Yay, it's finally one week from the day this was released! You know what that means don't you? Yup that's right, another recap!
This issue wasn't all that surprising really if you've been following the preview pages and covers. It was an extremely ambitious issue nonetheless though and contained some rather heavy meta commentary.
This issue finally made clear what the soul mark is. It's the celestial power of free will(choice) as potentially emphasized by a remnant of the uni-power. Not quite sure how I feel about that, or if it's just another in a long line of psych outs. We'll see how it goes in the upcoming issues, but it does make sense to a degree with what's alluded to as remnants of the uni-power being in X-23 which explains the star nature of her 'soul.' It does raise some red flags though. Leaving questions again like does X-23 really have a soul? Is the uni-power remnant behind that entire scene in the first arc? Among many others including potential foreshadowing about X-23 becoming a metaphoric sword for the uni-power. As well as there being no greater hell that what's in one's own head.
All those are questions I'd rather not ask yet. Instead, let's go back to the beginning of the issue where X-23 attempted to save Sue Richards. Another instance in a long line of X-23 trying to protect her mother figures, but it was glossed over rather quickly with Sue even forgiving Laura for failing to do so(the same as Sarah Kinney took the blame for all of X-23's missions). A failure that was only in Laura's eyes, as I'm sure Sue never expected Laura to do that to begin with. It rings true to the core of the character and what happened with her real mother. Something that makes me a little saddened it was just so quickly done and then tossed to the back burner. It does help emphasize the hell of a person's own creation in their head though. This comes across beautifully and I hope gets emphasized in future stories with the FF as the groundwork created here is ripe with potential usage.
Now back to the Uni-power with the power of choice and perception. This issue rings true to an old story I read in a philosophy class. A story about an old man, and a boy with a heart of gold. The story goes that the old man thinks himself a monster, so to hide this nature from all, he harms no one, and gives all he can to charity and to help others. Then there's a boy with a heart of gold, who steals a purse from an old woman for pocket money. (I wish I could remember the name of the story, or who wrote it.)
The story preys on perceptions, and perceived natures. The old man, though he thinks himself a monster, does nothing but help others, whereas the boy with the alleged heart of gold, steals from the elderly for pocket money, spending cash due to greed. Making the boy the true monster hiding behind self-claimed innocence and purity.
This relates to X-23 and her perceptions of herself. She thinks she's a monster, and she believes she's beyond redemption, yet all she's ever done is helped people since she gained her freedom from the facility. Laura is the old man in this story. It's not her self-perceived nature that defines her, but her choices in life that are defining her. This is true in life as well. People can claim intelligence yet make ignorant statements, people can claim they are morally superior yet in doing so they are immediately marking themselves as morally inferior, people can say they are pro-rights for anyone, yet turn around and toss around phrases that say otherwise and belittle entire genders or groups of people. It's their choices and actions, not their self-proclaimed statements that truly define who they are. In simpler terms, you can claim you're a nice person, but only act like an arrogant prick. So which are you then? What you say you are, or what you act like? Actions speak louder than words.
This issue is very ambitious, yes it may have a few flaws, but the message is clear if albeit told in a rather unprecedented manner. Our actions and choices speak to our essence more than our thoughts and personally perceived self-nature. X-23 is defined by her power of choice. By her God given free-will. This sidesteps the uni-power soul questions, and hammers down a point of yes she has a soul. She is her soul. That very manifestation of her that was talking to what's now presumed to be the uni-power remnant is her true soul. It was never the star being, it was always her and her choices. Like it is for us all.