioned response to create a blind berserker rage in Laura. Weaponizing it to this degree seems odd when you consider that. On the flipside though, it seems we have a usage of the old triggerscent like it was originally intended during collision, and what's starting to seem like X-23 v3 issue 1. So maybe this weaponizing has more to it to be revealed later.
The Hooded Lady: While I'm just going to assume it's Kimura being sneaky, it feels contrary to her earlier usages. Not so much though when you consider things like how X-23 could anticipate her by the scent, and how combat adaptive X-23 has been when fighting her. Kimura may be using a more sleight of hand approach for this very reason. To toy with X-23, and essentially mess her life up even more. There's been a subtle undertone going on that at first I misconstrued as the writer misreading the character as enjoying the kill, to what now is starting to seem more like Kimura trying to make X-23 become like her. Something Kimura did attempt at the end of Target X as well. This would also explain the telepathic presence to a degree, and it wouldn't be beneath Kimura to try and mess with Laura's memories to attempt to speed that up.
Laura telling Jubilee how to kill her when the time comes: While I can see this with Laura's current mentality, she's been stopped before while under the effects of trigger scent by getting rid of the scent itself. The issue here though, is now it's on the clothes X-23 is wearing. Something the Facility has never done before, nor has been covered before. The scent has always marked targets, and once dissipated, x-23 snaps back to her senses. Even during the X-Force arc where X-23 put triggerscent in the sprinkler system, they never covered the fact her clothes were soaked in it. So while I marked this in the mixed area, it's a promising usage of the origin. If albeit, a little bit weird with Kimura's remark about how Laura lingers in this state longer than most. That has been proven before to not be true. Other usages of trigger scent though have seemingly been underinterpreted besides target X and how Megan used a shower to dissipate the scent on her mother Debbie, whereas usage in X-Force seemed almost too easy to snap her out of it and back to normal. Ditto really to Target X when you factor in the teapot that had trigger scent was still spilled downstairs and Laura never reacted to it after the initial reaction. This may also explain why Kimura or the mystery lady if it's not Kimura, has chosen to weaponize it moreso. I also wonder about this weaponizing aspect and the comparison spoken about it from X-23 to normal people. As this apparently is an all new triggerscent yet to be experimented on X-23 before(unless it was the variant used in issue 1 where the shelter inhabitants can be used as the comparison point). As mentioned, hers was a conditioned response to a scent, whereas this seems to act more on the fight or flight response, or reptile center of the brain to create violent outbursts on a mob scale. Again though, this being something only someone that either has ties to the Facility, or had ties could get their hands on. The only remaining member we know capable of this being Kimura. Though in Innocence Lost/X-23 v1, the question is raised about there being some faceless higher ups than even Dr. Rice or Dr. Sutter. Those higher ups the minis attempted to make clear that X-23 had never been aware of, let alone did her mother know of. So this recognition aspect suggests it must be Kimura. Kimura being the sabretooth to Laura's Wolverine anyway.
Overall, it's a very good issue, and an amazing arc so far. I wonder where it's going with this story, but I hope by the end of these upcoming arcs we finally start seeing X-23 whole again, or at least more like herself as depicted before in Academy X and Target X, before the X-Force caused downward spiral or this telepathic presence that twists what she thinks and remembers. I'm saying arcs plural, as these kinds of things can't be healed overnight. It will be an ongoing struggle as any such damage to a person would be. Even with a mark in the palm of her hand as a reinforcement agent, in times of high personal duress it's easy to simply forget what you've learned or experienced while more recent immediate events press harder on your conscience. A conscience being the thing showing that X-23 isn't a monster. She feels remorse, whereas Kimura doesn't. This immediately brings up the question of does Laura truly enjoy the kill, or is it the goal of the mission or purpose that drives her as a focal point to not think about her own situation. Kimura being an actual monster reveling and delighting in the pain of others. This seemed especially poignant in issue 7, where she spares people to Gambit's dismay, yet claims to enjoy killing to Jubilee and others. Is it that she truly enjoys killing or is she just saying this because of how little she thinks of herself. Something that also became apparent in the early issues of the ongoing where she found a strength within to stand up for herself. Her perception of herself seems to waiver based on that. When she's feeling strong for herself, she's defiant and knows she has value. When she's down on herself, she starts referencing herself again as less than human and of no value. Something much akin to the real world, and how one's perception of themself at the time reflects how they speak of themself during that time.