One month closer to the Venom arc, and two months away from the final issue. This makes it really hard to stay excited for this title, but even so the impact and ideas it deals with are still highly interesting.
This issue itself is just utter fun. We get Jubilee and X-23 painting the town red. Some classic throwbacks to playing powers sports in the grass of the institute, a classic throwback to NYX with the Zebra Daddy knowing pimp, and a nice launching point for Avengers Academy using Black Widow. A moment that makes X-23 realize she may have been dealing with emotions and not know it. Anger specifically in this instance, which made her react rather sloppily and less precision that she usually uses. Not berserker level anger, but a level of anger that still blinds judgement in how to approach a situation(though that could be questionable considering the pride of the source that spoke these concerns, but it could also be directly tied to Laura's emotional state about not caring about her own well-being). Black Widow with her spy background does make sense about keeping tabs on X-23. There's a lot of potential there to be explored in Avengers Academy and something I hope comes up if both Natasha and Steve talk to X-23 there.
The issue overall is fantastic. It deals with a lot of topics and subtext here. One that caught my attention was how Jubilee refered to X-23 as hot. Something X-23 never thought about before. This is again something that both genders can relate to in geekdom, but something more often that women deal with. I'll admit it, for here I try to stay away from the physical attributes commentary, but it is true about compliments and ego boosting. It does help others heal and see themselves differently. This is especially true for those that are used to being alone. Compliments are foreign to people like that. It's not validation they are looking for. They don't see the world as hot or not. Things just are the way they are, but the outside compliment one doesn't expect or never thought about before can throw a person like that off guard. It can reach areas in that person they never thought about before. I don't mean the basic compliments one would get from good work, or other family like ones, or even compliments from work you're doing mindlessly. I'm refering to the randomness of life of getting a compliment from someone you've grown to respect or care for. Well, to put it simply, it can be trippy. I really don't know how to explain it other than that. It does elevate self-esteem, but for people who are used to being alone and don't need validation it's a completely alien thought to deal with.
For much of nerd culture, we're not used to hearing these things and we don't know how to take it when we do hear it. It used to throw me for a loop all the time as a guy who just stopped caring what people say. Having someone call you attractive outside of the obligatory family "You're handsome" does have a big impact on people. For women it can vary just as much when they rarely get to hear compliments of that sort to remind them just how beautiful they are. It was interesting to see it brought up here, and I wish I were more awake to dive into it as I'm writing this. It's one of the many things that makes this comic so great though. The usage of it is quick, and yet it does yield a big impact in such a subtle usage. This is a topic I'll come back to in another entry. Trying to explain the difference between self-esteem and looking for validation is just slightly beyond my grasp at this hour, but there is a big difference between the two.
You can kind of feel the wrap up nature to the comic. This makes it feel almost like a sad read as it starts winding down. It covers the other end of human trafficing sex slavery(the extreme end), and it dives headfirst into X-23 as a person who doesn't want to see any other girl or kid confined or hurt by the things she's experienced.
The pairing of Jubilee and X-23 works well for the growth of both, and the artwork really helps set the tone of the story. My only complaint I guess would be the surprise factor for me is gone as I've noticed how the art transitions based on the amount of death in the issue. It doesn't have X-23 as eery as Takeda's eyes glowing red pissed off X-23 from Adventures in Babysitting, but it carries a different kind of scary that has a similiar impact. For me though, with seeing that Takeda tends to have art on the non-killing issues and Noto the art on the killing issues, it made it rather obvious something bad and surprising was coming up. Not that this is a bad thing really. Sure I can expect one thing from the style, but how it comes to pass is what really creates the impact. This issue really lets Noto shine as he deals with both lighthearted fun, and serious topics with his artwork. It also shows more skill from the writing staff as the twists and turns are organic, yet also carry weight to even the small moments.
It's a great issue, and really helps set up what's to come. This issue is another one to add to the pile of reasons why it can make fans frustrated that X-23's comic is being canceled.