Last week I mentioned that I wished most of my comics could be duplications of the Warren Ellis/Jamie McKelvie pairing on "Secret Avengers" #16; this week I'll add that I'd like the remaining percentage of my comics to be Marjorie Liu/Phil Noto pairings like we are currently getting on the straight up wonderful "X-23" #14.
In this issue, Laura (X-23) is hanging out with the FF (including Spider-Man and all the delightful kids that make the FF so fun) as they try to figure out what would send an earthquake to only one block of New York City. At the same time, they're trying to puzzle out the connection to a mysterious symbol that Laura saw and Spider-Man dreamed about, as well as a kid whose life Laura spared from her assassin days.
Liu is doing an exceptional job with Laura, a character that in the wrong hands could be nothing but a sexy teenaged Wolverine. But Liu does wonderful things in her series and has found a powerful and consistent voice for Laura that makes her so much more than a Wolverine knock-off in a midriff (though I'd love to see the midriff disappear). More impressively, Liu slides from Laura's voice to Spider-Man, to Valeria, to Ben Grimm and back again with absolute seamlessness. The plotting is tight and intriguing, the voices are on the mark, and there's just enough lightness and humor to keep it all from feeling overly brooding, despite Laura's grim streak.
It's been frustrating to see the art team slide around on this book, and in truth the choices until this arc have not worked for me, but the magic that Liu and Noto have together is enough to make a reader forget everything that came before and didn't quite work. In other words, Noto's "X-23" work has been nothing short of a dream. His storytelling is perfectly executed and he brings all the nuance and subtlety of Liu's words to the forefront, making them both better for it. Noto continues to be particularly good with expression, and even with a book and character as straight and deadpan as Laura, it's a welcome skill, raising every silent panel, every gesture, every glance up to a level that most comics can only dream about. Noto has been impressing right and left with his Marvel work, first paired with Kathryn Immonen on the "Wolverine & Jubilee" mini-series and now for this arc on "X-23." It makes me wonder where he's going to land next so that I can scurry quickly over to that project to beg for more.
Readers have two more issues to look forward to in this arc before Noto moves on and I suggest enjoying them while we've got them. Liu and Noto are a superhero dream team bringing their absolute best to "X-23."